Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The 23rd Psalm: Rest and Provision

Last time, we looked as Psalms 23:1 and saw how this verse by itself was an earth shattering statement.  From the name God is given in this verse, (Adonai), to the statement that David wanted for nothing because of the Lord's provision, the verse is full of meaning that many far too often miss.  The simple assertion that YHVH is a Shepherd, an ever present guide, protector and provider, challenges the thought that God is unapproachable.

Now we will examine verse two. (KJV)

He has me lie down in grassy pastures, he leads me by quiet water (CJB)
Remember that at the time he was writing this, David was a shepherd.  He knew the importance of two things above all when it came to sheep: Pasture and water.
Grassy pastures are more than food for sheep; they are the places for repose and relaxation.  Sheep at peace are happy sheep, and happy sheep are healthy.  Moreover, the word picture of grassy pastures, or green pastures as it says in the KJV, speaks to the abundance of provision.
However, the softness and greenness of the grass was not all there was to settling the flock down to graze and relax.  If there was no water nearby, the flock would grow thirsty after a short time of grazing in the sun and be too weak to then move onward to drink.  If the water was too loud, it would spook the flock and there would be a risk of injury and/or loss of life as chaos ensued.
Thus, when David says that Adonai leads him by quiet waters, and makes him lie down in grassy pastures, he is making another major statement.  He is saying that not only does God lead him, but knows him so intimately that He knows where he'll be best kept.  Moreover, Adonai cares for him so deeply that He finds him a place where there is not only soft, green and abundant grass, but still water to soothe and water him.

Let's move on to another translation for another look at this verse.

He makes me lie down in [fresh, tender] green pastures; He leads me beside the still and restful waters. (AMP)
Not only does God care for and provide for David, He provides only the best.  He doesn't just provide food for David's nourishment, but the very best; exactly what David needs to live a full and complete life.  God doesn't just care enough to give him food and water, but is intimately concerned with his rest as well.
Sheep cannot sleep next to water that makes noise.  Gentle babbling is one thing; gurgling, dropping and rushing water, however, keeps them awake, paranoid and frantic.  Sheep only spend an average of 3.5 hours sleeping every day, so it is vital that they have the very best conditions for sleep possible.  Because their hearing is one of their sharpest senses, loud water's constantly alternating patterns confuse them, adding to their unease and preventing sleep.
That said, one cannot have sheep rest beside stagnant water, either.  Not only does this invite sickness in the flock if they were to drink it, but it brings yet another problem only a shepherd would know of: It offends the nose of the sheep.  Sheep have great sight, but poor depth perception, meaning they depend upon their hearing and their sense of smell to warn them of danger.  When a sheep's hearing or olfactory system is overwhelmed, it places undue stress upon them because they can no longer hear or smell clearly.
What this means, then, is that David is seen to with the utmost care and attention to detail.

He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. (NLT)
The NLT's reading is important for an almost imperceptable reason: "He lets me rest."  The KJV and other translations can often be misunderstood to mean that God forces David to rest.  While it is sometimes the case in our own lives, and undoubtedly in David's as well, that God will introduce circumstances that cause us to rest, God does not force us to do anything.
This translation introduces a vital understanding to the attentive reader: Adonai, like any good shepherd, allows His sheep to rest.  While there are times when He will cause them to rest for their own sakes, and likewise keep them awake for the same reasons, He allows them to rest on their own schedule when in a place of safety.

He will cause me to lie down in pastures of tender grass: he will lead me to the water of rest (JULIA)
Mrs. Smith's translation is unique for several reasons, least of all that hers was an already accepted version among many churches in the late 1800's.  Additionally, she was a Greek and Hebrew scholar well regarded in her time.  In her own words she wrote out her translation "...endeavoring to put the same English word for the same Hebrew or Greek word, everywhere, while King James's translators have wholly differed from this rule..."  Thus, we have this beautiful passage reflected slightly differently, thereby giving us yet another glimpse of the Shepherd.
While other versions use past tense or present tense on this verse, Julia used future tense.  This is consistant with our God and the relationship we all have with Him.  Prior to coming to Him, we do not necessarily experience plenty, nor do we experience rest or peace.  Upon returning to Him, however, we are- And it continues on throughout our future with Him.

As we conclude this section, allow me to point to the fact that Yeshua called Himself the Good Shepherd.  In Psalm 22, we see Ha'Meshiach on the cross meeting the demands of YHVH's law.  Here, we see Him providing for the daily needs of His flock- The Church.  It has long been my firm belief that David had a revelation of the redemption and salvation that was to be offered to all peoples over two thousand years later.  His intimate references to YHVH and their relationship evidences this.

There is one final note which should be made on this passage in regards to shepherding: Sheep ill at ease cannot nurse their young.  Thus, not only is God concerned with the current generation of His flock by leading them to quiet water and the best pastures, but also the needs of the next generation.  By providing the best for the adults, the young also recieve the very best care.

Next, we will look at verse three.  I look forward to that time, but until then, I pray that you will find the rest and provision that Yeshua has for you.  God bless.

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