Just What I Need!
Psalm 23:2: "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
leadeth me beside the still waters."
Busy, busy, busy!
We are busy with appointments, activities and assignments.
Faced almost daily with decisions and deadlines.
Our time is consumed with schedules, ...services and seminars
Our lives go non-stop with plans, programs and people.
It is no wonder that our lives are stressed-out.
Are you a workaholic?
Workaholism can be a serious condition.
It can lead to the destruction of families.
It can also result in serious stress-related health problems.
Are you a workaholic?
You are if you are always in a hurry.
You are if your "To Do" list is unrealistically long.
You are if you use your "days off" to catch up with unfinished work.
You are if you feel guilty when you try to relax.
You are if you have to get sick to take time off.
You are if your family refers to you as "Occupant"
You are if you are working more and enjoying it less.
When work becomes the sole reason for being, you are a workaholic.
When work is the only thing you think about, you are a workaholic.
When work is the only thing that makes you happy, you are a workaholic.
If we want to reduce the "busyness" in our lives, we need to decide what is really important.
Ecclesiastes 4:4 "Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man's envy
of his neighbor."
Some work hard to succeed because they envy what other people have.
That is the rat race for many of us always wanting more, and always getting more.
There are some things more important than getting more.
Mark 8:36: "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"
That is not the kind of life that God wants us to live.
Psalm. 127:2 says, "It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep."
Psalm 23 tells us what God says to people under stress and pressure.
Psalm 23:2: "He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters."
If we were a sheep, we would understand this.
God is referring to rest and refreshment.
God wants us to live balanced and complete lives.
He doesn't expect us to be working all the time.
A pastor was walking down a country lane, and came upon a young farmer struggling
to load hay back onto a cart after it had fallen off.
The pastor said: "You looked tired, my son, why don't you rest a moment,
and I'll give you a hand."
"No thanks," replied the young man. "My father wouldn't like it."
"Don't be silly," the minister said. "Everyone is entitled to a break.
Come and have a drink of water."
Again, the young man protested that his father would be upset.
Losing his patience, the pastor said,
"Your father must be a real slave driver.
Where is he...I'm going to give him a piece of my mind!"
"Well," replied the young farmer, "he's under the load of hay."
The whole purpose of this second verse is for us to realize that God has not created a world
where we must always buckle under the load of hay for life.
There is a time for work, and there is a time for rest.
Rest and renewal is not a luxury or a diversion from labor; they are essential in life.
Rest is just as essential to a meaningful life as labor.
A healthy relationship with God involves both.
These very simple, but profound words of the 23rd Psalm still speak to us today.
These are encouraging words:
"He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; He leadeth me beside the still waters."
In these beautiful words, we find that our God provides for our salvation,
and also provides for our emotional and physical needs.
It is believed that David wrote these words from the wilderness where he was running
for his life from his own son, Absalom.
It is in this experience that God is supplying his needs and sustaining his life.
Our awesome God can turn a wilderness into a green pasture.
This is why we treasure those words.
We have such a great need for rest and refreshing.
Our bodies need rest.
If you don't take time to rest your body, your body might make time to rest itself
either in the hospital or with a cold or flu, or even more serious heath problems.
Someone has said: "Men will spend their health getting wealth;
then they will gladly pay that they have earned to get their health back."
Our good Shepherd will provide the nourishment and rest that we need every day..
"He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters" (v. 2).
These verses are telling us of sheep grazing during the morning hours.
They have found enough grass to make them full, and now, they are tired and need to rest.
The shepherd causes them to lie down in the grassy meadows with a sufficient water supply.
He makes me lie down in green pastures
According to Keller, sheep must be free from four things to lie down and rest peacefully.
They must be free from fear.
They must not feel like they are vulnerable to attack.
If they feel there's even a hint of danger, they won't lie down.
They must be free from tension.
There must be no tension between members of the flock.
They must be free from and aggravation.
They must not be aggravated with flies or parasites.
That will make them restless, and maybe, even frantic.
They must be free from hunger.
They don't want to go to sleep on an empty stomach.
These four things are very important to a shepherd because he herds his sheep in order
to make money on which to live, and for the needs of his family.
If those four areas are present -- it could costs him money.
Much of a shepherd's money is made on two things: the quality of the wool
and the weight of the sheep, if he's herding them for their meat.
