He maketh me lie down in green pastures…
Most of us throughout our lifetime have heard this memorable psalm. There has been much written about this epic psalm but the best commentary, or explanation of it that I have read is by author Phillip Keller who has a unique perspective of actually attending to and shepherding his own flock of sheep. Mr. Keller has taken the 23rd Psalm line by line, each line making up a chapter of the book entitled A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 (Zondervan). He writes in chapter 3:
The strange thing about sheep is that because of their very make-up it is almost impossible for them to be made to lie down unless four requirments are met. Owing to their timidity they refuse to lie down unless they are free from all fear.
Because of their social behavior within a flock of sheep will not lie down unless they are free from friction with the others if their kind.
If tormented by flies or parasites, sheep will not lie down. Only when free of these pests can they relax.
Lastly, sheep will not lie down as long as they feel in need of finding food. They must be free from hunger.
Later in the same chapter he talks about the role of the shepherd:
The unique aspect of this picture is that it is only the sheepman himslelf who can provide release from these anxieties…
…It is acutally he who makes it possible for them to lie down, to rest, to relax, to be content and quiet and flourishing…
A flock that is restless, discontented, always agitated and disturbed, never does well.
And the same is true of people.
I look at this line from the Psalm differently now that we have Matthew in our lives. Matthew spends a considerable amount of time on his back. It is where he is most comfortable. We like to call the time he spends on the floor as his “reset” button where he is able to collect himself and take a break from the stimuli of a life that cruises by him at lightning speed. If it is available he will take his NIKKEN magnetic chair pad room to room to use as his bedroll.
Matthew lacks proper formation of his semi-circular canals in his inner ear. For you and I they are the central function that gives us our balance and allows us to walk or even stand. The fact that Matthew can stand up or even be able to walk and run is nothing short of a miracle. Think of a time when you had a head cold and your ears were “stuffy” and just the act of standing up too fast or leaning forward caused you to be off-balance. It is believed that this is the feeling that Matthew has most of the time.
But, in the awesome design of our bodies, he has been able to compensate and overcome this among the many of his so called “genetic flaws.” Where we may see a flaw, God sees a perfect creation, made in his own image.
Remember, it is the Good Shepherd who is responsible for you not having fear, friction, irritations of pests or parasites and not being hungry. By design God has made the ability to lie down and rest as a built-in, easy thing for Matthew. For us however, it’s not so easy. It means giving up control.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside restful waters, herestores my soul.
He quides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.