A shepherd is one who takes care of his sheep. He watches over them lovingly and kindly. He feeds and shelters them. He gives them water and cares for them if they are ill. In Biblical times the sheepfold was a building covered with branches of trees with a layer of straw on the earth. There were walls around it to protect the sheep from wolves and bears and thieves, and to keep them from going astray. Here the sheep were brought at eventide, where they might be cared for.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” The sheep do not worry; they are not afraid, for they have a feeling of security. When we let the Lord of all creation take care of us we are following the Good Shepherd and as Jesus said, the Shepherd knows his sheep and loves them.
The Divine Giver loves His creation or He never would have made it. The heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind. And so Jesus and the Psalmist likened our lives to sheep who are enfolded by Divine protection and loving care.
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters.” Pastures suggests a place of feeding. It suggests that our daily needs will be cared for, that manna really will fall from heaven, if we permit it to. To lie down in a pasture is to lie down in the midst of abundance, an abundance that is already provided a good which is divinely given.
Green pastures means a place of rest for green is the most restful, the most cooling and comforting color in nature. It suggests a rock in a weary land and an oasis in a desert and brings to our minds the picture or finding a shady nook where we can rest in the heat of the day. And to make the picture more complete, the Psalmist tells us that this pasture is beside the still waters.
“He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul.” When we are relaxed, when we are calm and peaceful and when we live in quiet trust, our soul is restored. And there is another illustration here: a river is continually flowing, bringing a fresh supply of water every moment, and so the River of Life, which flows through the pastures of contentment, is always a new River.