He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength.
Psalm 23:2-3 (NLT)
A sign reads at my local gas station "Turn off engine completely before fueling". The concept is simple, you need to shut down to fill up. It is both dangerous and incredibly inefficient to attempt to fill your gas tank while the engine is on.
As we explore the 23rd psalm, this principle of resting and refueling is the basis of renewal. God leads us to places of rest (rest from work, rest from worrying, rest from activity) in order to renew our strength, or as the King James version states, "restoreth my soul".
Its fascinating to consider that God desires to renew and restore us on an ongoing basis. This suggests a couple of principles:
1. We wear down and wander away. Like sheep, we too get tired, confused, and misdirected. This does not mean that sheep are evil and deviant, as much as they are simply being sheep. We too, by nature, get tired (emotionally, physically, and spiritually) and wander away from God in a number of different ways. One of the many roles of God as shepherd, is to keep our strength renewed and our positions restored.
2. The shepherd understands our perilous positions far before we do. Sheep wander from clump of grass to another. They follow their own instincts and are often unaware of the dangers around them. We too, following our own desires, often get ourselves in positions that are physically, emotionally, and spiritual dangerous. Proverbs 25:16 states that there is a way that seems right to a man, but that leads to death. Just as the field may seem lush but is surrounded by predators, we too are often attracted to things that seem like a blessing, but are actually traps for our peril. The shepherd often leads us away from things that seem like blessings because we are unaware of just how dangerous things are. This may be a relationship, a job, or a financial decision. We must learn to "trust in the Lord with all our hearts, lean not unto our own understanding, in all of way acknowledge him, and he will make our pathways straight" (Proverbs 3:5-6).
3. The shepherd may discipline us for our own safety. Later in this psalm, the writer will talk about the rod and staff of the shepherd. I will talk about them in a later blog, but suffice to say that an ancient practice of a shepherd was to break the leg of the perpetually wandering sheep to keep the sheep from wandering and retraining the sheep to be dependent upon the shepherd. This is scary stuff as we all recognize that we have all wandered. The practice seems cruel unless we consider it as an act of kindness and love for the safety and wellbeing of the sheep. (Psalm 141:5).
Have you allowed God to shepherd you towards rest that renews and restores? When was the last time you felt truly revitalized? Perhaps God is desiring you to rest from your activities so that he can work on your heart.
This summer, consider a personal retreat where you can take a few hours and allow the Shepherd to guide you and renew you. Don't fall for the scheme that this summer is not a good time, because you will never have a "good" time.
Listen to what the shepherd is saying to you today,
May God bless you,
Pastor M Traylor