He Leadeth Me Beside Still Waters...
(3rd in series on Phillip Keller's book “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23”)
Thirsty today?! 'Got Milk'?! Or a coke or, maybe, a Miller?! Satisfied?! Not for very long!
According to Keller, and as we know all too well, this is an age old problem for sheep and humans alike. He takes us down into the caverns of Africa and paints us a picture of the 'good' shepherd working to quench the thirst of his needy flock. (p. 57)
“I recall so clearly standing under the blazing equatorial sun of Africa, watching the native herds being led to their owner's water wells. Some of these were enormous, hand-hewn caverns cut from the sandstone formation along the sandy rivers. They were like great rooms chiseled out of the rocks with ramps running down to the water trough at the bottom. The herds and flocks were led down into these deep cisterns where cool, clear, clean water awaited them.
But down in the well, stripped naked, was the owner bailing water to satisfy the flock. It was hard, heavy, hot work. Perspiration poured off the body of the bailer whose skin glistened under the strain and heat of his labor... Everything hinged on the diligence of the owner, the shepherd. Only through his efforts, his sweat, his strength could the sheep be satisfied...”
I can almost picture the long line of sheep, mamas and papas and little lambs too, lopping along lazily following the shepherd, trusting that he knows where he's taking them and sublimely oblivious to what it costs the shepherd to meet their need. Keller draws our attention to those stubborn sheep who refuse to follow the shepherd and decide to drink wherever they please along the way. The water they choose is from filthy watering holes, full of deadly parasites, animal waste, and dead carcasses decaying in the water. The sheep that make this choice will be deathly ill and in immense pain very quickly. If only they had trusted the shepherd to meet their need.
So like the stubborn, rebellious sheep are we! Often not understanding the depth of His love for us, we decide to meet our needs our way, and stop at all the alluring watering holes along life's path. After all, I really do know what will best meet my needs, don't I?! Doesn't our culture celebrate at every turn that “I did it MY way!” What's wrong with that?!
I've often ignored the leading of the Shepherd in favor of my own choice. How about you? Ever been tempted to get into a relationship that wasn't really 'clean' by the Shepherd's standards? Ever wanted to just try drinking away your troubles at the neighborhood 'watering hole'? Ever compromised what you knew the Lord was asking of you “just a bit' to get that thirst met? Ever been bitterly disappointed that you were at least as thirsty afterward as you were when you started to drink and bathe in that muddy watering hole? It didn't seem like such a big deal at the time. Water's water. And I was thirsty. After all, I am in charge of me - right?
For a while, it seemed like I was just as well off as those boring, 'follow the leader' sheep that waited obediently to have their needs met by the Shepherd. But, while they were resting in the pasture, I turned deathly ill. I panicked. I needed the Shepherd. Too late, I realized, He knows how best to meet my need...
Too late, I learned, none of it satisfies. I thank Him today that He loved me anyway. He never gave up on me. He led me to the Fount of Living Water. His name is Jesus. Follow hard after Him. Only He satisfies...
Scripture Reference: Jeremiah 2:13
“My people...have forsaken Me; the Fountain of Living Waters
And hewn for themselves cisterns – broken cisterns that can hold no water.”