He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
–Psalm 23:2 ESV
Tropical storm Henri visited our neighborhood yesterday. At one point, the eye of the storm was literally over our house, according to the weather map! It turns out that this was a good place to be. The strong, swirling winds were farther out, swinging their way through other States. We endured only heavy rain and moderate winds. But we didn’t know that ahead of time, so we had prepared for the worst—being without food, water, and electricity for several days.
As a well-supplied American, I get used to having enough food, water, and electricity on hand at all times. A visit to Zimbabwe three years ago allowed me to experience the opposite. Essentials were provided one day at a time, often one hour at a time, as supply came. This is the better picture of life with Yahweh as our Shepherd. Each day, He offers to lead us to what we need: nourishing soul food and refreshing living water. A well-supplied life. In the face of pressing schedules and distracting distresses, we’re tempted to cut corners. No time to sit quietly. No energy to listen. Can we see ourselves in the following description?
A hungry, ill-fed sheep is ever on its feet, on the move, searching for another scanty mouthful of forage to try and satisfy its gnawing hunger. Such sheep are not contented, they do not thrive, they are no use to themselves nor to their owners. They languish and lack vigor and vitality. *
The Good Shepherd’s call interrupts our harried thoughts. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NET). Jesus’ kind of rest, once accepted, isn’t passive. “Take my yoke on you and learn from me. . . and you will find rest for your souls” (11:29). It means taking a daily walk with the Shepherd, encountering His supply as we go about life, with its messes and strains. It means trusting in His care not just during a quiet moment at the beginning of the day, but throughout the day.
Lately, I’ve been reminding myself that God is always ready for my attention. I look up from what I’m doing and visualize the reality of Jesus’ presence: “I’m here,” He reassures. Right now, the Shepherd is with us, ready to take us to the next spot in our day.
You have loved us first, O God, alas! We speak of it in terms of history as if You loved us first but a single time, rather than that without ceasing. You have loved us first many times and every day and our whole life through. When we wake up in the morning and turn our soul toward You—You are there first—You have loved us first; if I rise at dawn and at the same second turn my soul toward You in prayer, You are there ahead of me, You have loved me first. When I withdraw from the distractions of the day and turn my soul toward You, You are there first and thus forever. And we speak ungratefully as if You have loved us first only once. **
ACTION: Is your soul well supplied? If not, how might you follow the Shepherd to the inner food and drink that you need? Imagine for a moment how this could expand your sense of security with the Shepherd. What might help you be aware of Jesus’ constant presence in your day?
For an insightful look at what it means to feed in green pastures, view the following 4-minute clip by Ray Vander Laan:
*A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, Phillip Keller, p. 46
**Søren Kierkegaard, quoted in Embracing the Love of God, James Bryan Smith, p. 13