A Shepherd looks at Psalm 23 #4
HE LEADETH ME BESIDE THE STILL WATERS
ALTHOUGH SHEEP THRIVE in dry, semi-arid country, they still
require water. They are not like some of the African gazelles
which can survive fairly well on the modest amount of moisture
found in natural forage.
It will be noticed that here again the key or the clue to
where water can be obtained lies with the shepherd. It is he who
knows where the best drinking places are. In fact very often he
is the one who with much effort and industry has provided the
watering places. And it is to these spots that he leads the
But before thinking about the water sources themselves, we
do well to understand the role of water in the animal body and
why it is so essential for its well-being. The body of an animal
such as a sheep is composed of about 70 percent water on an
average. This fluid is used to maintain normal body metabolism;
it is a portion of every cell, contributing to its turgidity and
normal life functions. Water determines the vitality, strength
and vigor of the sheep and is essential to its health and general
If the supply of water for an animal drops off, bodily
desiccation sets in. This dehydration of the tissues can result
in serious damage to them. It can also mean that the animal
becomes weak and impoverished.
Any animal is made aware of water lack by thirst. Thirst
indicates the need of the body to have its water supply
replenished from a source outside itself.
Now, just as the physical body has a capacity and need for
water, so Scripture points out to us clearly that the human
personality, the human soul has a capacity and need for the water
of the Spirit of the eternal God.
When sheep are thirsty they become restless and set out in
search of water to satisfy their thirst. If not led to the good
water supplies of clean, pure water, they will often end up
drinking from the polluted pot holes where they pick up such
internal parasites as nematodes, liver flukes or other disease
And in precisely the same manner Christ, our Good Shepherd,
made it clear that thirsty souls of men and women can only be
fully satisfied when their capacity and thirst for spiritual life
is fully quenched by drawing on Himself.
In Matthew 5:6 He said, "Blessed are they which do hunger
and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled
At the great feast in Jerusalem He declared boldly, "If any
man thirst, let him come unto me and drink."
"To drink" in spiritual terminology simply means "take in" -
or "to accept" - or "to believe." That is to say it implies that
a person accepts and assimilates the very life of God in Christ
to the point where it becomes a part of him.
The difficulty in all of this is that men and women who are
"thirsty" for God (who do have a deep inner sense of searching
and seeking; who are in quest of that which will completely
satisfy) often are unsure of where to look or really what they
are looking for. Their inner spiritual capacity for God and
divine life is desiccated and in their dilemma they will drink
from any dirty pool to try and satisfy their thirst for
Saint Augustine of Africa summed it up so well when he
wrote, "O God! Thou hast made us for Thyself and our souls are
restless, searching, 'til they find their rest in Thee."
All the long and complex history of earth's religions, pagan
worship and human philosophy is bound up with this insatiable
thirst for God.
David, when he composed Psalm 23, knew this. Looking at life
from the standpoint of a sheep he wrote, "He [the Good Shepherd]
leadeth me beside the still waters." In other words, He alone
knows where the still, quiet, deep, clean, pure water is to be
found that alone can satisfy His sheep and keep them fit and
Generally speaking, water for the sheep came from three main
sources ... dew on the grass ... deep wells ... or springs and
Most people are not aware that sheep can go for months on
end, especially if the weather is not too hot, without actually
drinking, if there is heavy dew on the grass each morning. Sheep,
by habit, rise just before dawn and start to feed. Or if there is
bright moonlight they will graze at night. The early hours are
when the vegetation is drenched with dew, and sheep can keep fit
on the amount of water taken in with their forage when they graze
just before and after dawn.
Of course, dew is a clear, clean, pure source of water. And
there is no more resplendent picture of still waters than the
silver droplets of the dew hanging heavy on leaves and grass at
break of day.
The good shepherd, the diligent manager, makes sure that his
sheep can be out and grazing on this dew drenched vegetation. If
necessary it will mean he himself has to rise early to be out
with his flock. On the home ranch or afield he will see to it
that his sheep benefit from this early grazing.
In the Christian life it is of more than passing
significance to observe that those who are often the most serene,
most confident and able to cope with life's complexities are
those who rise early each day to feed on God's Word. It is in the
quiet, early hours of the morning that they are led beside the
quiet, still waters where they imbibe the very life of Christ for
the day. This is much more than mere figure of speech. It is
practical reality. The biographies of the great men and women of
God repeatedly point out how the secret of the success in their
spiritual life was attributed to the "quiet time" of each
morning. There, alone, still, waiting for the Master's voice one
is led gently to the place where as the old hymn
puts it, "The still dews of His Spirit can be dropped into my
life and soul."
