Taking a Sabbath once a week is a great idea, but sometimes you need rest on a regular day, right? Like Tuesday? You need real rest. Like the rest that makes you feel renewed, refreshed and invigorated.
I have days with my kids when I feel exhausted. Keeping track of 5 different schedules is like a running mental marathon. Some days I feel like smoke could come billowing out of my ears at any time, like my brain is overheated and needs more coolant added.
No, you don’t have to take a week long vacation to experience that rest. (Although, if you have the opportunity to take one, you should!) God offers us rest for our souls each day.
One of the most popular chapters in the entire Bible is centered around the rest and renewal God gives us. Psalm 23, a chapter often used at funerals, is David’s way of explaining the rest God gives. Here it is in the New Living Translation:
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need. 2 He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. 3 He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. 4 Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. 5 You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. 6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.
David’s occupation before becoming king of Israel was a shepherd. He often stayed outside, protecting his sheep at night and leading them to green pastures to eat and fresh streams to drink. A shepherd directs, protects and provides for his sheep. David knew firsthand the details of a good shepherd’s life, and he found God to be the Perfect Shepherd.
Let’s break it down verse by verse so we don’t miss any of the good stuff!
1 – With God as our shepherd, we have everything we need. We have food, water, shelter, direction, guidance and love, just like sheep receive from their shepherd. David also points out here that God is all we need. We are only truly satisfied in Him.
2- God “lets us rest.” If we find ourselves striving and working ourselves to exhaustion, that is not from God. God, like a good shepherd, knows the importance of rest. People cannot work 100% all day and all night. And even better, God wants us to rest in peace and security.
3- God renews our strength and guides us. And why? Because it brings honor to His name to do it. Just like a shepherd’s worth is shown by how the health and safety of his sheep, God’s honor is shown by how He takes care of us. And He is always faithful. It’s just who He is.
4- God never leaves us; He comforts us during those dark periods of life. God is ready to protect us and to walk with us through the bad times. He doesn’t leave us abandoned and vulnerable when times get tough.
5- God prepares a feast for us in the presence of our enemies. What does this represent, exactly? Well, if someone was mighty enough to prepare a table before a group of enemies, ready to attack, than He must be powerful enough to protect and defend and completely secure His people. God blesses us and provides for us even in the face to danger. And the part about anointing our heads with oil? Sounds kind of undesirable, but a shepherd anointed the heads of his sheep with oil so bugs and crud couldn’t get into the nose, ears and eyes of the sheep. Anointing with oil is a sign of love and protection in this case. And I’ll take that!
6- God’s goodness runs after us, and through belief in Jesus, we are guaranteed to be in the presence of God forever. I just love the picture of God’s goodness pursuing us. Sometimes we forget that God is good all the time, but still God follows us, just whispering for us to turn around and let His goodness crash into us.
Because God is our Good Shepherd, our perfect shepherd, we can experience true rest and renewal and refreshment during good times, bad times, dangerous times and for all eternity.