Saturday, February 6, 2021

Psalm 23 - Part 2: Green Pastures and Still Waters

 Often, I don't sleep very well.  I have a hard time getting to sleep, and I often wake up in the middle of the night and then have a hard time getting back to sleep.  One of the things I've found recently that helps me get back to sleep is to meditate on different excerpts from the Bible.  I've been rather fixated on the 23rd Psalm for a while (and my success rate of falling asleep after thinking about it has been pretty good), so I thought I'd do a series of posts on my thoughts on it.  This is part 2 of my 'meditations' on Psalm 23.  

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

My initial thoughts around this section of the Psalm centre around rest and food.  Its interesting that the very first thing David highlights in this Psalm that the Shepherd does for his sheep is related to rest.  A good thing to consider while I'm trying to go to sleep.  Stress and rest don't really go together.  A sheep can't get run away from predators fast from a lying down position, so there's an element of trusting the shepherd in the act of lying down.

I think we're a little spoiled with mattresses in our modern lives.  Shepherds and sheep had no such luxury.  A soft, comfortable place to lie down could have been hard to find in the middle east, unless you found a good sized, green piece of turf.

He's not making me lie down just anywhere.  Green pastures would be soft and cool.  They're also full of the best food (from a sheep's perspective) so I'm not concerned about what I'm going to be eating because its all around me.  God takes the stress out of my life, if I trust him.

He leads me beside still waters

Whenever I consider this phrase I have a picture in my mind of a creek/brook a foot or two below the level of the green pastures, with a smooth, waveless current.  The water is crystal clear and trees are scattered around the bank.  Something like this picture, except the banks aren't quite that tall:

The Good Shepherd leads me here!  I am:
  • refreshed - the water is cool and flowing over me, 
  • cleaned - the water current gently washes the dirt off of me, and 
  • my thirst is quenched.  

What I can't connect

So here's the disconnect in my head...  These green pastures and still waters, where did David find them in Israel?  When I go to Google Maps and look at satellite and street views of different places there around Bethlehem where David grew up, I can't find green pastures and still waters.  Not easily anyway.  Was David wistfully imagining this place in his mind, or was the pedosphere (skin of the earth) in Israel different back then?  I don't have an answer to that question, but its definitely something I think about.  

A river in a desert is almost a contradiction of terms.  Water is precious and in most places in the bible people had to dig wells to get to it.  Then they had to haul it home for cooking, washing, cleaning, etc.  It was a significant chore back then, yet we don't consider much these days in developed countries because of our access to water.  We can turn on a tap and there it is.  For a shepherd in David's time and place, having access to a clear, still steam of water would be tantamount to gold.

These questions aside, I take much comfort though thinking of the Good Shepherd making me lie down in green pastures and leading me by still waters.

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