I love reading Phillip Keller’s Classic ~A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. His insights into what David meant came from His experiences as a shepherd in East Africa. His intimate knowledge of what a shepherd does for his sheep is invaluable. He writes about the reality of sheep’s nature but then he takes that knowledge and transfers it to parallel what it means to us as followers of Christ.
Today we want to look at the imagery the shepherd who “makes me lie down in green pastures.”
Keller writes, “The strange thing about sheep is that because of their very makeup it is almost impossible for them to be made to lie down unless four requirements are met.”
- Sheep need to be free from all fears.
- They are social animals so they need to be free from friction within the flock.
- They need to be pest free, no tormentors. I.e. fleas, flies, parasites.
- They must be free from hunger.
We have been learning this past year how to “fear not”. I hope that this has been as helpful in your life as it has in mine. However, we still live in a world of conflict, unrest and for some even dangerous situations.
How can we feel free to “lie down in green pastures”? It is because we know The Shepherd,
Jesus, the good shepherd. “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep: (John 10:11 NASB)
Our rest is found in Him. In Jesus, we have a Savior and Shepherd. In another of David’s psalms, we read, “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8)
I was led to this verse several years ago when my sweet husband went to Romania with a group from our church. I had never been at home alone in almost 40 years of marriage. Now faced with 10 days all by myself, I was wondering how I would make it. The daytime was fine but when night falls, everything sounds as if it is on jumbo speakers. I found myself the first night reading the Psalms to quiet my soul. I came to this Psalm and it was one of those Ah-Ha moments. Yes, Lord you are my shelter, my dwelling place. In you alone I will lie down and sleep in peace. Just like those sheep, in order to rest we need to be free of all fears. Jesus is our rest, the Lord Sabaoth is His name. The word Sabbath means “to cease”. We are to cease striving.
2 Timothy 1:7 says it this way, “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power,and of love and a sound mind.” (KJV version) The idea of a sound mind is to cease striving and rest in the one who made the world in seven and then rested.
Secondly, sheep can not lie down if there is friction in the flock. Boy, sometimes I feel this one. As a peacemaker, I think everyone ought to “just get along”. But we don’t! We bicker, backbite and slander. OUCH! We haven’t learned to be content and let God work out in others the quirky things that bother us. Sheep fight and wrestle for their pecking order well actually “butting” order.
We do the same. But God will establish our steps. Paul tells us he had “learned to be content whatever the circumstance.” (Philippians 4:11) We have to learn to work side by side. Yes, people will make mistakes, people will get irritable and people will let us down. Satan wants to divide the body. John 10:10 “The thief comes but to steal, kill and destroy.” But Jesus wants to give us life.
Next, sheep can not rest and lie down if they are tormented by insects and parasites. The good shepherd constantly cares for the sheep. He has the oil to anoint their broken and wounded bodies. Likewise, Jesus has sent the oil of the Holy Spirit to restore and heal our brokenness. We can help one another as under shepherds by loving each other. There is a balm in Gilead that soothes the soul. We can learn to rest and let the oil of the Holy Spirit do His work. He will teach us through the Word. God wants to use all of us to encourage the broken and walk through difficult times. Being whole ourselves allows us to walk alongside and help our brothers and sisters heal from their woundedness. It is critical that we begin to work through the hurt and bitterness and come to the place of healing. There is help available. Seek Godly counsel and let go of what keeps you from being whole.
Lastly, we need to be free of hunger. There is a spiritual hunger in each of us. There is a place in our hearts that only God the Father and Jesus can fill. The only way we can be free of hunger is to feed daily on His word. Feasting on the Word feeds our very souls. It is essential we read, study and walk in God’s Word. Proverbs 8:35 says, “For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord.” He alone can satisfy our empty spaces; He fills them with His life.
Treadin sisters are here to walk alongside and encourage you to stay with the Shepherd. Don’t wander off. You will see why later in the study.
In the Shepherd fold.
Love to you,
Gentle Shepherd Instrumental with Lyrics.
(from the book by Phillip Keller A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 )