Over the past few months God has continually been speaking to me about “rest” and how He is our (my) Shepherd who gives rest and in whom we find rest. In fact the relationship between a shepherd and sheep is probably the best and most intimate picture of rest. Sheep by nature are easily frightened and anxious creatures. So are we. In fact did you know the Psalmist says in Psalm 23:1-2: “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, he restores my soul.” (p.s. for a great and classic little book on Psalm 23 read “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23” by Phillip Keller. It will shed new light on a old favorite that we think we know but often don’t realize the real richness of).
Notice David says: “he makes me lie down.” Only the presence of the shepherd can give the sheep the peace and security it needs to lie down. And only when it lies down will it find rest and relief. This point is made in other ways throughout scripture. Psalm 62:1-2 for example says: “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”
The other day, while visiting with a couple in Texas, I participated in their bible study session that evening. They are going through a book called: “Soul-Keeping” by John Ortberg. He was making the point that our souls are constantly needy. Sheep are totally dependent on their Shepherd and so our souls need the Lord. In fact three quotes that stood out to me where: “The soul is a needy thing and the soul needs God.” “Soul neediness is a pointer to God.” And lastly and thankfully he writes: “The unlimited neediness of the soul matches the unlimited grace of God.” (John Ortberg, “Soul-Keeping”).
Our souls need God and so if we do not set our hearts upon God we will satisfy it with other substitutes or “lesser gods” which become idols. We must seek after the Lord and find rest in Him and Him alone. Only he truly satisfies and only from Him comes true satisfaction and rest. In Psalm 42:1-2 the Psalmist writes: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” In Psalm 63:1 David writes: “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”
The “water” the world provides is polluted. “Pure water” coming from a “pure stream” is rare. The world lies in darkness and spiritual drought/famine. But in Christ there is plenty and it is pure! And again Scripture invites us to come and drink. Isaiah 55:1 says: “Come, all who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!” Jesus Himself beckons us, saying in Matthew 11:28-29: “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls.”
I met a man the other week who just wrote a book called: “Messages from Estillyen” which is a novel that incorporates twelve stories from the bible with a conversation about each of them on this “Isle of Estillyen.” Estillyen has within it the word “still” and it is meant to be a place of rest and reflection as the message of redemption is conveyed to those journeying through this place.
After he shared a little with us about the book and other things, we prayed together and the words of Psalm 46:10 came to mind: “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
These are words that are much-needed today. We are a busy and stressed out people. The world is flying by at a rapid pace and we are tired and weary. Wars, famines, terrorist attacks, threats, earthquakes, natural disasters, etc are constantly occurring. In the midst of the turmoil, distress and “rush” of life, we need to be still and remember that God is still God. Our souls need to find rest in Him and Him alone. He is a Good and Faithful Shepherd. And in Him and because of Him and through Him we lack nothing. Psalm 34:10 assures us: “The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”
The words from a hymn called “Be Still My Soul” written in 1752, are still much-needed today for us to remind our souls of as well. Take the time to read them slowly. Take the time to be still and to still your soul before and in the Lord.
Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.
Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.
Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.
Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, believing, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.