â€śThe Lord is my shepherd: I shall not want,â€ť (v. 1). In this phrase, we learn of Godâ€™s covenant relationship with his people. God combines covenant with the work of the Shepherd. The seriousness of this covenant relationship is expressed by the blood shed to enact that covenant. â€śNow may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen,â€ť (Heb. 13:20-21).
Notice that it is through this covenant, one is made complete in every good work. To make one complete means there is nothing lacking, nothing that can be added to improve upon the work that God does for us.
A covenant implies the responsibility to abide by the terms of the covenant. As our Shepherd, God expresses His promise and responsibility to ensure that we have no want. These are spiritual blessings, (Eph. 1:3). It is not a reference to physical health, or financial condition for the Bible teaches that the poor would always be with us, (Matt. 26:11). That tells us that to be complete is not the end of financial poverty. Rather, it is the end of spiritual poverty. We lack nothing that allows us to stand accepted in the eyes of God, (Eph. 1:6).
A true Shepherd is a gatherer, not a scatterer. God warns: â€śWoe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture! Says the Lord. Therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel against the shepherds who feed my people: You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings, says the LORD.â€ť (Jer. 23:1-2)
The reason the sheep are scattered is because they are not well attended to by the unfaithful shepherds. It is a stark contrast between the Divine Shepherd who feeds the sheep, and the human shepherds who fleece them.
The Good Shepherd withholds nothing essential to the well-being of the sheep. Even his own life is not withheld for the Good Shepherd gives his life for the sheep. Through the giving of that life is the shedding of blood, the blood of the everlasting covenant.
Hence, whether through life or death, the Good Shepherd never leaves his sheep wanting. David wrote in another Psalm, â€śWe are His people and the sheep of His pasture.â€ť (Psa. 100:3) Most human covenants only extend until life ends, terminating at death. As we live, we are in need of life. In death, we are yet in need of life, (Job 14:13). The Good Shepherd came that we might have life, and that we might have it more abundantly, (Jn. 10:10). Believers live in life and yet live in death, (Jn. 11:25-26). That is the power of Godâ€™s covenant relationship with man.
It is in our need for life, life toward God, that we are most vulnerable, helpless and dependent upon the Shepherd. We are most like the sheep of the field, unable to provide the sustenance that can make and keep man alive to God. â€śO Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps,â€ť (Jer. 10:23).
We can create jobs, grow our food, manufacture all of lifeâ€™s amenities and through medical science and technology extend the days of our lives. However, we are helpless and hopeless without the Good Shepherd in receiving the life that really matters, i.e. the life lived on a much higher plane. The life which Paul calls, the upward call of God, (Phil. 3:14) and which in Hebrews is called the heavenly calling (3:1). That awakening to righteousness is true life. Israel, as the people of God lived but in vain under Torah, i.e. the Law to achieve that life. â€śFor if there could have been a law which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the Law.â€ť (Gal. 3:19)
This is the life of covenant, which no man can receive unless and until he gives himself in total submission to the covenant message and duty of the Good Shepherd. He must not rely on himself, for he is but dumb as the sheep. The frailty, wandering nature of man is all the proof needed for a Good Shepherd. Good expresses all that God is. He is the Good Shepherd. God is love. Love is Good. As the Good Shepherd God manifests his undying love and provision for His people. David viewed himself as a sheep, entirely dependent upon the Shepherd for his deliverance from danger, i.e. the danger of the grave. He wanted salvation from death, the death of separation from God.
David did not want his life to end without hope that his sorrows would bring him to the destiny of the grave. It is this fate, the Israelites feared all their lifetime, i.e. the bondage of death. For under Torah, it meant, permanent separation from YHWH in Hades. Without a Savior, i.e. the Good Shepherd, he would be without hope. He longed for the release from the fear of death all his lifetime (Heb. 2:14).