Psalm 23:2 – He leads me beside still waters.
This article is inspired by chapter 4 of W. Phillip Keller’s book, “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23.”
Sheep, like other creatures including humans, need good water. This is the shepherd’s responsibility to provide good water and lead his sheep to it. If sheep do not get access to good water, they will find water somewhere, and it will be sources like a mud puddle or other waters polluted with parasites and worms and diseases.
Keller, in his book, speaks of three sources of water for his sheep: the morning and evening dew, deep wells, and springs or streams. I was impressed by his discussion of how his sheep can go for months without actually drinking when they have access to dew-drenched pasture. The author’s view is that there are no more “quiet waters” than the early morning grazing of the sheep in that moisture-soaked grass. He also spoke of how shepherds will work so hard to provide good, quiet water for their sheep. The sheep come to the water and enjoy the refreshment, but they do not understand how hard the shepherd worked to get that for them.
In the book, Keller wrote about those sheep rising early to eat dew-drenched vegetation. He made the parallel between those sheep and the great men and women of the Bible who “rose early” to pray and meditate (think of Abraham, Moses, Hannah, David, Jesus, etc.). It is in the early morning hours that God’s people can imbibe on His word and truly be satisfied. That is something for all of us to think about. Are we rising early to meditate, pray and read God’s word?
The observation was also made in the book that even while the shepherd is leading his sheep to those pure waters, some stubborn sheep will drink polluted water along the way. It is as if they are convinced that this is the best water for them. Humans are no different. We forsake the Living God, the fountain of living waters, and instead go for broken cisterns that only hold a small amount of bitter water (Jeremiah 2:13). Jesus said that the truly blessed ones are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6).
We drink pop, coffee, alcohol, etc., and none of those things quench the thirst. We end up actually dehydrated and in need of more water! There is no substitute for water that God made for our bodies. In the same way, we try to quench our spiritual thirsts and cravings with things that destroy us and leave us even thirstier than before. People are thirsting for meaning, purpose, finding understanding, having a relationship with a higher power, etc. But we will search out the infested ponds and mud puddles of human philosophy. This was Paul’s concern for the Colossians and Laodiceans, that they would cheat themselves through the emptiness of man’s wisdom and philosophies (Colossians 2).
The Lord Jesus, our Good Shepherd, is calling you to quiet, pure waters. Don’t drink anymore from polluted ponds and the mud puddles of this world (Isaiah 55:1-2). Come to the living water (Revelation 21:6; 22:17). God has paid for it already through the blood of Jesus, you can drink it without charge! Eat and drink of Jesus, meaning eat and drink of the Holy Spirit who gives us the life-giving words of Jesus (John 6:53-56,63).
John 4:10-14 – Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
John 7:37-39 – On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Psalm 42:1 – As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
Isaiah 12:3 – With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.