Well, we have made our way in the 23rd Psalm to the phrase, “He Leads Me Beside Quiet Waters”. It is a pleasant phrase to have roll off the tongue but it is also one of dire importance. For each of us to survive we must have adequate water supplies. A sheep’s survival is also dependent on adequate water supplies, even though they thrive in dry, semi-arid climates.
One main key that I want us to see with this phrase is this: once again, it is the responsibility of the shepherd to provide adequate water for the sheep. In case you have not caught on just yet….It seems that the responsibilities of the shepherd are endless and the responsibilities of the sheep are simply to follow the shepherd. The shepherd is the care taker, provider, protector, and leader and the sheep simply live in dependency on him and follow him. Correspondingly, We worry and fret over to many things that are of no concern to us, only to the shepherd. Worry, stress and anxiety kill because we are taking on responsibility that was never meant to be ours to begin with. We were made to rest in, trust in, depend on, and follow the Good Shepherd of our souls, the One Jesus Christ.
It is the shepherd who knows where the sheep can find adequate water. In fact, very often he is the one who with much effort and industry has provided the watering places. And it is to the these spots that he leads the flock. When sheep are thirsty they become restless and set out in search of water. If not led to the good water supplies of clean, pure water, they will often end up drinking from the polluted pot holes where they pick up such internal parasites as nematodes, liver flukes, or other disease germs.
In the same since, Christ, our Good Shepherd, made it clear that thirsty souls of men and women can only be fully satisfied when their capacity and thirst for spiritual life is fully quenched by drawing on Himself. Matthew 5:6 He said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst, let him come to me and drink.”
So what does it mean “to drink” of Christ Himself? In spiritual terminology it means “to take in” or “to accept” or “to believe”. That is to say it implies that a person accepts and assimilates the very life of God in Christ to the point where it becomes a part of Him. Sometimes men and women who are thirsty for God, meaning they have a deep inner sense of searching and seeking; who are in quest of that which will completely satisfy, often are unsure of where to look or really what they are looking for. Their inner spiritual capacity for God and divine life is desiccated, and in their dilemma they will drink from any dirty pool to try and satisfy their thirst for fulfillment.
Saint Augustine of Africa summed it up so well when he wrote, “O God! Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our souls are restless, searching ’til they find their rest in Thee.” Only God, the Good Shepherd knows where the still, quiet, deep, clean, pure water is to be found that can satisfy His sheep and keep them fit.
One of the main sources of water for sheep is the dew on the grass. Most are not aware of the fact that sheep can go for months on end, especially if the weather is not too hot, without actually drinking, if there is heavy dew on the grass each morning. Sheep by habit, rise just before dawn and start to feed. Or if there is bright moonlight they will graze at night. The early hours are when the vegetation is drenched with dew, and sheep can keep fit on the amount of water taken in with their forage when they graze just before and after dawn.
Interestingly, in the Christian life it is of more than passing significance to observe that those who are often the most serene, most confident, and able to cope with life’s complexities are those who rise early each day to feed on God’s Word. It is in the quiet, early hours of the morning that they are led beside the quiet, still waters where they imbibe the very life of Christ for the day. This is more than a mere figure of speech. It is a practical reality. The biographies of the great men and women of God repeatedly point out how the secret of the success in their spiritual life was attributed to the “quiet time” of each morning. There, alone, still, waiting for the Master’s voice, one is led gently to the place where God and man can commune together. This one is able to come away from this time refreshed in mind and spirit. The thirst is quenched and the heart is satisfied and ready to face the day.
When sheep are able to graze like this they can fed heavily and contentedly. As the sun rises and its heat burns the dewdrops from the leaves, the flock can retire to find shade. There, fully satisfied and happily refreshed, they can lie down to rest and ruminate through the day. From things that I have read about shepherds is that for the responsible, good shepherd this is the site that he works so hard to see. Nothing pleases him more than to see his flock lying down, contented and restful.
This must be the same reaction of our good Shepherd when we chose to meet the day like this with Him. He loves to see me contented, quiet, at rest, and relaxed. He delights to know my soul and spirit have been refreshed and satisfied.
Sadly, this is not true for most Christians. They often pursue almost every other sort of substitute to satisfy their thirst. Many pursue knowledge, career, money, possessions, culture, music, prestige, hobbies, athletics, relationships, sex, and on and on the pursuit goes. All of their pursuing just leads to more frustration, conflict and just a general sense of being miserable after their fascinations wear off. That is the thing with the world….nothing lasts! After the pursuit of all these other things, one is still left with the haunting, hollow, empty, unfilled thirst within. I am reminded of what the prophet Jeremiah said in Jeremiah 2:13 “For my people have done two evil things: They have forsaken me-the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!” It is a compelling picture. It is an accurate portrayal of broken lives-of shattered hopes-of barren souls that are dried up and parched and full of the dust of despair.
Christ invites us to follow Him. He invites us to put our confidence in Him. For He is the One who best knows how we can be satisfied. He knows best that the human heart, the human personality, the human soul with its amazing capacity for God can never be satisfied with a substitute. Only the Spirit and life of Christ Himself will satisfy the thirsting soul.
The other two sources of water for the sheep are deep wells and spring or streams. In his book, “A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm” Phillip Keller tells of one incident in Africa while tending sheep. He was watching the native herds being led to their owner’s water wells. Some of these were enormous, hand-hewn caverns cut from the sandstone formation along the sandy rivers. They were like great rooms chiseled out of the rocks with ramps running down to the water trough at the bottom. The herds and flocks were led down into these deep cisterns where cool, clear water awaited them. But down in the well, stripped naked, was the owner bailing water to satisfy the flock. It was hard, heavy, hot work. Perspiration poured off the body of the bailer, whose skin glistened under the strain and heat of his labor. Keller says as he stood there watching the animals quench their thirst at the still waters he was again immensely impressed by the fact that everything hinged and depended upon the diligence of the owner, the shepherd. Only through his energy, his efforts, his sweat, his strength could the sheep be satisfied. He goes on to remind the reader that the Christian life the exact same applies here. Many of the places we may be led into will appear to us as dark, deep, dangerous, and somewhat disagreeable. But it simply must be remembered that He is there with us in it. He is very much at work in the situation. It is His energy, effort, and strength expended on my behalf that even in this deep, dark place is bound to produce a benefit for me.
Isn’t our Abba Father just amazing!