Psalm 23:1-2 – The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. (NKJV)
On the beautiful, green, grassy slopes outside Jerusalem, an unexpected sight popped up before me and touched my heart with a thrill of joy. Riding a tourist bus on a trip to Israel, I was keeping vigilant watch for things of particular interest to me. It was on this journey that I saw on the hillside a herd of sheep following behind their shepherd. He looked as if he had wandered straight out of the pages of the Bible with his long robe and shepherd's crook.
These images brought to life a picture akin to what we might see hanging on a church wall or adorning the pages of an illustrated Bible: pictures created to portray the Twenty-third Psalm, with the shepherd leading his sheep.
How precious are the words of this psalm to thousands, perhaps millions of people down through the centuries. Countless are the numbers of those who have memorized the words of this psalm and found warm comfort in the poetic phrases shaped so long ago by one who followed God.
When going through a time of stress, or during the anticipation of a stressful time — such as a necessary surgery, the funeral of a loved one, or going off to war — these words emerge from the long distant past to touch the human spirit and bring alive the presence of Jesus, our Saviour and Lord.
The writer of these words was a man who began as a humble shepherd boy tending his father's sheep. In later years, he was crowned the king of Israel. He was a gifted poet, a skilled musician, and a mighty warrior, but most importantly, he was a man upon whom the Spirit of the Lord rested — a man after God's own heart. He followed God. Who among us can begin to comprehend the great influence David exerted, not only in his own era, but in the ensuing days right down to this present one, through the record of his life and through the words he wrote, especially in the Twenty-third Psalm? His poem of the shepherd with his sheep offers powerful images pointing us to the Good Shepherd, our Lord, who offers us Himself.
The Good Shepherd is always present to lead us when we open our hearts and minds to let Him speak to us. He takes us to those places where there is rich, green pasture before us to nourish our hungry spirits. He leads us beside the still waters to calm us in times of trouble.
Turbulent waters may bring to mind ships tossing about on high waves during a terrible storm. It is like the chaos we may feel in our lives when we are experiencing the storms of life that come upon us all from time to time.
When we open our minds to the powerful image of stilled waters, through our thoughts, we can find the calm, the serenity, and the quietness that our Good Shepherd, Jesus, offers us. He invites us to rest our souls upon His goodness and love for us. As our minds are filled with thoughts of assurance and faith in God and in God's eternal love for us, we know that we need not fear, but just trust that He will bring us safely though.
"He leads us beside the still waters." As we let Him lead us, we find ourselves resting in the green pastures beside still waters. Indeed, the Lord is our Shepherd.
Prayer: Dear Shepherd of Your people, we know that You do not promise that our lives will always be easy or without struggle. We do know that through it all, You promise to lead us. And when our outward lives face the slings and arrows that daily life can present, we need not fear, for as we lift our eyes to You, our Good Shepherd, You will lead us to rest our souls in the green pastures beside the still waters. Amen.