When I was a teenager back in the 60s, I had a little garage band, and our first song ever played together was entitled, “Satisfaction.” Later on it was picked by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the greatest rock ‘n roll songs, for it reflected the spirit of a generation. I believe it also represents a longing within each human being. “I can’t get no satisfaction.”
So many people are looking for satisfaction. They chase after all sorts of things to fill their life. If I just raised the best kids, build the best marriage, buy the best house, or have the best career, then I’ll have satisfaction, people reason. All these are good things, but they don’t really provide the satisfaction we need. Some people seek contentment through pills, narcotics, or alcohol. However, these things also do not provide the satisfaction they are seeking either.
Max Lucado wrote a wonderful book a few years ago in which he describes the search for satisfaction as a prison. He writes, “Come with me to the most populated prison in the world. This facility has more inmates than bunks, more prisoners than plates, more residents than resources. The name of the prison? You see it over the entrance. It’s spelled W-A-N-T. The prison of want. You’ve seen her prisoners. They are in want. They want something. They want something bigger, nicer, faster, thinner. They want. They don’t want much, mind you. They just want one thing Ð one new job, one new car, one new house, one new spouse. And when they have one, they’ll be happy. And they are right. They will be happy. When they have one, they will leave the prison.
“But then it happens: the new car smell passes, the new job gets old, the neighbors buy a large television set, the new spouse has bad habits. The sizzle fizzles, and before you know it, another ex-con has broken parole and returns to prison. The prison of want.”
He goes on to ask, “Are you living in the prison of want?” So many people are looking for satisfaction.
We have a song out of the Old Testament before us today. It is the testimony of the greatest king of Israel, David, who penned the song in the twilight years of his life. It is Psalm 23. He is looking back at how God has taken care of him through his life. He remembers his younger days when he was a shepherd himself, taking care of the family’s flock in the hills. David wrote, “The Lord is my shepherd.”
David begins by telling us his subject: the Lord, Who is the maker of the universe, the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega, the One who causes all things to be. These two words Ð the Lord Ð are then described by the following 115 words of Psalm 23.
The word David uses to describe God is Yahweh in the Hebrew. When Moses was approached by God in the burning bush and told to rescue his people from Egypt, Moses asked, “Who do I say sent me?” God gave him his name, “Yahweh Ð I am who I am.” (Another way to say it is, “the One Who causes all things to be.”) I am who I am Ð unchanging, uncaused because I cause, ungoverened by circumstances. He is a big God who stands above all things and holds our planet in the palm of His hand like a little tennis ball. Big God.
Our next word is, “is.” The Lord is, not was, not will be, not used to be. This God is. Throughout his life, David discovered God is present and near. He’s not a God of the past; He’s a God of the present. He is a God Who walks beside him through all the seasons of his life and now in his elderly years. “The Lord is . . . ”
“. . . my shepherd.” A Shepherd protects, gives care. Back in those days, kings were oftentimes referred to as shepherds of their people. Most of us don’t really understand the job description of a shepherd unless we look it up. I did that. Shepherds tend, herd, feed, guard, and protect the sheep. They have the sheeps’ best interests at heart. That is what David is saying. This God, my Lord, is one who has my best interests in mind.
Notice that David is implying a truth about himself that we sometimes miss when we read this song Ð it is written from the standpoint of a sheep. David’s talking like he’s a sheep. And yet, David was a great warrior, very macho. He knocked down the giant Goliath with the slingshot and stone. This was a man who was highly respected and looked up to by world powers around him. And yet now he writes, I’m a sheep.
Sheep are helpless, defenseless, dependent, even stupid, I’m told. Why would David refer to himself as a sheep? Did he know something we need to realize about ourselves? It’s a little uncomfortable to think of yourself as a sheep. How many National Hockey League teams or football teams are called sheep? We prefer to believe we are self-sufficient and independent. And it all comes off well until something comes along to shatter your thinking Ð like when the company where you’ve worked for so many years folds and your job is eliminated, and you don’t know where to turn. Or when your child stops listening to you. She’s running with the wrong crowd, and you reason the only thing you can do is lock her in the closet. Or when the doctor comes back with an x-ray showing a spot and orders more tests to look for more spots Ð and you feel helpless and dependent.
In moments like those, you realize we’re sheep. We’re sheep.
If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of being a sheep, humor me and take this quiz. See if you succeed in self-sufficiency and self-reliance.
1. You can control your moods. You are never grumpy or sullen. You are always upbeat and upright. If that sounds like you, raise your hand.
2. You are at peace with everyone. Every relationship is as sweet as fudge. Even your old flames speak highly of you. If that describes you, raise your hand.
