The “Unexpected Power” in Psalm 23 (Part 2)
By Dr. Ray Rooney, Jr.
“Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.” – C.S. Lewis
The 23rd Psalm is much more than a feel-good sonnet to be read only to children at Vacation Bible School and at funerals. Its six short verses are packed with memories, assurances, hopefulness, and power. This is the second in a series of five blogs on the 23rd Psalm.
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.
Immediately upon establishing that God is his Shepherd, David describes what He does for the flock. Sure, there is provision in these statements. But look at the verbs. He “makes,” “leads,” and “restores.” Does it sound like David thinks God is an uninterested observer where it concerns the affairs of believers? Does it sound like David believed we have to beg and plead with God to become interested in our daily lives? No, it doesn’t.
The great weakness of humanity (it came with free will) is the belief that the pastures are greener somewhere over the horizon just beyond our sight. Wasn’t that precisely the weakness Satan exploited in the Garden of Eden? I’m paraphrasing but this is essentially what was pushed on Eve: “Yeah, you can’t eat from that tree because you’ll suddenly see how much you don’t see without it.” Satan turned the forbidden fruit into a greener pasture. We sell ourselves to whoever offers us what we don’t yet have. Sometimes we forget that Adam and Eve were already in Paradise. How could they be so dumb and naïve (sheep) as to buy into the notion that there was something inherently wrong with Paradise? Better than Paradise?
No. Lie down.
“He makes me lie down…” Because the truth is, I’m (we’re) often too dense to realize just how green the pasture I’m already in really is. We all have something that we think could be improved. We live in the era of upgrades. Many people upgrade their cell phones every time a new version comes out. I could have a better car. Other people my age have better homes. And what about spouses? Half the people in the country upgrade theirs. It’s not long, though, until we realize the greener pasture we just had to move into…turns out not to be a single shade greener!
Do you want to know what is being said softly but rhythmically in all six verses of the 23rd Psalm and especially in the first three? Some will find it comforting. Others, not so much. Here it is: God knows exactly which pasture you are in, which path you are on, and/or which valley you find yourself. And He intends for you to be there…for now. He is, after all, the Shepherd who led you there.
The Apostle Paul believed this. In Philippians 4:11 he says, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Lie down in the pasture the Shepherd has led you to. There is a reason you are there. Looking for a better (greener) field than the one your Shepherd led you to will only break your bank, cause unintended pain for those you love, and open the floodgates of regret as you realize just how green the pasture you thought was nothing but scorched grass really was. Lie down. And if you feel the urge to find something/someone else, realize God isn’t making it easy for you for a reason.
Notice that when it comes to water though, He merely leads us beside the still waters. There is rest and sustenance in the green pastures but water is vital to life. The Good Shepherd might make it difficult for the wayward sheep to leave the pasture but He will under no circumstances plunge a lamb’s head into the water to make it drink. Biblically, water is a symbol of cleansing (Naaman, 2 Kings 5:14), eternal satisfaction (woman at the well, John 4:14), and salvation (Colossians 2:12).
We must choose to be refreshed by the waters of life. God will lead us to the means of eternal life but we must choose it. In John 7:37-38 Jesus “cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me…Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” The key to that statement? “[L]et him come to me and drink.”
It becomes quickly apparent in the 23rd Psalm that David believed God takes the initiative and does all the heavy lifting when it comes to provision and salvation. But the choice to heed His will for our lives (both in the present and the hereafter) is ours and only ours. The green pastures, still waters, and paths of righteousness are, in fact, means to the restored soul. But I will share more about that in next week’s blog. I hope you’ll come back and read it.