Years ago a minister visited me in the hospital and implied that I was sick because I’d been too busy and God was making me slow down. (Actually, it was the flu but thanks for the pep talk.) The minister’s comment was based on a misunderstanding of what it means for a shepherd to make his sheep “lie down in green pastures.”
In Part 3 of Lessons from a Sheep, we’re looking at the first part of Psalm 23:2, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” According to Phillip Keller, author of A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, a shepherd did not make his sheep lie down by force but by ensuring that every need of his flock was met. He made sure his sheep were well fed and he led them into an area where they were safe from predators. He checked for any poisonous plants that might harm them and he kept watch over them all night long. He did whatever had to be done in order for them to “lie down in green pastures” and rest.
The image here is of parents who ensure that the needs of their children are met before putting them to bed for the night. When our children were little, my husband and I had a mental checklist of everything we needed to provide before we could “make” our children “lie down in green pastures.” Full tummy? Check. Successful bath time? Check. Teeth brushed? Check. Jammies on? Check. Clean sheets? Check. All required stuffed animals and dolls present and accounted for? Check. Thermostat set for optimal sleeping? Check. Fresh water on the night stand? Check. Prayers said and kisses exchanged? Check. It was a long list but we knew that the chances of our children going to bed peacefully hinged on all of their needs being met by us, their parents.
The same thing applies to us today. Let’s face it. We are sheep and we require the care of our Shepherd—especially when we are in a time of grief. Thankfully, Jesus is our Good Shepherd and regardless of where we may be in our grief journey, He is meeting all of our needs so that we can lie down in green pastures and rest.
Listen to what our Shepherd says to us:
Are you tired, physically and emotionally?
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).
Are you worried about paying the bills? Feeding your family? Finding a job?
“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matt. 6:31-33).
Are you afraid?
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
King David, himself a former shepherd, understood the vital role a shepherd played in the lives of his sheep. Perhaps he was remembering his childhood days with his flocks when he penned these words in Psalm 4:8 — “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.”
May our Good Shepherd grant you His peace. Today. Tonight. Whenever you need it most.