"The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever." Psalm 23
As I plant God's word in my heart I look for themes, bullet points, and various patterns. For me this chapter isn't difficult to remember because it paints such a pleasant scene. Green pastures, still waters, walking with God, a full table set before me, fine smellin' hair, and an overflowing cup. What's not to like?
But scripture is much deeper than the picture it paints on the surface. Not one word is wasted or lacking. Every word is true and even the smallest of things have great meaning. For example, I never thought a thing about God leading His children beside still waters, until last Sunday when couple of ladies in our class shared pictures and stories from their recent trip to Israel.
All the pictures of the Holy Land where beautiful and thought provoking, but one photo in particular sent my mind wheeling. It was one of their tour guide with a hand full of leeches. Pulling them from a fast flowing stream, he explained how shepherds always led their sheep to quiet waters because leeches live in fast currents. If their flock drank from leech infested waters, they would invariably get the critters up into their noses, causing infection and possible death.
This prompted me to think about which I would likely choose if tired and parched, a quiet stream or a bubbling brook. I'd never compared the two before, but without question a bustling river would look and sound much more appealing. A subdued brook, however, would not likely catch my attention. In fact, I'd likely miss it all together, even though it would be the only good choice for me. This dear sister is precisely why we need a shepherd to lead us! We must learn to listen to the special sound of His voice and determine to follow it, even though it may lead us away from the sound of cool refreshing water. Not all things that look and sound good to us are beneficial. They can in fact lead to our demise.
Thanks to a handful of leeches Psalm 23 now holds deeper meaning. Isn't that just the way God works? Only He can use a parasite to show how some of the most appealing things of life are in fact often very deadly in the end. Let's determine to hear and obey only the voice of God.
"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me."