“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters...” Ps 23:2
In Jeremiah 33:12-13 the Lord gave a promise to the remnant of Israel isolated in Babylonian exile “‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: “In this place, desolate and without people or animals – in all its towns there will again be pastures for shepherds to rest their flocks. 13 In the towns of the hill country, of the western foothills and of the Negev, in the territory of Benjamin, in the villages around Jerusalem and in the towns of Judah, flocks will again pass under the hand of the one who counts them” says the Lord.”
This was a literal promise to Israel but also a messianic prophecy pointing to Jesus. There was a spiritual desolation and the people had been poorly led by the Shepherds. God told the leaders that they had cared for themselves rather than for my flock (Ezekiel 34:3) and promised so will I look after my sheep…I will tend them in a good pasture…they will feed in a rich pasture…I myself will tend my sheep and make them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. (34:12-15). This is an amazing promise that God himself would be Shepherd to the people and, through Jesus, he is our Good Shepherd (John 10:11)
That means we lie down in rich pasture and are led beside still waters; not a promise of a trouble-free life but an assurance that, if we stay rooted in Him, we will remain spiritually fed and fit to walk through every storm with a nourished soul and a peaceful mind.
One of the amazing aspects of Psalm 23 is God’s active part in these promises. The Law of Moses drove Israel, whereas the grace of God in Jesus leads and guides. There is a wonderful message here for us to allow Him to make us lie down in green pastures and to lead us beside the still waters. This is not striving but trusting. The green pastures are the food of God’s Word and the quiet waters are the presence of the Holy Spirit. We put ourselves in His care by feeding on His word and praying to be filled with the Spirit.
In 2012 Carole and I spent five days trekking across a glacier in Iceland. This was a route that had cost people their lives. Yet, for us this was a breath-taking and wonderful experience from start to finish. The reason for this was that we followed an experienced and well-prepared guide. He led us on the best paths, he made sure we had the right equipment; he gave us food to prepare, told us when to walk and when to rest. We put ourselves in his hands and he made us lie down in green pastures (actually with salmon sandwiches!) as we were led by incredible scenery. Those that went by themselves risked their lives.
Staying spiritually healthy is simpler than we often make it. Feed every day on what God has provided, his word. Be led in obedience by the Holy Spirit being doers as well as hearers of the word. Our God is active not passive – let Him lead you.
• Commit verse 2 to memory. As you repeat it, emphasise “He makes me” and “he leads me”. Declare it as a prayer of submitting to letting Him lead.
• Ask your elders or Life Group leader for a daily Bible reading plan and start feeding. Find a reading plan for the whole family that includes the children.