Song Story: “I Shall Not Want” By David Taylor & Paul Zach
“Though I hunger and I thirst, though I wander and I stray I shall not want. I shall not want.”
In the writer’s words:
I’d been working on a sermon for Psalm 23 and felt dissatisfied with the collection of hymns and songs that I’d found. To my mind, those songs hadn’t captured the heart of the psalm. So I wrote a set of lyrics that attempted to capture the three movements of the psalm and to give voice to the very human expression of longing for God’s care. In verses 1-3, the Lord appears as a shepherd and the psalmist as a sheep. In verses 4-5, the Lord appears as a host and the psalmist as a guest. And in the final verse, the psalmist finds himself at home in the house of the Lord.
In this way, the psalmist represents for us a journey, much like John Bunyan’s pilgrim, from a traveler in the world to a family member who has finally arrived at home. It is in this sense, also, that Psalm 23 is the story of every person who has lived in a broken world full of wants and needs. When we look at our own lives, we too experience all kinds of want. We want in our marriages. Our children may leave us wanting. We often find ourselves lonely, wanting for real community.
Our budget is strained. Our body is chronically in pain. Our job exhausts us. We feel worn down by life’s constant, and often impossible, demands. We are all in want, somehow, someway. What’s most striking about this psalm is that the Lord provides food, rest, guidance and protection in precisely the places where we often feel most helpless: in death’s dark valley, in the presence of our enemies, and in our experiences of evil.
My hope, then, is that people will find their hearts’ wants identified in this song, but also be invited to affirm, with the psalmist, the Lord’s faithfulness. My desire is that we might sing this song as Christians have sung it for centuries: not as a statement of fact but as an expression of faith, that, whatever our circumstances, we might say in confident hope, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”
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Greg LaFollette is a musician and producer in Nashville,TN. He is the resident artist at a local church plant, Grace Story Church, and serves as their director of arts and liturgy.