Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Tell me, O thou whom my soul lovest, where thou makest thy flock to rest at noon.”
Song of Solomon 1:7
“Impatient hearts want action – now!
We fear God’s time will be too late;
How prone we are to rush ahead –
When God says, ‘Wait!’
God’s schedule always runs on time,
Though years seems days or days seem years;
But happy she who moves God’s pace
And has no fears.
Not fast nor slow God’s timepiece is,
So let us set our time with His.”
Marjorie Allen Anderson
Today’s Study Text:
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”
Psalm 23 – Part 7
“In Green Pastures – Fed and Rested”
“Shepherd divine, thou leadest me
where the still waters gently flow;
In pastures fair thou feedest me;
I trust Thy love, no want I know.”
What does a phrase such as: “Makes me lie down in green pastures” mean to me?
“‘He makes me lie down in green pastures,’ this is lush imagery. The luxury of living in a tranquil field speaks of serenity, of no anxiety, of ‘be still and know.’”
Todd M. Donatelli, Dean
The Cathedral of All Souls
“Stillness has to do with seeing…the opening of our eyes to another dimension, to the mystery of God that lies all about us.”
Years ago, out in front of my grandparents ranch house, was a thick deep lawn that proved to be the perfect place for my sister and me to lie down on during warm summer days. It is the idyllic vision of lying in that cool grass, under large old black walnut trees looking up through the branches at the azure blue sky, which enters my mind whenever I read the words, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”
As we take a closer look at what the Psalmist David, was conveying in Psalm 23: 2, a good place to start is by studying the Hebrew translation along with the definition of four specific words: maketh, lie, green, pastures.
Word 1: Maketh. This word means to create by putting together component parts. To cause to become. To have a particular effect. In the broadest sense and application in Hebrew, the word “maketh” means to accomplish.
Word 2: Lie. To recline, to repose. To crouch with all four legs folded like a recumbent animal.
Word 3: Green. In Hebrew, a sprout, a tender green herb. The dictionary describes “green” as a color by associating it with leafy plants, foliage and grass.
Word 4: Pastures. The Hebrew means habitation, home, pleasant place. The English meaning is vegetation or food eaten by grazing animals.
If we put this phrase together, we recognize that God creates all the components in our lives and brings them together to give us nourishment, repose and the rest we need in a tender green area which becomes for us a pleasant place.
In Psalm 23:2, no sooner has our Shepherd promised to provide for our needs than we find that He assures us He has found for us, a pasture, where food and rest are plentiful.
Describing the shepherd’s duties in regard to finding adequate pasture, author Robert J. Morgan states “much of the stress of shepherding comes from maintaining adequate and rich pasturelands, for sheep will never be healthier than the meadows on which they graze.” A fertile feeding ground has long been a great concern for shepherds, even to the point of causing range wars between cattleman and shepherds.
But there’s a vital element to this passage which can easily be skipped right over. It is the fact that as David paints this peaceful picture, the sheep are not standing, nibbling away at grassy tufts of food. Instead, we see them lying contentedly in a restful pasture, having had enough to eat to meet their needs.
Here is the way the authors in Texts for Preaching paints the picture: it is an image of peace and tranquility, suggesting security and rest…for God provides all the basic necessities.” Expanding on the ability of the Shepherd to care for us fully, Robert Morgan encourages us with the fact that when we “make the Lord our Shepherd, He’ll see to it that one way or another all our needs are met. He will take personal ownership and responsibility for us, and we simply rest in His blessings.”
The fact that the sheep, under the care of a trustworthy shepherd, can feel well-cared for in a place of safety, allows them to rest completely – no worries at all. Since sheep are animals which are easily frightened, a secure environment is essential to their well-being and contentment.
As I pondered the lengths a shepherd goes in providing a place of nourishment and rest for the sheep he is concerned about, I began to think of the way God, our great Shepherd, has promised you and me, not only the nourishment to meet our physical needs but provides for our emotional and spiritual needs as well.
