Where Are Those Green Pastures? - Psalm 23:2a
“He makes me to lie down in green pastures.” (NKJV)
The author of Psalm 23 was writing a song so some scholars think that the green pastures allude to something idyllic like the Garden of Eden. Green pastures imply a place of rest and security which was rare in this wilderness. It took a skilled shepherd to find a place of green pasture.
When I travelled to Israel some years ago I went looking for the green pastures that I envisioned from the Christian bookstore posters I had seen growing up. But the time of year that I went to Israel was quite dry (as it often is) so the wilderness was rocky and arid. I had to be reminded that the work of a shepherd was most often not an easy one. Not only did he (or she) have to fight off wild animals looking to feed on the sheep, but the topography might not be advantageous to easily keep them alive. A good shepherd not only had the heart to provide abundant pastures to feed on, he had the skills to find enough food to keep the sheep alive. God is being portrayed in Psalm 23 as a generous shepherd whose sheep have had their fill to eat. They can lie down because they’re full. They’re resting because they’ve feasted abundantly on what the shepherd provided.
The week that the self-quarantine order came to our area, I decided to pay one last visit to my favorite local eatery. As I sat down in a nearly empty restaurant I could hear the owners discussing the challenges they were facing in this economic turmoil. How would they pay the rent if they had no customers for weeks or perhaps months? Since I knew the owners I said quite openly that I would be praying for them. The amazing thing is that what was just a simple visit to my favorite lunch spot turned out to be quite a holy moment. As the owners were discussing the challenges before them, who walks in but none other than their landlord, whom has never visited this tenant before! The landlord decided to stay for lunch and get to know her tenant for the first time. Also in the restaurant was one of the key business leaders in our community who heard me say to the owners, “I’ll be praying for you.” Both of us decided separately that we’d stop by the table of the landlord to let her know how valuable a business this place was to the community and how grateful we were for her taking on these wonderful tenants. The business leader was even so bold to say that she’d be looking for ways to help the tenant keep their business going. God was clearly orchestrating a strategic meetup that day in order to encourage these restaurant owners who needed to see that God had not forgotten them. The Lord gave them hope!
I mention this story to remind us that for some reason God chooses to answer some of the prayers we make when it look like green pastures are nowhere to be found. I know that God often doesn’t always these kinds of prayers in ways that we can see, but sometimes it’s abundantly clear that God is a Good Shepherd who wants His sheep to experience abundance and life, not hopelessness and anxiety. The Good Shepherd is offering to every person from every background the possibility of the abundant life in Christ. Even in the midst of the very real storms we face and lack of green pastures on the horizon, we can know that Jesus will not abandon us. We can lie down, not because we’re tired or scared, but because we’d had our fill on the very real presence of God and His daily provision for our needs. The One who knows every hair on our head knows our worries and distress—and promises to meet our needs.
Living out God’s Word
One thing that the Lord has put on my heart for this difficult season is to ask, “How can our church be known not just as friendly, but as a true family?” How can you specifically act like a caring family member to someone who might be worrying or in distress whether someone inside our church family or outside of it? Would you pray in faith that God would orchestrate a holy moment today where you might be part of the answer to someone’s prayer for hope today?
“It’s so clear in you, the sufficiency of your Father and the fullness of life that was poured through you, and we’re so thankful that you have promised that same love, that same life, that same joy, that same power for us. Lord, slip up on us today. Get past our defenses, our worries, our concerns. Gently open our souls, and speak your Word into them. We believe you want to do it, and we wait for you to do it now. In your name, amen.” Dallas Willard, Life Without Lack (p. xiii).
**An earlier version of this devotional can be found at https://depree.org/life-for-leaders/