Psalm 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
The king who had been the shepherd-boy, and had been taken from the quiet sheep-cotes to rule over Israel, sings this little psalm of Him who is the true Shepherd and King of men. We do not know at what period of David’s life it was written, but it sounds as if it were the work of his later years.
There is a fulness of experience about it, and a tone of subdued, quiet confidence which speaks of a heart mellowed by years, and of a faith made sober by many a trial. A young man would not write so calmly, and a life which was just opening would not afford material for such a record of God’s guardianship in all changing circumstances.
If, then, we think of the psalm as the work of David’s later years, is it not very beautiful to see the old king looking back with such vivid and loving remembrance to his childhood’s occupation, and bringing up again to memory in his palace the green valleys, the gentle streams, the dark glens where he had led his flocks in the old days; very beautiful to see him traversing all the stormy years of warfare and rebellion, of crime and sorrow, which lay between, and finding in all God’s guardian presence and gracious guidance?
The faith which looks back and says, ‘It is all very good,’ is not less than that which looks forward and says, ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.’
David, in advanced years, would naturally remember the occupations of his early life; and the remembrance of the care of God over him would naturally recall the care which he had, in earlier years, extended over his flocks.
The idea which the language suggests is that of tender care; protection; particular attention to the young and the feeble (compare Isaiah 40:11); and providing for their wants. All these things are found eminently in God in reference to his people.
I shall not want – This is the main idea in the psalm, and this idea is derived from the fact that God is a shepherd. The meaning is, that, as a shepherd, he would make all needful provision for his flock, and evince all proper care for it. The words shall not want, as applied to the psalmist, would embrace everything that could be a proper object of desire,
whether temporal or spiritual;
whether pertaining to the body or the soul;
whether having reference to time or to eternity.
There is no reason for supposing that David limited this to his temporal necessities, or to the present life, but the idea manifestly is that God would provide all that was needful for him always. Compare Psalm 34:9, “There is no want to them that fear him.” This idea enters essentially into the conception of God as the shepherd of his people, that all their real wants shall be supplied.