Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Psalm 23:2

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, May 22, 2018

2 He causes me to lie down in green pastures.
  He leads me beside quiet waters.

Here David recalls the words of the first Psalm, where the believer “is like a tree planted by streams of water” (Psalm 1:3). God places us exactly where we need to be. Each of us has different blessings from God that we could easily and quickly apply to our “green pastures” and our “quiet waters.” Yet we need to recognize that sometimes we ourselves can be someone else’s green pasture or quiet water. Sometimes God places us in the paths of people who need to hear about Jesus. Like the little girl who told Naaman the Syrian about Elisha who could cure his leprosy (2 Kings 5:2-3). Or like Andrew, whose first reaction to hearing the gospel was to find and tell his brother, Peter (John 1:41).

One day at the dinner table, the 53-year old Martin Luther pushed his chair back, put down his napkin and complemented his wife Katie’s cooking (probably in the time-honored way), and then addressed his family and guests. He spoke for more than an hour about the 23rd Psalm—perhaps they had asked him to do so when they had made arrangements for the meal earlier that day. Luther equated the “pastures” and the “water” with the Gospel itself, which is an excellent—perhaps the very best—application we can make. He said:

“The world has its comfort and joy, but these last only a moment; when anxiety and distress and especially the last hour comes, then it is as Solomon says: “After laughter the heart is sad; and after joy comes grief” (Proverbs 14:13). But those who drink of this fresh and living water may indeed suffer affliction and distress in the world, but they will never lack genuine comfort. Especially when the moment of crisis comes, the page turns for them to the place where it says: “After brief weeping comes eternal laughter; after a small sorrow comes a glorious joy” (2 Corinthians 4:17). For they shall not weep and be sorrowful both here and there, but it will be as Christ says: “Blessed are you who weep here, for you shall laugh” (Luke 6:21).  (Luther’s Works 12:164).

(Don’t fault Luther or other older Christians for saying “Living water” where the translation we have says “still” or “quiet” waters. In the last few generations, there have been many good applications made of the “still waters” as the King James Version translates. It’s true that sheep prefer to drink from a still, even stagnant, pool. And if any author of the Bible understood sheep even without the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, it was David the shepherd of Bethlehem. But the phrase “waters of quietness/restfulness” (me-manuchoth) might be applied even by those who have had little experience with sheep or even none at all. I suspect Luther fell into the latter category. Yet his application is ideal, and has led me to a better understanding of the Psalm.)

God will lead us into his word to give us what we need. And when God leads someone to us, may we share the joy of Christ, who became the sacrifice that replaced all sheep, lambs, bulls, and doves. He laid his life down for his sheep. Our best thank-you is to share that message with our words and our lives.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

Browse Devotion Archive