“He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.” (Psalm 23:2)
How can you find rest in a world of relentless busyness and trouble?
David speaks about green pastures in which he can lie down. That is a beautiful picture of rest. Then he speaks of still waters where he can drink and be refreshed.
Sheep fear moving water because, if they fell in, their fleece would soak up water like a sponge, and their weight would cause them to drown. So a good shepherd will dam up a river and make a place where the sheep can drink in safety.
So here are two pictures of rest: The meadow with lush grass, with pools of still water beside.
Rest does not come easily or naturally to sheep.
Notice that David says “He makes me lie down.”
Sheep are timid creatures and the only way they can defend themselves is to run. So, they stay on their feet, ready to run at the first sight of danger. How can sheep lie down when they are so vulnerable?
Maybe you know what this is like: There is a problem that you need to solve, or a challenge you need to face, and your mind will not rest. How am I going to get through this? You lie awake at night, going over all that has happened, and all that could happen. You know that you need rest, but don’t know how to find it.
It’s clear from this Psalm that rest did not come easily to David, and that’s hardly surprising. He endured years of oppression on the run from Saul, and then had years of worry over his divided and dysfunctional family, on top of the weight that he carried on his shoulders as the king.
Rest did not come easily or naturally to David, but he says, “The Lord… makes me lie down” (vs. 1-2). How did that happen?
Sheep rest when they can see their shepherd.
Put yourself in the position of a sheep. You know that you are vulnerable. Your only defense is to run, so you stay on your feet. But when you can see your shepherd, you will lie down and rest, knowing that if the wolf comes, the shepherd is there, and He will deal with the wolf.
Sheep will lie down when they feel safe, and they feel safe when they can see the shepherd.
If the shepherd was to leave the field, you would be back on your feet again, watching for danger and ready to run. But as long as you can see your Shepherd, you will be able to rest.
David says, “My shepherd… makes me lie down.” And here’s how: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4). Even if the worst happens…my Shepherd is with me and when I know He is with me, I can rest.
The way to find rest is to keep the Shepherd in view.
The shepherd does not give rest to His sheep by ridding the world of danger. The wolves are still out there. But the sheep lie down because they have the shepherd in view. His presence gives them rest.
When you feel afraid, remember that you are not alone. Your Shepherd is with you. And your Shepherd is the Lord God Almighty. The way to find rest is to keep your Shepherd in view. “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).
This article is an excerpt of the sermon “He Leads Me” from the series on Psalm 23 titled The Lord Is My Shepherd.