Green Pastures and Waters of Rest
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. Psalm 23:2
I joke with my West Coast friends each spring that Kentucky has so many shades of green that it makes your eyes hurt. It is so fertile here that mowing grass is one of the most common businesses, because you have to maintain the grass here – you don’t have to water it, necessarily, just cut it, every 4-5 days, or it will get away from you and be up to your shins before you know it. I tell people that if you’re real quiet you can hear the grass growing. It is amazing.
An old word to describe this kind of super-fresh vigor is “verdure.” A place of verdure is not just green, it’s green-green, not just alive, but flourishing and ever-fresh.
The Septuagint translates this verse using this unique and descriptive word, “He has made me to dwell in a place of verdure:” I picture the scene in heaven from Revelation 22:2 where, “…On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.” Wow, Kentucky, or Maui, or anywhere else will seem barren compared to that “place of verdure”.
Symbolized here as green pastures, or, a place of verdure, are the words of Holy Scripture, the Bible, the book of God’s Word. The Bible text is different from any other words in that they are spirit and they are life – they are vigorous and nourishing. The fresh and ever-current words of scripture, as St. Cyril said, “Nourish the hearts of believers and give them spiritual strength.”
He leadeth me beside the still waters. “Still waters” or, “waters of rest,” as the Septuagint translates, St. Cyril explains, is “holy baptism, by which the weight of sin is removed.”
What a beautiful picture the Psalmist paints of a person receiving words of life from the Good Shepherd and being led to the waters of baptism, the ‘washing of regeneration,’ becoming part of the holy flock. Now a lamb of God, sheep of His pasture, who’s purpose and destiny now is to rest in His love. Not a rest of laziness or sloth, but a putting away of strife and pressure. It is the assurance that nothing or no one can separate you from the love of God, no evil wolf can ever snatch you from the flock of the Good Shepherd, you are in His care, in His rest. Interestingly, the same word for rest here in the Psalm (waters of rest) in the Greek Septuagint is used in Hebrews where we are assured, “For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors… So let us do our best to enter that rest.” Hebrews 4:9-11 NLT
Feed on the living and ever-fresh Word of God this year and rest in the assurance that your Good Shepherd will take care of your every need.
Photo: #5 and Maddy, Summer, 2018