“He makes me lie down in green pasture.”
Oh, to be a sheep in the flock of God! Psalm 23:2 could be the theme verse for the prosperity gospel preachers. Just picture the veggie-loving sheep lying down in a lush alfalfa field. Surrounded by more food than the creature could possibly consume in its lifetime, the sheep’s only work is turning its head for the next savory bite.
God’s flock prospers under his care. Join the flock and prosper in the alfalfa fields of life! Such is the message of the prosperity gospel folks.
Psalm 23 suggests nothing of the sort. The passage and phrase are not set in a North American context. Here, sheep do graze in alfalfa fields, but that’s not the case in the Promised Land. The desert is the land of the shepherd. Desert hillsides are the grazing territory for flocks, and scattered shoots are green pastures.
What you are unable to see are the occasional tufts (brown shoots of grass) that are the food for the flock.
Green pastures are not lush fields. Green pastures are just enough shoots of grass to sustain the sheep in the deserts of life.
That is the message of the psalm. The Lord is my shepherd. My shepherd leads me. The hillsides are not lush with sweet alfalfa, but he leads me to hillsides that have just enough grass to sustain me.
My shepherd is good. An ordinary shepherd would lead me to a hillside where grass is really difficult to find. The shoots and bites are few and far between. But my good shepherd leads me so that I find sufficient bites, not without effort, but with assurance that there is enough to sustain me. As a matter of fact, I am a sheep that could lie down for a while, knowing my shepherd has brought me to a hillside pasture with plenty.
When we take groups to Israel and walk a desert hillside, I teach them two key words – “just enough.” In the deserts of life, God does not promise us alfalfa fields to wallow in. God gives us just enough.
If you believe that the people of God will lie down in luxury, you will become discouraged and disillusioned with the gospel. When trouble comes, you will think God has abandoned you and has broken his promises.
But if you understand that life is a desert journey, you will expect it to be unbearably hot at times. You will know that you will be hungry and thirsty at times. You will wonder at times if you can take even one more step in the difficult desert journey of life.
That’s when I hope and I pray that “just enough” will echo in your ear. The Lord is my shepherd. When life becomes unbearably difficult, the Lord will give us just enough. You have been called to lead and to follow within the flock of God. Look to the shepherd who has promised to walk beside you on your journey through this life and into the next!
Devotionals are written by Jeff Blamer, Vice President of Member Services