(It is a false idea that there is something special about the
morning. Many a so-called "famous" Bible teachers have never come
to the reality of the truths of the Bible. The morning worship,
or afternoon worship, or evening worship, did nothing, and is
still doing nothing for tens of millions of people around the
world, when it comes to being led by the Spirit into all truth.
It is part to do with God; He will lead when He chooses to lead
into truth; and it is part to do with man; the heart must be in
the right condition to being taught, corrected, guided, into the
more perfect understanding of the Lord. And that heart-set must
be for all day, not just the morning - Keith Hunt)
One comes away from these hours of meditation, reflection
and communion with Christ refreshed in mind and spirit. The
thirst is slaked and the heart is quietly satisfied.
In my mind's eye I can see my flock again. The gentleness,
stillness and softness of early morning always found my sheep
knee deep in dew drenched grass. There they fed heavily and
contentedly. As the sun rose and its heat burned the dewdrops
from the leaves, the flock would retire to find shade. There,
fully satisfied and happily refreshed, they would lie down to
rest and ruminate through the day. Nothing pleased me more.
I am confident this is precisely the same reaction in My Master's
heart and mind when I meet the day in the same way. He loves to
see me contented, quiet, at rest and relaxed He delights to know
my soul and spirit have been refreshed and satisfied. But the
irony of life, and tragic truth for most Christians, is that this
is not so. It is often the case that they try, instead, to
satisfy their thirst by pursuing almost every other sort of
For their minds and intellects they will pursue knowledge,
science, academic careers, vociferous reading or off-beat
companions. But somehow they are always left panting and
Some of my friends have been among the most learned and
highly respected scientists and professors in the country. Yet,
often, about them there is a strange yearning, an unsatisfied
thirst which all their learning, all their knowledge, all their
achievements have not satisfied.
To appease the craving of their souls and emotions men and
women will turn to the arts, to culture, to music, to literary
forms, trying to find fulfilment. And again, so often, these are
amongst the most jaded and dejected of people.
Amongst my acquaintances are some outstanding authors and
artists. Yet it is significant that to many of them life is a
mockery. They have tried drinking deeply from the wells of the
world only to turn away unsatisfied - unquenched in their soul's
There are those who, to quench this thirst in their parched
lives, have attempted to find refreshment in all sorts of
physical pursuits and activities. They try travel. Or they
participate feverishly in sports. They attempt adventures of all
sorts, or indulge in social activities. They take up hobbies or
engage in community efforts. But when all is said and everything
has been done they find themselves facing the same haunting,
hollow, empty, unfilled thirst within.
(Ah, that is why it is a two sided coin; it takes God calling and
leading to His truth and the one being called, to accept and to
hunger for righteousness and the truths of God's word - Keith
The ancient prophet Jeremiah put it very bluntly when he
declared, "My people ... they have forsaken me the fountain of
living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns that
can hold no water" (Jeremiah 2:13).
It is a compelling picture. It is an accurate portrayal of
broken lives - of shattered hopes - of barren souls that are
dried up and parched and full of the dust of despair.
Among young people, especially the "beat" generation, the
recourse to drugs, to alcohol, to sexual adventure in a mad
desire to assuage their thirst is classic proof that such sordid
indulgences are no substitute for the Spirit of the living God.
These poor people are broken cisterns. Their lives are a misery.
I have yet to talk to a truly happy "hippie." Their faces show
the desperation within.
And amid all this chaos of a confused, sick society, Christ
comes quietly as of old, and invites us to come to Him. He
invites us to follow Him. He invites us to put our confidence in
Him. For He it is who best knows how we can be satisfied. He
knows the human heart, the human personality, the human soul with
its amazing capacity for God can never be satisfied with a
substitute. Only the Spirit and life of Christ Himself will
satisfy the thirsting soul.
(It is true many are searching for something .... but they do not
know what, they are wanting something more than what they are
getting out of life. Then there are many who are quite happy in
their walk of life without "God" or "religion" in any form. For
those being called and chosen by God to inherit the first
resurrection, indeed they will have the heart and mind-set to
hunger and thirst after righteousness, and Jesus did say that
such would indeed be filled. They will be led to the clear still
waters of spiritual truth - Keith Hunt)
Now, strange as it may appear on the surface, the deep wells
of God from which we may drink are not always necessarily the
delightful experiences we may imagine them to be.
