The Shepherd Psalm
Charles Naylor, 1920
The Psalmist says of the Lord, his Shepherd, "He makes me to lie down in green pastures," or, as the Hebrew has it, "in pastures of tender grass." What a world of significance there is in this little sentence, "The Lord is my shepherd!"
"He makes me to lie down." He does not compel me. That is not the Lord's method — he finds a better way. If he compelled me to lie down, there would be no pleasure in it. When a sheep is compelled to lie down — it is in fear; it cannot but dread what is to happen to it. So the Lord does not compel me. He leads me in the pastures of tender grass, and I eat until I am satisfied, and being satisfied with the sweet and luscious pasturage — I lie down, content.
While the sheep is hungry, it will not lie down in the pasture; it desires to eat. But when it has eaten its fill, it lies down and rests and is satisfied. In the same way, God feeds my soul day by day; the good things of his kingdom he gives unto me. He satisfies my soul with fatness. My soul desires nothing more than what he gives. If I hunger, he has a supply — and he gives me, and that with a generous hand. He knows all my needs. He supplies every one, that I may be "fat and flourishing, to show that the Lord is upright."
There are many enemies about, but "he makes me to lie down." I am in quietness. My heart is not afraid. The Shepherd stands between me and those ravening wolves. The lion and the bear cannot harm me — for the Shepherd stands as my protector. His eye shall watch, while I lie down. His ear shall hearken and shall hear the sound of their footsteps if they come near. I trust the Shepherd; therefore my heart is not afraid, and I shall lie down safely.
It is trust which enables me to lie down. If I were afraid, I could not thus rest. I would be watching and fearing and trembling. Every noise would alarm me. I would forget about the green pastures. I would forget the tender grass. But he is watching. He has his weapon in his hand. He does not fear my enemies — and while he is watching I do not fear them, for he is strong and mighty. He is greater than my foes. They know it and are afraid. They tremble at his voice. They flee away, but I lie safely. He has said, "I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel — in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel."
"He leads me beside the still waters." When I grow thirsty, the river lies at the foot of the mountain — and down the slope he will lead me; and there in the shade, in the quiet, restful coolness, I shall drink of the waters of quietness and shall be satisfied, and my soul shall delight in him.
The path down which he leads me may be steep — and there may be thorns along the way. But so long as he leads me where he will, he will lead me safely. I must not choose my own way. I must not run ahead of him. I must not leave the path. I must follow close to him. I must listen to his voice — and then he will lead me to the still waters, and there I shall rest in his love.
Then as the evening falls, he will lead me to his fold — and inside its walls of security, I shall rest during the hours of the night. I shall not fear the darkness, for the Shepherd is watching. I shall not fear the wild beasts round about, for they cannot harm me. He will watch over me and bear me up when I am weak. I can rest secure. My shepherd is the Good Shepherd. He loves his sheep. They are a pleasure to him.
Though he sometimes may need to lead by a rugged way — yet I am safe, for he cares for me. He will lead me in the way that I should go. He will enrich my soul with his goodness. Yes, "goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life — and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!"