Sunday, August 26, 2012

The 23rd Psalm: Adonai Our Shepherd

As I stated in the introduction to this study, Psalms 23 is a psalm not for the dead, but for those of us that still live.  Death itself is never actually mentioned in this Psalm, and the word is used only once.  Yet, for whatever reason, we equate death, dying and funerals with this beautiful illustration of God's provision and guidance throughout our lives.

Without any further ado, let us begin with the first verse. (KJV here)
A psalm of David: ADONAI is my shepherd; I lack nothing. (CJB)
I love this version for the simple fact that they used in text the Jewish manner of vocal reading.  The original text uses YHVH, (what we usually write as YHWH), but the Jews do not pronounce YHVH aloud; instead, they vocalize Adonai, or in some cases, Adon.
Adon, singular, means "Lord," whereas Adonai, plural, literally means "Lords."  When used with singular modifiers, it is meant to accent the preeminence of God. (1)  Thus, in this case, David is writing that the all powerful, ever present God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is his Shepherd.
This is an astounding claim to this day, because even then as today, many believe God to be an impersonal and distant deity.  David is saying that this is not the case at all; in fact, just as the shepherd is with his flock at all times, so too is God with him at all times.  Far from being distant and aloof, Adonai is personally concerned with the wellbeing of every one of His sheep.

Let's look at how the Amplified words verse one:
THE LORD is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me], I shall not lack. (AMP)
The Amplified here takes the very job of the shepherd and inserts it in brackets to further amplify what the Lord is doing for David- And indeed, all of us.  He feeds us; He guides us; and He shields and defends us.  Again, this does not line up with the concept of God being distant, impersonal and unapproachable.  To the contrary, this says exactly the opposite.

Let's move on to the second half of verse one.  The New Living translation reads:
The LORD is my shepherd; I have everything I need. (NLT)
The New Jerusalem Bible phrases this last section as "I lack nothing."  The Message says "I don't need a thing."  The Easy-To-Read Version states "I will always have everything I need."  The God's Word Version announces "I am never in need."  Brenton's English Septuigent terms it "I shall want nothing."  Finally, the Apostolic Bible Polyglot trumpets "not one thing lacks for me."
Regardless which version you prefer, the meaning is clear- God's provision for His own is complete.
KJV Only Alert

A quick aside to those who turn up their noses at these other versions and the way they word the verse: The original Hebrew reads closer to some of these than it does the King James.  The word here is châsêr, pronounced khaw-sare', and literally means "lack."  "Want" and its synonyms are implied, but are not the literal translation for this Hebrew word.  What's more, the Bishops Bible of 1568, (which is one of those listed as source material for the creation of the King James), reads "therefore I can lacke nothyng." (sic)

In conclusion for this section, I want to quote Dr. J. Vernon McGee, who said of this verse:
"The emphasis is upon the fact that there is nothing between the man's soul and God. ...notice that David does not say, I have not wanted, but 'I shall not want.' ...[this] looks into the future and gives assurance to the child of God. The security of the believer rests upon the Shepherd."
The Creator of heaven and earth is not afar off; He stands with us, providing for us completely and totally.  No other shepherd could do the job which Adonai does for us.  Only YHVH is capable of such absolute provision.

This, the  twenty-third Psalm, opens with an absolute assertion: That the all powerful and omnipresent God that created all we see and do not see takes a close and personal interest in us, our lives and the quality of the same.
Next time, we examine verse two.  Until then, may Adonai continue to be YOUR Shepherd!

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