A criminal, desperate to escape the police, runs into the desert with hardly any water. Very soon, he runs out of drinking water, and hours later, he is already plodding under the merciless desert sun. He is close to desperation when suddenly, he sees something far off in the distance. Hoping against hope that it is water, he starts running towards what he thinks is an oasis, only to find a little old man with a little stand, full of ties. ‘Do you have water?’ pants the criminal. The old man replied, ‘I have already finished my water, but would you like to buy a tie? They are only $5.’ The criminal, frustrated shouted, ‘Do I look like I need a tie? I should kill you right here, but I have to find some water first!” ‘There’s no call for threats,’ said the old tie seller, ‘but even though you don’t want to buy one of my ties and you treat me like this, I’ll help you. If you continue over that hill for about 3 miles, you’ll find a restaurant with great food and all the ice cold water you can drink.” The criminal staggered away over the hill. Several hours later the other man sees him crawling on the dune back towards him. When he finally arrives, he lays on his back, panting. “Everything ok?” Asked the tie salesman as he bends over to hear the raspy whisper of the other man. “They won’t let me in without a tie…”
Have you ever been really thirsty? The 23rd Psalm reminds us that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, “leads me beside still waters.” What does that mean?
Jesus alone quenches the thirst of our soul.
Like humans, sheep need water. The body is composed of more than 70% water. It is essential for physical and mental health. Dehydration can result in serious damage to sheep and our human body. Thirst indicates the need of our body to have its water supply replenished. Just as our physical body needs water, our soul needs spiritual water. Our soul is thirsty. If a sheep isn’t led to good water, they will end up drinking from polluted potholes and pick up parasites and other germs. Our soul is thirsty for God. But sometimes a thirsty soul does not know where to look or even what its looking for. So people drink from any dirty pool to try and satisfy this thirst for fulfillment.
Saint Augustine said, “O God! Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our souls are restless, searching, ‘til they find their rest in Thee.”
David later said, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts… for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? (Psalm 42:1-2).
Malcolm Muggeridge said, “I may, I suppose, regard myself as being a relatively successful man. People occasionally look at me on the street. That’s fame. I can fairly easily earn enough to qualify for the highest slopes of inland revenue. That’s success. Furnished with money and a little fame, even the elderly, if they care to, can partake of trendy diversions. That’s pleasure. It might happen once in a while that something I said or wrote was sufficiently heeded to persuade myself that it represented a serious impact on our time. That’s fulfillment. Yet I say to you, and I beg of you to believe me, multiply these tiny triumphs by a million, add them all together, and they are nothing, less than nothing, a positive impediment, measured against one draught of that living water that is offered to the spiritually hungry.
This reminds me when Jesus sat at a well with a woman who was spiritually thirsty. She tried to quench that thirst with relationships with men and each one left her more thirsty. Until Jesus offered her “living water” and she never had that kind of thirst again. The water of the world will never satisfy your soul. You were created for more and will never be completely happy. Trade your empty bucket for a well.
In a noisy world, quiet time is the solution.
Not just any water, but ‘still water’ is needed for the sheep. Shepherds know that sheep don’t drink from running water. It scares them and if they fall in their wool could become too saturated and they could drown. So, the shepherd leads them to quiet, waters.
Rest is an important value to God for His people. So much that He commands it. Think about it, God put rest, or sabbath, on the same level as not murdering or not stealing.
In a crowd, it’s difficult to see God. Jesus told us to go into a small room, close the door behind us, and we will meet with God. Solitude is where we are least alone and where our deepest hurts can be relived. It is a healing place where God can repair the damage done by the noise and pressure of the world. Thomas a Kempis said, “The more you visit it, the more you will want to return.
David tells us that the Lord will lead us to quiet waters. They will be right beside us. It is there. However, we must be willing to stop and drink.
Jesus will never lead you down a wrong path.
The LORD leads us beside the still waters. In case you missed David’s point, he repeats the phrase in the next verse: “He leads me in paths of righteousness.” The Lord isn’t behind you, yelling “Go!” He is in front of you for you to follow. He is clearing the path, cutting the brush, showing the way.
God is not going to let you see the distant scene. So you might as well quit looking for it. He tells us what we need to know when we need to know it. He promises a “lamp unto our feet” not a crystal ball into the future (Psalm 119:105). We do not need to know what will happen tomorrow. Leave tomorrow’s problems until tomorrow. We only need to know He leads us and “we will find grace to help us when we need it” (Hebrews 4:16)
If the Lord is leading, we need to follow. Some shepherds herd their sheep by going behind with sheep dogs to move them in the proper direction. But the middle easter shepherds leads. He builds trust and they follow. This is part of the “gentle” leading. The best shepherd cannot bring a flock of sheep to green pastures or still waters until they follow him. Keep following the shepherd.
Corrie Ten Boom used to say, “When the train goes through a tunnel and the world gets dark, do you jump out? Of course not. You sit still and trust the engineer to get you through.”
As we follow our Shepherd, He will provide refreshing water to quench our thirst and He will keep the waters still.
So what can we do?
- Surrender to the Lordship and leadership of Jesus. Living a blessed life begins with acknowledging that God knows more than you do. He’s a better planner and can run your life better. Surrender to Him.
- Identify your still waters. There are things that refresh and revive your body, soul and spirit. It is to these still waters that the Shepherd wants to lead you. The best water is in the Shepherd’s presence. Spend time with Him in the Word, prayer, worship and meditation. Find that quiet place and find peace.
- Let the Shepherd lead you there every day.
The story is told about four men adrift on the Atlantic Ocean near the equator. They were so thirsty that they were trying to squeeze moisture from the pieces of canvas on their small lifeboat. When rescuers finally arrived, the men lay prostrate from dehydration. After gradually reviving them, the rescuers informed the men of an incredible irony: All the while they were fighting for a few drops of moisture, they had actually been floating on potable water! You see, they were near the Amazon River – a river so huge that it pushes fresh water far out into the ocean. The men could have dipped a bucket off the side of their boat and drawn out drinkable water. People today resemble the men in that lifeboat – thirsty, but unaware of a readily accessible source of fresh water.