Still Waters

"He leads me beside the still waters." Psalm 23:2

"He leads me beside peaceful streams." Psalm 23:2

It is not into a dry land, a land where no water is, our Shepherd leads His flock. "Give me a blessing," said the daughter of Caleb to her father-in-law; "for you have given me a south land; give me also springs of water. And he gave her the upper springs, and the nether springs." Such is the blessing conferred upon the sheep of Christ's pasture. We have considered the "green pastures" in their varied character and perpetual verdure; but, apart from the springs of water- "the upper and the nether springs" -it would be at best but as a south, or a dry land, lacking not only the beauty, but the nourishment, of the pasturage fitted for the needs of the flock. How rich and precious the Divine promises which assure us of this! "When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue fails 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."

What a fulfilment of this magnificent promise is found in the gracious invitation of Jesus- "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink." Here was the true smitten Rock- the breaking forth of waters in the wilderness- springs of water in a dry place, where no water was, "And they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ." It is to these waters- these springs in the desert- our inspired Songster refers, by the side of which the Shepherd led him, upon whose banks He caused him to lie down.

Before we meditate upon the repose, let us contemplate THE WATERS themselves. Of what spiritual gospel truths are these "still waters" the emblem? Will not a spiritual and reflective mind return- as the first truth- to the everlasting love of God, from whose Infinite Ocean all other springs of grace flow? This is the fountain- the sea- the source of every covenant and redemptive blessing conferred upon the Church of God. "There is a river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God." This River is the Divine- infinite- eternal love with which He has chosen, and with which He has drawn, us to Himself. "I have loved you with an everlasting love therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you." Now it is to this River the Lord Jesus delights to lead us. With what emphasis and distinctness He declared the great love of the Father, of which He was the revelation and the gift! "God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." "I say not unto you that I will ask the Father for you: for the Father Himself loves you;" that is, My intercession is not the cause, but the effect- not the inspiration, but the expression of my Father's love. Oh how blessed to repose in confidence upon the bank of this Divine River, and know that God loves us- that these waters are for us- to feel that His love is causing all the events and incidents of our history to work together for our good- that He, who spared not His Son for us, will send no evil thing, and will withhold no good thing that we need! Do not be content, O my soul, with a mere taste of this River- though to have only "tasted that the Lord is gracious" is an unspeakable blessing; and one draught of God's love is infinitely sweeter and more satisfying than a life-long draught of the worldling's richest, purest nectar- of whom it has been said that heľ
Drank every cup of joy, heard every trump
Of fame; drank early, deeply drank; drank draughts
That common millions might have quenched-then died
Of thirst, because there was no more to drink!"

My soul! outbid and outstrip this poor worldling- a noble and splendid poet though he was- and drink abundantly and often of these "still waters" which flow down from the throne of the Eternal; for the River is full, inexhaustible, and free.

Nor drink only; lie down upon its sylvan, mossy bank. You are sad and weary. The sun of affliction has smitten you- the heat and burden of life's toilsome day has exhausted you- and, footsore and faint, you seek that repose and restoration found only in the assurance that God loves you! Approach, then, and take your rest upon the slopes of this River which makes glad the Church of God; it will cause your spirit of lassitude and sadness to sing for joy; and, blending with your Marah's bitterest waters, will make them sweeter than honey. "The Lord" (the Spirit) "direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ."

Not less true and emblematic are these "still waters " of the pure water of life which flows from Christ, the Shepherd, and to the fulness of which He leads His flock. All spiritual life flows from "Christ, who is our life." "I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." "Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." Beloved, learn the secret of the high, and still ascending, life- it is your privilege here to live, until you pass to that life that knows no chill- no cloud no end. It is not you that live- it is Christ, your life, that lives in you. And the life you live of battle, of service, and of suffering, is maintained and matured only as you live by faith on the Son of God; and this living by faith implies the confession of every sin at His cross- the hanging of every burden upon His arm- the sobbing of every grief upon His heart. Reclining upon the bank of these still waters of life, your soul will bloom, and your life will blossom with all the graces and fruits of the Spirit.

How sweet and refreshing the still waters that flow through the channel of communion with God! There the Shepherd loves to lead the footsteps of His flock in the sultry heat and in the faint weariness of the day. Is there a pasture more verdant, a spot more shaded, a slope more sunny than the meeting-place with God? "Come, my people, enter you into your chambers, and shut your doors about you- hide yourself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be over past." How gently did the Shepherd lead His sheep to those still waters when He bade them ask, and they should receive; seek, and they should find; knock, and it should be opened to them. Are you weary? are you wounded? are you faint? Come and lie down by this flowing river, and drink of these waters of communion with God, and your soul shall be refreshed; your peace will flow as a river, and your joy as the waves of the sea. Oh the power, the repose, the comfort of prayer! 'Having boldness,' or privilege, 'to enter into the Holiest- the pleading blood of Jesus upon the Mercy Seat- the Father's scepter of grace extended- all the resources of Deity at your command- can you for a moment hesitate, through fear and unbelief, to arise and give yourself to prayer? One draught of these 'still waters' of calm, confidential, filial approach to God will be infinitely more powerful and efficacious than all the oblivious waters of the fabled river of Grecian mythology- you shall drink, and forget your sorrow, and drown in oblivion your misery and care. Oh listen again and yet again- you sin-burdened, sorrow-stricken one- to the divinest words, the sweetest melody that ever chimed upon the ear- "Come unto Me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!"

