“He leadeth me beside the still waters” (Psalm 23).
The souls of men are restless, sin has made them so, for “the wicked are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest.” But the Good Shepherd calls His sheep from their restless wandering and unsatisfied self-willed straying and brings them to repose at His feet. He leads them beside the waters of quietness.
The simile brings a picture of peace to the vision; it speaks of restfulness of heart in a secure retreat. But it does not follow that this quietness of soul springs from external circumstances—these may be most adverse to our natural inclination—yet in the midst of them the heart may be unruffled, as another Scripture says: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee.”
One soul-enthralling incident in the life of our Lord on earth illustrates this quietness and peace to perfection. At the bidding of their Master the fishermen-disciples had launched their craft upon as still a sea as ever the sun shone upon. But they had scarce set their oars to the row-locks when the wind rose and gradually increased until it blew a terrific gale, the very fury of hell seemed to be let loose in that tempest, and the waves roared and rolled about that one small boat with such force that those well-seasoned mariners were seized with a panic of fear. The raging of the waters without the boat created so great a storm of terror within their breasts that they cried aloud to their Master that they would perish. But what of Him? Was He afraid? Did any anxiety of heart show itself in His manner? Nay,
“His head was on a pillow laid,
And He was fast asleep.”
Perfect peace, in the midst of the tempest! Blessed repose in the presence of the threatening waves! Why did they not share His pillow? Had that storm increased in its fury sevenfold they would still have been safe, yea, safe as when at His command a great calm laid its arresting hand upon the turbulent waves.
But what was the secret of that wonderful repose? Upon what pillow did the Lord put down His head? The secret was unbroken confidence in God; the pillow was His Father’s changeless and almighty love. He was the Man of absolute dependence, more than man, as we shall see, but truly man, committing all His way to God and satisfied to do His will alone. And the God whom He served was behind every circumstance; He sat above the water-flood and put a strong bridle on the mouth of the storm. It could not rage beyond His permission, His love would keep His loved One in all His ways, and the ever blessed and absolutely dependent Jesus rested there. And, Christian, He gives that pillow to you, so that you may find repose in the midst of trouble, He says, “The Father Himself loveth you because ye have loved Me.” “My peace I give unto you…not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). This is a great reality—“He leadeth me beside the still waters.” The raging flood without, but the quiet waters within.
The fear of those disciples brought forth an evidence of the divine power of the Lord, a gleam of His Godhead glory. With tender compassion in His heart for their weakness, with the quiet of an eternal calm in His eyes, and with omnipotence in the words of His mouth, He spoke to the storm; and the great billows fell at His feet in mute submission as cowers a spaniel at the feet of his master.
The disciples marveled at that mighty act, and, indeed, it was wonderful; but which of the two demands our deepest admiration, the peace in the tempest, or the power over it?
The former may even be ours, for the latter is always on our side, to be used for us when immortal love sees that the storm has taught us the needed lesson. But it is a greater thing to go through the storm resting in perfect confidence in Him than to have it removed for us. It is more to His honor when we allow ourselves to be led by the still waters while the floods roll about us, than to have circumstances changed to suit our lack of faith.
“Carest Thou not that we perish?” cried His disciples. Strange words from their mouths, revealing their distrust of Him. How little they knew Him! I wonder if Simon Peter remembered this faithless cry when years after he wrote to his brethren who were being greatly tried and persecuted, “Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.” Yes, He cares, and Simon Peter had proved it, and so have we, and so we shall still prove it, not because we have faith, but because He is faithful.
Christians, let us trust in the Lord at all times; let us recline upon His bosom, and believe that He will not permit a single circumstance, or place us in any situation which will not further in our souls the purposes of His changeless love. So shall we be led by the waters of quietness. And though in the world we shall have tribulation, yet in Him we shall have peace.