Today, one of the most critical decisions any of us will make is the choice to rest. Our greatest peace and our most significant accomplishments come from a place of rest. Without being able to rest we will create gods in our image that will become taskmasters beating us down and driving us slavishly forward in submission to something far less than can what is produced when we choose to rest in God’s presence.
Psalm 23:2 reads, “He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters” (NASB). “He makes me lie down” is a familiar and traditional translation representing a primary Hebrew root word that can be translated in a variety of ways depending on its application. It can describe an animal resting with all four legs curled up beneath its body like a deer at rest. It can also be used to describe a mother bird brooding over the chicks under her wings, or a lion crouched in waiting to spring upon its prey. It has also been translated to describe sin crouching at the door, waiting to pounce. In each case, the subject has chosen the posture of rest, waiting, or crouching.
In order to live in the place and posture of rest described in Psalm 23 we must first lay down the burdens we carry while trying to continually live upright in a posture of self-effort. Someone who chooses a position of rest is no longer able to carry anything. The weight of the burden must be put aside to experience rest. The image of God forcing someone to rest is not depicted in the definition of rest as represented in Psalm 23. He isn’t making or forcing anyone to rest if they are unwilling.
Some have interpreted the word “make” to mean God forces us to rest. Have you ever tried to rest when you felt driven or go to sleep without changing the worrisome thought pattern that is causing you to not sleep? It doesn’t work. I prefer other translations that reveal the heart of God in more compassionate terms. These translations read, “He lets me rest” (NLT), “He offers a resting place for me” (TPT) or “You have bedded me down in lush meadows” (MSG).
Rest involves a choice, not by God, but from us. It requires that we make an exchange before we can receive its benefit. God might ask us to give Him our need to control a particular outcome or the desire to control the decision-making process of another person. Control seems to be the issue that creates our rest-less-ness. In that exchange, we will receive back from God the ability to lie down in the green pasture of trust. The exchange unweights us from the burdens we carry and allows us to bed down in a resting place we did not know existed until the exchange was made.