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As we head into Thanksgiving, how do we give thanks to our good Shepherd? As we continue to interiorize Psalm 23, we can be grateful that our Good Shepherd is personal and provides all we need and want. "The Lord is MY Shepherd, I shall not WANT..." As Pastor Mike shared, we make Psalm 23 to be IN us so He can provide daily the joy, comfort, and peace He provides as our Shepherd. We fear no evil because His rod and staff comfort us: picture that GM truck (Goodness and Mercy) protecting us when we walk through that valley of darkness. As Louie Giglio reminds us, He prepares a table for us IN the presence of our enemies. As Mike shared about his morning prayer time when his own thoughts were leading him to a dark place, he turned to Psalm 23 and God stopped at: He makes me lie down... Keller tells us sheep don't lie down until 4 conditions are met: no fear, no friction with others, no parasites, no anxiety about food. Just as that crying baby needs a mom to comfort her before she can rest, we need the Shepherd to help us lie down: the problems (or diaper rash!) may still be there, but as a Mom is greater than a baby's cries so the Shepherd is greater than our struggles.
The Shepherd guides us and when our thoughts are not good, we pray for Him to give us HIS thoughts. He restores our souls and leads us to the still waters and lets us know when we're drinking from the wrong places that don't satisfy our thirst. He provides just enough 'green pastures' every day and as Ray VanderLaan reminds us: don't let tomorrow's worries rob us of today's green pastures.
As you interiorize this Psalm, let each phrase saturate with meaning that you may know God and especially this week: GIVE THANKS for all His good gifts: He is our Shepherd who provides all we need, restores us, guides us, and makes us lie down: thank you, Lord!
“PSALM 23: A PSALM FOR THE LIVING #3”
“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 leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” – Ps 23: 1-3.
Ray VanderLaan brings a great understanding of this. It’s natural for us to imagine the “green pastures” as “belly-deep alfalfa” because we’ve grown up in an American farm country where the pastures are lush. This skews our understanding, however. In Judea, “green pastures” are little sprigs of green sprouting from under rocks. There is just enough for today – and that’s OK because our shepherd is trustworthy.
Clouds rolling in off the Mediterranean Sea will drop rain on the “high country” in Judea. As the watershed collects and merges hundreds of streams into a single channel, it rushes down deep ravines into the desert en route to the dead sea hundreds of feet below. A person (or sheep) could be lazily drinking water from a small pool in just such a ravine and be blasted by a 20’ wall of water, even though the sky is blue and the birds are singing.
When we “thirst” in life, (when we have a need and seek fulfillment) we often look for the closest, easiest waterhole. We have no way of knowing that it’s raining in the mountains. Nor do we know for sure that the water is clean. Simply put, before you drink, look to your Shepherd – He can see what you can’t; He knows what you don’t, or look to Him for help when you’re about to drink what you know you shouldn’t. His desire is for your wellness, He will lead you to water that is “good for you” and “in a safe place”. Ask, “Is this good for me? Is it safe?”
RESTORES MY SOUL: The green pastures and good, safe water has had its good effect.
“Restores” in the scripture can refer to “a straying sheep brought back” (Isaiah 49:5, Psalm 60:1). This is what a good shepherd does (read and remember His steady love – Ps. 103:8-13).
This phrase also means, “brings me to repentance”. Not only does He bring me back physically, He turns my desires around. I was desiring the wrong way and He turned my desires back to Him and what He gives – light & life. What good are green pastures, still waters, and a dark soul?
HE LEADS ME:
The Shepherd is a guide. The sheep do not need to know where the green pastures or still waters are, all they need to know is where the shepherd is.
IN THE PATHS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS:
The Shepherd does not only comfort and restore, He guides the sheep into what is right. God’s guidance of us has (of course) a moral aspect. As we hear His voice, and obey His commands, He will lead us on the right path. There are many paths through life, fraught with danger, but in His goodness, He will guide us even when the way seems dark and foreboding…