The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters (NIV).
Picture David figuratively referring to himself as the sheep and God as his shepherd. This is the background against which I want us to consider what King David was really saying as a starting point in Psalm 23.
For a sheep, the most important thing about grass, (more so when it is green) is not about sleeping (lying down). It is, rather, about eating. For the sheep grass is food not mattress.
When King David said, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want” (v.1), what we naturally expect, and that which influences our reading of Psalm 23, is someone whose all needs are satisfied—and here, we think more of the physical provisions. But isn’t there something deeper?
Verse 2 is not naturally logical. It assumes a paradoxical rendering: “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters.”(1) The logics of natural expectations following verse 1 would have rendered verse 2 as follows:
He makes me feed on the green pasture; He leads me into the quiet waters that I may have a drink.
The sheep would then say:
The LORD is my shepherd; He makes me eat the green pasture and then leads me into the still waters. I eat and drink, therefore I shall not want because all my needs are met.
The sheep is made to lie down instead and he is also led beside still waters.
One thing that is very important for God is patience. How can we define godly patience? It is the replacement of anxiety with tranquillity.
This is the test: We are surrounded by opportunities none of which seems to come our way. We have to be patient. As long as we have the LORD as our shepherd, we can let Him tame our appetite and quench our anxiety. Even if it looks like the LORD is making us do the illogical, namely, making a mattress out of our food, we can trust Him. At the end of the day, it is the restoration of the soul and being led in His ways not for our sakes but for His name’s sake—this is what brings satisfaction, and it is what verse 3 is all about:
“He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.”
Even if you don’t graze;
Know that you can count on the grace.
Even if you badly needed the “pasture”;
Know that what you need above all is the Scripture.