Posted by: Phoebe | June 21, 2009

Green Pastures and Still Waters

 

Blue Ridge Mountains

Blue Ridge Mountains

At the end of May, I went on a trip to the East Coast. I won’t go into the details, but I felt an overabundance of blessing. Friends and family were generous hosts to me, music was part of each of my stops, and I was able to soak in the beauty of different parts of the country.   One particularly beautiful place was the Blue Ridge Mountains.  As we drove through the green rolling hills, Psalm 23 rolled constantly through my thoughts:

The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his Name’s sake.

I did feel full, satisfied, and restored after a stressful semester. This desert-dweller had green pastures a plenty, and though the mountain streams were not still, they were refreshing to the soul. It was easy to be led in paths of righteousness, humbled and grateful that my Shepherd was blessing me so much.

Truly, my whole life has been a blessed one, which sometimes makes me question Why God? Why am I so blessed? Why do I have such a wonderful family and friends, beauty around me, the ability to use my mind to rejoice in creation, the ability to make music? And out of that, another question: Will I encounter a time when those blessings seem to be taken away, when the Shepherd seems distant? Will I suffer?

David the psalmist, whose life was not all daisies and daffodils, gives me reassurance:

Even though I  walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me…

Right now, the valley of the shadow of death is still a hypothetical, but I have little doubt it will come. The psalmist’s testimony is that even in that valley, the Shepherd is there. Our Shepherd Jesus passed through it ahead of us, and he asks us nothing less than to follow in his ways. David himself walked through many dark valleys and found God faithful.

Another question arises: What if I stray? What if I betray the Lord, falling away to earthly pride and comfort like King Solomon? What if I am governed by worldly priorities that tempt me to deny the Lord through silence and inaction, like the disciple Peter? 

I will fear no evil,
for you are with me:
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

The shepherd uses the rod and staff to guide and discipline. So do loving parents:

Whoever spares the rod hates his son,
but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. (Proverbs 13:24)

And God is love, right?

The Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons…. he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (from Hebrews 12:3-11)

He is love indeed. Strange isn’t it, that the promise of discipline is a comfort? I have the Lord’s promise that though I stray, I can never cross the border out of the land of God’s faithfulness. He will be faithful to keep me in his paths.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

Now the Psalm comes full circle. I can enjoy the Lord’s goodness, enjoy it even in the presence of enemies. Right now I am in Aspen Colorado, another place of green pastures but also a place that encourages covetousness.  The enemies I face are the subtle ones against which the Apostle John cautions 

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world– the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.  

And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

John’s words echo the psalmist’s. Both end with the promise of “forever.”  No matter what the present and future hold, I can enjoy God’s blessings and feel the holy joy of being his child because I know he will keep me in his will and in his family. Forever.

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Responses

  1. I love it!! that psalm (and the song arrangement) has been in my thoughts too.

    As far as the great blessings God has given us, I really like this verse from “I Will God” by Starfield

    Let me not be blind with privilege
    Give me eyes to see the pain
    Let the blessing You’ve poured out on me
    Not be spent on me in vain
    Let this life be used for change

    praying for ya,
    your bro

    • Thank you Andrew! I appreciate your encouragement. “I Will Go” takes the next step, indicating the responsibility we have now that we’ve been given so many blessings!

  2. […] My Shepherd Shall Supply My Need This hymn is one of my favorites and is a follow-up to my previous post: […]

  3. I highly recommend the book “Psalm 23” by Phillip Keller. He is a gifted writer, has studied various forms of science, and has been both a shepherd and a pastor / church leader. http://www.amazon.com/Shepherd-Looks-Psalm-23/dp/0310274419
    His book is very informative and gives a new depth and insight into this gorgeous Psalm! 🙂

    • Hi Theresa, I know the book by Keller. Someone actually gave it to me for a graduation present! Thank you for mentioning it.

  4. Follow up-post: “My Shepherd Shall Supply My Need”

    https://godmygrith.wordpress.com/2009/06/28/my-shepherd-shall-supply-my-need/


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