The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
Walter Brueggemann classifies Israel’s metaphor for God that we meditated on Sunday, shepherd, as one of the ‘metaphors of sustenance.’ Other metaphors in this classification include; the artist, But now, this is what the LORD says-- he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine, Isaiah 43:1, Healer, For I am the Lord who heals you, Exodus 15:26, and Gardener, You brought them [Israel] in and planted them on the mountain of your possession, in Exodus 15. Brueggemann states that in all of these metaphors God is represented as that which nurtures, evokes, values and enhances life.
The comforting quality of the metaphor Shepherd, especially in the 23rd Psalm reaches into popular culture. If we take Brueggeman seriously though, ‘the Lord is my Shepherd,’ is a message that is meant for every day of our lives and not just those darkest days of trauma and trial. The opening verse of the 23rd Psalm pulls us into a truth that must be believed to be seen, an experience that is often so rare that it is easily doubted, which is the truth and experience of God’s abundance. As we discussed earlier when meditating on ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ in the Lord’s prayer, it is so common, both the feeling of scarcity, we are incomplete as a person because we lack love, purpose, etc, and the experience of scarcity, poverty, violence, etc, that the doubts that we have about God’s abundance are difficult to overcome.
The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want, evokes within the disciple who prays and meditates on it daily, the stories of God’s creativity in the Garden of Eden, God’s rescue of Israel in slavery, God’s guidance of Israel in the wilderness, rescue again from Babylon, and advent among us as Jesus, the good shepherd.
To live, with no alternative story to the common story of scarcity and the fear, exhaustion, bitterness and panic it causes, leaves us with no way to imagine or then enact something new and different in the world. That is all we will see in the world. That is all we will expect. ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, reminds us of and builds within us a different story, a story of hope, of healing, of mercy and of justice.
Center yourself in prayer today and every day this week, with this verse. Confess those parts of life or challenges of life that need to be Shepherded to new life, new hope, or healing and then release them to God.