He leadeth me beside the still waters – That’s Refreshment!

G. A. Smith renders it thus: “By waters of rest He refresheth me.” This last verb, he says, is difficult to render in English; the original meaning was evidently to guide the flock to drink, from which it came to have the more general force of sustaining or nourishing.

It is the noontide hour. “Sunbeams like swords” are smiting the sheep. They pant with heat and burn with thirst. It is time for the shepherd to lead them to the drinking-place and cool them at the waters. He knows the way. All over these Judæan hills, at frequent intervals, there are deep, walled wells, whose waters never fail. A good shepherd carries in his mind a chart of every well in all his grazing area. These wells are his chief dependence. Were it not for them the country would be impossible for grazing purposes. For though there are many streams the sheep cannot safely drink from them.

At the well-mouth, with bared arms, the shepherd stands and plunges the bucket far down into the darkness, sinking it beneath the waters and shattering the stillness which till now has brooded there. He plunges and draws. Swiftly the rope coils at his feet as the laden bucket rises responsive to the rhythmic movements of his sinewy arms. Into the trough he pours the sparkling contents. Again the bucket shoots into the darkness of the well; again, and yet again, and when the trough is filled he calls the thirsty sheep to come in groups and drink. The lambs first, afterwards the older members of the flock, till all are served and satisfied.

God leads the sheep by the still waters, where it may drink the cool, clear draught in safety, and not be scared or confused by the roar of the cataract; the devil would lead the sheep beside the turbulent rapids, where it can scarcely drink without danger of being carried down to the cataract which bewilders with its noise and foam. Think of all the pleasure of simple, innocent recreation; think of the joy which comes to us from the wonder and beauty of Nature; remember the pleasures of music, of poetry, of art; think of the calm joys of true friendship, and the delights which cluster around the pure affections of the home. All these are the refreshment and exhilaration of the cool, still waters. But think of the exciting pleasures of the gambler; think of the muddled brain of the drunkard singing his foolish song; think of the riotous, lascivious mirth of the casino; reflect on the half-insane glee of the rake who boasts of his debauchery: here you have the intoxication of the rapids and the cataract. And let us never forget that the rapids and the cataract are sometimes only farther down in the very same stream beside the still waters of which the Lord is leading His people.

We know how often in Scripture the emblem of water, as a purifying and refreshing element, is employed to represent the gracious operations of the Holy Spirit. “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink … this spake he of the Spirit.” This is the “pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” When the Spirit receives of the things of Christ and shows them to the believer, longing to behold His power, His glory, and His beauty, or discovers to him his interest in the hopes and promises of His Word, witnessing with his spirit that he is a child of God, he is strengthened and revived as by a draught from that “well of water which springeth up unto everlasting life.” To be led “beside the still waters” is to be “walking in the comfort of the Holy Ghost,” to be enjoying holy and tranquil communion with Him, to have clear and enlarged and soul-satisfying discoveries of Christ and His work, to have the love of God shed abroad in our hearts, so that even amid outward tribulation we have inward peace. It is He who opens up “the wells of salvation,” out of which the believer draws water with joy. Though often “in a dry and thirsty land where no water is,” let him follow the leadings of his Shepherd, and the promise will be fulfilled, “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.” This is the rest wherewith He has caused the weary to rest, and this is the refreshing which comes down on the fainting soul as the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended on the mountains of Zion.

Not always, Lord, in pastures green
The sheep at noon Thou feedest,
Where in the shade they lie
Within Thy watchful eye:
Not always under skies serene
The white-fleeced flock Thou leadest.

On rugged ways, with bleeding feet,
They leave their painful traces;
Through deserts drear they go,
Where wounding briers grow,
And through dark valleys, where they meet
No quiet resting-places.

Not always by the water still,
Or lonely wells palm-hidden,
Do they find happy rest,
And, in Thy presence blest,
Delight themselves, and drink their fill
Of pleasures unforbidden.

Their track is worn on Sorrow’s shore,
Where windy storms beat ever—
Their troubled course they keep,
Where deep calls unto deep;
So going till they hear the roar
Of the dark-flowing river.

But wheresoe’er their steps may be,
So Thou their path be guiding,
O be their portion mine!
Show me the secret sign,
That I may trace their way to Thee,
In Thee find rest abiding.

Slowly they gather to the fold,
Upon Thy holy mountain,—
There, resting round Thy feet,
They dread no storm nor heat,
And slake their thirst where Thou hast rolled
The stone from Life’s full fountain.

 

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