“He makes me lie down in green pastures.” Psalm 23:2
God’s care for His people is evidenced by His timely provision. Green pastures suggest abundance, rest, peace and happiness. Under the guidance of the divine Shepherd, we may experience the abundant life, a stress free life. In John 10:10, we read the words of Jesus: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (NASB); or “a rich and satisfying life (NLT)”; “have life and have it to the full” (NIV).
“He makes me lie down in green pastures”. The ‘pleasant pastures’ is primarily a condition of the soul. Jesus, our Shepherd, has promised to lead us to a place of sufficiency and rest. Outwardly, we may be in the eye of the storm, but our inward selves will remain calm and unshaken, as we place our hands in His, and follow Him one step at a time, one day at a time. He will surely and steadily lead us into a spacious, delightful place.
When Gideon was called to take his stand against the thieving and plundering Midianites, he discovered that Jehovah Shalom – which means God, my peace – would give him the victory. As we stand in His peace, like Gideon, we will experience the strength to overcome all our troubles.
As Christians, our lives are not to follow the dizzy rush of ‘pagan’ lives – worrying about the necessities of life or chasing after worldly ambitions. Nor are we to live in fear of danger -‘No evil shall befall you; no disaster come near your tent’- for God has undertaken to care for our every need. Certainly, we live and work and relate to people in this world, but our inner compass operates differently. The arrow points to a heavenly kingdom, not an earthly one. Safe under His sheltering wing, we are freed from the struggle and the striving, which rule the lives of many. Our primary goal in every circumstance should be to follow the Shepherd – and in following Him, we will see fruitfulness in our work and relationships as well as a delightful freedom from anxiety.
A friend, I knew years ago, shared the secret of his constant joy. Orphaned at an early age, he led a dangerous life as a smuggler on the border of Venezuela, spending his earnings in orgies of ‘wine, women and song’. He received Christ in his early thirties – at the urging of a 3 year old boy, who would call out to him in the street, “Darrio, Jesus loves you” – and experienced a dramatic transformation. People were invariably drawn to the purity, joy and confidence that seemed to radiate from him, and he led many to Jesus. Darrio’s secret was that he simply believed that God would provide for all his needs and that His grace is sufficient. He said, “I never worry. I did once, but I felt ashamed about it afterwards, because I was saying to God – I don’t trust You. If you live each day for Christ without worrying about tomorrow, your whole life will be filled with of happiness and free of anxiety.”
“He makes me lie down…” Here we see the separate roles of sheep and Shepherd. The Shepherd guides His sheep through safe paths, even carries them in His arms and makes them lie down in choice places. Now the sheep can trustfully follow the Shepherd, remain in the spot chosen by Him and thrive, confident that the Shepherd knows what is best for their needs; or rebel and tear away from the flock, to wander off to more attractive spots.
So we come to the two conditions necessary for us to enjoy His rest. One, we must follow our Shepherd. This is an absolute necessity. If we stray away and find ourselves in the miry clay or a thorny pit, He will indeed seek us and deliver us, but for a period of time we will suffer from bruises or a broken limb.
Two, we must believe that He is indeed our Shepherd and will surely lead us to pleasant pastures. A firm conviction – rather than mere head knowledge – of our Shepherd’s unfailing care is what will bring us to this place of undisturbed rest. We must hold firmly to this belief even when things seem to go against us.
As Hannah Whitall Smith points out, our fight is the fight of faith. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but the enemy of our souls will make every effort to remove us from our place of confidence and trust. If we set ourselves firmly against the thoughts and notions which the devil tries to plant in our minds, we will find that the Lord is indeed faithful to bring us out of all our troubles. We should meditate on those scriptures which remind us of God’s love and care, confess them with our lips, and resist every ploy of the devil to make us believe differently. As we hold on, with the little strength that we have, our Shepherd will step in to deliver us and bring us to His rest. As we spend our lives with the God of peace, His abundant stores are open to meet our needs and help us grow and thrive even in adverse circumstances.
Lord, thank You for You are indeed the Shepherd of our souls and you will lead us to the best place for our flourishing. Help us follow you, deliver us from a rebellious heart that wants to stray away. Keep us trusting in You and full every promise in our lives.