The green in rugged pastures
One of the most famously quoted Psalms is Psalm 23, and if you don’t understand the countryside in Israel, you can miss part of the meaning of the Psalm.
You know the Psalm which begins like this:
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures…
Psalm 26:1-2 (NRSV)
If you go to the countryside in Israel, you can see what the psalmist looked at as he penned the words “green pastures”. Even today there are teenagers from shepherd families out walking their charges on grazing trails carved into the land since the time of Abraham. But the “green pastures” the Psalmist referred to are nothing like the luscious midwestern landscape this may bring to mind for a Westerner.
The landscape is rugged semi-desert, not the waist-high grasses that we may think of. The first time one biblical scholar saw the sheep out grazing here, he thought they were eating rocks! But yet this is the place that David calls “green pastures”. Look closer, and there is just enough moisture in the air and scarce rainfall to grow the smallest shoots of vegetation around the rocks.
There’s just enough for a few mouthfuls every few steps, and the sheep have to keep moving, they must keep following the shepherd to find sustenance. There’s no lush green pastures to sit and get fat in, but there’s enough to make it through and keep going, and when the grass runs out, the sheep trust the shepherd will bring them to more.
This changes our understanding of Christ. While the pictures of a very Caucasian Jesus walking his sheep through waving pastures are nice and comforting for many, they are wholly inaccurate. What David saw was the much more true-to-life picture of a rugged landscape in which the sheep’s only chance of survival is the shepherd’s guidance and love.
One of the greatest questions of our Christian life is: Do we trust the shepherd to give us enough?
Most of the time in life, we’re not flooded with spiritual, physical, or relational bounty, but if we keep moving, we find that Jesus guides us. A mouthful here, a mouthful there. A kind word from a stranger, an unexpected gift from a friend, a favorite meal made by your spouse.
This is how our Lord Jesus leads us to green pastures. Our shepherd gives us all we need, and the point is to trust him and keep following.
Presented by Greg Williams
About the presenter:
Word of Life each Sunday is taken from ‘Speaking of Life’, (https://www.gci.org/videos/media-speaking-of-life/), a public resource video on the USA website of Grace Communion International. Greg Williams is President of Grace Communion International and lives in North Carolina, USA.
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