The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. – Psalm 23:1-6
This is one of my favorite passages in the bible and one that I have been looking forward to arriving at on my walk with water in the bible. This passage is so familiar that I have had to really reflect and dig to figure what it is about this passage that resonates with my soul. I think if I had to pick one word it would have to be tenderness. The image of a gentle shepherd caring for His sheep amid lush green pastures next to abundant cold clear water is a powerful metaphor for God’s love and care for us tender plants.
Yet if I am honest this image also creates a tension in my soul…part of me does not want to be a sheep or accept God’s care and refreshment for my soul. I guess it comes of being rebellious sheep. We humans often want to find our own pastures and make our own decisions about where to lie down and where we will allow ourselves to be led.
This verse suggests the road to true soul refreshment comes only after 1) recognizing and following the shepherd; 2) allowing the shepherd to provide for our needs so that we “lack nothing”; 3) accepting the shepherd’s direction to “lie down in green pastures”; and 4) trusting the Shepherd to provide the quiet water we need when we need it.
Jesus is the Shepherd and those who would follow His way must accept the role of being sheep. That means a constant surrender of our rebellious sheep nature and tendencies. I do not think that this means we need to become completely docile domesticated animals. God wants passionate and confident sheep with a posture and perspective that makes us capable of taking on a giant with five smooth stones like David did with Goliath (1 Samuel 17:38-49). There is a place for wildness and worship in our pursuit of the Shepherd.
We also need to allow the Shepherd to provide for us. Allowing God to provide for us can be hard and a bit scary, but it seems that there is a soul-softening that is only possible through trusting God to meet our needs. I suspect this is why Jesus spoke so often about money and the power it can have over our souls. Money and wealth can prevent us from trusting God. Perhaps that is why Jesus said it was so hard to serve both God and money. God wants us to know, deep in our soul, that if we “lack nothing” it is not because of our own talent and abilities, but because God has provided for our needs.
Accepting the Shepherd’s direction to “lie down in green pastures” is a bit like planting oneself near the river and sinking our roots deeply to reach the water. This is the part of the road to soul refreshment that is at times most challenging for me. As I have mentioned in previous posts I have a full on or full off type of personality. There are times when I find it hard to “lie down”. That is actually part of the reason I started this blog. So that God could teach me about the discipline of making a daily decision to accept His direction about where to “lie down”. God has led me to many green pastures along the way.
God has also led me to amazing stretches of quiet water amid whitewater and doldrums. I have traveled to Haiti, the western U.S., Ghana, and Canada since I started this blog and despite many times of turbulent and rushing water God has faithfully led me to quiet waters to refresh my soul… my cup overflows. Surely God’s goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Prayer: God thank You for leading me to quiet waters and refreshing my soul. May I dwell in Your house forever.