Daily Devotional ThoughtsThis Week’s Study: Psalm 23:2,3aWith thoughts borrowed from Phillip Keller’s A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23.Monday - Freedom to lie down.He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters (Psalm 23:2 KJV).Last week we listed four conditions Phillip Keller tells us are necessary in order for sheep to lie down and rest:1) Free from fear,2) Free from friction with other sheep,3) Free from tormenting pests (like flies or other parasites),4) Free from hunger.Today we talk about the third freedom. Freedom from tormenting pests. A good shepherd is constantly on the watch for insects and parasites that annoy his flock. “Always uppermost in his mind is the aim of keeping his flock quiet, contented and at peace” (Keller, p. 34).In like manner our Good Shepherd is always looking out for us. When the “pests” come our way, whether it be the little things that “bug” us or the overwhelming difficulties of life, our Good Shepherd is constantly taking care of our problems. When we truly trust the Shepherd and know that He is active on our behalf, we can proceed in quite contentment. We can know that he will take care of it. And we can lie down and rest.Tuesday - Freedom to lie down.He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters (Psalm 23:2 KJV).The fourth freedom Keller lists as necessary for sheep to lie down and rest is freedom from hunger. “A hungry, ill-fed sheep is ever on its feet, on the move, searching for another scanty mouthful of forage to try and satisfy its gnawing hunger. . . . Such sheep. . . . languish and lack vigor and vitality” (Keller, p. 36). Good nutritious, green pastures do not happen by chance. Especially in arid countries, like the area where David kept his flock, lush pasturage requires a tremendous investment of effort to produce and maintain.How often do you stop to think of the effort God puts forth on your behalf? He provides for your real-world physical needs. He provides the air you breath and all that is needed continuously inhale and exhale. Every heart beat is a miracle from God. Yet without God’s sustaining power, your heart would cease to circulate life-giving oxygen and nutrients throughout your body.Even more important than the physical maintenance God provides is the spiritual sustenance. Our spiritual hunger is filled to overflowing by our God. No longer need we restlessly wander through impoverished philosophical fields for nourishment. Our God supplies our every need, our hearts are full of His goodness and we can lie down and rest in the green pastures He provides.Wednesday - Beside the still waters.He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters (Psalm 23:2 KJV).Phillip Keller tells us sheep can live for many months by rising early in the morning and taking in moisture found on the heavy dew drenching the grass. At times when that is not available, the shepherd must provide other pure, quite sources of water for his flock.We human beings need to forage early in the morning to satisfy our hunger and thirst as well. We need that connection with our God early, while the day is still young that we might be fortified for the trials and temptations of the day.Jesus invites us to come and quench our hunger and thirst: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink” John 7:37.God offers us all we need to slake our thirst, yet so often we go through life restlessly searching for the answers to our needy and unquiet minds. The Good Shepherd “alone knows where the still, quiet, deep, clean, pure water is to be found that alone can satisfy His sheep and keep them fit and strong” (Keller, p. 41).Today, I challenge you to go to the source of peace. Begin your day early enough to invest time with the Good Shepherd. Commune with Him and read His Word. Your life will never be the same! You will enter into the peace and quietude that only God can give.Thursday - He restores my soul.He restoreth my soul. . . . (Psalm 23:3 KJV).Have you ever been spiritually or emotionally downcast? If so, you know the importance of the restoration of your soul. A “cast” sheep is an old English term for a sheep that has turned over on its back and cannot get up again by itself. A cast sheep is pathetic, it may bleat a little but it mostly just lies there lashing about in frightened frustration. If the shepherd doesn’t arrive shortly the sheep will die.Here is how a sheep becomes cast. Typically a heavy, fat, or long-fleeced sheep lies down in a comfortable hollow or depression in the ground. When it rolls on it’s side to get comfortable the center of gravity can shift and suddenly it is turned over on its back with no way to get upright again. Rumen gasses can build up very quickly on a hot day and the sheep can die within a few hours.A good shepherd constantly scans his flock for cast sheep. When one is missing the shepherd eagerly search for the lost sheep and often finds it cast down, over on its back and unable to rescue itself.What a word picture of God searching for the lost sheep. In the gospels Jesus tells of how the shepherd leaves the 99 sheep that are safe in the fold and searches for that one that is lost. So often we “have the idea that when a child of God falls, . . . God becomes disgusted, fed-up and even furious with him. This simply is not so” (Keller, p. 51). In Luke 15 Jesus told of the rejoicing of the shepherd when he finds the one lost sheep. The shepherd throws a big party! And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!' I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance (Luk3 15:6-7).Its still true today. No matter where you have wandered and strayed, God throws a big party when you return! God is eager to restore your soul!Friday/Weekend - He restores my soul - Part 2.He restoreth my soul. . . . (Psalm 23:2 KJV).In Thursday’s study we saw how easily a fat or heavy fleeced sheep can get cast or rolled over on it’s back so that it can’t get up on it’s feet. Often the sheep most likely to get cast was one who was well-fed. The problem came when it looked for an easy place, a comfortable position, one with no need of endurance and no demand for self-discipline (Paraphrased from Keller, pp. 52,53).When we have “arrived” so to speak, filled with good things and are spiritually satisfied, we are in mortal danger. It was while King David was at the height of his career, living the easy life while his troops fought his battles out in the field, that he committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband. We need to be very careful when life is easy and we are tempted to live the soft life of ease.The Good Shepherd may have to move us to another pasture at that time. The pasture to which He moves us may very well be one where things aren’t quite so comfortable, but He does it for our good.Just like a fat sheep who easily is cast down, we find that too much material success, too much fatness in our lives can destroy our spiritual health. The diet the Good Shepherd provides may seem austere at first, but God disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12). It is God’s mercy that allows us to pass through difficult times and His mercy that sustains in the midst of trial and apparent deprivation.Let’s determine to submit our entire lives to the good shepherd remembering that all He allows is allowed with our best interest in His mind. He WANTS to restore our souls!