In Palestine where David wrote this Psalm and kept his father’s flocks, especially near Bethlehem is a dry, brown, sun-burned wasteland. Green pastures do not happen by chance. They are produced by tremendous labor, time and skill in land use; clearing rough, rocky land, tearing out brush and roots and stumps and deep plowing and soil prep, seeding and planting special grains and legumes, irrigating with water~ green pastures are essential to success with sheep.
Our Good Shepherd works to clear away the rocks and rough places, breaking up the hard, proud human heart that is set like sun-dried clay. He then sows the seed of His own precious Word, which will produce rich crops watered by the Holy Spirit.
Because of the makeup of sheep, it is almost impossible for them to be made to lie down unless 4 requirements are met. They must be:
1) Free of all fear-- Sheep are timid and easily panicked by small animals/rodents (2 dogs have been known to kill as many as 292 sheep in a single night). Shepherds sleep with one eye open and both ears open to protect their flock; so at the least sound, they can dash into the night to protect the sheep (the flock is very important to the Shepherd~ it is his livelihood).
For us, the sheep, we live in very uncertain times; the unknown or unexpected brings panic and fear. Jesus, the Good Shepherd is near and this assurance can give us rest. He wants His “flock” well fed and free from all fear (the Holy Spirit moves in us to bring the peace of Jesus, no matter what the circumstance is). 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.” The idea of a sound mind is that of a mind at peace; not disturbed or harassed with fear.
2) Free from friction with others of their kind (tension)-- Tension can arise in any business, home, office, family, community, church~ whether big or small. The fleshy desire for position, prestige, or power of can rise up and in the process people are hurt…but the Shepherd’s presence puts an end to all rivalry (in the natural and the spiritual). “Most of our quarrels among Christians arrive from the clamoring of the gigantic ‘ME’. How few of us understand the true secret of taking our seats in the lowest rooms,” Andrew Murray.
3) Free from torment by flies or parasites (aggravation)—The diligent Shepherd is on the lookout for insects that would annoy the flock. It takes labor and expense to get the types of insect repellents that work on the sheep. A shepherd keeps a close watch ~ he wants his flock to be quiet and contented and at peace. The Holy Spirit is often symbolized in Scripture by oil—by that He brings healing and comfort and relief from the torment and harsh aspects of life. When I turn over those things that “bug” me to the Lord, the Holy Spirit applies the healing, soothing oil that brings calm & peace & inner healing to my soul.
4) Free from hunger – No sight satisfies a shepherd more than to see his flock well fed on a rich pastureland, able to lie down to rest. A hungry, ill-fed sheep is on its feet looking for food, on the move looking for anything to satisfy his craving. These sheep are not contented, and they do not thrive.
We are promised a life of abundance in Jesus. Jesus is giving us the analogy of sheep and the Good Shepherd in John 10. John 10:10 tells us (Jesus speaking), “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Full life; abundant life; life running over in fullness…we as His flock are to be fully contented; not craving; not wanting; no lack. This brings us back to the initial statement of this psalm, “The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want.”
It all depends on the diligence of the Shepherd whether or not his flock is free of disturbing influences. It is actually the Shepherd who makes it possible for the sheep to lie down; to rest; to relax; to be content; to be quiet and flourishing (a flock that is restless, discontented, always agitated and disturbed never does well). The Good Shepherd has supplied green pastures for those who care to move into them and there find peace and plenty. “He makes me lie down in green pastures.”