If I were to choose an overwhelming theme of the Bible, it would be God saying, “Trust me!” In fact, I think it should be the subtitle:
Scripture is God’s invitation to rely on God for everything. For me that has come to life in the 6+ pictures given to us in Psalm 23. Perhaps the most misunderstood picture is in verse 2: [The shepherd] makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside the still waters.
This first picture is actually quite funny. Imagine any animal (or you!) lying down in your food. This sheep has traveled that day in the hot sun or pouring rain over the brown lands of Palestine and has finally come to green pasture. The first thing any sensible sheep would do is eat the wonderful foliage that makes it green.
But not this sheep. This sheep lies down in the food. Why would a sheep do such a thing? Because this sheep is living in the truth of verse 1: I have everything I need. This sheep is content and does not want for a thing.
The next picture is the same. The sheep walks beside the still water, not down into the water to drink. Why? Apparently, this sheep is not thirsty. This picture is very different from Psalm 42 in which the thirsty deer pants for water. That psalm describes thrist–a longing for what is missing–but Psalm 23 is about thirst having been quenched, contentment and knowing that in reality everything I truly need has been provided. I can relax.
To absorb this truth is to answer God’s invitation to trust with “Yes!” It’s to trust that there isn’t anything I need at this moment that I don’t have. I may obsess on what I’ll need in an hour or next Thursday, which will make me discontent, but it’s not necessary to do that. Today I have what I need. I can lie down relaxed and content. This is what life in the Kingdom of God is really like. It’s the life we were built for and when we aren’t living in it, we are only half-alive.
Some resources that can help you explore these pictures and the others more deeply can be found in:
A free podcast meditation on Psalm 23: Psalm 23 Meditation
The just re-released book, Trusting God for Everything: Psalm 23
This personal retreat guide includes 7 sessions to help you absorb and soak in the pictures and truths of Psalm 23, as well as a guide on how to take a personal retreat. It can be used with a group or individually and as a Bible study as well as a retreat. Or you can use some of the content in your next sermon or teaching. It is available in paperback or can be downloaded as a PDF. ©Jan Johnson
OPPORTUNITY: Experience formation in an 18 month journey of studying and practicing formation with others in the Apprentice Experience. I’m blessed to be on this team of teachers!
Grace and peace,
© Jan Johnson – For permission to reprint, Click Here