Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.
…say that 10 times fast.
You ever watch those videos of the adorable little toddlers reciting Psalm 23? If you haven’t – give it a run. I’m not particular to any, they’re all really cute.
I watched a few last week and 1 kid really stressed this particular part:
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters. (Psalms 23:2 NKJV)
Do you remember the times when you were a kid (and maybe even now..) and you were taken to a huge open field of perfect green grass? Imagine with me: a soccer field? hilly golf course? even a back yard? All I would do is run around in big circles, as if I’m marking my territory. So I run, and run some more, then exhausted, I just want to collapse.
For those wondering, that’s actually not a picture of me. It’s particularly nice when the grass is soft, and cool. Can you feel what I’m talking about? This image King David relays to us is so relaxing (and arguably the most memorized of his Psalms, I would think?).
Why then is the grass green, soft, clean, comfortable – and healthy? Well, because of the ‘still waters’ near by. After our 2-minute sprint, we thirst, we run out of breath. We seek a filling – that Christ has readily available to us.
Remember our friend the Samaritan woman in John 4, and how she desired water as well (see what I did there?). She had her ‘run’ in the field, and Christ was ready to provide her with water that would not run dry. Can you relate to this? Lately I wonder about my life, and how sometimes I insist on that running phase. There is comfort being offered to me, but I’m often times running, and looking away from the still waters.
SO where else in the Scripture do we see this image of green plant + water? Thoughts? We’ll find a couple and then we’ll come back to Psalm 23. Then we’ll close and learn from a verse that 1thingisneeded – this comfort God has in mind for me and you – experiencing it in life is all we need.
The prophet Ezekiel had a couple very interesting visions. In chapter 47 (2nd to last of his 48 chapter book – remember that, part of a small mnemonic) he says this in verse 1:
Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east; the water was flowing from under the right side of the temple, south of the altar.
In Florida, it has been raining non-stop the past couple weeks. Have you ever been in a flood? Not exactly the most pleasant situation. Here, there’s a flood, and the river flowing from inside the temple. Every time we’re in church, this faucet is on and flowing.
I want you to continue reading chapter 47 of Ezekiel. You’ll see that he followed the river, and it got up to his ankes, knees, to the point where he had to swim, and the river could not be crossed.
We know wherever water goes, life follows. Just like in Psalms 23 – greenery is present. We also know nothing can survive without water.
When I returned, there, along the bank of the river, were very many trees on one side and the other. (Ezekiel 47:7 NKJV)
Ezekiel says that not only does life go where the water goes, but healing too.
Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine. (Ezekiel 47:12 NKJV)
From the trees – come fruit for the hungry, and medicine for the sick.
OK. Time out. Lets reflect a bit.
First of all, am I in this pasture that Christ is shepherding me towards? And when I’m there (lets say I kinda know who He is) am I insisting on working and tiring myself out? or am I looking to rest as He intends?
Christ has this in mind for us. So if you feel like your life is ‘rest-LESS’, we’ve gotta address it! Why not focus and find the still waters – these waters that will give healing and food for us in need. Do I even want healing? Or is the sin so good that I don’t want to let it go? His water flows from the temple – that is the place where I can head to start this journey of healing. But I must want it first.
Did you notice in that previous verse the leaves and the fruit? Now where else in the Bible do we see a similar image?
David mentions this in the first of his Psalms. We see these words daily in the agpeya – and the Church in Her wisdom provides us with the reminder every morning. I have another chance for repentance today. I have another chance to be this healthy, green, rooted, strong tree by following the first part of the Psalm:
Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night. (Psalms 1:1-2 NKJV)
5 quick practical points that can be summarized into: 1) avoid sinful influences, and 2) fill yourself with the law of the Lord.
St Anthony showed these two to his disciples. The 1st he showed by example, and the second he advised them never to act without being able to back it up from the Scriptures. Dude. Can you imagine? Every choice – whatever you do – find pleasure in Christ’s law.
So – if I’m planted by this river, my roots are receiving nutrients from the water directly. If this river is flowing from the temple, my life and my strength will come from there as well. Some trees are unshakable, while others are breakable. Some trees are strong, while others are weak. Some trees provide shade and fruit, while others are useless. Some trees have leaves which (for you science-minded) allow us to breathe, others are leaf-less.
What kind of tree are you? Are you a mangrove – immovable, roots directly in the water?
Or are you easily swayed, and not really producing anything for those around you, just taking up space? This is 1 serious spiritual question: what kind of tree are you? (I did not know this blog entry would end up asking us that…)
When you think about it – trees are actually pretty self-less. Like a true Christian, they serve others with all they’ve got: Shade – like Jonah experienced, fruit – fed people throughout, wood – Noah built with, even paper – to write it all down later. Am I living my life with this style of giving to others? Are my hands, my feet, my mind, my mouth all giving to those around me? Jesus did, and cursed the fig tree that did not do the same.
1 more – I know, its a long post, but its been a while since I’ve written…
Remember we went to the very end of Ezekiel? Now lets turn to the last chapter…of the whole Bible. End of Ezekiel, and end of Bible – there’s your mnemonic.
And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river,was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:1-2 NKJV)
Pretty cool? Maybe I’m just the dork…but John too saw a river – and it flowed from the throne of God! The same river Ezekiel saw. The same river we can drink from, experience, and be planted in. And when we are planted, we are nourished by the Holy Spirit – providing healing for those we encounter.
But let justice run down like water, And righteousness like a mighty stream. (Amos 5:24 NKJV)
Christ showed us His righteousness and how to live. So, if I live life in righteousness, my tree will grow in Him. The end of the chapter – Christ reminds us that He is “coming quickly”, like a movie ‘coming soon’. I must imitate His purity to prepare for this coming.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake. (Psalms 23:3)
The little kids go on in those videos to that next verse. Guys and gals, Christ is offering us restoration for our souls today! This isn’t like a good Groupon deal, this is a new start. Jesus is looking to lead us in a life that is liberating from sin, a righteous life that will keep us in his faith. With Him as our Shepherd – we will pray for the comfort offered us with St Paul saying:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NKJV)
and you thought I had run-ons…say THAT 10 times fast.
1thingisneeded people – may we allow Him to shepherd us, be planted by those still waters of rest, grow into a tree which cannot be moved, and provide to those around us, so we can live in comfort by giving that comfort we receive to others.
Till next time.