The problem is, that like the skittish sheep, we too, are easily disturbed and upset, because we are unaware of the time and effort our Shepherd has put into making certain we are properly attended to.
Instead, we think it is our duty to take care of everything in our lives. We busy ourselves with those things our Father has promised He’ll take care of for us. Pushing ahead, we try to “make” our own pasture and with a busyness that defies logic, we insist we must take care of ourselves, when what we really need to do is back off and restfully relax as we begin to be able to see our Shepherd at work on our behalf. What a joy when we learn to rest in His unending love. As Pastor F. B. Meyer points out, amid the rush of our lives, “We all need rest…the faculties and senses cannot always be on the strain. To work without rest is like overwinding a watch; the mainspring snaps and the machinery stands still…We cannot always be traveling up the rocky mountain pass of difficulty, or traversing the burning road of discontent. We must be able to lie down in green pastures.”
At this point in time, you may be wondering how in a hustle-bustle world we can even begin to catch our breath. And furthermore, how are we to rest in green pastures when it appears we hit a wilderness patch and there is no decent place for us to lie down in?
David found in his own life that there were not always green pastures and lush, fertile meadows to lie in and to eat from. In Psalm 27: 7-9 he wrote about those rough places he came to: “Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud; have mercy and be gracious to me and answer me!” Then David continues his plea by reminding God of His own words: “You (God) have said, ‘Seek My face, require My presence as your vital need.’” So where does David go? He goes to God. As author David Roper contends: “What are those green pastures…where are they? The real thing is God Himself. He is our ‘true pasture’…If we do not take Him in we will starve. There is a hunger in the human heart which nothing but God can satisfy.”
The Scottish pastor and author George MacDonald tried to capture the fullness we feel, feeding in our Heavenly Father’s pasture, with these touching words:
“I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me;
It was not I that found, O Savior true,
No, I was found of Thee.”
In order for us to benefit from our Father’s pasture, we cannot keep our lives so crammed with earthly endeavors that everything which is spiritual only gets the spare moments in our lives – the “leftovers” – time that is left after we think our top priorities are accomplished.
Keri Wyatt Kent took on the topic of taking time for God in her wonderful book, Breathe: Creating Space for God in a Hectic Life, when she noted that, “The Bible commands us to rest…what a generous and kind God we have,” she observed. Then she made this accurate observation, “We expect marching orders, or hoops to jump through. But God simply says, ‘Alright, this will be challenging, but here’s what I want you to do: take a break.”
I found the word by Pastor Jeff Paschal, in his commentary on Psalm 23 to sum up beautifully the way our Shepherd calls us to feast in His pasture and then rest in His presence: “We are practically drowning in stress. In the heat of this pressure cooker the psalmist offers cool, refreshing peace found in knowing and celebrating who God is and who we are. ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures’…In our culture, which clings to the myth of ‘rugged individualism’ and ‘self-made’ people, the psalmist instead proclaims the truth – none of us is ‘self-made.’ None of us is strong and independent. We are God-made, utterly dependent upon God, as sheep are dependent upon the shepherd. Yes, we work, save, study, and plan, but God is ultimately the One who meets our needs. God is the ‘One’ who makes us rest. God is the ‘One’ who slows us down and restores our very being.”
Trusting in our Father’s care and resting in His love will give us cause to say with the poet Maltbie Bobcock, “This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair; In the rustling grass I hear Him pass, He speaks to me everywhere.”
“In a culture where busyness is a fetish and stillness is laziness, rest is sloth. But without rest, we miss the rest of God: the rest He invites us to enter more fully so that we might know Him more deeply.”
The Rest of God
“You have bedded me down in lush meadows.”
The Message Bible
Let your aching heart
Do not fear
What may be released.
In God’s presence
All is made safe.
Offer your heart to God –
He will receive you
And shelter you…
Be with God.
“Let be and be still, and know, recognize and understand, that I am God.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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