I have two dogs. Both are mix-breads, but both have Labrador as half the mix. While both are spoiled rotten, they could not be more different from one another. One of the more humorous differences is how they react to water.
The older one, Cody, hates water. He’s the one who tip-toes in the morning dew. He’s the one who will hold his bodily functions all day rather than go outside during a drizzle. I took him to the lake and he was noticeably fearful being near the water. And, he hates to get a bath – fighting us the whole way. Water is torture to him.
The younger one, Molly Grace, loves water. When we let her out in the morning, she’ll roll around in the morning dew. She dances in the rain. We haven’t taken her to a lake yet, but I just know she’ll jump into the water as if she entered heaven. And, she loves to bathe. Water is joy to her.
2 …he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul…
In ancient Hebrew culture water is a dichotomy – two sides of one coin.
First, water is symbolic of chaos and violent power. In the creation story, when we are told about water covering the earth, the ancient Hebrew person would have visions of a giant ball of tumultuous, violent seas. A river is violent, powerful, unchained, unrestrained and uncontrolled.
Second, water is symbolic of tranquility and peace – especially in the context of when water is controlled or contained. For instance, a pool of water is a source of tranquility, restoration and healing.
In the passage above, the two natures of water scream loudly to be understood. “He leads” allows one to infer that the writer was, at one time, not near still waters, but violent ones, and here, the Lord takes us from that place to a place of tranquility and restoration.
Just one verse later, reality is brought forth – the writer is walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Life around him is still a struggle, still “work” – but in the midst of this dark valley, peace and restoration is found.
Will you allow the Lord to be your shepherd – to lead you by the still waters – to refresh and restore your soul, even though that valley may still be dark and dreadful?