Scripture: Psalm 23:2a – He makes me lie down (also: Luke 13:10-17)

Key Idea: The Lord makes it possible for me to rest

• Introduction
• The Lord (Jesus) makes it possible for me to rest
• Conclusion

This morning we continue our series on Psalm 23
– The plan is to look at one aspect of the psalm each week
– So far we have covered the first verse…
– The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want
– Today we unpack the first part of verse 2…
– He makes me lie down
– To give us some context though let’s read the whole Psalm together now

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

May the Lord illuminate His word for us

The key message of Psalm 23 (as a whole) is, the Lord is my security
– God looks after me like a shepherd looks after his sheep
– A couple of weeks ago we considered how the Lord knows our needs and provides for them – therefore I shall not want
– Today’s focus is: He makes me lie down…
– Lying down in green pastures is the picture of rest
– So the very first need the Lord takes care of for David (and for us) is rest

He makes it possible for me to rest:
On the wall here are pictures of four creatures…
– A dog, a tiger, an elephant and a dolphin
– Who can tell me what these four animals have in common?
– [Wait]
– Yes, that’s right – they can all be trained to do things, like sitting, rolling over, fetching stuff and so on

Okay, what about these two animals – what do they have in common?
– A cat and a sheep
– [Wait]
– Yes, that’s right – they can’t be trained
– A cat and a sheep might follow you but if you ask a cat to sit they will probably walk off in the other direction
– Likewise there is no telling a sheep to lie down

Aesop was an ancient Greek story teller credited with a number of fables
– One of my favourites is the fable of the wind and the sun

The Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger when they saw a man coming down the road
– The Sun said, “I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveller to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger. You begin.”
– So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveller.
– But the harder he blew the more closely the man wrapped his cloak around himself, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair.
– Then the Sun came out and shone in all its glory upon the traveller
– Soon the man found it too hot to walk and of his own volition freely peeled off his cloak

Verse 2 (of Psalm 23) begins with the words, ‘He makes me lie down…’
– The phrasing here, ‘He makes me…’, can give the impression that some kind of force or coercion is involved, as if God were making David do something against his will, like the wind in Aesop’s fable
– But there is no force involved here – God is more like the sun, creating an environment in which David can relax

A better way to convey the meaning is: God makes it possible for me to rest

As Kenneth Bailey observes…
– “A dog can be trained to sit and lie down. [but] Not a sheep”
– No one can force a sheep to lie down.
– Sheep will only lie down when they have had plenty to eat & drink and are feeling safe
– We are similar to sheep in this respect – if we are hungry or thirsty or feeling anxious or threatened by something we won’t be able to rest
– God not only provides time off to rest but also the environment to rest
– He takes care of our needs and concerns so we can let go enough to relax

Interestingly the very first need which David talks about God taking care of is the need for rest
– We might expect rest to come last but it comes first

About 10 years ago now a TV advertisement came out for Mallow puffs
– ‘Have you done enough for a mallow puff’
– In that ad there was a father and son mowing the lawns
– The back lawn was quite large and they only cut a small patch of it
– But it’s enough to spread out a couple of deck chairs, sit back for a break and enjoy a mallow puff

In many ways this ad goes against the grain for us kiwis
– We are not like this at all
– We find it hard to relax when the job isn’t finished
– We just want to get the job done and then we will feel like we can rest
– We see work as the star of the show and rest is just an optional extra
– In our mind rest might be the icing on the cake but it’s not the main thing

We may have this back to front
– In the Bible, rest is the foundation on which our work is built
– It’s not the icing on the cake – it’s the tin in which the cake of work is baked
– Rest supports work
– So the makers of the mallow puff ad may be on to something
– We don’t just rest from our work, we work from our rest

When rest is the foundation (or the container) supporting work, then work goes better

Neuro science would agree with this
– There are different parts to our brain
– The frontal cortex is where we do our best thinking
– While the brainstem is where our survival instinct comes from

The more stressed or anxious we feel (and therefore the less rested we are) the more our brain stem (or survival instinct) takes over
– And the more our brain stem takes over the less we are able to engage our frontal cortex
– When one is up the other is down

