Psalms 23 (pt.3)

Psalms 23 pt.3

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psa. 23).

So far, we have looked at the word “shepherd” and what is meant by “I shall not want,” and, after taking a short break this last week, we will continue with “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” You may recall me stating that my younger self was confused with “shall not want,” wondering why if He were the shepherd, He would not want me. Well, the next sentence did not help my confusion at all. Was God literally going to force me to lie down somewhere?  What if I did not want to rest in that pasture?  What if I just wanted to continue on?

First, let me explain what is meant by “green pastures.” If you know anything about the climate around Jerusalem, you will know that there is nothing that we would typically think of as “green” or “pasture.” When we see those words, we conjure up in our minds a picture of a lush meadow filled with beautiful, thick grass and flowers – not so in the area in question. Between the moisture from overnight condensation and the small amount of rain Jerusalem gets in a year, a decent number of springs are available for grazing, but nothing resembling a pasture. The shepherd would lead his sheep to those areas and have them graze to their heart’s content. The animal would travel as it ate, not finding enough grazing at any one particular location. But a focused, caring shepherd would direct the flock to ensure they received the proper amount of nourishment. The shepherd would also create an enclosure for the safety of his sheep where they could rest when weary.

God is our “shepherd,” and if we listen to Him and follow His directions, we too will find what we need to fulfill our needs. The casual reader may read those words and imagine an excess of opportunity, but that is not what is promised at all. God will provide our needs, not always our wants, and will move us down the trail to find even better nourishment. Our shepherd does not force us to lie down but instead is our refuge from the chaos of life. He provides us with an enclosure, a spiritual “safe space” to protect us from outside danger. We find rest in His arms, and He never sleeps or takes a vacation. He never gets sick or finds another job and leaves us to the mercy of the elements. We don’t need to fear anything because He is ever-present. Heb. 13:5-6, “…for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

But, and this is a big “but.”  Without God, our best-made plans can lead us not to green pastures but away from them. Far too many “sheep” start the morning of their baptism with a determination to follow God but then stray away from His Word, falling into calamity along the way. We need to allow His will to be done and follow His lead. Not only will we find the most nourishment, but He will be there to catch us and prevent us from falling when we stumble. Psa. 37:23-24, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.” We must stop trusting in our limited ability and rely entirely on God’s omniscience to find us the best grazing. Yes, we will have to move as we grow to find other nourishment in the pasture, but even in the darkest of times, the faithful will have His light to guide them. Psa. 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

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