"Are you weary, are you languid, are you sore distressed? 'Come to Me,' says One, 'and coming, be at rest!'

Has He marks to lead me to Him, if He be my guide?
In His feet and hands are wound-prints, and His side.
Is there diadem, as monarch, that His brow adorns?
Yes, a crown, in very surety- but of thorns!
If I find Him, if I follow, what His promise here?
Many a sorrow, many a labor, many a tear!
If I still hold closely to Him, what has He at last?
Sorrow vanquished, labor ended, Jordan past!
If I ask Him to receive me, will He say me no?
Not until earth and not until heaven pass away!
Tending, following, keeping, struggling, is He sure to bless?

Angels, martyrs, prophets, pilgrims, answer, 'Yes!"' (Written by Stephen before the Eastern Church became corrupted by Papal superstitions.)

But let us turn our thoughts to the expressive POSTURE OF THE FLOCK. "He makes me to LIE DOWN." Beautiful and expressive image! There is not a spectacle more truly pastoral and picturesque than that of a flock of sheep reposing amid the luxuriant verdure of a sunlit meadow. Contemplate the spectacle in its spiritual aspect: "He makes me to lie down." It is, first, the rest of faith. No grace brings the soul into such perfect repose as faith in God's character- in Christ's all-sufficiency- in the unchangeableness of the divine promises. Faith can lie down in the midst of trial, and sorrow, and need, in the 'quiet resting places' where the Divine Shepherd causes His flock to repose at noon.

It is the posture of perfect satisfaction. Dissatisfaction shades the brow of every worldling. It is impossible in the nature of things that it should be otherwise. The world, with all its greatness, is too small a thing to fill the human soul. That must needs be a vast void which Infinity alone can fill! But perfect satisfaction is found only where the flock of God lie down amid the green pastures of His love, and the fragrant meadows of His word. Oh how satisfied, beloved, God can make you with all the way by which He is conducting your trembling footsteps homewards! The way, at times, may be thorny and dark- intricate and solitary- faith sifted- patience tried- principle tested- love wounded; nevertheless, the soul can lie down in a quiet resting-place, satisfied with all God's dealings- that He, the Lord of all the earth, must do right. "Whom have I in heaven but You? and who is there on earth that I desire beside You?" "Not my will, O my Father, but Yours be done!" "And now, what do I wait for? My hope is in You." "I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Your likeness." Return, you wanderer, from your roamings in quest of that which no worldly good or creature here can give you, and come and rest your weary spirit amid the 'green pastures' of God's love in Christ Jesus, and your "soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness."

Perfect safety is expressed by this posture of the soul. There is not a more exposed object to every form of assault and danger than the Flock of God. It is well termed, "the Flock of the slaughter." "For Your sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." But where can we repair for perfect security but where the Shepherd leads His flock, and causes it to lie down? The moment we wander from the side of Christ- swerve from the purity of His truth- and turn from the simplicity of His worship- roaming amid other and forbidden pasture that looked so fair and promised so much, but tasted so bitter and proved so false- that moment we exchange the place of safety for the place of danger; and well for us if, while thus wandering from the Shepherd and the Fold, into dangerous enclosures, we lose not all evidence of our Christianity, and meet the 'last enemy' with a beclouded, if not a shaken and uncertain hope!

We have made but passing reference to THE ESPECIAL CHARACTER OF THESE WATERS. They are emphatically

"still," or, "quiet waters." Where does the gentle Shepherd lead thus His flock? Not by the thundering fall- not to the foaming cataract- not even by the low-murmuring brook- these would alarm and agitate His sheep! But He leads them to the still, gentle, peaceful waters of His love, and there He causes them to lie down. "When He gives quietness, who then can make trouble?" Come away, my soul from the strife and turmoil and excitement of this busy life, and lie down upon the slopes of these quiet waters. "You will keep him in pee feet peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You." See how lovingly Jesus invites us to these 'still waters,' and how gently He causes us to lie down.

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer ; I have overcome the world." "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you." Here is perfect quietness- here is unruffled repose. "In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength." How fierce the storm! How loud the tempest! How surging the billows oftimes of God's providences! "Be still, and know that I am God." "The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yes, than the mighty waves of the sea." Be still- be trustful- be prayerful- be hopeful! The night is dark and long- it is the fourth watch, and Jesus has not yet come! Be still! He is on His way- He will come- and presently you shall hear His divine voice of power and His human voice of compassion rising above the tempest- "Peace, be still!" -and sweet will be the hush- perfect the quietness and peace Christ will give you. "O Lord, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I." Yes, to the quiet waters of Your love, from where all my fresh springs flow. "Tell me, O you whom my soul loves, where you feed, where you make your flock to rest at noon: for why should I be as one that turns aside by the flocks of your companions?"

When my heart is likely to break,
When the surging billows shake
My feeble bark,
Lead me to the Rock most high
The Rock that higher is than I ;
even in the dark.

When I see my sin so great,
When no comfort I can get,
No place to hide,
Lead me to the Rock most high
The Rock that higher is than I;
The smitten side.

When no refuge I can find,
No shelter for the weary mind,
No cooling shade,
Lead me to the Rock most high
The Rock that higher is than I;
No more afraid.

When thirsting for the living stream
Of that eternal life in Him,
No more to die,
Lead me to the Rock most high
The Rock that higher is than I;
To Him I fly.

In the cleft of that dear Rock,
From the surging billows' shock,
I'll hide me ever.
In His righteousness so pure,
In His covenant so sure,
I'll dwell forever.