Still Waters

Scriptures: Psalm 23:2b and John 21:1-19

Key Verse: He leads me beside still waters


  • Introduction
  • He leads me beside still waters
  • Jesus leads me to peace
  • Conclusion


This morning we continue our series on Psalm 23

  • The key message of Psalm 23 (as a whole) is, the Lord is my security
  • God looks after me like a shepherd looks after his sheep


The plan is to look at one aspect of the psalm each week

  • So far we have covered the first one and half verses…


The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,


Today we finish off verse 2…


He leads me beside still waters


He leads me beside still waters:

The phrase ‘still waters’ speaks to me of peace

  • The Lord God leads me to peace
  • He doesn’t lead me to destruction
  • He doesn’t lead me in circles
  • He doesn’t lead me to despair
  • He doesn’t lead me to fame and fortune
  • He doesn’t mislead me
  • Jesus, the good shepherd, leads me to peace


In New Zealand we are used to seeing scenes, perhaps on a back country road or maybe while watching Country Calendar, with the farmer driving a large flock of sheep from behind using a couple of dogs

  • The dogs’ bark essentially frightens the sheep in the direction the farmer wants them to go
  • But in the Middle East (where David wrote this psalm) shepherds don’t drive their sheep – they lead them


The shepherd walks slowly ahead of his sheep and either plays his own ten-second tune on a bamboo pipe, or sings his own unique call.

  • The sheep recognise the timber and tone of their shepherd’s voice (or tune) and are attracted to it [1]


Eric Bishop, in his book Jesus of Palestine, tells the following true story which illustrates the point that sheep recognise and follow their shepherd’s tune…


During the riots in Palestine in the mid 1930’s a village near Haifa was condemned to collective punishment by having its sheep and cattle confiscated by the Government. The people of the village were allowed to redeem their flocks though by paying a fixed price.


Among them was an orphan shepherd boy, whose six or eight sheep & goats were all he had in the world. Somehow he obtained the money for their redemption. He paid his money to the British sergeant in charge. The sergeant told him he was welcome to the animals he had redeemed but ridiculed the idea that he could possibly pick out his little flock from among the hundreds.


The young shepherd knew better. Playing his own unique tune on his shepherd’s pipe the boy’s 8 sheep & goats separated from the other animals and trotted out after him.  


This helps us to understand what Jesus meant when he talked about being the Good Shepherd. In John 10 Jesus says…

  • The shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out… and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.’


Think of that for moment…

  • Jesus (the Good Shepherd) calls you by name
  • You are known to him – you are special to him


The other side of this is being able to recognise the Lord’s voice

  • We learn to recognise the Lord’s voice by experience
  • When my daily Bible reading matches with a particular situation in my experience then I sit up and take notice – there’s a good chance the Spirit of God is trying to say something to me


The fact the Lord leads us also implies that the initiative is always with God

  • And, as long as we are following Him, we do not need to fear what the future holds for the Lord has gone before us

Another little detail which may not be immediately obvious to us comes at the end of verse 2 which says, ‘He leads me beside still waters


It’s a scientific fact that the waters must be still if the sheep are to drink from them – if the waters are too swift or turbulent the sheep won’t drink

  • If a stream is available but the water is flowing too quickly then the shepherd will sometimes dig a short, dead-end trench that leads away from the stream [2]
  • The water which gathers in the trench is still because it can’t flow anywhere, so the sheep are able to drink from it


To illustrate this point about still waters I have here a can of fizzy drink

  • What happens if I shake the can like this? [Wait for people to respond]
  • That’s right – the contents of the can becomes pressurised (like a little hand grenade) so no one will knowingly open it for fear of being sprayed


Just as we won’t open a can of fizzy drink which has been shaken up – so too sheep won’t drink from rushing waters

  • The water (like the fizzy) needs to be still before the sheep will drink it


Okay then – does that mean this can of drink is a write-off now, that it can never be opened again because it will always be ready to explode?

