Psalm 23 holds a secret for us that we too often — perhaps always — rush past without noticing. The shepherd David, speaking of God, says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures…” I have to confess, I always think of David’s sheep lying down int he green pastures. Perhaps that shouldn’t surprise me, as I tend to make sure others get the rest and relaxation they need, while I also confess that I don’t take much of that time for myself.
It’s easy to justify and understand, of course. There’s so much to do, I just need to be more efficient with my time and things that need to be done, etc. And the truth is, that’s really the truth! There is so much to be done, and often it seems like there’s no way I can get it all taken care of — and often I don’t. You learn to prioritize and just do the most important things, and to do them in the most efficient order. Life is hectic, life is a rush, and we get through it trying to be as productive and efficient as we can be.
And then David says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” Who has time to lie down? All right, I suppose David, a shepherd, had nothing else to do while the sheep were grazing. I mean, how much work can it be to watch a bunch of sheep baaaaaaa away and graze a grassy field?
Actually, I imagine it truly was quite a job. Think about it — wolves, other animals trying to get to the sheep and kill them and eat them. Or, imagine the sheep (probably not the brightest animals) trying to walk off, just mindlessly meandering away. Keeping an eye on them would be a job. Worse yet, David probably didn’t have a tiny little flock of 5-6 sheep — there were probably many sheep, and that would make it hard to keep an eye on them all. In fact, scripture tells us about the shepherd who, with a flock of 100 sheep, would quickly leave the 99 just to locate the one who was missing – 100 sheep?? I don’t want to try to keep track of all of them.
So I guess I’ll assume that David had a decent sized flock of sheep to watch… and yet, there he is saying that God makes him lie down in green pastures. Makes him??
I wonder if our rush-rush-rush society and inability to sit still and rest is not so new. In fact, perhaps it’s just human nature. Human nature — meaning it’s always been that way for people. People have perhaps always been that way, rushing about, concerned about the amount of work to be done, and haven’t naturally been inclined to just lie down and rest.
Why would God make David lie down in green pastures?
Because, of course, He knew best. He knew David needed it. And interestingly, David doesn’t say, “He made me…” — on the contrary, David says, “He makes me…” as if it didn’t just happen once, but has happened before and will happen again. It’s almost as if David is saying, “God knows that I need to stop for a while and rest, but He also knows I won’t just do it on my own, so He makes me stop and rest.”
Hard for me to argue against that thought — I know God has my best interest in mind, so this would follow and make sense. So what about the green pastures?
I believe they refer to God’s desire for us to have the best. The best of everything. Really.
First, God wants our work to go well. He gives us the best of what we need. The sheep in David’s flock needed to graze. They could’ve been stuck in dry and barren pastures, and perhaps sometimes they were. But David knew that God, when he allowed Him to be involved, would provide a green pasture, a pasture with rich grass for the sheep to eat, so that David’s flock would eat well, grow well, and David’s work as a shepherd would be fruitful and productive as a result.
But there’s more. Instead of lying down or sitting on a rock or a rough spot of ground, God makes David lie down in the green pasture — the soft grass, the rich pasture.
God gave David the best possible place to rest that there was.
God believes in rest for each of us. He wants us to rest. He gives us everything we need to rest, and to rest comfortably. Yet too often we rush on past His gift. Too often we blindly assume we have to get things done now and not later.
I’m guilty. Very guilty. So here is the deal. I’m going to rest tonight. I’m going to accept that God really does, really, want us to rest. And He wants me to rest. So tonight I’m going to accept God’s wishes, accept the gift of rest He is giving me, and I am going to rest.
I’ll let you know how it goes.
What about you…?