It dawned upon me that in an article a couple of weeks ago, we looked at the Twenty Third Psalm and I indicated that we'd be looking at it in more detail. The next week my article was on something else entirely. So let's come back to this wonderful Psalm of comfort and trust. In it David compares God's care for his children as a shepherd's care for his sheep. That's a good comparison. There are many similarities between the fallen human nature and sheep. So, let's talk about sheep.
Sheep are skittish creatures, easily frightened. Sheep share a trait with rabbits - they can be literally scared to death. With this in mind, look at the words of verse 2: "He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters." Sheep will not lie down unless they are free from fear and discomfort. So skittish are these interesting animals that they will not drink from moving water - the sound scares them. Let's make a few applications from this verse.
First, the fact that the Lord "makes me lie down in green pastures" speaks about the absolute rest, confidence and trust those of us who are of the Lord's flock can have in him. We can rest without fear of what is around us; we can rest content that the Good Shepherd has seen to our needs.
When David penned these words, those hills of Judah contained all sorts of dangers to his helpless flock. By the way, that's another thing about sheep; they have no natural means of self-defense - no wonder they're so skittish. Truth be told, you and I have no natural means of self-defense against the great enemy of our souls. We need the supernatural help of the Great Shepherd. Maybe this is a part of what Jesus had in mind when he said, "Apart from Me, you can do nothing" (John 15:5 NIV).
My point is this. David's sheep didn't lie down because their were no problems, they lay down because they were confident that their shepherd had everything under control. Do you have confidence in your Great Shepherd?
Second, "he leads me beside quiet waters." This was a critical task for the shepherd. Because sheep will not drink from swift moving streams, they will attempt to satisfy their thirst in stagnant polluted pools unless the shepherd prevents it. The shepherd's job then is to find pools suitable for the sheep (no small task in the arid regions of the Middle East). These pools have to be quiet, cool and clean. Quiet and cool or the sheep won't drink. Clean and pure for the sheep's safety. While sheep are picky when it comes to quiet and cool drinking water, they are indiscriminate when it comes to befouled pools-kind of like we humans.
How many times have I seen wandering sheep from the Good Shepherd's pasture refusing the pure refreshment of the Lord's quiet waters and satiating themselves in the polluted waters of the world. I have also seen these (excuse the harshness) dumb sheep, sick and hurting, yet continuing to run to the polluted holes and bleating their complaints against the Shepherd. The Bible says, "A man may ruin his chances by his own foolishness and then blame it on the Lord" (Proverbs 19:3 TLB).
Are you enjoying the peace and provision the Good Shepherd offers? Are you a content sheep in his flock or are you the complaining sheep - the fence hopper - by-passing the security of the shepherd opting instead for the knowledge that sheep know best?
More on this wonderful Psalm in my next article.