3. You have no fears. They call you the Teflon Tuffy. Wall Street plummets Ð no problem. Heart condition discovered Ð (yawn). World War III starts Ð “What’s for dinner?” Does this describe you? Raise your hand.
4. You need no forgiveness. You’ve never made a mistake. You are as square as a game of checkers. You never cheated; never lied; never lied about cheating. Is that you? Then raise your hand.
I imagine no one has raised their hand, so let’s evaluate this. You can’t control your moods, a few of your relationships are shaky, you have fears and faults, and you really want to hang a badge of self-reliance on your chest. It sounds to me like you are just like me and David. You need a Shepherd.
Life with a shepherd is really not all that baaaaad. (Sorry about that.) We need to admit to ourselves, though first of all, that we are sheep that need a Shepherd.
David goes on to describe life as a sheep with his Shepherd. He said, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” In other words, he’s not saying “I don’t want God. I don’t want the Shepherd.” He’s saying, “I’ll not be in want. I have found the secret of satisfaction. What I have found in God is greater than what I don’t have in this life.” If you have the Shepherd, you have everything you need.
The story is told of a little boy that won a drawing at a local toy store. The prize was to pick anything in that store and take it home. So the boy came down and met with the store owner later that day. He started browsing around looking for his chosen toy. He didn’t choose anything for a long time. Finally, the little boy walked up to the store owner said, “I want you, because if I have you, I have everything.”
That’s what David is saying today. If the Lord is your Shepherd, you’ll not want for anything. He has your best interests at heart.
Jesus talked about it as life abundant. This Shepherd, you see, loves you so much that He gave His only Son to die for you on a cross so that you might be His own, that He might lead you to green pastures and still waters. He truly does have your best interests at heart.
The key word in this verse is “my.” The Lord is my shepherd. There is a difference, you see, between knowing the Shepherd and knowing about the Shepherd. Those who know the Shepherd, experience His love and care in their life. Martin Luther once said, “True Christianity is expressed in personal pronouns.” And here we have one: my shepherd.
Do you know Jesus in that way? Is the Lord your Shepherd?
I was toying around with the tones and so forth of this verse. Could David be saying the Lord is my shepherd, implying other shepherds are out there that we might choose to follow? It might be your husband, your wife, your pastor, your parents, your friends. As important as these individuals may be in your life, they cannot be your shepherds, because they are sheep just like you who also need a Shepherd.
Is the Lord your Shepherd?
If you are trying to figure out for yourself if the Lord is your shepherd, remember Jesus’ words, “My sheep listen to my voice.”
Do you listen to his voice? Do you pay attention to Him in His Word and seek Him?
Jesus also said, “My sheep follow me.” Have you decided to follow His lead in your life? Will you take Him at His Word, believe He actually knows what makes your life work best, and do the things He tells you to do?
If that is the case, then, according to Jesus, the Lord is your Shepherd.
If you are looking for satisfaction, you need look no further. It is found in a relationship with the Lord, Who has done great things to make you His own through the cross and the resurrection. Won’t you entrust your life to His care? Place your well-being in His hands, for as you hold out your hand to Him, you will discover the hand that receives you carries nail scars from the cross. He really does have your best interests at heart.
Peggy discovered this for herself. She writes in her testimony, “Life was good. I was single, could come and go as I pleased. Weekends were spent cycling with the bike club or hiking in the mountains. I had friends, family, pets, a good job. Me, me, me. Life was good, but something was missing. I wondered, is there something more? Could I ever find complete happiness? Can I ever become a better person? Will I ever feel genuine inner peace? I figured these concerns would go away if I just kept busy accomplishing things, but they never did!
“In 2003, I found myself depressed from the breakup of a very unhealthy relationship. Then one day a woman on the TV news was asked how she was dealing with her son being sent to Iraq. She said, ÔMy faith.’ I have heard that said many times, but I thought people of faith were just simply brainwashed and weak. This time I thought, ÔIf this woman can get through her ordeal with something called faith, maybe faith can help me.’ So I started going to church on Sunday. I hung on every word in the sermons. I read Christian books. I attended women’s Bible study and Celebrate Recovery. I was so hungry to find out who God was, who Jesus is.
“My hardened heart started to crack, and I felt a warm glow seep into the cracks. I started to act differently. My pain went away. I started getting on my knees every day talking to God. And God start answering my prayers, way too many to be passed off as coincidence. There is not enough time to mention all the miracles God has graced me with: my morals, my friendships, my values, my interests and priorities have changed. I am becoming the person God created me to be. It came through a personal relationship with Jesus. And nothing on earth compares,” Peggy says.
The Shepherd has your best interests in mind.
If you are looking for satisfaction, entrust your life to His care.