“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures” (KJV)
In this passage the first thought that we must grapple with is our understanding of the archaic English verb ‘maketh’. (‘make’ in the NIV.) Unlike the comedian Flip Wilson who claimed, ‘The Devil made me do it!” ‘Our Shepherd’ never ‘MAKES’ us do anything. Every act, ever thought, every word, every deed and every action, is committed of our own free will. The choice is ours to make. And, I must add, so are the consequences!
Choosing from the options in the Hebrew dictionary a better choice for the word rendered ‘maketh’ would be ‘invites’, or ‘allows’. Thus we understand: “He invites me to lie down in green pastures.” Or: “He allows me to lie down in green pastures.”
With the invitational concept in mind, lets examine the contrast between our present culture and the culture in existence when this psalm was written.
In this present age, ones wealth, and often our peace of mind, is measured in properties, stocks, bonds, or cash. On the other hand our ‘perceived’ financial worth is often estimated by our friends and acquaintances in automobiles, boats, jewelry, and houses.
In opposition, in the nomadic/agrarian time in which this psalm was written, wealth was not measured in coins or paper. Instead it was measured in the amount of sheep one owned. This concept was true in all countries from Egypt eastward to India—at that time considered the boundaries of civilization.
- · Mesha, the king of Moab, had to pay the king of Israel one hundred thousand lambs plus another one hundred thousand rams, with the wool still intact, each year for ‘protection’. (2nd Kings 3: 4)
- · In Job 42: 12 we are told that after Job’s trial was over he gained fourteen thousand sheep.
- · Solomon sacrificed one hundred twenty thousand sheep at the dedication of the temple. (1st. Kings 8: 63)
- · Throughout the Old Testament vast numbers of sheep are recorded in trade or dowries. But none exceeded the amount recorded when the tribe of Manasseh defeated the Hagarites (descendents of Ishmael, son of Hager the slave girl, fathered by Abraham, and forerunner of today’s Islam). The tribe of Manasseh took from the Hagrites, in addition to other animals and humans, two hundred fifty thousand sheep!
From these numbers we easily conclude that the most valuable items possessed were sheep. And, we might add: ‘Sheep were not subject to ‘market fluctuations’.
In many places in the scriptures, the Children of Promise, and by extension; we Christians, are referred to as ‘sheep’. No verse is more prominent than the latter part of Psalm 100:3 that states: “We are his people and the sheep of his pasture.”
You might ask, “How does all this about ‘sheep’ relate to us in our present hi-tech society in which every family owns at least 2 cars, 3 or more ‘smart phones’, but not very many sheep?
Here’s how. By using the ‘invitation’ concept, we can relate the past to the present when we read the first part of verse 2 as follows:
“He invites me to lie down in green pastures”
It is quite simple. There are three trains of thought that can be followed. The first is:
1. As the descendants of Abraham increased in population more turned from the nomadic life of shepherding and turned to farming, tradesmen, and craftsmen.
Forests were cut for construction, or gave way to cultivation of grains, vineyards, olive groves, and fruits.
Even then the Hebrew family never gave up their goats and sheep because these animals supplied the material for the bulk of their clothing as well as a portion of their food. Consequentially each family maintained a sheepfold to protect their stock.
If after guiding his flock on a difficult forage in dry weather, where the main fare was ‘skimpy pickings’, a shepherd might by chance came upon a
grassy field where the owner invited him to bring his flock and let them eat and rest, the shepherd would have counted his flock’s wants as met.
2. The second thought is similar: ‘In the hot, arid land of Palestine, the major rains only occurred in the October/December period and the February/March period. The only other refreshing moisture for the remainder of the year came at night as fog from the Mediterranean.’ What could be more welcome than suddenly wandering upon a heretofore-unknown pasture, and the shepherd inviting (maketh – KJV) his flock to lie down in this shaded, cool and lush, pasture? Both ‘His’ and ‘their’ wants were met.
3. The third, and most important is this: If the most valuable possession one owns is sheep, and if we truly are ‘the sheep of His pasture’, would not the Creator, Almighty God, who loves us so much, meet our ‘wants’ by inviting us to symbolically lie down in lush, green pastures to and achieve rest from our current problems?
As you think on the possibilities of this verse, and recognize the fantastic truth within it, you will understand that you have every right to accept the gentle care of ‘The Shepherd’ for his flock.
Why not put God to the test by choosing your greatest ‘want’.
Choose whatever your greatest ‘want’ or ‘need’ is, and speak it out loud substituting this ‘want’ or ‘need’, for the biblical phrase, ‘Green Pastures’.
God has already made HIS promise. Now it is up to YOU to accept or reject it!
Will you accept this invitation to His refreshment and His goodness today?
Begin today by confessing the following: “He invites me into (insert your want or need here. Examples: A larger paycheck; Better health; Closer walk with God.; Etc. Etc. )
Keep this thought in mind and repeat it over and over until it becomes a part of your expectations.
You will get what your mouth speaks! (Read Proverbs 18:21)
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