Recently at our TLC retreat for pastors, leaders, and caregivers Kristi and led the group through one of our most popular Soul Shepherding experiences: “Psalm 23 Pictures to Pray.” To set up this “Visio Divina” exercise Kristi led us in a verse-by-verse meditation on Psalm 23. For many of us our attention was drawn to the winsome way that our Good Shepherd restores our souls.
Sheep without a shepherd wander about grazing, restless and fearful (Matthew 9:36). Rest doesn’t come easy for sheep that are hungry or vulnerable to predators. But the man of prayer in Psalm 23 says of his Shepherd: “He makes me lie down in green pastures.”
Do You Need to be Forced to Lay Down?
What does it mean for the Good Shepherd to “make me lie down”? We might get an image of big hands pushing down on us to force us to slow down and rest. Indeed some of us are so busy that it seems as if we need God to force us to stop working and worrying, stop hurrying, and get us to slow down. Perhaps getting sick forces us to rest. Or the urgent cry of a loved one. Being forced to lie down by God is not the idea of Psalm 23.
So why is it that the sheep relax? What kind of sheep lays down in green pastures? A full sheep! A plump, happy sheep! It’s true. Sheep that are well fed and protected will relax and lie down near their Good Shepherd.
Soul Satisfaction is from Jesus
Psalm 23 gives us a picture of being so satiated in the love of the Lord Jesus Christ that we are free of desire for anything else — even though we are surrounded by a smorgasbord of grasses! To emphasize the point the next verse says, “He leads me beside still waters.” It’s the same idea. Sheep don’t walk beside still waters unless they’re not thirsty! Satisfied by God’s living waters we don’t even thirst for the worldly waters that are all around us.
The key to Psalm 23, of course, is the opening verse. “The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want.” We say these words, but is our whole person in agreement? Are we actually living this way? Are we experiencing soul satisfaction?
If the Lord truly is the Shepherd of my soul then I only want him and what he provides. Everything else — not only sinful things but also distracting things — are understood to be silly and we set them aside in order to be with Jesus and become like. And we do this not only in church and devotions but as we do whatever we’re doing. I call this living in passionate indifference. With eager enthusiasm we seek to be indifferent to all things except knowing Jesus and inviting others to join us.
As we learn to become the kind of person who lays down with Jesus in green pastures and walks with him beside still waters then our heart will exclaim with the Psalmist: “He restores my soul! He leads me in the good path!”
Our Psalm 23 themed posts will help you to experience soul satisfaction (and sole satisfaction) in Jesus.