It goes without saying that the Word of God is a constant guide for all believers. But for those in the position of leadership, even more so. For shepherds of God's people, the Bible provides a sure and steady blueprint for all things in ministry. Most believers treasure favorite portions of Scripture, and many of us treasure none more than the 23rd Psalm. Within these verses, we discover the care with which our Chief Shepherd guides us and find instruction to guide our flocks, whether in our churches, our homes, or both. It is with verse 2 that I would particularly like to encourage you as we learn how the Lord guides His flock.  

"He makes me lie down in green pastures. 

He leads me beside still waters." —Ps 23:2 

This verse takes my mind back to the fulfilling yet exhausting days of guiding our small children in the routine yet important first years of their lives. When they were toddlers, we observed a daily naptime routine. At some point after lunch, they were guided to their rooms, lights turned out, curtains drawn, humidifier on to block the daytime noise, and snuggled into their beds. They needed their rest. My wife knew it wasn't enough to tell a two-year-old to go lie down. Like a shepherdess to little lambs, she had to ensure that the space was conducive to sleep. There was work to be done before that could be achieved. 

Likewise, God Himself is our Shepherd, even as we shepherd others. But what exactly did that imagery provoke in the minds of David's listeners? Certainly, the people of that day understood far more than we do about an occupation such as this. They knew that David's words in Psalm 23 demonstrated the Lord's active role in the care of His own and what it takes to provide for those who follow Him. It is truly astounding that God chooses to be with us and meets our daily needs with such tender care. As Psalm 100:3 says, "Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture." He not only chooses to be with us, but He is actively working in our lives for our good. What an example! 

The role of a shepherd was no easy task. The shepherds of David's day were constantly attentive to their sheep. Both real and figurative sheep need continuous assistance. Consider the words of James Montgomery Boice: 

Shepherds were required to live with the sheep 24 hours a day, and the task of caring for them was unending. Day and night, summer and winter, in fair weather and foul, they labored to nourish, guide and protect the sheep. Who in his right mind would choose to be a shepherd? Yet Jehovah has chosen to be our shepherd. 

We can rest in the beautiful truths of Psalm 23 today because, as Christian leaders, we also have the Lord as our Shepherd. Jesus declared, "I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd" (John 10:16). We are part of the flock of God's people, and it is the Great Shepherd on whom we rely for every need! 


A good rest makes all the difference. When our minds and bodies are tired, life gets complicated. Our ability to cope with problems is diminished, our rationality is weakened, and our words become less guarded. We must be able to recharge if we are to be effective in ministry and in life. The second verse of Psalm 23 says, "He makes me lie down." One of the ways the Lord guides His sheep is to give them rest. Sheep are fearful animals and find themselves easily disturbed. When they are panicked or stressed, they cannot rest. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? 

David characterizes the Lord as his Shepherd, who brings him rest because he knows from firsthand experience what that means, both literally and spiritually. Think of his life. The ups and downs, victories and disastrous defeats…God was always with him. This is true for you, too! You can rest because your Shepherd never leaves or forsakes you, even in the worst of your mistakes. We will have people in our flocks who let us down. Their lives may be messy. How do we continue to lead them and care for them? By providing a Biblical resting place for those whose lives are in chaos. 

God is always at work to guide us to the rest we need, and we should quickly provide that rest for those under our care. Philip Keller, born in Kenya to missionaries in the 1920s, was a shepherd for many years before becoming a pastor and author. In his book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, he writes from his experience as he lists the requirements that must be met before a sheep can be calm enough to lie down. They cannot be fearful. They cannot have friction with other sheep in the fold. They must be free from pests, and finally, they must not be hungry. After considering these things, is it any wonder the Bible uses the sheep metaphor to describe us? 

The sheep can lie down because they have been satisfied. They have been fed in green pastures and have satisfied their thirst in still waters. Now they can rest. All the while, the shepherd is at work. Notice these action words: He makes me lie down, He leads me beside. These describe what God is doing for His sheep. He makes, He leads, and in verse 3, He restores. It is the Shepherd that is making rest possible. 

