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The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside still waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the path of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the valley of darkness,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me. (Psalms 23:1-4)

My wife and I have a house payment and two car payments. The company I work for allows extra work as long as they have it, and it pays well. There's been plenty so I approach my wife with a plan. I'm going to work all the extras I can and use all the extra money to pay off the two cars and I will have that accomplished in two years.

That plan was just over a year ago and neither vehicle is paid off. As soon as I went to my wife with that plan the extra work dried up.

When looking at the 23rd Psalm, we need to make sure we are gaining our understanding from their context. There's a little clue painted in the statement "He leads me beside still waters"

In most countries today, when we think of green pastures we have this view of lush green grass stretching over acre after acre of land. The fact is, this is not reality for Israel and its surrounding nations.

If you watched the movie Lone Survivor, you will have noticed the shepherds in the desert mountains. These mountains look pretty green but then again, the movie was shot in New Mexico, United States.

In Israel, and much of the surrounding region, the shepherds would not dare walk their sheep in pasture lands like the ones we picture. Lush green areas are far and few between and they are used to grow food. The last thing you need is sheep in those areas because they absolutely destroy lush pastures. Instead, Israeli shepherds guide their sheep into the rocky, desert, mountains just like the picture below.
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The green pastures talked about in Psalm 23 is actually small patches of grass that grow when rain falls and the water flows and pools up in low lying areas. Along with the small patches of grass is the small "still waters"; which is that clue I mentioned earlier.

The picture the American church has had about Psalm 23 is far from the actual context of the region and actions of those who live there. This Psalm is also giving us a clue to past Scriptures.

When the children of Israel were slaves in Egypt, they were provided for and took care of. Times were not great and the work was hard. Everything they knew about life was work and everything they knew about their personal value was in brick making. Nonetheless, they were cared for. This is why we see them complaining about wanting to go back.

God pulled Israel out of Egypt but He had to get Egypt out of His people. He had to get them to trust Him, trust His guidance, trust His provision, trust His word. In order to do that He lead them into a desert land, like sheep, to a land of barely enough. His point, prove He'll take care of them.

Along the way the children of Israel fought against it. They wanted to go back. Even with the labor, it was easier knowing what to expect. It was easier to trust the leaders of Egypt rather than a God they'd not worshiped for quite some time. For this reason, God kept them in the desert of just enough so He could constantly prove Himself.

After years in the desert they came upon the land God promised; the land flowing with milk and honey. They sent twelve spies into the city and ten of the twelve came back with complete doubt that they could take the land, even though God had promised it to them. It was clear that they were still looking to Egypt and not looking to God. He returned them to the desert of just enough for 40 years until that negative generation would die off. The young generation who knew little about Egypt and who would trust God, along with an old Joshua and Caleb who were two of the original twelve spies who had full faith in God's promises and provisions, would finally be able to leave the desert of just enough into the land God had promised.

In my story about paying off my cars, I put my faith and trust in my job and what I could do and did not take any consideration in God provisions. I honestly left God out of this plan and suddenly He sends me into a desert of just enough.

I know there are people who think God would not do this but the fact is, He does. The Bible gives us examples of such times like with Job and even with Peter. Gods purpose is to get whatever you're dependent upon out of you so that you will trust His word, His provision, His decisions for your life. We are sometimes put into a desert of just enough so that we MUST depend upon Him.

Remember this context when you quote Psalm 23 for it's talking about the desert of just enough, with small green "pastures" of grass, small puddles of "still water", and a valley full of predators when the sun goes down. Yes, there are valleys HE will guide us through and deserts of just enough so we will put 100% of our trust in Him.