Life is crazy. I just expect this time of year to be this way. There is the shopping, the decorating, the bombardment of emails, the hosting, the baking… Unfortunately, often the Christmas season equals busy.
To sidestep this I have been turning Psalm 23 over in my mind. Yes it is familiar, but timeless and timely. So the next few posts (for my own sake) I will be reflecting on Psalm 23. Please join along, if you too would like some green pastures to graze in.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside still waters;
He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
In Need of a Shepherd
My dog herds sheep- well sometimes, when she gets the chance. She is a border collie, a type of working dog. I love watching these dogs go to work- a work they love to do and were made for. Instinctively they know how to get in front of the sheep, stare them down and round them up. On their own they can possibly be a detriment to the sheep though- nipping at their heals or biting their legs. And sheep have little protection against a predator or the overly aggressive dog. Their defense is to run and clump together. The sheep need a shepherd to lead them and the commands he gives for the world they graze in.
Who is My Shepherd?
As I read Psalm 23 I like to read each part twice, allowing the words to sink in a little deeper. I read the first verses like this:
The Lord is my Shepherd,
I shall not want.
The Lord is MY Shepherd.
I shall not want
After reading it twice, words stand out to me differently.
I have a Shepherd. MY Shepherd is the Lord!
Everyone has a shepherd (some person or way they follow). But MY Shepherd, is the Lord! This Shepherd, the Lord, takes care of His sheep. And since the Lord is MY Shepherd my needs are met. He takes care of me. Who wouldn’t want this kind of Shepherd?
What do I really need?
What I tend to think I really need in this busy season is a good Netflix series, coffee, good food, a confidant, shopping or some much needed space. These are the “go-to’s,” —a “break” from the busy, something to soothe my soul.
Our familiar Psalm says this:
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He MAKES me like down in green pastures.
In my recent trip to Ireland there were expanses of green pasture. I couldn’t help but long to take in the green, rolling hills and the sheep that pastured there. It was a place I wanted to be. It was refreshment for the eyes and soul.
Yet, I live among a college culture that seems to reward busyness and activity- to a fault. The Quiet Voice can seem too quiet with all the noise. The clutter in my mind does not leave room for truth.
In the Psalm though, the Shepherd allows a space, like the places I saw abundantly in Ireland, for rest. And I wonder, why do I snack in the barren wasteland (my “go-to’s”) instead of grazing in the green pastures the Lord provides?
If the Lord is MY Shepherd I can be refreshed and restored in the space He provides.
Along the Way
Psalm 23 then says this:
He leads me besides still waters.
He LEADS me besides still waters.
He restores my soul.
HE restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name sake
He GUIDES me in paths of righteousness for His name sake.
I tend to think of this psalm as a psalm of stillness and rest. Therefore I think, “When I am still and when I have “my” space, then I can rest.” But it is also a psalm of movement and journey. This seems contradictory- rest and movement. How do I find rest when life is so full? There are problems to solve, bills to pay, exams to take, laundry, sickness and so much more. Along this journey He LEADS. He GUIDES. We go forward and He is with us.
If the Lord is MY Shepherd He is not just in the still places but in the active places as well. He is with me in every place, in every space, corner, and crevice of my life. And if the Lord is MY shepherd then along the way He restores my soul. I can experience this in the mundane and in the messiness of life.
If the Lord is MY Shepherd so much is true about me:
- If the Lord is MY Shepherd, then my needs are met. He takes care of me.
- If the Lord is MY Shepherd, I will have the rest I need. He is my “go-to.”
- If the Lord is MY shepherd, He will not leave me, but lead me.
- If the Lord is MY Shepherd, I can know He will give me the restoration I need even in the craziness of life.
The sheep are protected and provided for by the Shepherd. They need their shepherd, for on their own they are at great risk. Kind of like me. Today, what my soul needs is the Good Shepherd. I don’t need busy. I don’t need to listen to the voices prodding or chiding me to do more. I need the Lord as MY Shepherd. This is where I find those green pastures my soul longs for.
A book to consider: Rest of God