1 The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
this is a continuation of some of my thoughts from a sunday school class i’m attending at new life about Jesus being the shepherd and His children being the sheep. same as last time, much of this comes from pastor brian’s insight along with content from phillip keller’s book a shepherd looks at psalm 23.
water is essential to life. this is no mystery; we’ve all experienced thirst and know what it is to be refreshed by an ice-cold glass of water on a crazy hot day. for as long as we live, we will never not need water. it sustains us. it’s for this reason that the imagery of water is used to heavily in the bible. Jesus is referred to as living water (john 4), salvation is often paired with the image of a fountain that flows freely and endlessly (isaiah 12), and revelation 22 describes a river of water of life flowing from God’s throne. it is associated with cleansing, rejuvenation, and new life (words that also describe the blood of Jesus).
not surprisingly, water also plays a significant role in the work of a shepherd when tending to his flock. keller notes that there are three main sources of water from which sheep find their sustenance: dew, deep pools, and flowing streams.
dew is the most consistent of water sources. it shows up every morning, and often in the early evening as well. the shepherd will lead the sheep to fields in which they spend the early hours of their morning, grazing and taking in the dew. it’s reliable, and it’s always enough.
in the same way, the Lord provides dew for us. when we spend intentional time with Him on a daily basis, we are sustained. we don’t experience an overwhelming spiritual high every morning (or at least I don’t), but we don’t need to. simply being with Jesus is enough. sometimes i forget this. i find myself disappointed because i’m not on some spiritual mountain, discovering deep truths every time i open the bible. but the fact is, being with God looks different every time it happens. sometimes it’s simply a reminder of who God is, and what He wants us to know about Him from His word.
the second source of water comes from deep pools. this, keller notes, is usually where the best and purest water can be found. sheep can drink deeply and richly from these pools. the thing is, these deep pools aren’t found just out in the open. in order to reach them, shepherds typically have to lead their sheep through rocky, often dangerous paths. the journey is difficult, sometimes painful, and filled with uncertainty. but the end results in the best kind of water.
any of you guys ever experienced trials? difficult times that made you question the Lord and His goodness? think of how the sheep feel. sure, the shepherd knows exactly where he’s going and what’s waiting for them at the end of the path, but the sheep must think he’s crazy. they might see an easier road to travel on, and wonder why a loving shepherd would ever lead them down such a difficult path. for me, it’s really easy to relate. i like the end result, but i figure that i know a much better way to get there. certainly not one with so much frustration, confusion, or pain. i like paths that don’t expose my sin. i like paths that don’t push me out of my comfort zone. i like paths that don’t remind me i’m not ultimately the one in control. but without these kinds of paths, we would never actually reach the best kind of water. often we drink most deeply from these pools in the aftermath of a harrowing journey… sometimes in the midst of one. Jesus knows exactly what He’s doing when He leads us through these seasons of life. we are forced to rely on Him and His strength. and when we do that, we find true peace.
the final kind of water comes from flowing streams. these are places of ease for the sheep, because they can rest along the bank and drink freely. sheep become anxious around swift and fast-slowing rivers, but these quiet streams are perfect. they aren’t very common, but every now and then the shepherd will lead his sheep to one, and they can enjoy the experience.
i have experienced a lot of craziness this semester, but also many moments of inexplicable peace and blessing. the Lord has brought me to these streams, where, in the middle of a chaotic and overwhelming life, i’ve been able to take comfort in His word, fellowship with my brothers in Christ, learn under solid teaching, and experience deeply fulfilling times of prayer. these times are precious, and we can all experience them from time to time. it’s just important to remember that the Lord isn’t delighting in us any less when He takes us through times of trial. ours is a Shepherd who delights in leading His sheep to water that sustains, satisfies, and brings peace.