The Divine Supply of Human Want
Psalm 23:1-6
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.…

Then the useful application of all this unto ourselves.


1. There are two sorts of things: some which do conduce to make the condition good and happy; others which do serve to make the condition smooth and delightful. As about an house there are pillars and rafters, etc., which are the bones, as it were, and absolute ingredients; and there are the varnishings and paintings which do set forth the house. Or, as in a garden, there are profitable fruits, and there are pleasant flowers only to look on and smell. So it is with us: there are some things which make our hearts truly good, and tend to our everlasting salvation; there are other things which do only serve to cheer and refresh us in our passage. Now, when David saith, I shall not want, they conjecture this to be the sense: Nothing shall be wanting to me which concerns the making of my estate truly happy; though delightfuls may be wanting, yet principals shall not.

2. Some things are

(1)  redundant,

(2)  necessary.Those things are redundant without which a man may well pass over his condition of life. As a man may well serve God, though he have not an estate of riches or honour comparable to another, or always equal to itself. Those things are necessary without which a person cannot well serve God, as our daily bread, for which Christ would have us to pray: our bodies cannot be fitted to duty without these external necessary supplies of food and raiment. Even a good man, a David, may want superfluities; his table may not he variously furnished, nor his garments gaudily embroidered, nor his coffers excessively stuffed and piled. But yet he shall not want necessaries, though he be not sure of plenty, yet of enough (Isaiah 33:16). He doth not say his wines are sure, but his waters; and he doth not say his feast, but his bread shall not fail. Though he hath not always what he needs not, yet he shall have always what is needful. Though he hath not the lace, yet he hath the garment; though he hath not the sauce, yet he hath the meat; though he hath not the palace, yet he hath the chamber; though he hath not the softness, yet he hath the bed; though he hath not what he may spare, yet he hath what he may use,

3. Of necessary things, some are desirable, and some seasonable. Those things are desirable which have any kind of good in them; those things are seasonable which have a kind of conveniency or fitness in them. It is granted that there are many desirable goods which a good man hath not many times. Yet no seasonable good shall he want: When health is good for him, Hezekiah shall recover; when liberty is good for him, Joseph shall be loosed; when favour and dignity are good for him, then David shall return and be settled. It is good for me, saith David, that I was afflicted. A good man may want this thing and that thing, but he shall not want anything that is good, nor when it may be good for him.

4. Again, divines say that good things may be had two ways, either explicitly: when a person enjoyeth the individual or particular things (suppose health, strength, liberty, friends, and other comforts); interpretatively, when a person enjoyeth that which is equivalent to those things (a citizen may not have a garden, a farm, sheep or oxen, yet he hath thousands in his purse which are equivalent to all these). Thus do they say of a good man, that either he enjoyeth the very particular good things which he needs, or else those things which are equivalent to them, nay, far exceeding of them. Though he cannot have much lands, yet he hath many graces; though he cannot have the countenance of men, yet he hath the favour of God; though he cannot enjoy quiet abroad, yet he settleth peace within his conscience. He that hath but one diamond may have far more than he who hath a thousand stones digged out of the quarry.

5. You must distinguish 'twixt absence and 'twixt indigence. Absence is when something is not present; indigence or want is when a needful good is not present. If a man were to walk, and had not a staff, here were something absent; if a man were to walk, and had but one leg, here were something whereof he were indigent. It is confessed that there are many good things which are absent from a good person, but no good thing which he wants or is indigent of. If the good be absent, and I need it not, this is not want; he that walks without his cloak walks well enough, for he needs it not.

6. There are two sorts of wants: in some part of the condition, in the heart and affection; as a man may abound in his condition, and yet want in that of his affection. He may have abundance in honour, in estate, in wealth, and yet through an endless covetousness and vain discontent he may be in want, still complaining, murmuring, craving. So a man may want something in his external condition, and yet abound and not want in that of his inward affection. Though he hath not the outward thing, yet he wants it not, for he is contented with the absence of it.

7. Lastly, you must distinguish 'twixt real wants and imaginary wants, — a want to the person and a want to the corruption: a child is sometimes clamorous for a knife, and sometimes he cries for bread; when he cries for bread his father ariseth and fetcheth the loaf, the child shall not want bread; but when he cries for the knife this he shall not have, the father will not satisfy his wantonness, though he will supply his wants. Our corruptions are still craving, and they are always inordinate; they can fled more wants than God needs to supply. God will see that His people shall not want, but withal He will never engage Himself to the satisfying of their corruptions, though He doth to the supply of their conditions. It is one thing what the sick man wants, another what his disease wants. Your ignorance, your discontents, your pride, your unthankful hearts may make you to believe that you dwell in a barren land, far from mercies (as melancholy makes a person to imagine that he is drowning, or killing, etc.), whereas if God did open your eyes as He did Hagar's, you might see fountains and streams, mercies and blessings sufficient; though not many, yet enough; though not so rich, yet proper and every way convenient for your good and comfort.How far the verity of this assertion extends, whether to soul and body, to spirituals and temporals. I answer briefly, it holds firm of both; both soul and body are the object of Divine providence and of Divine love, and both of them are serviceable to Divine glory.

