This post last updated on November 8th, 2021
Watching corn grow. Really.
Have you ever had those times in your life when you’re in between really big things and you’ve can’t seem to determine your next step? Do you, in times of unrest find it difficult to give yourself permission to just stop and be renewed like you read about in Psalm 23?
Transition is difficult on it’s own. Throw in life, relationships, and the expectations others have of you and it can be overwhelming.
Perhaps you’re in-between life’s stuff right now, or in some form of transition. If not, you will be and you’ll need to find a place of rest, restoration, and clarity.
So, after 3 years in a place with a purpose, my wife and I find ourselves in a place where we 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 our hearts and minds.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.Psalm 23:1-3
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 we 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 talks about exactly that. Jeff also 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 decisions and next steps have made me realize I don’t know how to rest properly. That 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.
Not wanting to keep what I’ve learned to myself, here’s what I discovered in these verses. Let’s jump into it.
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.” When you transliterate the Hebrew, 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,” yet 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.”
Remember that as the first step when facing decisions or changes in life that are just too difficult. Your God is personal,He is near, and He cares.
Reclining in an oasis
“In oases of vegetation he is making me recline…”Psalm 23:2
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:
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 grow 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 you might normally associate with this verse!
Reclining. Oases. Tender, velvety grass. This passage is where you’ll find that despite the reality of our high-speed internet, information overload, gotta have it now, drive-through dinner mentality, there are times when God not only encourages you to recline, but times when He makes you do so.
Restore My Soul
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 you 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 if it’s 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 you’ll 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.
In reality, this third verse doesn’t only say “He restores my soul,” but literally, “He causes my life to return!”
Rest and be restored
That’s another step you can take when life is disrupted, chaotic, or just changing on you. Receive your permission to rest from the 23rd Psalm and be restored. Focus on God and He will both guide and restore you!
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. You have permission to do this.
As I am leaving today for a two week vacation, these are beautiful words to ponder.
Fran, thank you for your encouraging thoughts and have a great 2 weeks, maybe some great rest, too!
Very encouraging post! Thank you for this. The expanded meaning from the Hebrew really adds depth to this verse. I am in a similar place in my life and career – looking to make a transition, but not sure how or where it should be. Anxious to get going on something new for the LORD, but at a loss about which direction to move or the timing….
Thanks again and God bless!
Transition is difficult! Uncertainty about direction and timing totally compound it, I’m right there with you. I’ve been staying entrenched in the Psalms, a good place to be in times of transition. Thank you for reading and commenting, I do know how to pray for you, Jay!