He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. —Psalm 23:2
Sheep eat standing up. We once had a small flock, and the only time I saw them eat lying down was when sick. Sheep eat on all fours, then find a shady spot to lie down and chew their cud. When the psalmist said, “He lets me lie down in green pastures,” he meant, “I’m well satisfied. I’ve had plenty to eat. My needs have been met. Now I’m going to settle down in contentment.”
What about the still waters? Sheep are frightened by rushing streams, for they wear heavy woolen coats that can become waterlogged and result in drowning. Our sheep wouldn’t come near the water trough while I was filling it with the hose. The sound and sight of the splashing bothered them. But when the water was stilled, they’d come and drink all they wanted.
If we’re under the Shepherd’s ownership and care, He’ll see to it that every need in our lives is met in one way or another—our external needs, our internal needs, and our eternal needs.
Our job is to graze in the sweet pasturage of the Word and to drink from the still waters of the Spirit. A writer of yesteryear, William Evans, observed: “It is generally recognized as being a very difficult thing to get God’s people to thus lie down. They will do almost anything and everything else but that. They will run, walk, fight, sing, teach, preach, work, in a word do almost anything and everything except seek seasons of quiet and periods of retirement for secret communion with God and quiet soul nurture…. We do not like pauses… from the rush into the hush (to which) Jesus calls us.”
During some seasons of the year, our sheep drank little or nothing from their trough. We learned that if the climate is right, sheep can go for a long time without actually drinking water because of the heavy dews. When the grass is sopping wet, the sheep take in their needed moisture with their nutrition. It’s a wonderful picture of the Spirit-drenched Scriptures. In the early morning we graze in the sweet pasturage of the Word of God covered with the watery dew of the Holy Spirit. What an apt image of the Christian’s daily quiet time.
Spare no effort to learn this psalm. The Twenty-third Psalm has been memorized by every generation from antiquity to modernity. It’s been quoted across the centuries and through the millennia. In just six verses amounting to about a hundred words, it sums up all our needs in life and all the gracious provisions of God’s grace. Learn it a verse at a time, and each verse will build on the preceding one. Remember: It begins in “green pastures” and ends “in the house of the Lord forever.”
My faithful Shepherd is the Lord, supplying all my needs; In pastures green He makes me rest, by quiet waters leads.—The Presbyterian Psalter
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