1. That the soul shall not want, the Scriptures are abundant. It shall have grace and glory: there is redemption for it, righteousness for it, sanctification for it, and salvation; there is the Word to help it, the Sacraments to help it, afflictions to help it, and the Spirit of God still to help it —

(1)  to justifying grace,

(2)  to sanctifying grace,

(3)  to strengthening and assisting grace,

(4)  to comforting and refreshing grace: you shall never want proper comforts, nor seasonable.

2. That the body shall not want in respect of temporals; take them in any kind, and as suitable, and necessary, and seasonable. How it may appear that the people of God shall not want, and why.

(1)  It may appear by a series of experimental instances.

(2)  It may appear by the wonderful supplies of God unto His people rather than they should want; sometimes God hath created helps unto them — manna in the wilderness.

(3)  Shall not heaven and earth pass away before any one word of God doth fail?

(4)  Fourthly, consider His present donations.

(5)  His special affection to His people.

(6)  His singular relations. The Lord is to His people as a father to his children (2 Corinthians 6:18).

(7)  Lastly, take the acquaintances and acknowledgments of all the servants of God that they have made unto the Lord and delivered under their own hands (Genesis 32:1).But now it is objected against all this, that there are no people in the world that are in such want as the people of God for outward things. You know that all these outward things are promised not peremptorily, but

(1)  with condition, if good for them;

(2)  with exception of the Cross.Now I come to the application of this point to ourselves. Shall not the flock or people of God want? Then you who take yourselves to be the people of His pasture, give ear and hearken this day unto two things.

1. Your sins: That you suffer your hearts so to be cracked with fears, and your minds to be filled with cares. Thou hast no reason at all to conclude that thou shalt want. Consider, what hath God been unto thee already? What is the nature of God for the present: Is He like man, that He should change? Was He God all-sufficient? is He not so still? thy loving and compassionate God? is He not so still? thy almighty God? is He not so still? Is He deceitful? or is His band shortened? Doth He cease to be God, or to be thy God? If the fountain still lives and runs, why shouldest thou imagine to die by thirst? If the sun still shines, why shouldest thou fancy nothing but darkness? What is the promise of God for the future? Thou hast all the reason in the world to conclude that thou shalt not want, when thou considerest that fulness, infinite fulness which is in God. But Divine goodness is such a common as cannot be overlaid: though there be not water enough for a few ships in the river, yet there is water and room enough for all the ships in the world on the sea. That great God who feeds a whole world every day, He is able enough to sustain thee all thy days. That willingness that is in God to do thee good.

2. Your duty: To be humbled for vexatious cares and fears, and then to cast your care on God. The motives, which shall be drawn — From the evil inconveniences of not trusting on the Lord your Shepherd to supply your wants. They are very many. It is a dishonourable thing not to cast your care on the Lord.

(1)  You do dishonour to God.

(2)  Your holy profession: how apt are people to fasten all miscarriages of godly men upon godliness itself.

(3)  It is an unpeaceable thing: you lose all your peace until ye can rest upon God by faith for your supplies.

(4)  It is a prejudicial thing.

(5)  It is a very sinful thing: of all sins unbelief is one of the greatest, and a causeless unbelief is the greatest of all.There are three things in God, whereof if a man be ignorant he will be much in cares and fears of want.

1. One is God's fulness. If he apprehends not a fulness in all and every of God's attributes, his soul will fear and care. If I conceive that God is fully able to supply one want, and not many, or many of my wants, but not all, or all my personal wants, but not my domestical wants; all my wants heretofore when I was a single person, but not all now, when my charge increaseth and multiplies by children and servants. He who thus conceives of God, no more than of a half God, of a God of the valleys and not of the mountains, one who can supply low and mean, but not high and great wants; few and not many wants, former wants, but not present, present but not future wants, extremely mistakes the fountain of supplies, and must necessarily be tossed and crucified with perpetual waves and darts of rolling fears and cutting cares.

2. God's affectionateness.

3. God's immutability or unchangeableness. David reasoneth so in this place. Jehovah is my Shepherd, I shall not want. The Lord is my God, He hath undertaken for me all my life, therefore I am not solicitous. Christians are exceeding faulty in this, to make sure of God, and yet it is the way to make sure all His mercies. The mathematicians must have some principles granted unto them, and if once you assent unto those truths they will thence infer many infallible and undeniable conclusions. Among Christians this should be a principle made firm that God is their God, and then they may quietly sit down, and confidently conclude all comforts for soul and body. Be diligent in your callings. He who eats the bread of idleness, may well resolve to drink the waters of carefulness.

(O. Sedgwick, B. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: {A Psalm of David.} The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

WEB: Yahweh is my shepherd: I shall lack nothing.

The Divine Shepherd
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