Green Pastures

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters.

Psalm 23:1-2

Have you ever tried to travel on the railways on a Sunday, only to discover that there’s a rail replacement bus service because of engineering work?  It’s very irritating.  A few years ago, when I was commuting from Colchester to London by train, the weekend engineering work overran, and on Monday morning, all the commuters were herded off the trains at Chelmsford station to wait for buses to take us all into London.  It didn’t work, of course – there were simply far too many people to shuttle us all into buses.  People were getting extremely angry, and it looked as if a riot could break out at any minute.  The police turned up to try to take control, and the local news programmes appeared to film what was going on.  I decided to accept that I was going to be late, and wandered into town to get a coffee at Starbucks whilst I waited for things to return to normality.

Now I don’t think that me heading to Starbucks was necessarily the Lord making me lie down in green pastures, but I can see a parallel with today’s verse, and with our current Mark Marathon article.  In Mark 6, Jesus shows compassion to the crowd that has gathered around him.  He recognizes that they are tired and hungry.  The first thing he commands them to do is to sit down and take the weight off their feet, whilst he sorts out the food situation.  You could say that “he makes them lie down in green pastures.”

In fact, as I have pondered over these verses this evening, three other parallels between Psalm 23 and Mark 6 have jumped out at me.  Jesus and his disciples want to get some rest, so they head out in a boat to go to a solitary place they know.  What does the crowd do?  It follows them, and in fact actually gets to the spot Jesus is heading for before the boat.  This seems to me to tie in with the Psalmist talking about the Lord leading him beside quiet waters.  Then, of course, there’s the parallel with the imagery of a shepherd.  In Mark 6, Jesus had compassion on those following him because they were “like sheep without a shepherd.”  The Psalmist famously states that the Lord is his shepherd.  Most notably of all, in the Mark passage, Jesus responds to the needs of the people; they need food, and he gives it to them.  Psalm 23 affirms that we shall not be in want with the Lord as our shepherd; he will provide for all our needs.

Once again, I get a reassuring and comforting view of God from today’s verses, and Mark 6.  The Lord is my shepherd, and will tend to me as if I was one of his flock.  I will not be in need if I put my trust in him, because he will provide for me.  The Lord will lead me by still waters, when things get tough.  When things get really bad, he’ll make me lie down in green pastures to give me time to rest and reflect.  Whether those pastures are literal pastures, or metaphorical pastures (Starbucks, anyone?!), I don’t know!

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