He makes me to lie down in green pastures.
The author of Psalm 23 was writing a song, so some scholars think that the green pastures allude to something idyllic like the Garden of Eden. Green pastures implies a place of rest and security, rare in the wilderness. It took a skilled shepherd to find a place of green pasture.
When I travelled to Israel some years ago I went looking for the green pastures (and the girls with bonnets) that I envisioned from the Christian bookstore posters I had seen growing up. But the time of year that I went to Israel was quite dry, as it often is, so the wilderness was rocky and arid. I had to be reminded that the work of a shepherd was most often not an easy one. Not only did he (or she) have to fight off wild animals looking to feed on the sheep, but the topography of the land might not be advantageous to easily keeping them alive. A good shepherd not only had the heart to provide abundant pastures to feed on, he had the skills to find enough food to keep the sheep alive. God is portrayed in Psalm 23 as a generous shepherd whose sheep have had their fill to eat. They can lie down because they’re full. They’re resting because they’ve feasted abundantly on what the shepherd provided.
Allen Langham was not your stereotypical helpless sheep. A professional rugby player whose hunger for the good life led him to a life of crime and a stint in prison, he finally called out for God as a last ditch effort before he planned to commit suicide. At that moment he asked God to prove to him that he was real by bringing a white dove the next morning. Miraculously a white dove showed up outside of his prison window and he surrendered his life to this God that he had never known before. Allen knew that his quest to fill his soul with riches, popularity and substances was over and that he would now live his life feasting on the goodness of God in his life.
I mention Allen’s story to remind us all that for some reason God chooses to answer some of the desperate prayers for proof that God is real. I know that God often doesn’t answer these kinds of prayers in ways that we can see, but we sometimes it is abundantly clear that God is a good shepherd who wants his sheep to experience abundance and life, not addiction and death. The Good Shepherd is offering to every person from every background the possibility of the abundant life in Christ. We can lie down because we’d had our fill.
Something to Think About:
Dallas Willard prayed his own paraphrase of Psalm 23 every day. My friends at Soul Shepherding have compiled it here:
The Lord is my Shepherd, I have life without lack.
In his green pastures I’ve eaten my fill so I lie down.
At his still waters my thirst is satisfied.
He heals and reintegrates my broken depths in his eternal life
so I can walk in paths of righteousness on his behalf.
Even though I go through loss, hunger, disease, aging, and death I will fear no evil because you Jesus are with me.
Your strong rod and protective staff put me at liberty.
Your abundant provision is a feast for me so I’m happy to share with my enemies.
You give me hot showers and warm fluffy towels, joyful experiences and deep relationships, to make me feel clean, special, and powerful.
My cup runs over so I can be generous without ever running out.
Surely this world is a perfectly safe place for me to be
Because I dwell and abide with God in the fullness of his life in the Kingdom of the Heavens forever.
Something to Do:
Slowly pray through Willard’s version of Psalm 23, expecting the abundant provision of a Good Shepherd who cares deeply for his sheep. What is God saying to you as you listen?
“It’s so clear in you, the sufficiency of your Father and the fullness of life that was poured through you, and we’re so thankful that you have promised that same love, that same life, that same joy, that same power for us. Lord, slip up on us today. Get past our defenses, our worries, our concerns. Gently open our souls, and speak your Word into them. We believe you want to do it, and we wait for you to do it now. In your name, amen.” (Dallas Willard, Life Without Lack, p. xiii).