David writes in Psa_23:1, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” After using God’s covenant name LORD and then picturing such a personal relationship by likening Him to a Shepherd, the first blessing David mentions receiving from his Shepherd is that he does not want for anything.
The Hebrew chāsēr (H2637) means “to be lacking or needy or to decrease.” The first two of its some twenty occurrences reflect that latter idea when the waters of the Flood “were abated” and “decreased” (Gen_8:3; Gen_8:5). The idea of lacking is apparent in the third occurrence when Abraham found a “lack” of righteous people in Sodom (Gen_18:28).
Our text, however, says that David did not lack for anything, that he was not needy, that there was no decrease of any necessary thing in his life. The most frequent use of chāsēr, in fact, is to show that God’s provision is sufficient to meet the needs of His people. As one might expect, we find this very word in the account of God feeding His people in the wilderness. God’s provision of manna was so miraculous that “he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating” (Exo_16:18).
That is, indeed, the Shepherd’s promise. If we follow Him, we will want for nothing. As Spurgeon writes, “I shall not lack for temporal things. Does he not feed the ravens, and cause the lilies to grow? How, then, can he leave his children to starve? I shall not want for spirituals, I know that his grace will be sufficient for me. Resting in him he will say to me, ‘As thy day so shall thy strength be’ [Deu_33:25]. I may not possess all that I wish for, but ‘I shall not want.’”
Is there a prerequisite for such provision, or is it automatic no matter how one might live? As David makes clear elsewhere, “They that seek the LORD shall not want any good thing” (Psa_34:10; also Mat_6:25-34). In contrast, when God’s people turned to idol worship, “[They] wanted all things, and [were] consumed by the sword and by the famine” (Jer_44:18). While there are starving people in many places in the world, the problem is not a lack of resources, rather a wrong response to God, not a lack of food, rather a lack of faith.
Scriptures for Study: Read the following passages, noting the promise of God’s provision in each: Deu_8:3; Deu_8:9 (also Mat_4:4); Mat_6:25-34; Php_4:19. Is there ever a reason to doubt?