I recall clearly standing under the blazing equatorial sun
of Africa and 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 chiselled 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. As I stood
there watching the animals quench their thirst at the still
waters I was again immensely impressed by the fact that
everything hinged and depended upon the diligence of the owner,
the shepherd. Only through his energy, his efforts, his sweat,
his strength could the sheep be satisfied.
In the Christian life exactly the same applies. Many of the
places we may be led into will appear to us as dark, deep,
dangerous and somewhat disagreeable. But it simply must be
remembered that He is there with us in it. He is very much at
work in the situation. It is His energy, effort and strength
expended on my behalf that even in this deep, dark place is bound
to produce a benefit for me.
It is there that I will discover He only can really satisfy
me. It is He who makes sense and purpose and meaning come out of
situations which otherwise would be but a mockery to me. Suddenly
life starts to have significance. I discover I am the object of
His special care and attention. Dignity and direction come into
the events of my life and I see them sorting themselves out into
a definite pattern of usefulness. All of this is refreshing,
stimulating, invigorating. My thirst for reality in life is
assuaged and I discover that I have found that satisfaction in my
(Yes, for those who are called, if they move on to be chosen, if
they love the Lord with all their heart, mind, and life, they
will be led to the true waters of spiritual understanding and
insight, that life with the true God is very satisfying, even if
some of the trails have thorn bushes to navigate around or
through - Keith Hunt)
Of course there is always a percentage of perverse people
who will refuse to allow God to lead them. They insist on running
their own lives and following the dictates of their own wills.
They insist they can be masters of their own destinies even if
ultimately such destinies are destructive. They don't want to be
directed by the Spirit of God - they don't want to be led by Him
- they want to walk in their own ways and drink from any old
source that they fancy might satisfy their whims.
(Sad to say, but Jesus did say that many are called but few are
chosen. Many who are called to hear the truths of God, push it
aside, reject it, simply do not want to be led by the Spirit of
the Lord - Keith Hunt)
They remind me very much of a bunch of sheep I watched one
day which were being led down to a magnificent mountain stream.
The snow-fed waters were flowing pure and clear and crystal clean
between lovely banks of trees. But on the way several stubborn
ewes and their lambs stopped, instead, to drink from small,
dirty, muddy pools beside the trail. The water was filthy and
polluted not only with the churned up mud from the passing sheep
but even with the manure and urine of previous flocks that had
passed that way. Still these stubborn sheep were quite sure it
was the best drink obtainable.
The water itself was filthy and unfit for them. Much more,
it was obviously contaminated with nematodes and liver fluke eggs
that would eventually riddle them with internal parasites and
disease of destructive impact.
People often try this pursuit or that with the casual
comment, "So, what? I can't see that it's going to do any harm!"
Little do they appreciate that often there is a delayed reaction
and that considerable time may elapse before the full impact of
their misjudgment strikes home. Then suddenly they are in deep
trouble and wonder why.
To offset these dangers and guard against them God invites
us to allow ourselves to be led and guided by His own gracious
Spirit. Much of the emphasis and teaching of the Pauline Epistles
in the New Testament is that the child of God should not end up
in difficulty. Galatians 5 and Romans 8 bring this out very
Jesus' own teaching to His twelve disciples just before His
death, given to us in John 14 through 17, points out that the
gracious Holy Spirit was to be given to lead us into truth. He
would come as a guide and counsellor. Always He would lead us
into the things of Christ. He would make us see that the life in
Christ was the only truly satisfying life. We would discover the
delight of having our souls satisfied with His presence. It would
be He who would become to us very meat and drink - that as His
resurrection, over coming life was imparted to me by His Spirit;
each day I would be refreshed and satisfied.
(Yes indeed friends, it could well be that you reading from this
Website are called to grow in grace and knowledge. Jesus promised
us that the Spirit would lead into all truth. Maybe you have been
given some truths already, and now the Lord wants you to have
more. Then again, maybe you are brand new to the calling of God,
and He has led you to this Website. You will find on here,
spiritual studies for any spiritual age you may be in at the
present. It is my prayer that you will cry out to the Father and
to Christ, to be led by the Spirit into the wonderment and joy
and peace, that comes from being led to the still waters that can
quench a thirsty soul - Keith Hunt)
To be continued