A green pasture with a quiet stream. Does this sound like a place of hurt and anguish? Not to me! When a teenager, or anyone for that matter, is in a place of hurt, you need to lead them to this place. What better words to lead them there than the words of the only One who can truly take us there – in Psalm 23.
Being a Biblical Hebrew nerd, I absolutely love the original language of this psalm. There is so much richness that is lost in the English translation.
“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters.” Psalm 23:2
God does not just make us lie down in this comforting place. The Hebrew verb tense means that He actually causes us to lie down! It is only through God that we truly can lie down and find rest, regardless of whether we are in a time of hurt or a time of joy in our lives. God does not just lead us beside quiet waters, but He does so intensely. The connotation of that Hebrew word is that of being led with purpose. It is not just an aimless wandering, but rather a specific, intentional direction in which He leads us. It is God’s purpose that we are near these quiet waters, again regardless of where the world is trying to lead us.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” Psalm 23:4a
This valley spoken of is a place of utter darkness and gloom, and it has the shadow of death lingering over it. When others see a minor crisis in our lives, we may feel that we are in this place of utter darkness! But, we fear no evil because YOU, God, are with me, even in this place of deep despair!
“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.” Psalm 23:6a
The Hebrew word for ‘goodness’ here is the same word that God used to describe all of Creation when He looked at it and saw that it was good (Genesis 1:31). This goodness that will follow us is not just something nice but the total perfection of God’s original Creation. This form of love mentioned here is hesed in Hebrew. Hesed is a combination of love, mercy, compassion, and kindness. We don’t really have a word for that beautiful, all-encompassing emotion in the English language. When the text says that goodness and love will follow me, that’s not just a haphazard following. That verb has a meaning of pursuing someone. Anyone going through a troubling time needs to know that we have this perfection and hesed not only following us, but literally chasing after us!
“And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6b
The Hebrew for this final phrase literally reads, “I will return in the house of the Lord for the length of my days.” Even when we have trouble on this earth, we know that we will have a joyous homecoming
of going to the Lord’s house for the rest of our days. Trouble is only for a short time here on earth; we will have everlasting joy forever with Jesus! While that won’t erase today’s troubles, the hope of what is to come and dwelling with our Lord forever gives a glimmer of hope through that dark valley.