As the Corn Grows
Have you ever had those times when you’re in between really big things in your life and you’ve yet to determine your next step? Do you, in times of unrest find it difficult to give yourself permission to just stop and be renewed?
Transition is difficult on it’s own. Throw in life, relationships and the expectations others have of us and it can be overwhelming.
Perhaps you’re in-between life’s stuff or in some form of transition, or you will be and will need to find a place of rest, restoration or clarity.
So, after 3 years in a place with a purpose, I find myself in a place where I can watch the corn grow. No really, in Iowa you can almost watch this stuff grow!
Although our full time ministry continues and there are tons of things to do and catch up on, we’ve yet to receive our next “marching orders,” and the more we dig, prod and ask God for crystal clear instructions, I mean important stuff like what’s our next location, the more He puts (and re-puts) Psalm 23, especially verse 1-3 into my heart and mind.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
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.
More than that, those whom I have been receiving counsel from during this time of transition have been saying the same thing apart from each other: Rest. Wait. Don’t jump into the next assignment.
In Yes or No: How Your Everyday Decisions Will Forever Shape your Life, author Jeff Shinabarger encourages rest, reflection and not leaping from work to work.
One of the points Jeff makes in this book is, “I wish we encouraged our friends to take times of transition to slow their pacing and find clarity before they move on to another workplace.” This is where I find myself asking, “Nice. How in the heck is that done?”
I don’t know about you, but rest and reflection do not come easy for those who are not very good at being still.
This time of transition and not knowing how to stop worrying about the outside world and to rest properly has led me to take the closest look I’ve ever taken into a Psalm that we all probably have in our earliest Sunday School memories, and most likely one of the most well known and familiar verses in the Old Testament: Psalm 23.
My Shepherd, I Shall Not Lack
Immediately, the author, David, without pretense makes his first bold point. “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Right off the bat, David refers to God not in a figurative, far off manner but in the most personal, endearing way possible when he opens with, “YHWH is MY shepherd.” Literally translated, David wrote, “Yahweh one-being-shepherd-of-me.”
The Hebrew name David used for God in this sentence, Yahweh-ro’i, containing the compound “ro’i” (ro-ee), can be a name and an action at the same time, meaning “a shepherd” and “to shepherd,” but can also be used as “companion.”
Therefore, when we say, “The LORD is MY shepherd” the underlying statement we’re making is a very personal one. “God, you are MY OWN shepherd. My caretaker, my guide, my security, my provision.”
The main idea of verse 1 then is that because our God is a personal God and since He is our shepherd, Jehovah-ro’i will guide, and so it is an eternal truth when David writes “I will not lack anything.”
Reclining in an Oasis
“In oases of vegetation he is making me recline…”
In most English translations, Psalm 23:2 says something very close to, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters.”
Even as much as this says to our hearts, especially in times of trial or unrest, this absolutely pales in comparison to the original Hebrew:
“In oases of vegetation he is making me recline, on waters of resting places he is conducting me.”
After I determined that oases is plural of oasis, I had to chew again on this text: “Oases of vegetation.” Then I discovered the Hebrew word here for vegetation, desha, is a word that represents the youngest, freshest first-shoots of grass that grows in a pasture. You know the type, the brand new stuff that’s like strands of soft, deep green velvet between your bare toes. Now that conjures up different imagery than even the colorful, bright green pastures we normally associate with this verse!
Reclining. Oases. Tender, velvety grass. It’s in this passage that we find that despite the mentality of our high-speed internet, information overload, gotta have it now drive-through dinner mentality, there are times when our God not only encourages us to recline, but times when He makes us to do so.
Restore My Soul
These times of rest and reclining are more often than not tied to the deep, refreshing “still waters,” or better yet, “waters of resting places” where we may drink deeply without reservation.
Did you know that sheep are actually afraid of water if it’s flowing too fast, making too much noise or turbulent? Ever tried sipping from the rapids of a river? Of course not, imagine the risk of that!
The waters of verse 2 aren’t the fast flowing currents of a white water rapid, but waters of stillness. Not stagnant, stinking pools, but fresh, inviting, fulfilling water where, as we see next in verse 3, “He restores my soul.”
Again we see the pale comparison to the modern English translation compared to the language David used. Literally, David wrote, “soul of me-he is restoring,” but the definitions of the 2 words he used for “restoring” and “soul” really paint an even deeper picture.
Shuwb is a very picturesque word in Hebrew that has both figurative and illustrative meanings. Figuratively, it means to restore, refresh or to repair, and literally shuwb means to bring something back to it’s original state. That’s the word David used to illustrate restore.
The word David used for soul is nephesh. This means the breathing portion of one’s actual life, the innermost part that is life itself.
Once we put these together, the third verse of Psalm 23 doesn’t only say “He restores my soul,” but literally, “He causes my life to return!”Next time you're in transition, or just plain overwhelmed look again at Psalm 23Click To Tweet
Next time you find yourself in transition, between things in life or just plain overwhelmed, look more slowly at Psalm 23, and as difficult as it may be, recline, rest, drink and be restored.
It’s ok. We have permission to do this.