Without a doubt, Psalm 23 is one of the best known and most beloved chapters in all the Bible. It’s memorized. It’s on our walls in our homes and church buildings. It’s read at funerals and gravesides. It is meditated on during dark and difficult and depressing days. David’s writing of the 23rd Psalm is a thing of literary and psychological and theological beauty. The Lord is my Shepherd. Yes.
But have you ever thought about the first line of verse 2? “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” Really? Makes? Forces? Insists? Orders? On the one hand, it seems ridiculous that anyone would have to be forced to lie down in a lush, peaceful, and plentiful environment. That probably says more about the human race’s hard-headedness than anything else. Let’s face it, being compared to sheep is not the highest of compliments. But on the other hand, does it seem a bit cruel for God to force us into something? Does it seem un-Godlike to you that He would make us do anything? “He makes me lie down in green pastures.” I want to be led to green pastures, yes. But made to lie down? I’m not so sure. Is it loving to be forced into something?
It’s loving to be forced into goodness. It’s loving to be pushed into wholeness. It’s loving to be made to experience what we were made for. No one likes the “makes” part. Everyone loves the “green pasture” part. God loves us too much to avoid getting our attention. God loves us too much to let us wander about feeding on small, dry, dirt patches of grass. So He makes us lie down. The gentle, yet mighty shoves catch us off guard. At first, they hurt. They surprise. But they make us lie down.
How many times have you thought and/or heard: “That was the worst time of my life. . . but if it had never happened, I wouldn’t know God like I do now.”? Or, “I cannot begin to tell you how much it hurt. But that pain led to an intimate experience with God I have never known.”? Brutal grace. Beautiful grace.
He makes us lie down. The greatest thing for us is not health, wealth, and prosperity. The greatest thing for us is Him. If He has to, out of love, He will make us lie down to feast on His satisfying provision. It’s loving and kind if it leads to what is best for us.
COVID-19. He makes us lied down.
Cancer. He makes us lie down.
Unexpected death. He makes us lie down.
Surgery. He makes us lie down.
Divorce. He makes us lie down.
Car wreck. He makes us lie down.
Employment termination. He makes us lie down.
Trauma. He makes us lie down.
Mental illness. He makes us lie down.
Child rebellion. He makes us lie down.
You get the point. God loves us too much to let us coast without Him. God loves us too much to let our souls dry up. God loves us to much to not NOT force us to lie down in green pastures. God will shock us in order to lead us to awe. He makes us lie down to lead us to green pastures.
What about you? When has God made you lie down? How brutal was the pain? How beautiful was the grace?