As Christians, we must remind ourselves that our true rest is in Christ our Savior alone.

Though our salvation is secure the moment we put our faith in Christ, there is still much work to be done as we walk in obedience. Paul reminds us in Philippians 2 that God is constantly at work in believers so that we might live according to His will. Yet, as we diligently follow our Shepherd and His plans for us, we are never outside of the rest He provides. Scripture encourages, "So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience" (Hebrews 4:9–11). Jesus beckoned to those who would listen, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).  

Phillip Keller summarizes, "A flock that is restless, discontented, always agitated and disturbed never does well. And the same is true of people." Connecting this analogy from Scripture to life as a believer is quite simple. Those who serve as spiritual leaders and shepherds should not expect those under their care to be without constant need for our ministry and service. We see this even as Jesus fed the five thousand men plus women and children as "he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass" (John 6:10). Just as the Lord continually cares for us, we should strive to lead others to find comfort in the presence of their Chief Shepherd. 

Ultimately, sheep lying down in green pastures is a picture of contentment. It is not that the predators are removed nor that threats are entirely absent. But as long as the Lord is his Shepherd, David, like a contented sheep, will lie down and find rest. 


The Shepherd, our great Guide, leads us beside still waters. The footnote in the ESV Bible explains this phrase as "the waters of rest." We know that sheep, by nature, are fearful, so it follows that they are frightened by loud, busy streams of water. It is the shepherd's responsibility to use stones and whatever else is at his disposal to slow the rushing waters and make them calm. Only then will the sheep drink. 

I will admit that shepherding sheep sounds frustrating. What a high-maintenance animal! But then I remember that I am a sheep and, therefore, must reflect on how much the Lord is surely and patiently at work in my life. I am humbled that the Lord chooses to be my Shepherd, and it gives me the proper mindset to shepherd others. 

The promise of quiet waters is not a promise of an easy life where everyone in your flock should expect to enjoy endless days of calm serenity, never having to deal with pain or stress. Instead, it is the confidence that amid such circumstances, the Lord will be working to lead them to places of rest and nourishment as they find comfort in His Word. You may be the very instrument God uses to comfort His flock. The terrain we must tread in this life will be rocky, the enemies will lie in wait, and the waters will be turbulent, but our faithful Shepherd is capable beyond our comprehension. He will work on our behalf to do what is necessary to calm the tumultuous waters of life as we drink deeply of His Word and guide others to do the same. 

David paints a picture of a sheep nourished with food and water and now lying down to sleep. Fully satisfied and deeply contented, the otherwise nervous animal finds rest provided by his shepherd. Jesus used similar language when He said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied" (Matthew 5:6). There is satisfaction for the people of God, but it is only found in partaking in what the Lord provides.

Delighting in the provision of God and following the paths of His guidance leads to sweet rest. 

Are you finding your rest? 

 We know that we cannot be effective in ministry unless we are totally reliant upon our Shepherd. Return momentarily to the four conditions that must be met for sheep to rest and ask yourself if these possibly prohibit your peace. Are you afraid? If so, remember that the same Psalm writer who said, "he makes me lie down in green pastures," also said, "When I am afraid, I put my trust in you" (Psalm 56:3). 

 Do you have friction with other people? Could it be that you find it hard to rest because of broken or strained relationships? Seek reconciliation and "if possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all" (Romans 12:18). 

 Are you free from the pestilence of disobedience? Could there be pesky sins and temptations that you are allowing into your life? We must watch and pray. We can rest only when we confess our sins and resist temptation. 

Finally, are you spiritually hungry? Do you have a passion for serving the Lord and others? Do you eat your fill of the Word, or do you fill your schedule with projects and deadlines that leave your spiritual tank empty? The prophet of old said, "Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart" (Jeremiah 15:16). Take in the Word of God, drink deeply from the well of His grace, and joyfully lead others to the still waters and green pastures of God's rest.