“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures…” (Psalm 23.2a)
R&R. We so venerate Rest and Recuperation that we give it an acronym. Yet as a culture we Americans tend to overwork, marginalizing R&R for a splurge on the weekend. My travels take me to Romania periodically. (The photo of the shepherd is from my trip last summer.) Living for a couple of weeks at their slower pace is a good reminder to me that there is more to life than work, work, work.
Now I have read that there are four things that prevent sheep from resting: fear, conflict, pests and hunger. Sheep are skittish, and if everything is not just right they cannot rest. So before our Shepherd can make us lie down, He first has to take care of these troublemakers:
- Fear. Is it significant that the command Jesus gave more than any other was, “Do not fear?” We are so prone to it. David deals more with this in verse 4, but suffice it to say that the answer to our fear is His presence. When we know He is near and that He loves us, His perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4.18).
- Conflict. Like sheep, we are prone to skirmishes. Most are petty; but some are deadly. How does our Shepherd handle these? The Bible says that He is our peace. He brings down dividing walls of hostility. He enables us to forgive and to be forgiven. He calms our frazzled nerves.
- Pests. Now we’re not talking about the annoying person who calls us all the time. This refers to those parasites (such as ticks) that infect the sheep. You can’t be irritated or itch and rest at the same time. Disease in one form or another is common to us all. Sadly, we tend to look to most anything else (doctors, drugs, TV, magazines, advice from friends, etc.) other than our Shepherd to care for our diseases. Have we forgotten that one of the names of God is YHWH Rapha, the LORD who heals you?
- Hunger. Have hunger pangs ever kept you awake at night? My solution is a midnight bowl of cereal! But where does our food come from? Isn’t it our Shepherd who gives us life, talent, skills and work to “bring home the bacon”? Isn’t He the one who has arranged nature to provide our daily bread? I speak of physical hunger, but even more important is our spiritual hunger. And Jesus is the Bread of Life.
When these troublemakers are silenced, and we are comforted, then we can lie down in the grass in that place of true rest and recuperation. It’s a place of blessing and sanctification, for after the six days of creation God blessed and sanctified the Sabbath (Gen. 2.3).
Have you learned to lie down in green pastures? If you are one of His sheep He will lead you to it. You don’t have to wait till the weekend. You can even start on Monday!
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