sheep of the Shepherd

The Gift of Rest, Part 1

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.” – Psalm 23:1-2

In His goodness and grace, the Good Shepherd gives His sheep many good gifts- things we would never have if they weren’t given to us. Many are quite clear in His abundant provision, nurture, and care. In His provision and care, Christ gives us the gift of rest. We will be blessed as we consider this gift more over the next few weeks.

As we think about what God teaches us in Scripture about rest, we are well familiar with the pattern of work and rest that God established from the beginning, as God rested on the 7th day from all His work of creation that He had done (Gen. 2:1-2). He made that Sabbath day a holy day and calls His people to worship and rest on the Sabbath, which is a foretaste of Heaven and the eternal worship and rest which is to come. Here and now, we are called to be diligent to enter that rest (Heb. 4:11). Though it’s true that we don’t earn that rest through our works, as children of God, we are to labor and strive to be faithful in obedience to Christ and His commands with our whole hearts, growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ.

As the Good Shepherd tends His flock, He is the one who comforts and fills our hearts as He is the all-sufficient one who provides for all of our needs. We are truly happy as sheep of God’s pasture. Part of Christ’s tender care is evident in His making us to lie down in green pastures. He makes us to lie down in safety, knowing and having confidence that we are safe under His care. This is so wonderful! Sheep need a sense of security in order to rest.

Just as an earthly shepherd will work hard to provide his sheep the conditions they need to be comfortable and rest, so too Christ provides what is needed for us to have spiritual rest. How does Jesus do this? How does the Shepherd quiet His flock’s fears so they can lie down and rest? Through the giving of Himself. In times of great stress and distress, we know that have no strength in ourselves to fight against spiritual predators. Yet, we also know that because of the work and presence of the Shepherd and His Spirit in us, we can agree with David when he told our Lord, “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety [emphasis added].” (Psalm 4:8) We have peace knowing that we safely abide under the shadow of His wings (Psalm 91:1-4).

Christ’s blood has bought and brought reconciliation and peace with God in the midst of all that threatens us (Col. 1:20). His presence makes us calm as He stands with us and leads us in the strength of the Lord (Micah 5:4-5). We rest trusting in Christ’s promise in John 14:18, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you [emphasis added].” Further, as He is with us, He gives us the faith to behold Him and believe that He is looking on us with His favor. Therefore, as we’re nervous, unsettled, and insecure, we come freely, laying all of our cares and fears at His feet. We come placing all of our confidence in Christ as our Good Shepherd. 

Beloved, you may be in a time and season, or even have a daily desire for rest because as you look at your life, you’re worn out and restless. You may know the reconciliation that is yours in Christ, you know and trust in His reign, protection, and good providence, but struggle feeling safe and secure. If any of these are true of you, hear the words of your Shepherd. You won’t feel safe through your own eyes and strength, apart from the work and presence of your Savior. You won’t lie down and rest apart from Christ causing you to do so. See and be truly thankful for His work for and in you. The Lord Jesus Christ gives you His peace. You have true rest in the midst of threats and chaos in Him! Behold Him by faith, having confidence and tears of joy as you believe that He is looking at you with much love and grace. Jesus is for and with you, dashing your fears, building your courage as you look upon Him, filling you full with all that you need, making you to lie down safely and peacefully in His pastures. Praise the Lord!

We’ll consider another aspect of the divine gift of rest next time.