Green Pastures

Today’s scripture: Psalm 23:1-6 (ESV-text and audio) (KJV) (The Message)

As you read, consider: What might God be saying to me? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two.

My thoughts (Brent Walsh):

“Bahah… baaaah…”

The sound of the distressed sheep was close as Enosh made his way through the dense thicket in the valley below where his flock was grazing. “Baaah… bah… bahaaah!” came the bleating, louder still. “Hold on, Tola!” Enosh yelled, feeling silly at having named this crazy sheep, but also frustrated at having to pull her out of the thorn bush — again! The sound of her shepherd’s voice should have calmed Tola, but she was panicked now. Her bleating intensified and she bucked against the thorns that dug into her.

“Easy now, you little escape artist. You’re only getting yourself in deeper.” Enosh tried a soothing tone, but the thorns were clawing at his hands and arms as he jabbed his staff in every direction to clear a path. This was the fourth time this week he had to leave the rest of the flock in order to rescue Tola from a calamity. She really wasn’t a bad animal, but simply got distracted.

When Enosh finally came within reach of Tola, he gently wrapped his arm around her neck with just enough pressure to calm her and keep her from thrashing. It only took a moment for Tola to relax enough for Enosh to assess her entrapment. With some skillful maneuvering, Tola was free. Enosh tucked her into the folds of his robe as he turned and backtracked across the path.

When they reached the clearing, Enosh put Tola on the ground and could see that she had broken her leg. Tola was now completely dependent on her shepherd. Over the next several weeks he carried her around in a pouch he made just for her. She was only able to eat the grass he would provide for her, so he made sure it was fresh and that she had enough. She had an independent nature and often wanted to get up and find her own food or play with the rest of the lambs, but he would make her lie back down.

She wasn’t happy about the arrangement, but little by little her focus started to shift. When he took his breaks, he would set her down beside him and tell her stories. She got used to the sound of his voice when he would talk or sing to her, and she started to relax. She no longer needed the thrill of the pasture to keep her occupied, because her shepherd was all the entertainment she needed!

When Tola’s leg was healed, Enosh took her off her restraint and allowed her back into the field with the rest of the sheep. But something was different. She was now his pet by choice. No longer did she roam outside the boundary of the pasture. No longer did she get distracted. She stayed close and listened for his voice. She could have gone where she pleased, but she was okay now with being dependent on someone who obviously loved her very much.

The twenty-third Psalm is a source of encouragement for many who are going through tough situations, and for good reason. It’s only six verses, but each paints a vivid picture of complete faith in God. As popular as it is, though, I feel that we often skim over the phrase that might be the most critical: “He makes me lie down in green pastures…” Note it doesn’t say that he “thinks we should” lie down in green pastures, or even that he “highly recommends” it. It says that he makes me.

Have you had to cope with illness or injury? Have you been laid off due to downsizing or a buyout? Maybe you’ve been mistreated or harassed at work. Have you lost a loved one? How is it that you have had your “leg broken” and are now finding yourself forced to lie down in green pastures, kicking and screaming?

There are no pat answers that will help right now, but maybe this Psalm can encourage us to look at the situation differently, even through the pain of a “broken leg”.

If you find yourself dependent on God, why not let God take care of you? Be ready to jump on the next opportunity that comes your way, but meanwhile, shift your focus away from your feelings of hopelessness and toward the One who loves you. This could be an opportunity to look at the beauty that surrounds you. Take your dog for a walk. Play with your kids on the swing. Call some friends and make plans for a game night or to watch a movie at home. Get started on that project that you never had time to do before. Make the best of the time you have on your hands.

Thought for the day: I challenge you to let the Lord be your Shepherd so that you don’t have to feel helpless. You may be writhing and bucking against the thicket, but try to relax. God’s got this. Surely goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life!

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.