I Shall Not Want
Margaret H. Jorgensen
May 3, 2009
A Psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;*
3 he restores my soul.*
He leads me in right paths*
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,*
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely* goodness and mercy* shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
my whole life long.*
I was in Schnuck’s the other day, pushing my cart down the grocery aisle. As I was trundling down the cereal aisle, I saw a young girl, about five or six shopping with her father. "I want this" she said pointing to the box of Captain Crunch. Then, "I want this" pointing to the Fruit Loops. A few minutes later, I spotted them on the soft drink aisle. "I want this" she said tugging at her father's jacket and pointing to the coke bottles. A few minutes later in front of the bakery, she was again tugging at his jacket and pointing to the chocolate doughnuts. "I want this."
What do you want? Close your eyes for a minute and think, "what do I want." A new video game? A new car? A skinnier body? I know one person in the congregation wants a new computer. Do you want your son or daughter to visit more often? Or your parents to nag less often? What do you want?
Chaucer's character in Canterbury Tales, the Pardoner tells a story about three men who wanted, well listen to the story and you'll see. Once upon a time there were three young men. These were the sort of young men I think we hear about a lot today. They were interested only in eating and drinking and having fun. So, there were in the bar one day, in the morning for heaven's sake, drinking and playing pool. They heard a bell ring, signaling that someone had died. They said to the bar tender, "Send someone outside to find out who died." The bartender replied "Sirs, there is no reason to do that. I heard only a few minutes ago that Sam, your friend, was sitting on a bar stool in the bar across the street, and death came and took him away." "No! the young men said." Now they were beyond a little drunk, and remember this tale is from 700 years ago, so bear with me a little here. So the men say to each other "Let us go and kill this Death that kills so many of our friends and relatives." And so they leave the bar, stumbling a little and weaving a little. They walk out of town in search of death. They come upon an old man. He's dressed in dirty robes and he is covered from his head to his foot, except that his old wizened face peeks out from under his hood. They begin to rough him up and he protests that they should treat an old man better. He asks "what are you doing here anyway?" and one replies, "We are looking for Death. We are going to kill that old so and so who has killed so many of our friends." "Ah." the old man says, "I have seen Death. Do you see that big oak tree off in the distance? You will find him under that tree." And so the three men start off towards the tree, still a little wobbly on their feet. Under the tree, instead of Death, they find a huge pile of gold coins. More than 8 bushel baskets they decide. They sit under the tree and celebrate their good fortune. Then the oldest one says, "You know, if we try to carry this fortune into town now, during the day, everyone will think that we have stolen it. Let's one of us go into town and get some more to eat and drink and the other two will guard the treasure." "Well, says the second, how shall we decide who will go and who will stay?" "Let's draw lots says the third." And so they draw lots. The youngest gets the short straw and walks back into town. And so the two that are left sit down and play with all the gold coins. And then the older one says "you know there would be more for us if we'd didn't have to split this three ways." The other agrees. The older says, "here's what we'll do. When Bill comes back you begin to tease and wrestle with him. Then I'll come from behind and stab him in the side. You then do the same." And so they agree.
Bill walking back into town decides that there will certainly be more for him if he can get rid of the other two. And so he visits the drug store. He says to the pharmacist, "I've got rats that I need to get rid of. I've got a skunk too that's eating all my chickens. What do you have? " The Pharmacist says, "I've got just the thing. A little bit of this, just the size of a grain of wheat will kill anything living almost instantly." Bill said "Ok, I'll take it" And then he goes to the liquor store and buys three bottles of wine. He puts poison in two of them, leaving one for him to drink. And so he returns. The two put their plan into action and kill young Bill. And then they settle back with the wine to wait for nightfall so they can carry the gold into town. And they begin to drink the bottle of poisoned wine.
Greed was their shepherd. They wanted more and more gold.
But greed isn't the only shepherd out there. Do you remember the story of Cinderella? What happened to Cinderella [she went off to live with her wicked stepmother and wicked step sisters]. And what did they make her do? [Clean up the house.] Why did they make her do all the house work? [They were jealous of her.] And what happened one day? What came for the sisters? [An invitation to the ball that the prince was having]. And so what did the sisters do then? [Made Cinderella make them ball gowns and work her so hard that she didn't have time to make one for herself]. And then what happened when it was time to go to the ball? [The sisters went off without her.] And then what happened? [Cinderella's fairy godmother made her a beautiful ball gown and Cinderella went off to the ball in a carriage] And what did her fairy godmother tell her she must do? [Get home by midnight or everything would turn back to what it had been before, the carriage would turn back into a pumpkin and the horsemen would turn back into mice, and so on.] And what happened at the ball? [The prince fell in love with her] And then what happened? [The clock began to strike 12] And then? [Cinderella ran out of the castle but leave one glass slipper behind.] So what happened next? [The prince wants to see all the young women in the kingdom to find the mysterious woman who had captured his heart.] When the wicked stepsisters try on the slipper what happens? [It doesn't fit] And what do they do? [They begin to cut off their toes to make their feet fit in the slippers.]
Jealousy and envy were their shepherd. They wanted to make Cinderella miserable.
And there are other shepherds. Did you see the Lion King? Remember Simba? Mufasa is his father, the king of the pride lands. He is responsible for making sure that life in the lands stay in balance. He has a brother Scar, who is a manipulator and schemer. Scar wants to be king. When Mufasa has a son, Simba, Scar realizes that his chances for becoming king are getting smaller and smaller. And so he manipulates Simba into the wildebeest migration: tens of thousands of wildebeest, thundering hooves across the savannah. And Scar stampedes the wildebeest. Mufasa rushes in to save Simba. Mufasa is trapped in a gorge and Scar takes the opportunity to kill him. Simba finds his father's body and pushes it, but Mufasa is dead. Scar appears. Simba believes that he is responsible for his father's death. Scar tells the young lion that he must run away and then send the hyenas off to kill him. Simba makes it safely away, though. He finds some friends and is content wasting his life. A young lioness who was his best friend stumbles upon him. She has come for help. Scar has let the hyenas run wild and the balance in the pride lands has been upset. There is no more food. She begs Simba to return and help restore the balance, but Simba is afraid and refuses to return.
Fear and guilt are Simba's shepherds. He wants to avoid responsibility.
When the Psalmist says "I shall not want" it is a two edged statement. On the one hand, it is a promise that God will supply our needs, but it is also a promise by the Psalmist that he or she will be content with what God has provided. Our wants are a window onto who our Shepherd really is. Our acceptance of what has been provided for us can transform our lives into lives of richness and depth beyond what can be provided by our wants. I ran across this prayer by a confederate soldier:
I asked for strength that I might achieve;
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy;
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I had asked for,
But everything that I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself my unspoken prayers were answered;
I am, among all men, most richly blessed.