By Pastor Anthony L. Scott
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;”- Psalm 23:1-3a, NASB
Psalm 23 is the most well known and perhaps best loved chapter in the Bible. It has been labeled a masterpiece and the greatest poem ever written. If ever a Psalm could stand on a single line or verse it would be this Song of David the musician.
J.J. Stewart Perowne observed, “there is no Psalm in which the absence of all doubt, misgiving, fear, and anxiety is so remarkable”. Charles Haddon Spurgeon called it the “pearl of Psalms”, while Alexander Maclaren said, “the world could spare many a large book better than this sunny Psalm”. This poem has not only dried many tears, but millions have memorized, even those who know few other scripture portions. For others, these words have been the last that pierced their lips choosing to recite Psalm 23 as the last they would utter in life.
The opening three words offer the greatest assurance we could ever need. While time marches on and life is filled with unpredictable transitions, The LORD is. This means the LORD is creative, self-existent, self-sufficient, and timeless. Since God needs nothing, you and I can find our greatest stability in God and as our Shepherd He will never lead us in the wrong way.
Trusting and following this Shepherd means we will not lack rest. Philip Keller in A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 says that sheep do not lie down easily. It is almost impossible to get them to lie down unless four requirements are met. Because of their timidity, sheep will not lie down unless they are free of all fear. As a result of their unique social behavior, sheep will not lie down until they are free from friction with other sheep. If being tormented by flies or parasites sheep will not relax until they feel free from pests. Lastly, sheep will not recline if they feel in need of finding food. So, the LORD provides all these to us so that we might have rest.
In addition, trusting and following the LORD means we will not lack refreshment. It was G. A. Smith who stated, “By waters of rest, He refreshes me”. Sheep easily wander away often finding themselves in barren fields and near water that is undrinkable. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way”. In contrast, His right path leads us to green pastures and still waters.
Trusting and following the Savior also means we will not lack restoration. He renews our life. Philip Keller explains this situation known to shepherds as “cast or cast down sheep”. When sheep lie down comfortably, they may roll on their side slightly to stretch out or relax. Suddenly, the center of gravity shifts, and its feet are no longer touching the ground. At this point the sheep will feel a sense of panic, start to paw frantically making things worse. It becomes very important for the sheep to regain footing, otherwise gases build up in the body, cutting off circulation to the legs which can lead to death. The only one who can restore stability is the Shepherd. When we are spiritually on our backs the LORD is the one who restores our sense of stability.
The late Reverend E. V. Hill notes, “When you have Jesus, you have a restorer of the soul. According to those who know, the number one problem in America is burnout. People just can’t take it anymore. They hurry to bed so they can be the first ones in the bathroom, so they can be the first one to the table, so they can hurry to get to work, so they can hurry and get off, so they can hurry and get a good night’s rest. They’re completely tired of bedroom, bathroom, table, job. Just burned out”. Let the LORD restore your soul. If you are running toward burnout you have a Savior who can recharge you. Find some time to spend alone with God so you can receive rest, refreshment, and restoration!