The above picture looks like many of our basements, storage units, spare rooms, or garages, doesn’t it? We accumulate, but instead of getting rid of what we no longer need, we just find a place to store it for that “rainy day” that never seems to arrive. And our obsession with our possessions over the past several decades created a whole new industry: the storage center industry–which makes millions (maybe billions) off of us so we can keep all that stuff we will probably never use again since we, obviously, aren’t using it now.
Who of us living in America does not recognize the following words that open the 23rd Psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” The Lord, of course, is the God of the Bible. However, it seems as if our “wanter” has gotten a bit out of control. We might try to rationalize all that stuff we have by saying we “need” it; but the reality is that most of the time it is not a necessity of life–it is just stuff we “want,” so we buy it, and when we are done with it, we store it just in case we might need it again for that “rainy day.”
And our “wanter” isn’t just for physical possessions. Perhaps it is a job we want that someone else has, or someone’s husband or wife that is appealing to us, or something someone else has that we want, and we don’t much care how we get it. Or maybe we want fame, prestige, power, money . . . . Our list of “wants” is pretty much endless, isn’t it?
In a chapter titled “David–I Shall Not Want” in the book, “21 Seconds to Change Your World” (2016), the author, Dr. Mark Rutland, addresses the primary difference between “want” and “need.” Dr. Rutland is “a pastor, speaker, and New York Times bestselling author and columnist for Ministry Today magazine. He is president of both the National Institute of Christian Leadership and Global Servants, and he also serves on the preaching team at Jentezen Franklin’s Free Chapel Church. He is a frequent guest on The 700 Club, TBN, James Robison’s LIFE Today, Daystar, and 100 Huntley Street. His radio program is the number one Christian teaching broadcast in Atlanta.” (Quote source here). Dr Rutland is also the former president of two Christian universities from 1999-2013 (source here). Dr. Rutland states the following from his book (pp. 79-81):
There is a difference between want and need. Though it is translated “want,” in the first verse of Psalm 23, David is most probably dealing with the issue of “need.” St. Paul speaks to the same issue in Philippians 4:19: “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” The great apostle is reminding us that we can trust God to meet us at the point of our need. Some have refashioned this verse to mean that God will supply all they could ever want. That perverts the text and may lead to all kinds of error and excess.
One man even told me that God wanted him to leave his wife for his lover. He twisted two verses of Scripture in a most convenient way using Philippians 4:19 (above) and Psalm 37:4 to justify adultery, desertion, and remarriage. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight thyself also in the Lord: and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”
“My wife is no longer the desire of my heart,” he said. “I need this woman. Not want, but need. God has put a desire for her in my heart and a need that He will meet.”
No amount of explanation or exposition on the real meaning of those two verses would dissuade him. He had the whole story and his own heart so twisted up that he was absolutely blinded to the truth. He intended to leave his wife for his lover and he eventually did, using Scripture to salve his conscience, that is, if he still had one.
It is not God’s perfect will for His children to languish in penurious deprivation. Poverty, hunger, and want in that sense are never the will of a loving and good God. He is a God of blessing. He enjoys blessing His children. Genesis 22:17 says, “In blessing I will bless thee.”
David’s declaration of faith [in Psalm 23] is therefore a good and pure statement of God’s dependability. David is simply finding another way of saying, “God will take care of me.”
But “I shall not want” in no way means I will never have to do without anything I want. I am made of earth, and that earth raises its ugly head every so often. I have, in my own life, wanted things, wrong things, things that could hurt me and others. I have proven to myself my seemingly inexhaustible capacity to lust for the baubles and pleasures of earth. There is something inside the earth of us that is bent toward a wrongful wanting. Putting that to death is not an event but a long and painful process. Which of us has not stumbled along the way? Why? Because we want stuff. David wanted stuff. Bathsheba, for example. She was not God’s will for David, nor was David God’s will for her. Their wanting was the cause of so much sin and suffering that the story is still a living cautionary tale after three thousand years. “I shall not want” cannot be construed to mean that God will give me everything my sinful heart could ever desire.
