A photographer was snapping the pictures of first graders in an elementary school. In an effort to put one little girl at ease, he asked her, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” Her reply was: “Tired.”
She had perhaps made a correct observation. Many of us are tired for a variety of reasons, and it is not a very satisfying way to live. One reason for our tiredness is that more than 70 million of us suffer from insomnia. Have you ever laid in bed at night unable to sleep and thought about how nice it would be to be asleep? Instead, your mind ponders what needs to be done the next day or you worry about other things that bother you. All of a sudden it’s 3:00 in the morning and you’re still wide awake! Welcome to the club! You’ve experienced insomnia, and the next day you feel like you can’t do much of anything.
Some of our tiredness can also be due to our busyness and the pace we keep. We tend to run ourselves ragged. I once read an article in The New York Times that said, “If you live in America in the 21st century, you probably have been listening to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. And when you ask someone how they are doing, the default response has become, ÔBusy! So busy! Crazy busy.'” It’s become the most distinguished of complaints, and the stock response is, ÔWell, congratulations! That’s a good problem to have!” or, “Better than the opposite!”
Busyness serves as a kind of hedge against emptiness. We run ourselves ragged being busy. The perception is a life completely booked and in demand every hour of the day couldn’t possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless. Because of our ambition, drive, or anxiety, we are addicted to busyness and dread what life would be like in its absence.
There are also times when we lie awake at night pondering the big questions of life. How does God feels about me? What’s my purpose? What am I supposed to be doing with my life? What’s going to become of me when I take my last breath?
The world is filled with sick and tired people who are tired of being sick and tired. Tiredness leads to poor production on the job, poor relationships, and all kinds of accidents. Nothing good comes from it. The truth is, we need rest for our body, mind, and soul. So where does one find this rest?
King David tells us in Psalm 23:2. He has found great satisfaction in being connected with the Lord. He tells us that we need his Shepherd. If the Lord is really our shepherd, we will not lack for rest.
“He makes me to lie down in green pastures,” David says. It is a picture of contentment and rest; a serene, calm setting in green pastures. The sheep have eaten their fill of the lush grass and now are lying down to rest in the late morning before they move on to another location.
This shepherd knows what is best for me. He knows about my body and my soul maintenance. When God made me, He wired me to take a rest. He wants me to have rest for my body, my mind, and my soul. He says, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (for your soul).
David says, “He makes me lie down . . .” I’ve always wondered how a shepherd makes a sheep lie down. I even asked a couple of people who are shepherds, and they said, “You don’t.” Then I read Phillip Keller’s book, “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23,” and he relates that because of their very makeup, it’s almost impossible for sheep to be made to lie down unless four requirements are met.
1. Due to their timidity, they must be free from all fear.
2. Because of their sociability, they must be free from friction with others of their kind. (I guess there is a lot of competition in flocks.)
3. They must be free from flies or parasites if they are to relax.
4. They must be free from hunger.
Only the shepherd can provide release from those anxieties. As he does his job, the sheep soon learn their job is simply to focus on the shepherd. They can then lie down in green pastures and rest as they experience again and again the diligent shepherd taking care of them by providing for their needs.
Likewise, as God, the Good Shepherd, works in our lives with His faithful providence and presence, our fears are soon calmed. The little things bugging us, tensions, or hunger (whether spiritual or physical) are put to rest. As we focus on Him, we soon discover that God provides. He is faithful and is always there for us, just like the shepherd is with the sheep. We can relax and rest in Him.
I have always loved Isaiah 26:3. It reads, “Thou dost keep him in perfect peace him whose mind is stayed on thee.” What a great promise to hang onto! He keeps us in perfect peace as our minds are stayed on Him.
“He makes me lie down in green pastures.” When I was a child, my parents made me go to bed at 8 o’clock. I never cared for it, but I did what they said. Likewise, our Father, the Good Shepherd, speaks to us. He owns us. We have been bought with the precious blood of Jesus. I obey His orders to remember the Sabbath day. I keep it holy.
God speaks more on this command than any of the other Ten Commandments. He describes how important it is to keep the Sabbath. Everything under your roof Ð your family, your livestock Ð is to take a Sabbath rest, because the Lord took a Sabbath after six days and rested on the seventh. Jesus told His disciples, “The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. ” On more than one occasion, He said to them, “Come away and rest now.” For instance, on a retreat to Caesarea Phillipi, as they sat separated from the crowds, Jesus taught that rest is an important part of God’s rhythm for our lives as His children.
Living obediently to the Lord’s direction, then, means to keep a Sabbath rest, and there you find rest for your body, your mind, your soul. As you stop and focus on God in a Sabbath worship, you are reminded how faithful He truly is and that He is One who can be counted upon. He is One to whom we should listen to as we go through the living of our days.
“He makes me lie down . . .” Jesus wants us to keep the Sabbath.
Someone once said, “If you are burning the candle at both ends, you are not as bright as you think you are.” Does this describe you? Maybe it’s time to change not only your focus, but also your schedule. Build a day of rest into your week. God is ready to give each of us rest, to make us lie down in green pastures.
It’s interesting to note that the Holy Land does not have a lot of green pastures. I am sure there weren’t many in David’s day either. The shepherd has to cultivate a lush place for his sheep to rest. He clears away the stumps and the stones in the underbrush, and cultivates and waters the land to make a nice spot for the sheep to eat their fill and lie down to rest. Likewise with His nail-pierced hands, our Good Shepherd, Jesus, created a pasture for your soul and mine. He tore out the underbrush of condemnation, pried loose boulders of sin, and cultivated it with the water of the Spirit. He planted seeds of grace and mercy. What a lush, green, satisfying pasture it is!
He then invites us to come and enjoy this pasture Ð His way of life and His kingdom, which has been prepared for us in this life and in the life to come. Jesus said, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest for your souls. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am humble in heart,” (Matthew 11:29). You will find rest for your souls. This is what God offers us: green pastures/rest. He invites us to come, not because we deserve it. It is His gift to us, “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). His gift is faith in Jesus Christ. Even in our failures and are our falling down, He invites us to His green pasture.
Dallas Willard, a great Christian thinker who recently graduated to be with the Lord, once wrote “Unfortunately, ÔThe Lord is my Shepherd’ is written on more tombstones than lives.”
Let me ask you: Is this Psalm written on your life? Does He own you? Does He have your attention? Does He have your obedience? Why not trust Him starting today? Humble yourself before Him and say, “I am yours, Lord. I will follow you.” Then follow His maintenance plan by doing what He says. Keep a Sabbath. Keep your eyes on Him.
Instead of counting sheep at night, count on your Shepherd. Call out to Him in prayer. Feast upon His holy Word on a daily basis and have an encounter with Him. You will find rest for your body, your mind, and your soul.