Recently, we asked one of the leaders of the national Church in Cuba what Psalm 23:1 means to him, in light of the deteriorating situation in Cuba today. He offers an authentic understanding of how people who are struggling to find food to sustain life, read and understand this Psalm and at the end can say, “Amen… Thank you Jesus.”
Psalm 23:1 – The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
As Cuban believers, when we hear this verse, we first see God as our Lord and our Provider—apart from the circumstances and the situations we are facing. When the Psalmist says, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” he indicates relationship. And that is what we have learned under so much pressure and difficult circumstances—to establish a relationship with God. When he says, “I shall not want,” this refers to provision or supplies.
I think that all believers, in order to apply these verses to our own lives, need to consider the context of where we are placed to live. For example, the context for those who live in first-world countries/continents—America, Europe, Canada—is quite different from the context that Cubans have had to live in. Believers living in wealthier areas may include the provision of a yacht or a vacation in their prayers. In Cuba, those items are not viewed as an immediate or necessary provision. Instead, because of our context, our prayers focus on God´s attention to our lives in the midst of the existing shortages we face. For example, when basic provisions are not within our reach or not available at all, we cry out to God trusting that He can provide in the middle of our own situation. We can´t ask for a ton of grapes and apples—which we would love—but we understand our context. That´s why we are grateful for a piece of bread, a piece of pork, or a little bit of rice or beans. In little things like that we see God´s manifestation and power as He provides in the midst of our shortages and needs.
Cuban believers have also grown to understand that those who love and serve God are exposed to challenges and trials. The Lord offers us a glorious and wonderful salvation but does not exonerate us from the afflictions. The Word says we will have afflictions in the world, but He tells us to trust Him because He overcame all these afflictions for us. It is not that we have accepted or adapted to live mediocre lives or lives full of problems; on the contrary, we accept that anything can come to our lives but according to His riches in glory. His power will bring us through every problem, whether it is a scarcity or any other tribulation we may go through.
In many Bible passages, the Lord says that some people will have more than others. However, God lets us see that the level of spiritual prosperity is not about possessions, but about the relationship we have with our Lord.
That is why Cuban believers, in the middle of so many scarcities and afflictions, are comforted by God, always waiting for His provision and help. We believe He is faithful to accomplish what He has promised and give us the necessities to live until we reach the promises of the coming life.
This is what Psalm 23:1 means to the Cuban Christian. It is my thinking and it is how most of our church leaders, chaplains, pastors, and missionaries in our denomination, and in others, think in our country.
In conclusion, the words from our friend and leader in the Church of Cuba and his understanding of Psalm 23:1 should remain with us all as a reminder that our God is Jehovah Jireh—the believer’s Provider. All of our circumstances in life are different, but God will remain faithful to provide for our needs (not necessarily our luxuries), within our individual situations. With that being said, it is still God’s intention that the Body of Christ as a whole will share our blessings from Him with one another, just as the Early Church did, as described in Acts 2:45:
“… [they] were sharing them (their possessions) with all, as anyone might have need.”
I thank God for our many donors at Empower who sacrificially give to support the national Church. And our prayer is: Lord Jesus, please give us in the Western Church as a whole, a revival that encompasses this verse!