“He leads me beside quiet waters. . .”
Just the other day I had the privilege of officiating the funeral of a longtime member of my former church. The family requested that I read the 23rd Psalm. As I did so before the crowd of family and friends, you could sense that this song was resonating with the emotions of both loss and hope. Reading it reminded me that this was a psalm that we need not just for a funeral but for our everyday lives here on earth.
The Psalmist, traditionally considered to be King David, continues the image of a shepherd leading his sheep to peaceful green pastures (23:2a) as he now leads the sheep beside quiet waters (23:2b). The shepherd not only leads his sheep to food but also to drink. For sheep, this is a picture of full satisfaction and contentment. Sheep spend much of their day eating, drinking, resting and then moving—so they can eat, drink and rest some more! Even for humans, having good food and drink—perhaps among those whom we love—is one of the happiest pictures of satisfaction we can imagine.
But this shepherd not only leads the sheep to drink, it is specifically a peaceful drink. When I travelled to Israel years ago, one thing I became aware of was that storms can hit the hillsides of Israel at any moment. What was once a peaceful afternoon stroll could turn into a flash flood where you are fighting for your life. Not having lived in an area where flash floods occurred, this was quite an eye-opening revelation. The waters produced by the rainfall careen through the deep valleys and shake the ground like an earthquake, sweeping up all living things unaware of their deadly approach and destroying everything in their path. Quiet waters mean the shepherd has navigated this dangerous reality of flash floods that could kill everything in their path. The shepherd kept the sheep safe until the flood had passed and the waters were still once again.
This is a picture of safety amidst an environment that is constantly stressful. Psalm 23 assumes you know that shepherding happened in a wilderness with rugged terrain, wild animals, thieves and even flash floods. This kind of difficult environment is where Jesus the Shepherd promises to be with us, lead us and fill us with goodness.
Something to Think About:
The Psalmist, after switching to an image of a kingly feast, even refers to enemies sitting at the table at the end of the song (Psalm 23:5). Thus the backdrop to Psalm 23 is a life filled with danger, disappointments, uncertainty, and enemies.
What would you say is your biggest worry right now? Is this a worry about your own life or someone else? How is this stress related to your work? Do you feel like you’ve been hit by a flash flood? What would quiet waters look like for your situation?
Something to Do:
Share with those you can trust the issue that is bringing you the most worry, stress and chaos right now. Spend time praying with them that the Good Shepherd would reveal his provision in this season.
“Lord Jesus Christ, We are so thankful to you that you have said, ‘Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.’ We are thankful for the ease with which you walked upon this earth, the generosity and kindness you showed to people, the devotion with which you cared for those who were out of the way and in trouble, the extent to which you even loved your enemies and laid down your life for them. We are so thankful to believe that this is a life for us, a life without lack, a life of sufficiency.” Dallas Willard, Life Without Lack (p. xiii)