|Pixabay, Public Domain|
About a year ago, some friends and I were touring Alberta. We visited Athabasca Falls. The sound of the water is so loud you have to shout to make yourself heard. The speed of the water racing through the rocks down into the gorge is terrifying. At the top of the falls, just near the edge of those rushing, roaring waters, is a bench. On the bench is a small plaque. The plaque says that the bench is dedicated to the memory of a young man who got too near the edge. He fell and was swept over the falls and carried onto the rocks and down the gorge. The current was far too swift, the fall much too far, the rocks much too sharp for him to have a chance of survival.
This is not the place a shepherd would take his sheep. The sound and the fury would scatter them in all directions. They won’t drink if the water is flowing too quickly. Sheep need quiet water. So a good shepherd looks for quiet streams, “still waters” as the King James Version puts it.
He looks for unpolluted quiet streams, and where he can’t find a stream he looks for a well. Moses met his wife-to-be at a well while she was trying to get water for her father’s sheep (Exodus 2:16, 17).
The Bible has a lot say about water. Water is often related to spiritual life. Perhaps the best known illustration of this is found in John 4 where Jesus waits alone beside a well for a Samaritan woman to come to draw her water. One-on-one, quiet conversation. We don’t know if she left with any water from the well, but she did leave with what John quotes as “living water,” a newly redeemed lamb with a salvation song on her lips.
Jesus said, “…whoever drinks of the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become to him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).
The last invitation in the Bible is this one: “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17).
Water is also used as an illustration of daily life. Sometimes life is like the Athabasca Falls. Its sound and fury is overwhelming, even terrifying. The current threatens to sweep us away. Jagged rocks reach out to maul us.The maw of the gorge opens to swallow us.
Then our Good Shepherd reminds us of the promise He has made to those who are His: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you" (Isaiah 43:1, 2). He may quiet the waters just as He quieted the storms for His followers as they struggled against the wind as recounted for us in the New Testament (Luke 8:22-25). Certainly if He doesn't choose to still the storm, He will still the sailor.
The Great Shepherd leads us to quiet waters, safe waters, clean waters, eternal waters. And the invitation to enjoy those waters remains open. If you are thirsty for the living, eternal water of forgiveness and salvation, the Good Shepherd is waiting for you. If you need quiet waters where you can listen to a calming voice in a turbulent world, He's waiting for you.