He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
By Mr. Brian P. David
The 23rd Psalm is one of the best-known and most-loved literary works in the world, and it may well be the best poem ever written. It is also a fine example of the power of figurative language: We read deep things into the vision of ourselves as sheep, led to green pastures and good water by a kind shepherd. It’s empowering to feel the confidence to go fearlessly into the valley of the shadow of death, and to feel the love and caring of a table prepared by the Lord and a cup so full it overflows.
What people don’t know, however, is that this language actually has precise internal meanings, and that when we see them there is an even deeper beauty in the poem. That’s because what it actually describes is the path to heaven, and the fierce desire the Lord has to lead us there.
The first step is to let the Lord be our shepherd – to accept His teaching and His leadership. The green pastures and the still waters represent the things He will teach us for the journey. Then He begins working inside is, setting our spiritual lives in order, so that we desire to do what’s good and to love one another. That’s represented by restoring our souls and leading us in the paths of righteousness.
But we will still face challenges. We still live external lives, out in the world, and we are subject to desires that arise in those externals, in our bodily lives. That’s the valley of the shadow of death. But the rod and staff represent truth from the Lord on both external and internal levels, ideas that can defend us against those desires.
And if we keep following, the Lord will prepare a table for us – a place inside us that he can fill with love (the anointing oil) and wisdom (the overflowing cup). Thus transformed, we can enter heaven, with love for others (“goodness”) and love from the Lord (“mercy”) and can love and be loved to eternity.
One of many beautiful things about this is the fact that it is the Lord who really does all the work. In the whole text, the only action taken by the sheep is walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Other than that, they follow the Lord, trust the Lord, accept the blessings of the Lord. And that is really true! In external states (in the valley) we might seem to be doing the work ourselves, but internally, spiritually, we simply need to give ourselves to the Lord and let Him bless us.
The underlying idea here is that the Lord created us so that He could love us, in loving us wants us to be happy, knows that our greatest happiness will come from being conjoined to Him in heaven, and Himself wants nothing more than to be conjoined to us. So everything He does, in every moment of every day for every person on the face of the planet, is centered on the goal of getting that person to heaven. He wants each and every one of us in heaven more than we are capable of imagining. We just need to cooperate.
9806. 'And you, cause Aaron your brother to come near to you' means the joining of Divine Truth to Divine Good within the Lord's Divine Human. This is clear from the representation of Moses, the one here who was to cause Aaron to come near him, as the Lord in respect of Divine Truth, dealt with in 6752, 6771, 7014, 9372; from the meaning of 'drawing near' as a joining to and presence with, dealt with in 9378; from the representation of 'Aaron' as the Lord in respect of Divine Good, dealt with below; and from the meaning of 'brother' as good, dealt with in 3303, 3803, 3815, 4121, 4191, 5686, 5692, 6756. From all this it is evident that the words telling Moses that he should cause Aaron his brother to come near to him mean the joining of Divine Truth to Divine Good within the Lord, the reason why within His Divine Human is meant being that this was where that joining together had to take place. For the Lord had first to make His Human Divine Truth, then afterwards Divine Good, see the places referred to in 9199, 9315. The reason why Aaron was chosen to serve in the priestly office was that he was Moses' brother, and in this way the brotherly relationship of Divine Truth and Divine Good in heaven was at the same time represented. For as stated above, Moses represented Divine Truth and Aaron Divine Good.
 Everything throughout creation, both in heaven and in the world, has connection with good and with truth, to the end that it may be something. For good is the inner being (Esse) of truth, and truth is the outward manifestation (Existere) of good. Good without truth therefore cannot manifest itself, and truth without good has no real being. From this it is evident that they must be joined together. In the Word the two joined together are represented by a married couple or by two brothers, by a married couple when the heavenly marriage - the marriage of good and truth - and the succeeding generations which spring from that marriage, are the subject, and by two brothers when two kinds of ministry, namely those of judgement and worship, are the subject. Those who served as ministers of judgement were called judges, and at a later time kings, whereas those who served as ministers of worship were called priests. And since all judgement is arrived at through truth and all worship springs from good, truth founded on good is meant in the Word by 'judges', in the abstract sense, in which no actual person is envisaged; but truth from which good results is meant by 'kings', and good itself by 'priests'. So it is that in the Word the Lord is called Judge, also Prophet, as well as King, in places where the subject has reference to truth, but Priest where it has reference to good. He is in like manner called Christ, Anointed, or Messiah in places where the subject has reference to truth, but Jesus or Saviour where it has reference to good.
