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Lacking Nothing

July 12, 2021

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” (Psalm 23: 1)

Sunday’s Scripture texts[1] remind me of Dallas Willard’s teaching of the Twenty-Third Psalm, Life Without Lack[2].  The premise of the book is that Psalm 23 describes the life that anyone can have who chooses God to be his or her shepherd.  When God is your shepherd, you will lack nothing.  No one has a problem free life.  David, the author of Psalm 23, knew that first-hand.  But he also knew that when you turn to God as your shepherd, he will see you through your anxieties, fears, and difficulties.  A life without lack means a life with God.  It is the life described by David in that psalm and elsewhere throughout Scripture.

David describes a shepherd who takes care of all of the needs of his flock.  He takes them to green pastures where there is plenty to eat.  He leads them to rivers and streams where they can drink their fill of fresh, life-sustaining water.  He guides them safely through difficult terrain and protects and comforts them.  He prepares a feast for them in a place where they may live forever: “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right path for his name’s sake.  Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever”  (Psalm 23).

Jesus is our good shepherd.  He died for our sins, was resurrected, and set off a revolution.  The world has never been the same since.  Jesus was the “righteous Branch” described by Jeremiah, as  “a King who will reign wisely . . . This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior” (Excerpts, Jeremiah 23: 5-6).   Jeremiah contrasted the corrupt leaders of the day –“shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture” in verse one– to the Messiah, the Righteous Savior who was to come.  The Messiah would be the perfect shepherd, who would take care of all of the needs of his flock.

Mark writes in the gospel text that Jesus planned to take his disciples to a quiet place to rest: “So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things” (Mark 6: 32-34).   The Good Shepherd’s compassion trumped his own fatigue.  He saw to the needs of his flock before his own.  He took care of all of their needs.  He nurtured them spiritually, and then fed the five thousand.  He instructed his disciples to give them something to eat, and turned five loaves of bread and two fish into enough bread and fish to feed five thousand men (actually about 15,000 people with their wives and children): “Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves.  Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all.  They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish”  (Mark 6: 41-43).   When Jesus is your shepherd he is all you need.  You will lack nothing. 

When you are separated from the Shepherd, he will find you.  Paul writes “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2: 13).  No matter where you are, the Shepherd will find you.  Several years ago I described a painting by James Tissot called The Good Shepherd, in which the artist depicts a shepherd emerging from an outcropping of boulders with a lamb around his neck, that he had just rescued in rugged terrain. I like this painting because it reminds me that every time I wander off, Jesus, my shepherd, will come and get me and bring me back to safety.  No matter how deep the water I find myself in, or how rocky the terrain, he will come for me.  He will never abandon me. (See “The Good Shepherd,”

Have you experienced a time in your life when you didn’t know if you could pay your bills that month or wondered how you could cover an unexpected expense, when just in your moment of need an old debt was repaid to you, or unexpected income was received to cover your expenses?  Have you been so filled with fear or anxiety for the future that you had nowhere to turn but to the Good Shepherd, and he came through for you?   Have you been through a dark valley where you could not find your way out, but the Shepherd was with you and brought you to a place of safety?  Have you been in so much physical or mental pain or anguish that you were desperate for any relief, and finally received relief?   The Good Shepherd will not abandon you. He will be with you throughout your life if you make room for him and keep the lines of communication open. 

God reminds us that even in the midst of pain and anguish you will be comforted and experience the joys that are yours through Jesus Christ: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

Prayer: Faithful God, you sent Jesus to be our Good Shepherd, to lay down his life for us, forgive our sins, and give us life in abundance.  You also provide helpers to care for us, to encourage us, and to teach us your Word.  Strengthen all who teach and preach the Word in your name so that we are encouraged and comforted.  Draw close to the sick, the lonely, the oppressed, the persecuted, the poor, the unbelieving, and the unloved, and let them experience your healing power and your saving love.  Amen. (Based in part on a September 13, 2020 prayer by Pastor Ken Frese).

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture texts for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost are Jeremiah 23: 1-6; Psalm 23; Ephesians 2: 11-22; Mark 6: 30-44. Another version of this blog was published in July 2018.

[2] Dallas Willard (edited by Larry Burtoft and Rebecca Willard Heatley) Life Without Lack (2108), Nelson Books.  The book is based on a series taught by Willard in 1991.

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