He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. (Psalm 23:2)
While it is true that we all have experienced what we might call “a good day” — when the children are behaving, the sun is shining, our body is healthy, our spouse is agreeable — these blessings from our benevolent God are not unique to believers who have Christ as their shepherd. Even unbelievers can enjoy these things. On the other hand, many trusting Christians go through difficult times and some even experience life-long pains or regrets or sorrows. So then, the question we must ask of Psalm 23:2 is this: what are these green pastures and still waters that are unique to believers, that only those who have the LORD as their shepherd will enjoy?
Real rest is found in Jesus, and solid sustenance is feeding on him!
Put another way, in what way is the tortured martyr, the exhausted single parent, the grief-stricken widow, the pain-wracked hospital patient, the struggling sinner, or the half-starved third-world saint — as they trust in and follow their shepherd Jesus — lying down in green pastures or being lead by still waters?
The answer is found in Hebrews 13:20-21:
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.
The green fields of God are found, not in the absence of pain, but in the peaceful, perfecting work of sanctification that is through Jesus Christ and to his glory. In other words, the Shepherd who makes you lie down in green pastures, does so by making you more and more perfect, working in you what is pleasing and glorifying to Christ! The closer we grow to Christ, the greener the pastures get. Real rest is found in Jesus, and solid sustenance is feeding on him!
If you have Christ then you have the best God has to offer!
The 18th-century British pastor John Gill describes these green pastures as “the flesh and blood, righteousness and sacrifice, of Christ, which faith is led unto and lives upon, and is refreshed and invigorated by.” So the good Shepherd’s green pastures are not past or temporary in the life of the elderly believer in his or her difficult days, or missed entirely by the new Christian convert who is confined to a wheelchair (or nailed to a cross like the thief). If you have Christ then you have the best God has to offer!
If you are relying on Christ, then you are lying down in the greenest pastures to be found on earth or in heaven. God leads his people by his providence, by his Word, by his Spirit — but always and only to Jesus as their sustenance and safety. Anything else would be false security and poison rather than nourishment to our souls.