The words of Psalm 23 are so familiar to church-going people, that many of us read over them so quickly that we miss the significance of the message.
Talking about “quickly” – that is probably the curse of our modern, fast-paced life style. We need to do everything quickly: make instant coffee, rush to work via rapid transit, wolf down fast food, take short cuts, speed in the express lane, or hop across the ocean in a supersonic jet. There is no time for lingering, for smelling the roses, for savouring a meal, for entering into deep, meaningful conversations, for meandering along at a leisurely pace and enjoying companionship with others. “Gotta run!” is the farewell greeting of today.
The remedy for such an ulcer-riddled, stressed-out, hyper-active and in the long run unsustainable life style is a closer, personal relationship with God Himself, who is “my shepherd” – literally “the one who causes me to graze”. The picture of this pastoral scene is painted beautifully here in Ps.23:1-2 in the KJV: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures…”. The modern VOICE translates it: “The Eternal is my shepherd, He cares for me always. He provides me rest in rich, green fields…”. The Message puts it this way: “God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing. You have bedded me down in lush meadows…”. The picture of sheep lying down, resting and stretching out is what David, himself a shepherd, has in mind.
There are other scriptures that enrich our understanding of the shepherd-sheep relationship, most of us are not familiar with. In S.o.S.1:7 we read: “Tell me … where you graze your flock and where you rest your sheep at midday.” This speaks of the tender care of the shepherd who makes sure that the sheep have enough to eat and get the necessary rest during the heat of the day. The KJV of Jer.33:12 (a prophecy of future restoration) translates the causative verb form exactly: “this place… shall be an habitation of shepherds causing their flocks to lie down.”
Looking at the Hebrew grammar of Ps.23:2 (with the Hiph’il verb stem expressing causative action, and the Imperfect mood of the verb indicating an incomplete action or state being used to express habitual or customary actions) this verse literally says: “He causes me to habitually lie down and stretch out in green pastures”.
Because God cares for us so deeply, He is serious about us getting our rest. That’s why He created us with a built-in need for sleep, why He has instituted a weekly day of Shabbat, of ceasing from work, and why He integrated many festival days in Israel’s calendar so His people can celebrate resting in God. Yet if we insist on going against these customary rest periods, He causes us to lie down in another way: our bodies give out, we get sick, have a nervous breakdown, or even a heart attack. That’s the built-in shut-down mechanism, the overload switch, the circuit breaker that is tripped, if we won’t stop.
And it’s in a green pasture that this Shepherd causes us to lie down, not a brown, dried out and lifeless desert. Green pastures are a metaphor for hope, growth, nourishment, security, peace, beauty and abundant life bursting forth everywhere. It’s what God wants us to experience. It’s what Jesus came for. He states in Jn.10:10-11; “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” He laid down His life so we can lie down in green pastures.
Just recently the Lord stopped my frantic life style, when I had to undergo two surgeries and an extensive recovery period during which I was forced to lie down in my green reclining chair for 5 weeks. After the first surgery I was just itching to go back to work and plow through my long to-do-list. I must have overdone it, because after a few days I ended up in the hospital with emergency surgery and more recovery time to follow. Forced to slow down, my green recliner became a green pasture for me. In it I studied in my Bible, read many helpful books, spend time with my Canadian family, skyped with my German family, and enjoyed just meditating, praying and resting for many days.
My Good Shepherd caused me to stretch out in green pastures – and I’m so grateful for that. With Him tending us, we will lack nothing!
We are a pastoral couple named Stefan & Heidi König. We have many years of experience in various ministries, and are thankful that God has given us this property to use as a way to bless others who need a place to relax and reconnect with Him.
Kingfisher Spiritual Direction
Direct your heart to Jesus and restore your soul. If you need to hear from God, to grow deeper with Him, consider spiritual direction. An ancient discipline of soul care, Heidi is trained to prayerfully lead you in this practice.