If a sheep is experiencing fear, or if there is tension, or if there is any aggravation,
or if there is hunger, they don't do very well.
If there is stress, they can't put on weight because stress causes them to lose weight.
Stress causes them to lose weight.
As they lose weight because of poor nutrition or because of a stress-filled situation,
their wool also grows to be a poorer quality.
So, it's to the shepherd's advantage that his flock is contented.
He must see that there is no fear, no aggravation, no tension, and no hunger.
That's not an easy task.
A sheep is so timid that a rabbit jumping out of a bush can cause a whole flock to stampede.
If one sheep takes off -- they will all take off.
They don't stop to ask, "Hey, what was it that scared you?"
They just go wild, and they could run off the edge of a cliff.
So, it is serious business.
The shepherd always has to be observant of his sheep, and especially when they are close
to cliffs or to see that nothing frightens them.
Jesus is our Shepherd.
He provides us with our basic needs which makes it possible for us to relax.
"He makes me lie down in green pastures." (Psalm 23:2)
It is an important duty of a shepherd to provide them suitable and ample nourishment,
and then, skillfully lead them to it.
He Makes Me To Lie Down.
"He maketh me to lie down in green pastures."
The shepherd in the Palestinian hills and plains would start his sheep grazing very
early in the morning.
Four o'clock would be their usual hour.
They would eat and move on, and eat some more until the sun had gotten them hot.
By mid-morning, they would be hot and tired, and their stomachs would be filled
with undigested grass.
To drink water was a most natural thing, yet a most dangerous thing.
To drink while hot, and to drink with a stomach filled with undigested grass,
would mean disaster for the sheep.
So the wise shepherd made the sheep lie down for a while, and then, when they were cooled
and rested and had chewed the cud for a while -- that is digesting the grass,
they were ready to drink.
"He maketh me to lie down in green pastures."
Sometimes, God makes us to lie down in order that we may have some time to think
about things that are more important than the humdrum things of life.
A period of illness may be God's way of making us to lie down.
"He makes me lie down in green pastures."
"He makes me to lie down."
That is a beautiful and expressive image.
There is nothing more pastoral and picturesque than that of a flock of sheep
resting amid the luxuriant grass of a sunlit meadow.
Think about the spiritual aspect of: "He makes me to lie down."
It is the rest of faith.
Faith brings the soul into perfect rest in God's goodness, and in the sufficiency
and assurance of God's promises.
Faith can lie down in the midst of trial, and sorrow, and need, and rest in quiet places
where our Shepherd will cause us to rest in Him..
This rest is perfect satisfaction.
The world, with all its attractions cannot provide this kind of satisfying rest.
Perfect satisfaction comes only where the flock of God lies down in the green pastures
of His love, and of His Word.
Our Shepherd will guide all of us through all of our journey to our eternal home.
There are times that may be desperate and dark, but we can lie down in a quiet resting-place,
completely at rest and totally satisfied with the blessings of our Shepherd.
These "green pastures" of the Scriptures are always fresh, always rich, and are never exhausted.
The grass of these pastures never withers.
We will always find them and rich in nourishment, and with the needed comfort.
They are always strengthening, soothing, and sanctifying.
The doctrines of the gospel are needed food for our souls, just as tender grass is
a natural nutriment for sheep.
When we find rest in His promises, we are like the sheep that lie down in the green pasture,
and find provisions and peace.
We will also find rest and refreshment, serenity and satisfaction.
But remember: "He maketh me to lie down."
The Lord who enables us to perceive this precious truth, and to feed upon it.
We must be grateful for the ability to appropriate these wonderful promises.
There are some stressed souls who would give worlds if they could have this.
They know the blessedness of it, but the blessedness is not theirs.
They know about the "green pastures," but they are not made to "lie down" in them.
For years, believers have enjoyed an assurance of faith, and we should be eternally
thankful to our gracious God.
Psalm 23:2: "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters."
"He leadeth me beside still waters."
The second thing our Shepherd does is to lead His sheep beside still waters,
or literally, waters of rest,
This is also has the picture of quenching our thirst.
All through the Old Testament and the New Testament, and even our Lord used
the metaphor of water as being that which quenches our Spiritual thirst.
He told the woman at the well, " I have water that you know not of,
that if you drink this water you will never have to drink it again,
because it becomes a well of water springing up to eternal life."
