“He makes me lie down in green pastures.” (Psalm 23:2)
Right after we agree that we lack nothing (vs. 1), our Shepherd makes us lie down to rest. It seems backward. We consider resting as something we do when we are exhausted, after the hard work, not at the beginning. Yet in God’s economy, resting comes both at the beginning and the end. Resting bookmarks our days.
In the beginning, according to Genesis, when God created the world in seven days, each day ends with the refrain, “and there was evening and there was morning” (Genesis 1: 5,8,13,19,23,31). We think of the day beginning in the morning and ending with the evening. Genesis frames the day as evening then morning, which is why the Jewish people celebrate the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. In God’s ways, we begin by resting for work the night before. (As an aside, I think the reason so many people fail at their morning routine is because of the way they end the night before).
God wants us to be rested, not exhausted. He even makes us lie down in green pastures. Countless times over the years, when my pace of life spiraled out of control, God found a way to slow me down. Sometimes sickness served to make me lie down. Other times a crisis redirected my priorities to the people around me that I love and away from the relentless grinding of my daily work. The Good Shepherd loves us enough to make us lie down and rest. Jeremiah 33:12 prophesizes, “in all its towns there will again be pastures for shepherds to rest their flocks,” using the same Hebrew word translated “rest” as in Psalm 23. God wants us to rest. The author of Hebrews in the New Testament echoes this when he says, “There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God…. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest” (Hebrews 4: 9,11).
Are you exhausted? Worn out? At the end of your rope? God wants you to take a good rest. Life can wait. Give yourself permission (God does) to lie down and catch your breath. Whether in your bed or in a beautiful green pasture, accept His invitation to lie down and rest. When you are rested you will be of more value to God and to all those who count on you.
In the scheme of eternity, life is short. Now, at age 62, I realize how fleeting the years are. I have so much gratitude for all of the good years, special time with those I love, and God’s gracious provision through stormy seasons. Yet, I also regret allowing my life to be driven and defined by incessant productivity, taking my eyes off what I value most. As time is now more precious than ever, I hope to lean into God’s rhythm of delightful rest coupled with passionate purpose. I believe that this is how He intends for me to live – an abundant life full of joy and meaning, and full of rest.