By the same token when our brain stem is calm & rested we have greater access to the higher reasoning powers of our frontal cortex
– The more we use our cortex, the better our decision making and so the better the quality of our work

In other words, starting with rest (as the foundation) actually helps us to work smarter

He makes me lie down means the Lord calms my brain stem, he settles me down
– The Lord God doesn’t want us to be stressed or pressured or over worked
– He wants to bring us to a place of rest, where we are not anxious about our survival
– He wants to bring us to a place of trust in Him
– From that place of trust and rest we are better able to function as God intended – better able to make choices which serve God’s purpose

The fact that rest is important to God is seen in the way God provides a Sabbath day of rest once a week

Pastor and writer, Peter Scazzero, gives a helpful definition of Biblical Sabbath
– Pete reckons there are essentially four main elements to Sabbath…
o Stop work – find your off button
o Enjoy rest – kick back and relax (feet up)
o Practice delight – do something that you really enjoy
o Contemplate God – don’t think about work, think about God’s goodness

The Sabbath is more than just a day off from paid work
– Taking a day off to catch up on chores around the house is not a Sabbath
– Sabbath is meant to be a day of enjoyment & delight – a little slice of heaven on earth, each week

For the sake of integrity I need to say that I don’t do Sabbath very well
– It’s a foreign concept to me
– I’ve been a Christian for a while now but I’m only just scratching the surface of what true Sabbath means
– Sadly I’ve majored on sacrifice at the expense of Sabbath – which is something Jesus warned against
– Yes, there is suffering involved when we follow Christ (pick up your cross and follow me) – but there is also meant to be joy & delight
– God has given us divine permission for freedom, joy and delight but we are sometimes slow to give ourselves that same permission

Interestingly, Jesus had a bit to say about rest
– In fact he seemed to intentionally perform many of his miracles on the Sabbath as a kind of sign of what God intended for humanity
– Please turn with me to Luke chapter 13 – page 98 toward the back of your pew Bibles
– Luke 13, beginning at verse 10 and continuing to verse 17…

One Sabbath Jesus was teaching in a synagogue. 11 A woman there had an evil spirit that had kept her sick for eighteen years; she was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called out to her, “Woman, you are free from your sickness!” 13 He placed his hands on her, and at once she straightened herself up and praised God.

14 The official of the synagogue was angry that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, so he spoke up and said to the people, “There are six days in which we should work; so come during those days and be healed, but not on the Sabbath!”
15 The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Any one of you would untie your ox or your donkey from the stall and take it out to give it water on the Sabbath. 16 Now here is this descendant of Abraham whom Satan has kept in bonds for eighteen years; should she not be released on the Sabbath?”

17 His answer made his enemies ashamed of themselves, while the people rejoiced over all the wonderful things that he did.

May the Spirit of Jesus gives us ears to hear

This is a story of a woman who could not rest for 18 long years
– For 18 years she had been without joy or delight, without genuine Sabbath

The religious leaders of that time had a whole lot of rules about what you could and couldn’t do on the Sabbath and healing people was against their man-made rules (the synagogue ruler majored on sacrifice)
– It wasn’t against God’s law though and so Jesus reminded the people of God’s purpose for the Sabbath by healing the woman
– Jesus made it possible for her to rest by releasing her from the evil spirit
– Now the woman could delight in God – now she could enjoy life again

This miracle of Jesus didn’t just set the woman free – it set everyone in the room free
– Now the people were able to enjoy the Sabbath without guilt or fear of breaking the Pharisees’ rules

He makes me lie down – he makes it possible for me to rest

There are many things that might prevent us from resting
– Sometimes we stay busy to avoid the emptiness we feel inside
– We are afraid to stop because then we will have to face that emptiness
– Perhaps we can’t rest because we don’t really believe we are loved
– We think we have to be constantly achieving things in order to be accepted
– Or maybe we don’t give ourselves permission to rest – maybe we’ve majored on sacrifice at the expense of enjoying God and His creation

As I said before I’m not really qualified to preach on this subject – not from my own experience anyway
– The most I can do is point to Jesus
– Jesus came to set us free from whatever it is that might prevent us from resting

Jesus is the good shepherd – He is the one who gives us rest
– The one who calms us and settles us down so we are better able to enjoy God and live for His glory