Last week we looked at only those opening words of Psalm 23 “he leads me..” – and I asked you to reflect on – if that’s even something you truly want.
Today we look at the phrase we skipped over, and the sentence after it: He makes me lie down in green pastures.He leads me beside still waters.He restores my soul.
For the longest time, this image didn’t really speak to me a whole lot. The thought of a fluffy, white sheep next to a babbling brook, in a lush green meadow, was pleasant. It gave feelings of comfort and safety.
But I never noticed what the sheep were NOT doing.
The sheep in this passage are not acting normally. They are walking past the water they would normally love to drink. They are laying down on the green grass they should want to eat. For some reason, they are so content that they are ignoring these material blessings they should want.
The way I see it, there are three reasons why we would not be drawn to things we want or even need.
We convince ourselves that we don’t have desires for ‘worldly things.’ Don’t misunderstand, we often have desires for things that are not good for us, and we should ask God to take away those desires as we fight against them ourselves. But food and water are not those things. Neither are a lot of other good things we can pretend we don’t want. We can pretend we don’t want friends, or that we don’t crave some level of acceptance by others. We can put on appearances that we aren’t bothered by things when deep down we really are. But this is clearly not a sustainable approach. We’re perhaps tricking ourselves for a time – but that’s it.
We have received so much recently that we’re satisfied. We can momentarily look past these things because we’ve recently received them. If you’re just rolling out of an all-you-can-eat buffet, walking past a donut shop may not hold any temptation. You don’t even care – because you can’t possibly eat any more. Maybe we are finding contentment in all the blessings God has given us. We have family, and health etc… However, we are still basing our contentment on things. Skye Jethani said of this approach, “When I seek contentment in God’s blessings my wants only subside temporarily, and they soon return, stronger than ever.” So perhaps the sheep have temporarily abated the desire for more because they are so full – but that desire will come back, likely stronger than before.
The third option is that they are so focused on the shepherd they don’t really pay as much attention to what he offers them. They have moved their eyes from the gift to the giver. Jethani finishes the above quote with: “When I learn to seek my satisfaction in God himself, however, the pleasures offered by the things of this world grow dim in comparison.”
There is only one option above that is sustainable for real contentment. We can pretend we don’t need things, or binge on them, but eventually we will come back to desires for more. We will be discontent because we don’t have what we want, or think we need, or demand we deserve.
Focusing on the shepherd is the only way we can not be made discontent by the things of this world – even when they are good, and necessary.
Have a listen to the old hymn Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus – (perhaps Lauren Daigle’s rendition).
The line that directly addresses what we’re talking about today is: And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of his glory and grace.
What things of this world do you need to grow strangely dim?
What aspects of his glory and grace are you missing out on?
How can you make changes to your life – TODAY – that will allow you to dwell on these things more deeply, so that the others will grow more dim?
help me to focus on you.
not on the problems,
not even on the solutions.
Not the hurts,
not the gifts.
Give me the clarity to turn my eyes upon you,
on your glory, on your grace,
so the things of this world grow strangely dim