David is using this idea of still which has to be deep -- not running, and not shallow;
but deep enough to be smooth and still.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is the shepherd of Isaiah 40:11:
"He shall feed His flock like a shepherd.
He shall gather the lambs with His arm and carry them in His bosom,
and shall gently lead those that are with young."
He leads them beside still waters.
He is there.
He doesn't stand on the hill and points the sheep to the water.
He comes with them and leads them to it,
Sheep are very timid animals, and are afraid of rushing waters.
They won't even drink from a running stream which frightens them.
They will also dehydrate quickly, and will need to drink.
So, if there are no other possibilities, they'll find a muddy puddle or pothole someplace
and start drinking from that, even though they may catch a disease from them.
So, it's important that a shepherd find a quiet, safe place of still water.
Biblical commentators tell us that sheep will not go near moving water, even if they are thirsty.
They are exceedingly frightened by moving water.
They cannot swim.
If they get into deep water, their heavy wool coat will quickly become saturated,
and the weight will pull them to the bottom.
Someone has said that it would not be similar to us leaping into a deep river
with an overcoat around our shoulders.
A sheep will literally die of thirst before they will go near a stream of moving water.
So, the shepherd must provide some still water for his sheep.
Sometimes, it is provided by making sure that the sheep graze early enough in the morning
when plenty of dew is left on the grass.
There are other times when the shepherd has to find a quiet pool of water somewhere
on a mountain trail.
Occasionally, the shepherd will literally build a small dam in a stream
in which a pool of quiet water will gather.
Then, the sheep will be safe in drinking from it.
Like sheep, we need food and water.
In spiritual terms, food represents the Word of God, and water represents the Holy Spirit.
We cannot survive and thrive spiritually without reading, studying, and partaking of God's Word.
We need to drink of God's Spirit, and allow Him to nourish us in the faith.
It's getting more difficult for us as sheep to lay down and rest in green pastures,
and find still waters.
We live in a stress-filled world, and that will not change.
Lloyd C. Douglas wrote in "The Robe":
"Like a navigator needs a north star, like a builder needs a plumb line,
like a mathematician needs a square root, like a musician needs a fixed note..
So, we who live in a hectic stress-filled world need a sanctuary.
We need One who is the same yesterday, today, and forever."
We need a Good Shepherd to enable us to adjust the pace of our lives,
so we don't go too slow or too fast.
The only Person wise enough to do that is our Great Shepherd.
When we live for the Lord, it is the right and healthy way to live.
And it is the most stress-free way to live.
When we are exhausted by the stress and strain of living in a fast-paced world,
and when we need the peace and serenity that the psalmist knew and cherished,
we know where to find it.
We find it in Christ who told His disciples:
"Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while."
"Resting in the pastures and beneath the Rock,
Resting by the waters where He leads His flock,
Resting, while we listen, at His glorious feet,
Resting in His very arms! O rest complete!"
Frances Ridley Havergal
We find rest in Our great Shepherd, Jesus, who said:
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:28-29)
This is a gracious invitation for anyone burdened with sin.
It is a precious promise for the stressed out.
It is a blessed consolation for the bereaved.
It is a glorious hope for the most deeply depressed and most despairing.
It is a balm that will heal every wound, and it will dry every tear.
God leads his people, not to the standing waters which are corrupt and gather filth,
and not to the troubled sea, nor to the rapid rising floods.
He will lead us to the silent pure waters.
The rest that we need and must have is found only in Jesus, our Good Shepherd
"My Shepherd will supply my need,
Jehovah is His name.
In pastures fresh He makes me fee,
Beside the living stream.
He brings my wand'ring spirit back,
When I forsake His ways.
And leads me for His mercy's sake
In paths of truth and grace."
"He leadeth me, O blessed thought!
O words with heav'nly comfort fraught!
Whate'er I do, where'er I be
Still 'tis God's hand that leadeth me.
Sometimes mid scenes of deepest gloom,
Sometimes where Eden's bowers bloom,
By waters still, over troubled sea,
Still 'tis His hand that leadeth me.
He leadeth me, He leadeth me,
By His own hand He leadeth me;
His faithful follower I would be,
For by His hand He leadeth me."
-- Lyrics are by Joseph H. Gilmore.
Sermon adapted from many resources by Dr. Harold L. White