By the Still

“My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray; they have turned them away on the mountains. They have gone from mountain to hill; they have forgotten their resting place.” (Jeremiah 50:6)

He Leads Me Beside the Still Waters

Although the Lord was speaking specifically to the nation of Israel when the above words were uttered, they ring just as true today for many of God’s people. Like lost sheep, we’ve been led astray by the very shepherds we seek direction from. As a result we’ve gone from the mountain to the hill – downhill, in other words. Worse yet…

We have forgotten our resting place.

Either we don’t relax long enough to realize we need one, or we seek it elsewhere in some God forsaken no man’s land where rest can never be found. It’s an ancient problem as old as time itself. Mankind needs rest. God offers the perfect place with Him. We decline muttering, “Wish I had the time.” Then, once we’re worn thin, we go to some expert and complain, “I’m exhausted! What do you recommend?” The answers usually vary. You need a pill, a yoga class, a massage or a vacation.

Rarely are we pointed to the presence of the Lord.

Honestly, we avoid Him. We’ve become too dependent upon other so-called shepherds: counselors, masseurs, therapists, fitness coaches, travel agents and even religious leaders. It’s not my intent to criticize the many well-meaning shepherds of the world. God surely uses them to bring some sense of sanity into our lives. But they are not authorities when it comes to rest for the soul. We’re led astray should we ever think so.

 With the multitudes of experts and counselors available to King David, he knew exactly who to turn to when life clobbered him. Rather than look around for answers, he looked up.

“The Lord is my shepherd.” David declares in Psalm 23.

This particular Psalm has served through the ages as a comfort to many, myself included. It’s also standard reading at funerals prior to burial, as the deceased enters final rest. Though his own life was surely in jeopardy at the time, David didn’t have one foot in the grave when he penned these thoughts. He had both feet firmly planted in God’s presence. Let’s take a look:

Psalm 23

1. The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.

2. He makes me to lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside the still waters.

3. He restores my soul;

He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

4. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil;
for You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

5. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;
my cup runs over.

6. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Hearing this psalm as a youngster, it was always the first verse that threw me off most. What did David mean by, I shall not want? Perhaps you’ve asked the same question. David was expressing complete satisfaction. There was no want of anyone or anything else so long as he was under his shepherd’s keep. This wise soul was perfectly content in His presence.

“He makes me to lie down.”

This doesn’t mean David was forced against his will to lie down. God had made it so inviting, he couldn’t resist! David describes an oasis far from the daily grind where both sheep and shepherd alike find much needed rest – green pastures and still waters.

In the second verse the phrase “beside the still” is used, translated from the Hebrew expression: ‘menuwchah’. Don’t worry; there will be no surprise test on pronunciation at the end of this blog. However, you will want to know the meaning of this term. The literal translation is ‘resting place.’ That’s how David viewed God’s presence, for which no words could adequately describe. Adjectives like green and still were the best David could offer. This makes sense coming from a former herdsman from the Middle East.  As for myself, I picture white sand, palm trees and soft rolling waves. That’s my idea of tranquility. I’m sure you have yours as well. With his colorful prose David helps us to understand that…

God’s presence is the ideal getaway.

One can almost hear a long, loud and satisfying “Ahhh…” as he writes, “He restores my soul.” That’s something we all could use. We need to break away from ‘beside the chaos’ and quiet ourselves ‘beside the still.’ Nowhere else will suffice. There’s too much clatter and commotion in the world. We need an escape, a refuge where one can relax, reflect and be rejuvenated. Somewhere where someone is looking out for us, one who will make us to lie down. I know of only one such place – His presence.

In the face of many dangers, toils and snares (to quote an old hymn) David felt completely secure under the Shepherd’s care. All his anxieties dissipated like a morning mist on a hot summer’s day. The shadow of death, the fear of evil and the ever-present threat of enemies were no longer a bother. Yes, David had many foes. The only place he could lose them was ‘beside the still’ of God’s presence. Once there, David could breathe again. Not only breathe, he would sing:

I will fear no evil for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

 The Lord wants this to be our song as well. He also seeks a trade with us – our fears for His comfort. Yes, there is a catch. This divine transaction must take place on His turf, in His presence. But you will not be disappointed. His presence is off limits to such foes as stress, worry, headache and heartache. They won’t find you there. This doesn’t mean you won’t be followed. Goodness and mercy will be hot on your trail. If you’re like David, they will follow you all the days of your life. They will accompany you beside the still. They will keep you from going downhill. They’ll cry out to you should you ever forget your resting place.

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