Furthermore, there are also things that are not, in themselves, bad for me, but the earth of me needs limitations. Have you ever walked through a store with your children and heard them tick off the items without which they simply could not live another day? There were times when my wife and I told our children no about things we could have afforded, things that were not even bad for them. We did this because it is not good for us to have everything we want immediately when we want it. Sometimes not having things, or not having them now, is good for us. A life without limits becomes a life without maturity, and that is never the will of God for me.
God is a good God. His will for me is good, and He does not will for me to live my life in grinding poverty. He does not will that my children suffer hunger. God is a God of abundance and mercy and generosity. He teaches me to live in contentment, but He does not oppress me with want. (Quote source: “21 Second to Change Your World,” pp. 79-81).
Here is another take on “I shall not want,” from an online devotional titled, “I Shall Not Want,” by Dr. James MacDonald, who is the founding senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel; leads the church planting ministry of Harvest Bible Fellowship; and teaches the practical application of God’s Word on the Walk in the Word radio broadcast, and who is also a gifted author and speaker. Dr. MacDonald has included a “Journal” section and “Pray” section for consideration at the end of his devotion:
When David wrote in his famous psalm, “I shall not want,” it was the summary of the result of having the Lord as his shepherd. What does it mean not to want? First, it means we will not lack the basic needs of life—the big three: food, shelter, clothing. You don’t need to be anxious about those things. God promises over and over He will meet those needs in our lives.
Our initial response to this promise is often skepticism. “What about those who are hungry and homeless? There seem to be a lot of them. How does God meet their needs?” The answer comes to us in His Word, “You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way…” (2 Corinthians 9:11). When God supplies abundantly to us, He expects us to share with others. God uses His people to spread His blessings. You can probably think of occasions when God has helped others through you and when He has helped you through others.
And there is something deeper than the basic needs of life in the words, “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.” Make note of this: I shall not want another shepherd. I shall not seek another Master. The expert care of my Master Jesus is all I desire. I am completely content with His management of my life. Though my life is not perfect, He has never failed me. While there have been disappointments and difficulties, He has always kept His promises. When I have sought Him, I have found in Him all I need. The Lord is my shepherd, and I don’t want another.
“I shall not want” is also a statement about self-control. Think about all the pain in life that is caused by wanting: “I want this,” and “I want to go there,” and “I want to experience that.” Too many of life’s hurts come from wanting what we do not have.
Here is a personal example: I have always wanted to be a fisherman. I can’t begin to tell you the aggravation and heartache that have come into my life from wanting this! Oh, the stories of trips I’ve gone on and promises that were made. “You’re going to catch so many fish, you will be amazed!” Instead, I discovered there’s a reason it’s called fishing and not catching. All I caught was frustration—from wanting.
But the longer I live with the Lord as my Shepherd, the more I experience the profound ways the truth “I shall not want” can radically alter every day.
Loved one, no matter what the circumstance, you and I already have everything we really need in Christ. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). Lay hold of this powerful truth in your life today.
- Based on today’s reading, does “not wanting” mean a change in what you “need” or does it mean seeing your “needs” in the light of God’s wise provision?
- What has taken on the character of “wants” in your life and needs to be surrendered to the Shepherd for His timing and supply?
Lord, forgive me for the times I let the optional and incidental things from this world become unhealthy wants and needs in my life. When I stop long enough to consider all You have done for me, those earthly priorities vanish before Your glory. Help me today to be still and know You are God, my Shepherd, in whom I have everything I need. Thank You for summing up Your abundant supply in the person of Your Son, Jesus, in whose name I pray, Amen. (Quote source here.)
I’d like to include one more thought on the phrase, “I shall not want.” This one comes from a blog post on Living Proof Ministries which was founded by Beth Moore, and the post was written by “Lindsee” (a young woman who used to work at LPM) titled, “I Shall Not Want.” Beth Moore is a widely recognized evangelist, prolific author, Bible teacher, and founder of Living Proof Ministries, a Bible-based organization for women based in Houston, Texas.
