(I’m blogging on one of the six verses of the 23rd Psalm each day this week . . . you can read the post on Verse One here.)
Psalm 23:2: “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,”
Little tiger did not like going to bed.
Every night when mommy tiger said,
Little tiger would say,
“But I don’t want to go to bed!”
So begins one of my daughter’s favorite bedtime books, aptly named I Don’t Want To Go To Bed! by Julie Sykes and Tim Warnes.
Many of us are like little tiger. We don’t want to take a break. We may not resist going to bed exactly, but that is only because we are so exhausted from our breakneck schedules. Busyness fills our days and we struggle to cram one more thing into our already overloaded calendars.
Peer pressure prods us onward. “You won’t believe how busy I am!”
“I didn’t even have time to eat!”
“I haven’t taken a vacation in 5 years!”
We don’t want to stop.
We don’t know how to stop.
Thank goodness God sometimes makes us lie down.
I had missed the significance of that verb. But last week on Facebook I posted an invitation for folks to share what the 23rd Psalm means to them. Tim, a pastor colleague, replied, “I always appreciate that the Lord *makes* me lie down beside still waters. Because on my own I don’t make the time. So the Shepherd has to make us sometimes, because she knows we’re headed for a dark valley.”
Lest we get the wrong idea, a shepherd does not “make” his or her sheep rest by bonking them on the head with a stick or a rock. No, the shepherd leads the sheep to a place with green grass to eat and quiet water to drink. It is a sanctuary from hunger, thirst, and predators. There, the sheep can be refreshed and rest. The shepherd may even lie down with the sheep.
This verse is about God’s provision of sustenance, security, and serenity.
In the first verse, we acknowledged that the Shepherd gives us everything we need.
In this second verse, we are reminded that rest is one of those things we need.
The third (or fourth, depending on how you number them) of God’s Top Ten Commandments is “Remember the Sabbath.” The Hebrew word for Sabbath is rooted in a word that means “stop” or “cease” . . . rest. “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy” the commandment says.
Rest is holy.
Of course, if we keep going without resting, our bodies will eventually make us take a break. In that children’s book, I Don’t Want to Go To Bed!, mommy tiger allows little tiger to stay up until he finally ends up sleepy and where he needs to be, safe at home in bed.
The same thing happens to us. Without rest we will wear out physically, mentally, and spiritually. The question is, as IT folks ask, is that a bug or is it a feature? Is it a flaw in the way we are put together that we can’t keep going and going? Or is that the way God intended?
I think it might just be a feature.
To stop and rest allows us not only to recharge physically, but also to make space to experience God’s presence and provision. We need to rest – to stop – in order to be freed from the distractions of our busyness that interfere with our apprehension of God’s steadfast love.
We need a break.
We need a break, not just for our body’s sake but for the sake of our relationship with God.