“He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:2-3)
It’s an ironic Psalm when you think about it. When you meditate on it’s words, and compare it to the full life of its author you begin to wonder and doubt the power it has. David lived huge chunks of his life where these words were about as far from a literal sense as you could get. He was on the run from Saul living in caves. His family legacy went towards the way of the sword with brother murdering brother. David himself lived by the way of the sword. His hands far to bloody to have any hope of being the one to build God’s temple. David was a man of war. He made his legacy and his failures out of war.
How could these words be true then? How could these words of peace and comfort have any power to them when this mans life seemed to end in such darkness and sadness? It makes you wonder at hat point did David write this Psalm? Was it early in his life when everything seemed to be going perfectly? Was it even before that when he was an eager and ignorant young man? Is it a Psalm with a drip of irony in it? How can David living in some of the circumstances he has actually believe what he wrote?
I think the truth starts by understanding that this is not a Psalm conditional on our circumstances. Sometimes we do not feel like we are laying down in green pastures. Often ties it feels more like we are sleeping in a hole in the ground during a warzone in the dead of winter. We often do not feel the calm of water in a beautiful scenery, but rather see a storm rolling over a sea destined to come crashing down on us. This is not a Psalm conditional on our circumstances.
Verse three sheds some sight on the situation. God restores David’s soul. The word “restore” in Hebrew is interesting to me. It brings up a lot of ideas of “bringing something back”. In other words, God is bringing back David’s soul. What is He bringing it back from? From destruction, despair, and death. He gives us the courage to move on when we are in the hole during winter. He leads us on the path of righteousness For His name’s sake. God is our Guide. he cares for us. he leads us o a path worthwhile. It is not about us though. God does this for His reputation. yes He loves us, but he wants his goodness and mercy towards us to be a testimony to the world.
Why the disconnect then? Why do we so often not feel we are in those green pastures or being calmed by those still waters? We let the circumstances be the condition of this truth. God is our green pasture. God is our still waters. God is our comfort and rest in the midst of winter and storms. This Psalm is not conditional on our circumstances. David knew this to well. David also knew mercy. When his sins were deserving of death he was spared by God. When the end of his life was deserving of a legacy never to be restored, God kept his lineage true leading down to the savior of the world.
I had a rough day yesterday. It’s hard to explain my reasoning for it, but suffice to say I was just having a hard time feeling like I was laying in green pastures. I had a hard time seeing those still waters. I felt I was being lead down more of a path of destruction and pain rather than righteousness. I was having an anxiety attack. I just kept reciting this Psalm to myself wondering how these words could be true in that exact moment of my life. That is when I reached this conclusion that this psalm is not conditional on my circumstances. God is my refuge. God is the one who gives me rest. God cares about His reputation. It’s not just about me. My circumstances are merely setting the stage for God to do something truly spectacular. Maybe not any kind of spectacular worthy of being written into an epic tale, but spectacular enough for someone in the world to take notice. Spectacular enough for someone to see a green pastures when all they should be seeing is explosions and blood staining snow.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Why in the world should this ever be conditional on our circumstances?