Not Want

Scripture: Psalm 23:1b

Key Idea: I shall not want


  • Introduction
  • I shall not want
  • Conclusion


This morning we continue our series on Psalm 23

  • The plan (God willing) is to look at one aspect of the psalm each week
  • Over the past two weeks we have looked at the opening phrase…
  • The Lord is my shepherd
  • Today we focus on the second part of verse 1: I shall not want
  • To give us some context though I will read the whole Psalm…


The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,

He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul.

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

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 goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.


May the Lord illuminate His word for us


Over the past couple of weeks we’ve heard that: the Lord is my shepherd means, the Lord is my personal security

  • God looks after me like a shepherd looks after his sheep
  • When we truly believe the Lord is my shepherd then we can truly say…
  • I shall not want


I shall not want:

There are some things in life that we take for granted to be true

  • The technical name for these things is: a priori assumptions
  • Something we assume to be true without need of further proof


Some common examples of a priori assumptions include…

  • The sun always rises in the East
  • What goes up must come down
  • We need money to be happy
  • You can’t lose by investing in property
  • If I say what people want to hear I will be accepted
  • It is always windy in Wellington
  • My wife is always right
  • There is no greater honour than to play for the All Blacks
  • Eating this piece of chocolate will make me feel better
  • Working longer and harder will bring me rest
  • Owning the latest technology will make my life easier
  • My parents don’t know anything
  • Or, my children have nothing to teach me, and so on

The problem with a priori assumptions is they are not tested

  • The underlying assumptions upon which we base our life are not necessarily true just because we take it for granted they are


I was at the cricket with Bruce last Monday watching the Australians beat NZ

  • And from where we were sitting in the Vance Stand we could see Government House – where the Governor General is based
  • Bruce was telling me how the architects (back in England) designed Government House the wrong way around – to be south facing instead of north facing
  • In the Northern hemisphere the a priori assumption is that houses should be designed to face south to optimise the sunshine
  • Of course, in the Southern hemisphere everything is upside down
  • The Northern hemisphere a priori assumption doesn’t work down under
  • In NZ a house needs to be north facing to optimise the sunshine


The point I’m trying to make here is that we all hold a priori assumptions

  • Some of our assumptions are reliable – they hold true all of the time – like, ‘the sun always rises in the east’
  • While other assumptions are only true some of the time – like, ‘my wife is always right’
  • And then there are those assumptions which are completely false, even though we take it for granted they are true – like, ‘working longer and harder will bring me rest’

When I was younger I studied economics (among other things) and learned that one of the a priori assumptions on which our society is based is scarcity

  • The underlying assumption is: resources are limited – there isn’t enough to go around and so (at some point) I shall want, (I shall go without)


Any way this underlying belief in scarcity is responsible for demand & supply and the regulation of prices

  • The greater the demand for something, the more you will pay for it
  • And, conversely, the greater the supply, the less its (perceived) value


My observation (and my experience) is that an underlying assumption of scarcity creates quite a bit of anxiety and insecurity

  • We can never be sure that we will have enough or that what we have to offer will be worth much
  • ‘Resources are limited, therefore (at some point) I shall want’


This assumption of scarcity and the fear that it generates can drive us to compete with our neighbour for resources, rather than cooperate or share resources


So, is the assumption of scarcity true or is our economy and our society based on a lie?


Well, let me answer that by saying: David, the author of Psalm 23, had a different a priori assumption

  • David’s underlying belief was…


The Lord is my shepherd [therefore] I shall not want

  • David’s a priori assumption was abundance, not scarcity
  • Whether David would have enough wasn’t determined by the available resources
  • Nor did it depend on David’s ability to get his hands on those resources
  • Having enough – getting what he wanted – was determined by the Lord God, his shepherd


Now at this point I need to clarify, The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want, does not mean that God is like Santa Claus fulfilling our every wish & whim

  • And David is not like Veruca Salt (of Charlie & Chocolate Factory),
  • He is not a spoiled child producing a never ending list of demands


As Kenneth Bailey observes…

  • Our entire economic system is built on creating and then satisfying as many perceived wants as possible. Television advertising is deliberately fashioned to catch the viewer’s attention and create a sense of ‘I must have this medication or that electronic gadget’ in order to be healthy, entertained, happy and successful… [1]


No – David’s list of wants is fairly basic

  • He is not greedy or over the top
  • His list of wants is moderate and life-giving
  • David is not asking for an ever-rising mountain of material possessions
  • There is no hint of any desire for power or control
  • Nor is David expecting to be constantly entertained [2]


The rest of Psalm 23 goes on to expound David’s wants and how the Lord provides for these…

  • The Lord provides food, water & rest
  • The Lord provides rescue when I’m lost
  • And guidance when I’m not sure where to go
  • The Lord provides His presence & protection in difficult situations
  • The Lord is my friend, when no one else is, He surrounds me with goodness and love when I’m surrounded by enemies
  • Not only that but the Lord gives me a home (a place to belong) in this world and the next
  • David’s list of wants could be summed up in one word: security