 It was on account of this brotherly relationship of the truth which belongs to judgement and the good which belongs to worship that Aaron, brother of Moses, was chosen to serve in the priestly office. The fact that 'Aaron' and 'his house' because of this mean good is clear in David,
O Israel, trust in Jehovah! He is their help and their shield. O house of Aaron, trust in Jehovah! He is their help and their shield. Jehovah has remembered us, He blesses [us]. He will bless the house of Israel, He will bless the house of Aaron. Psalms 115:9-10, 12.
In the same author,
Let Israel now say that His mercy [endures] to eternity; let the house of Aaron now say that His mercy [endures] to eternity. Psalms 118:2-3.
In the same author,
O house of Israel, bless Jehovah! O house of Aaron, bless Jehovah! Psalms 135:19.
'The house of Israel' stands for those with whom truths exist, 'the house of Aaron' for those with whom forms of good are present; for in the Word wherever truth is the subject so too is good, on account of the heavenly marriage, 9263, 9314. For the meaning of 'the house of Israel' as those with whom truths exist, see 5414, 5879, 5951, 7956, 8234. In the same author,
Jehovah sent Moses His servant, Aaron whom He chose. Psalms 105:26.
Moses is called a servant because 'servant' is used in regard to truths, 3409, whereas one chosen or elected has regard to good, 3755 (end).
 In the same author,
Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell also together! It is like the good oil upon the head running down onto the beard, the beard of Aaron, which runs down over the collar 1 of his garments. Psalms 133:1-3.
Anyone who does not know what 'brother' means, nor what 'oil', 'the head', 'the beard', and 'garments' mean, nor also what 'Aaron' represents, can have no understanding of why such things have been compared to brothers who dwell together. For what similarity is there between oil running from Aaron's head down onto his beard, then onto his garments, and the unanimity of brothers? But the similarity in the comparison is evident from the internal sense, in which the flow of good into truths is the subject and is described by their brotherliness. For 'the oil' means good, 'Aaron's head' the inmost level of good, 'the beard' the very outermost level of it, 'garments' truths, and 'running down' a flowing in. From this it is plain that those words mean the flow, from inner to outer levels, of good into truths, and a joining together there. Without the internal sense how can anyone see that those words hold these heavenly matters within them? For the meaning of 'oil' as the good of love, see 886, 4582, 4638, 9780, and for that of 'the head' as what is inmost, 5328, 6436, 7859, 9656. The fact that 'the beard' means what is the very outermost is evident in Isaiah 7:20; 15:2; Jeremiah 48:37; and Ezekiel 5:1. For the meaning of 'garments' as truths, 2576, 4545, 4763, 5319, 5954, 6914, 6917, 9093, 9212, 9216; and for the representation of 'Aaron' as celestial good, see above.
(References: Psalms 133:1-2)
 Seeing that Aaron was chosen to serve in the priestly office, thus to administer the most sacred things, people can understand what the situation was with representations in the Jewish Church. No attention was paid to the person who represented, only to the thing represented by that person. Thus something holy, indeed most holy, could be represented by persons who were inwardly unclean, indeed idolatrous, provided that outwardly they had an air of holiness when engaged in worship. The fact that Aaron was one such person becomes clear from the following details in Moses,
Aaron took the gold from the hands of the children of Israel, and fashioned it with a chisel, and made out of it a molded calf. And Aaron built an altar in front of it, and Aaron made a proclamation and said, Tomorrow there will be a feast to Jehovah. Exodus 32:4-5, 25.
And elsewhere in the same author,
Jehovah was greatly moved with anger against Aaron and would have destroyed him; 2 but I prayed for Aaron also at that time. Deuteronomy 9:20.
As regards the representatives of the Church among the Israelite and Jewish nation, that no attention was paid to the persons, only to the actual things represented, see the places referred to in 9229.
(References: Exodus 28:1)