“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me besides still waters. He restores me soul.”
Water is a fundamental part of of life. According to the USGS, the earth is 71% covered in water, and the oceans contain over 96% of all of the earth’s water. The rest is in the air as vapor, underground is aquifers, in lakes and rivers, and within most living things.
Water figures prominently in Holy Scripture as well.
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters.
Water has the ability to support life, and to take it away. Just ask Noah about that.
The Lord leads me beside still waters. Our devotional points out that sheep will only drink from still waters. To me, still waters is a metaphor for a peaceful place. We could all use more peace these days.
Many years ago I like to go scuba diving. Most of the dives were in calm waters, but once the waters on the surface were very choppy. The boat rocked and rolled! Once I got under the surface, the water was very still. It was so peaceful. I loved the feeling of being weightless and looking at the sea life.
That reminded me of a saying, “Still waters run deep.” This is a proverb of Latin origin now commonly taken to mean that a placid exterior hides a passionate or subtle nature.
The story of the woman at the well in the Gospel according to St. John is where Jesus introduces the concept that he is living water, the kind that satisfies a deep spiritual thirst. He tells the woman:
Every one who drinks of this water will thirst again,
14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”
The woman is happy because she thinks she won’t have to come to the well for water any more!
After seeing women in Malawi carry large buckets of water on their heads, I can understand! I told those women there was no way I could carry that water on my head. They just laughed at me!
The deeper meaning that Jesus is trying to convey is that the water of the Lord satisfies the thirst of the soul, the desire to know God, and to be one with him.
So many people are thirsty for something that really satisfies. We humans try many things that we think will satisfy us; cars, houses, money, power, fame, etc. We like win, and we really hate to lose. After chasing these things for a good while we might discover that these temporal things don’t satisfy more than a few days, hours, or minutes.
The water of our Lord satisfies the soul for a life time. No other water can do that. The Spirit of God moves over these waters, satisfying, and sanctifying all who consume it.
It’s like the water of our Baptism. Before the dark days of this pandemic, we would have holy water in the fonts in the back of the nave where we baptize, and in the font by the side door.
When you come into, or go out of the church you could dip your fingers in the water and then make the sign of the cross on yourself, you renew your baptismal vows and it reminds you to whom you belong.
Now we have some hand sanitizer there, so it’s close, but not quite the same thing!
Water is life, and our Lord wants to fill us with his life giving water. We need not fear anything that this world throws at us. We belong to our Shepherd who fills us with everything we need.
The next line in Psalm 23 is, “He restores my soul.”
The soul is the most elusive thing about us. It cannot be determined by science, so therefore it is neglected or even discounted by many people in the world. If it can’t be seen, touched, tasted, it doesn’t exist.
The scientific method cannot prove the existence of the spiritual world either, but we know it is there. We know because it is where our Lord operates. Some people can see the angels, and many are plagued by demons. The souls of many people are broken, beaten down by the world and the demons. Only the Lord can restore souls.
When souls are broken, life is a burden. It is pain and heart ache. It is defeat and death.
When a souls is restored, life changes from from one of sorrow to one of joy, from a life of pain to a life of peace.
When the Lord is your Shepherd, he will restore your soul. It is a message that everyone needs to hear.
When the soul is restored, it needs to be fed. That is why the Lord gave us the sacraments. The water of Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord, his Body and Blood that nourishes our souls and our bodies. When we neglect these, the soul loses out.
I know that when I am feeling the least bit anxious I can turn to Holy Scripture to feed my mind and my soul. When I am at the gym or driving alone, I turn on the ESV Bible app and it reads to me. It is an easy way to keep Holy Scripture fresh in my mind. It’s a lot better than listening to the news!
The care and feeding of our souls is essential for us and we navigate the perils of this world.
Drink deeply of the water of Life and the words of Holy Scripture and whatever fear and anxiety you have will melt away. The Shepherd will lead you beside the still waters and restore your soul.
And we will dwell in the House of the Lord forever. Amen.