Every morning while I am getting ready for the day, I listen to either a podcast or music. I go in and out of seasons with podcasts and right now, they’re on the back-burner while my music has made a comeback. I typically put on a worship CD of some sort, but other times I press shuffle and let my iPod do the leading. That’s always an interesting mix, but it’s fun nonetheless.
This morning I put on my “Recently Played” playlist and let that shuffle. I think there are nearly 100 songs on that particular playlist, and since my taste in music is pretty eclectic, it’s a fairly random assortment and one that keeps me guessing as to what song will come on next.
Not to my surprise, Audrey Assad usually ends up on this playlist and this morning I was struck afresh with “I Shall Not Want,” a song from her most recent album and inspired from Psalm 23. It is my second favorite, next to “Good to Me,” which I actually wrote about here. (I’d just like to go ahead and apologize for every blog post that is birthed from a song. It’s how I roll.)
From the love of my own comfort
From the fear of having nothing
From a life of worldly passions
Deliver me O God
From the need to be understood
From the need to be accepted
From the fear of being lonely
Deliver me O God
And I shall not want, I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want
When I taste Your goodness I shall not want
From the fear of serving others
From the fear of death or trial
From the fear of humility
Deliver me O God
The reason it’s my second favorite is because it confronts me in my uncomfortable places and convicts me on issues I’d rather suppress and ignore. It’s one of those songs that just gets all up in your business, hence my love/hate relationship with it. I mean, from the need to be understood, accepted and fear of being lonely? Ouch. I’m telling you the truth when I say that so often her lyrics leave me speechless. Speechless or thankful because she has a gift in putting words to what I’m feeling. . . .
We started Bible study this past Tuesday and one thing that stuck out to me while I was reading earlier this week was the word “dependencies.” Our current and brand new series is called “Breath” and it is all about the Holy Spirit. We’re barely getting started but the word Beth brought to us on Tuesday was stunning to say the least. I’m not going to even try and recap for fear of obliterating the entire series, but I can say that we’re praying for miracles and salvations to blow through Bible study these next six weeks.
I think the reason the word dependencies jumped out at me is because, if I can be so honest, in my own personal life, I’ve noticed that the Lord has been removing all manner of dependencies from my life. Dependencies that distract me from Jesus himself. And while it’s not a fun process in the least, and even hurts most times, it’s a good thing. I said to a friend the other day that when we have no where to go but to Jesus, it’s a good place to be. Yes, I have the sweetest friends and the most caring family, but even when we have all of the above, there are just some things that only Jesus can tend to. There are some places that only He can fill because truly, there are intimate things that only He knows. Even in marriage our spouse wasn’t meant to be a God to us, but a helpmate. If some of us were honest, we’d could say that some of our dependencies are secrets only He knows about, but we’ve never spoken them aloud to anybody, let alone Him. But as a God who is intimately acquainted with you, He knows, He sees, He doesn’t require you to change before you come to Him and He still pursues you with His perfect and unconditional love.
Can we just all be real here and ask God to deliver us from our enemies? Our dependencies? And then all agree with each other in Jesus’ name? We can even speak it anonymously if need be. I know it’s Friday and Monday is the day for starting over (do you sense my sarcasm?), but let’s not wait until Monday, let it be today! After all, Jesus came “not to call the righteous ones to repentance, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17) That’s good news to those of us today who are erring on the side of sin. Erring on the side of dependency of the things that make us weak and sick. Erring on the church-lady taboo that we’re all strong and well. Jesus is good news, indeed. (Quote source here.)
These three different views by the three different authors on the phrase “I shall not want” should give us plenty of “food for thought” on the meaning of “I shall not want” in our own lives. Also, I’ve included the Audrey Assad song, “I Shall Not Want,” referenced above in the blog post by Lindsee, as the YouTube Video for this blog post (see below). And I’ll end this post with those famous opening words from King David in Psalm 23. . .
The Lord. . .
Is my Shepherd. . .
I shall not want. . . .
YouTube Video: “I Shall Not Want” by Audrey Assad: