Why is the twenty-third Psalm the favorite passage of Scripture for millions of people?Ê
Because it addresses our personal needs such as “Who do I follow?” and “What will it take to satisfy me?”
I have so much and yet I am discontent. What will it takeÊto satisfy me? Does this psalm address that question? Let’s see.
The Shepherd has two basic concerns for his flock. He wants to care for their basic needs of seeing that they have plenty of food and water. He also protects them from dangers that would
harm the sheep, for they are helpless animals. To meet these needs the psalmist says, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.” The Shepherd leads them to green pastures where they can graze on the soft grass. He then leads them to streams of fresh waters where they can satisfy their thirst. While all of this is going on, he keeps a watchful eye to be sure they are protected from the wildÊanimals that would kill them.
When we apply the truths of this metaphor to Jesus, who is the Good Shepherd, and believers to the flock, it becomes a bit more difficult. In comparison to human beings, it didn’t take much to satisfy the physical needs of the sheep. Keep their stomachs full and their thirst quenched, and the sheep are satisfied. Not so with human beings for they are more than bodies with physical needs. They are also souls. Thus the psalmist is uniquely referring to human sheep when he writes, “He restores my soul.”
It is the need of the soul which makes the question, “What will it take to satisfy my soul?” difficult to answer. The Scriptures teach that Jesus is the answer.
What does it take to satisfy my physical needs? For some people it takes very little. If they have a place to sleep, clothes to wear, and a few luxuries, they are satisfied. I have a friend who can’t figure out why there is so much dissatisfaction in thisÊworld. Give him a fishing pole, a boat, a set of golf clubs, and a bowling ball, and he is one happy fellow. That’s all the luxuries he seems to need. I imagine he would include the appliances in his house, the automobile, air conditioner, and the furnace as some of the necessities of life. The point is, he does not need to go on exotic trips, have a new home, or walk in high levels of society to be satisfied. In fact, he would not be comfortable with such possessions.
Others are not as easily satisfied. Having everything that one could ever hope to have, they cry out for more. Don’t we experience the frustration of Christmas shopping for the person
who has everything? What do I buy him or her that he or she doesn’t have? These people have beautiful homes but want larger ones. I am amazed at some of the new homes being built in our community. They are huge and obviously very costly. What makes the construction of these homes so amazing is that, in some cases, the children have left home and only dad and mom are left to occupy the 4,000 squareÊfeet most of the year.
I have some of this same fever. When I was young, I dreamed of the day when I could own a Cadillac. For most of our lives, Cadillacs were never considered. When we were raising and
educating our children, we were not riding in large luxurious cars. Then, about one year ago, it was time for us to trade cars. I walked into the showroom where most of the cars were Pontiacs and Dodges, but in the middle of these cars was this beautiful Cadillac. I kept coming back to it. Then I sat in it.Ê
By this time, the owner of the agency came out to the show room and asked, “Wouldn’t you like to trade for the Cadillac?”
“Oh, no,” I answered. I had looked at the price sticker on the window and that was not for me.ÊÊ
“Forget that price sticker. The car has 5,000 miles on it, and you and I have been good friends for years. I want to make it possible for you to drive a Cadillac, if that is what you want.”
“What I want?” I thought. What a joy it would be to drive that car and all of the rationalizing began. It would be so much more comfortable for my handicapped wife. We would fly less and
drive more. The list went on and by the time I left the showroom,ÊI had purchased a Cadillac.Ê
What a car, and we are enjoying it immensely, except when some people ask, “How can a preacher drive a Cadillac?” My patÊanswer is, “I’m retired.”Ê
Then we both laugh and go on our way.
For some of us, we always want a little bit more. This is supposed to be good, they tell us, because it is that desire toÊhave all these things that keeps the free enterprise system booming. What a shock it is to finally realize that all these luxuries will never completely satisfy me.
I had a dear old friend. We enjoyed eating dinner together at a study group which meets monthly. It always added to my evening when I could sit beside Carl and have him tell me of his experiences as a very successful businessman. He was very wealthy, but to look at him, you might think he lived from paycheck to paycheck. While he and his wife lived comfortably,Êhe didn’t have the latest gadget on the market. One evening,ÊCarl told me of the joy he was having giving away his money.Ê”It’s fun to make a lot of money, but it is far more fun to give it away,” he said. Carl has given away more than 50% of hisÊwealth for others. Colleges and our community have benefited from his generosity, but he hasn’t forgotten the poor either.
Not all have made the discovery that earthly pleasures will never satisfy our need for true joy. It is so easy, and theÊScriptures warn against it, to make material possessions our god.ÊWhen this is the case, only a Christian conversion will take that horrible need away. Having said that, it is also true that many who can tell of their conversion experience still hang on to their wealth as if it too saves in one way or another. It is only after we have lived with Christ for a period of time thatÊwe become convinced that only a living, personal relationship with the Shepherd can give us the satisfaction our soul needs.
The psalmist says, “He restores my soul.” The soul is the real me, the eternal part of me.Ê
Learn the basic lesson, that no material possession will satisfy the spiritual needs of my soul, and you will have made the discovery of a life time. It is only when our souls are restored into a living relationship with Christ that we experience a peace which goes beyond our understanding.
The hunger and thirst of the soul can only be satisfied by Jesus. This is one of Jesus’ basic teachings. When He said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:36), His meaning was very clear. Jesus alone can satisfy the deep needs of our souls.
What is this bread and wine to which Jesus refers? It is His Word with the promises found therein which satisfies the soul’s needs. Listen to the statements which come from satisfied souls:
From the pen of St. Paul:
“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” Philippians 1:21.
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” Philippians 4:12-13.
Here is a word from King David:
” . . . as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion upon those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust” Psalm 103:12-14.
There are hundreds of these testimonies found in and outside of the Scriptures.Ê
Here is one from Lena Sandal who wrote:Ê
Children of the Heavenly Father,
Though he giveth or he taketh,
God his children ne’er forsaketh;
His the loving purpose solely
To preserve them pure and holy.
These words were written after the author saw her father drown.
What will it take to satisfy me?
God’s Word gives us the answer: a living, personal relationship with God through trusting Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Receive Him if you have not already done so.Ê
Live with Him daily in His Word, and He will feed your soulÊand quench your spiritual thirst.