In Psalm 23:2–3, David tells us four things that the Lord, his shepherd, does for him, and by way of application, for us as well.
PSALM 23:2 (NASB)
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
In the first half of verse two, he wrote, “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” The shepherd brings his sheep to a place of rest. It is important to notice that David wrote, “He makes me lie down.” There are times that we, His sheep, are unwilling to stop and rest, and it may be that He has to strongly encourage us to do so. Lately, things have changed dramatically due to the pandemic, and many of us have been forced to stop and evaluate what it is we are doing with our lives. During this time, perhaps we need to ask ourselves, “Is this God’s way of making us stop and rest and recharge ourselves for the future (the way a sheep lies down in green pastures)?”
In the second half of verse two, David wrote, “He leads me beside quiet waters.” When sheep are thirsty, they become restless and set out in search of water to satisfy their thirst. If not led to a good water supply, they will often drink from a polluted water hole where they pick up parasites and other diseases. They do this because they do not realize that there is better water elsewhere. Our Shepherd, the Lord, knows where the quiet, still, clean, pure water is found that alone can satisfy the thirst of His sheep. Additionally, the reason it has to be beside quiet waters is that sheep are afraid of water that is moving, so no matter how thirsty they are, if the water is flowing, they simply will not drink.
PSALM 23:3 (NASB)
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.
In verse three, David wrote, “He restores my soul.” David believed that even those under the care of the Great Shepherd could need restoration. He knew what it was like to be cast down and dejected. He knew what it was like to be in deep anguish and despair. Sheep, like humans, can be “cast” down when their center of gravity is off. For example, sheep will continually go to the same spot to lie down. As they get used to being in that place, they cause ruts in the ground, deeper and deeper until the ground starts sloping. As they lay down in these ruts and lean to one side, they slowly end up on their backs. Eventually, unable to help themselves, they start flailing away and kicking their feet, and they remain that way until the blood circulation to the legs stops and a loss of feeling takes place.
He restores us
The only way they can be restored back to the flock is by the shepherd himself. He must go to the individual sheep, turn it over and massage the legs until the circulation returns. It is only then that the “cast” sheep are able to come back to the flock fully restored.
Just like the sheep, when we return to the same thing repeatedly and become too comfortable in our ways, we find ourselves in a rut. We can become cast down, dejected, and often find ourselves in deep despair, unable to get out of the rut on our own. It takes the hand of our Good Shepherd, Yeshua, to pick us up and restore us back to His flock again.
As believers in Jesus, our lives are to be a reflection of the One we follow.
He guides us
In the last half of verse three, David wrote, “He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Just like sheep who trust in a shepherd to restore and guide them, as we fully trust in the Lord unconditionally, He will lead us on the path we should go. Proverbs 3:5–6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” As believers in Jesus, our lives are to be a reflection of the One we follow. As we allow ourselves to be led, our Shepherd will make sure we are exactly where we are supposed to be, with green pastures, clean waters, and His righteousness—and we will be able to rest.