When we truly believe in our heart of hearts that the Lord is our shepherd – then our list of wants starts to look like David’s, a picture of simplicity

  • When I know the Lord is my security I realise I don’t actually need or want all that stuff they are trying to sell me on TV
  • God is satisfaction enough – He is my delight, my joy


There is a lightness and a buoyancy to Psalm 23 – David is worry free

  • More than just an assumption, his experience is that God knows what is good for him and is faithful to provide the right thing at the right time


On the wall here is a picture of the late John Stott

  • John Stott lived from 1921 to 2011
  • He was an Anglican minister at All Souls Church in London and from what I’ve heard he was an outstanding preacher – very clear
  • He was also a world-wide leader of the evangelical movement


John Stott was single and celibate all his life

  • He lived simply – in a one bedroom apartment above someone’s garage and his favourite relaxation was bird watching
  • He was also a prolific author publishing over 50 books
  • The proceeds of John’s books went to training preachers in the developing world – so he could have been rich but he gave most of it away, strategically
  • He was convinced by the gospel


John Stott is credited with saying (and I paraphrase a little here)…

  • There are two things most Christians disagree with Jesus on
  • Two things we are determined to prove the Lord wrong about


Firstly, in Matthew 6, verse 24 – Jesus says…


No one can be a slave of two masters; he will hate one and love the other; he will be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.


For most people the a priori assumption is that

  • We can serve two masters
  • We can have our cake and eat it too
  • We can love both God and money


Now we might not actually think that consciously but it’s often how we behave

  • That’s the thing about a priori assumptions
  • We aren’t always aware of them – they are in our shadow, where we can’t see them


The reason we might try to serve both God and money is we are afraid that God won’t (or can’t) take care of us – we have bought into the lie of scarcity

When our a priori assumption is ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want’, we are not worried about the future – we are able to take one day at a time without getting too far ahead of ourselves

  • An underlying assumption of I shall want (scarcity) creates anxiety
  • But an underlying assumption of I shall not want (abundance) creates security


So that’s the first thing we fight Jesus on: ‘You can’t serve God and money’

  • The second is: ‘Apart from me you can do nothing’


In John 15 Jesus said…

  • I am the vine and you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing apart from me


Just as we are convinced that we can serve God and money

  • Many of us are also convinced that we can be fruitful apart from Christ – without abiding in Him


It is possible to call ourselves a Christian, to be involved in church activities, to read our Bible daily and not really let Jesus in


John Stott was born in London

  • His father was a doctor and an agnostic
  • An agnostic doesn’t really believe in God but also doesn’t rule out the possibility either
  • Stott’s mother was a Lutheran, but she attended the local Anglican church
  • Stott was sent off to boarding school, first to Oakley Hall and then later to Rugby School
  • ‘Rugby’ was the name of the school (like Tawa College) – it wasn’t a school entirely devoted to learning how to play rugby


While at Rugby School in 1938, Stott heard Eric Nash deliver a sermon called “What Then Shall I Do with Jesus, Who Is Called the Christ?”

  • After this talk, Nash pointed Stott to Revelation 3:20,
  • “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, & will sup with him, & he with me.”


Stott later described the impact this verse had on him as follows:


“Here, then, is the crucial question which we have been leading up to. Have we ever opened our door to Christ? Have we ever invited him in? This was exactly the question which I needed to have put to me. For, intellectually speaking, I had believed in Jesus all my life, on the other side of the door. I had regularly struggled to say my prayers through the key-hole. I had even pushed pennies under the door in a vain attempt to pacify him. I had been baptized, yes and confirmed as well. I went to church, read my Bible, had high ideals, and tried to be good and do good. But all the time, often without realising it, I was holding Christ at arm’s length, and keeping him outside. I knew that to open the door might have momentous consequences. I am profoundly grateful to him for enabling me to open the door. Looking back now over more than fifty years, I realise that that simple step has changed the entire direction, course and quality of my life. [3]


Stott was mentored by Nash, who wrote a weekly letter to him, advising him on how to develop and grow in his Christian life.


If we try to be a Christian without abiding in Christ

  • If we try to make things happen for Jesus without letting him in – keeping him at arms – then we will be found wanting
  • But if we remain in Christ then we shall not want – we will bear much fruit



When the Lord is my shepherd, my underlying assumption is: I shall not want

  • I shall not want means I am content to live simply
  • It means I am not anxious for the future because I know God will provide
  • When we abide in Christ – when we let him in – then we are not found wanting, then we become fruitful


Let’s finish now with the words of Jesus – from Matthew 6…


25 ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?

26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?


28 ‘And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith?


31 So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.


34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.


May the Word of Christ be welcome in our hearts

[1] Kenneth Bailey, ‘The Good Shepherd’, pages 38-39.

[2] Kenneth Bailey, ‘The Good Shepherd’, page 39.