Psalm 23: A psalm of David.
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
It has been several long weeks with the measures to stop the spread of Covid-19. For many on the front lines, the words of this Psalm may express a dream, more than reality. Busy, scheduled and stressed to ensure the hospitals remain open, food is produced and sold, and that the country’s skeleton framework remains strong.
For others, this Psalm may seem foreign because the Psalmist David is describing a tranquility that many of us do not know. Laying down and resting may not be what we desire - we may desire to work but cannot find employment. Laid off, we lay down, but unhappily. Worried about providing food for our family, or paying the electricity bill.
David’s Psalm is a praise of God’s presence and goodness, not specifically about rest - but in it perhaps we find a nugget of truth. David is able to stop and be refreshed, but for many of us it feels forced; A forced sabbath caused by Covid-19. Yet it seems that even Sabbath may have been on hold. Meals with friends and extended family, sports, camping - all put on hold and replaced with daily news of tragedy, fear and blame.
It is interesting how we approach Sabbath usually. Often filling our day of rest with activity and company. Good things, yet distracting things. We delight in one another, and in nature around us. But in our sabbath time do we rest?
David reminds us that he can rest because he knows that God provides. He lays in green fertile pastures, not barren desert. He leads him by the quiet still waters that refresh him, rather than the strong currents that sweep you away.
And He refreshes the soul.
That peace nourishes the soul
So why is it that in times of un-busyness, we find it hard to rest? Often whether it is a long desired rest after a busy season, or a retreat, it seems as though there is a pattern. 1) We long to rest. Exhausted, we take a few days off of doing nothing, we treat ourselves to sleep, to TV, to reading a book, and possibly time outdoors, and then, after some time 2) we start to turn our attention to a few long overdue jobs… and then….then comes 3) the antsy phase. We are tired of rest. We want to go again. After all, didn’t God ordain work as good? Frustrated, we can find ourselves depressed, bitter, or angry if we don’t get back to busy-normal again.
Yet what if Sabbath is not about down-time or sleep?
What if verse 3 gives us a clue as to what Sabbath is really; a tune up.
He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake.
Sabbath is not a refreshment that tunes us out, or provides escape. Sabbath rest is a tune-in to God and His ways so that we can walk in His ways, choose His paths, and let Him direct our lives -even when we become busy again. A tune-in that reveals the idols that distract us from truly entering God’s rest. The idols that steal our time and attention. A tune-in that reveals our priorities.
When we enter Sabbath rest, and get past the exhausted rest, “honey do” list, and frustration - we find #4. The opportunity to surrender, and be truly blessed by an ever present God who refreshes our souls. Communion with God that we then take with us wherever we go, and whatever circumstances we face.
Today marks the day that our state is beginning to “open up” one more. Shops and restaurants will be open once more. And these things are not bad, these businesses represent the livelihoods of people that need our business. Yet in our eagerness to return to our busy-normal, may we not forget our need for Sabbath rest. A daily Sabbath. A weekly Sabbath. A monthly sabbath. And an annual sabbath where we can retreat, refresh, and be restored.
Ministries have been financially affected by Covid-19. If you need a time of refreshment, please consider reaching out to our mission partners Quaker Haven Camp where rustic cabins, and fully furnished lodges are available to help you get your tune-in time. https://www.quakerhaven.com/