  • No – there are two things you can do to restore peace to this can of L&P
  • Either you leave it to sit still for a few days
  • Or you flick the side of the can a few times like this…
  • [Demonstrate flicking the side of the can]
  • Then you can open it like this…   [Open the can]
  • See – no mess


The pace of life is very swift these days

  • We are always on the move, always running to keep up with change
  • There are times when it seems that everything happens at once
  • Our lives get shaken up quite a bit and like a can of fizzy drink we feel the pressure building up inside
  • We find our mind racing from one fleeting thought to another
  • We may struggle to sleep and lose our ability for enjoyment
  • We lose our temper, we lose our perspective, we lose our peace
  • And without peace (on the inside) there is no refreshment


Jesus leads me to peace:

Jesus is the good shepherd – he is the one who leads us to peace

  • Both inner peace and peace in our relationships – the two go hand in hand

Last Sunday was Easter – a special day for celebrating the resurrection of Jesus

  • At the end of John’s gospel we find a series of Jesus’ resurrection appearances, to his disciples (following his crucifixion & death)


On one such occasion seven disciples (including Simon Peter and John himself) were fishing in the Sea of Tiberias

  • They had been casting their nets all night without success when they heard a voice from the shore calling to them…
  • “Cast your net to the right side of the boat and you will find some”
  • When they did they were not able to haul the net in because there were so many fish
  • At that point the disciples knew it was Jesus on the shore
  • They recognised the Lord because this is how he had first called them, three years earlier – by leading them to a miraculous catch


He leads me beside still waters…

  • Jesus’ disciples (his sheep) recognised his voice – his unique call


Simon Peter was so eager to see Jesus he jumped over board and swam ashore to meet the Lord. From verse 15 of John 21 we pick up the story…


15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

  • He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”
  • Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
  • He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”
  • Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
  • Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?”
  • And [Peter] said to [Jesus], “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
  • Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep…
  • 19 After this he said to [Peter], “Follow me.”



Peter was not enjoying a lot of peace

  • Peter had denied knowing the Lord three times – the night Jesus was arrested
  • Jesus had predicted Peter’s denial and when the cock crowed Peter cried bitter tears of remorse


I imagine there was a lot of pressure built up inside of Peter – the can of his soul had been shaken and it was going to take more than a few days for things inside him to equalise again

  • Jesus wanted to lead Peter to peace – he wanted to still the waters of Peter’s soul – and so he provided an opportunity for redemption
  • Just as Peter had denied Jesus three times – so Jesus gave Peter the opportunity to reverse that denial by declaring his love three times
  • Each time Jesus asked, “Do you love me?” it was like flicking the side of the can, releasing the pressure inside of Peter


Not that this process of making the waters still was easy

  • Verse 17 tells us that Peter felt hurt when the Lord asked him a third time, “Do you love me?”
  • But as uncomfortable as it was, it had to be done
  • Like a skilled surgeon Jesus had to cut deep to heal the wound



There are many things which can rob us of our peace

  • Perhaps guilt over something we have done wrong
  • Perhaps bitterness over some wrong done to us
  • Maybe fear of the future
  • Or simply having too much to cope with in the present


King David (the author of Psalm 23) experienced a lot of turbulence in his life

  • Being despised by his brothers
  • Being hunted by Saul
  • Being surrounded by enemies
  • Losing his best friend Jonathon
  • Being married to multiple wives at one time
  • Being betrayed by his son Absalom
  • Suffering the death of more than one child
  • And yet through all of this upheaval and turmoil the Lord provided David with still waters – with times of tranquillity – with peace & refreshment
  • What the Lord did for David He can do for you

On the night before he died Jesus said to his disciples…


Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.


Clearly Jesus wants us to enjoy peace


Jesus is the good shepherd who leads us beside still waters

  • He does not drive us, Jesus invites us
  • We, his sheep, recognise his voice and follow his call because we know he is leading us to a place of peace – both peace in our relationships and inner peace for our soul


In a few moments we will break bread and share the cup in communion with Christ and with each other

  • Communion is essentially a celebration of the peace Christ leads us to


I invite you to use this time to be still and listen for the voice of Jesus the good shepherd

  • By listening for Jesus’ voice I don’t mean trying really hard to hear a voice in your head
  • I mean taking time to consider your circumstances and the way God’s Spirit has been leading you recently
  • What are the common themes which keep coming up in your daily Bible readings, for example
  • Or, what has God been doing to get your attention – to slow you down?

We each recognise the Lord’s voice in a different way

  • Peter & John recognised it in the miraculous catch of fish
  • Joseph recognised the Lord’s leading in his dreams
  • Elijah recognised it in the still small voice
  • Zacchaeus recognised it through hospitality and acceptance
  • You may recognise the Lord’s voice (His leading) in another way unique to your relationship with him
  • The point is: be still and let Jesus tap the can of your soul to equalise the pressure you feel inside
  • Let him lead you beside still waters


Will the communion stewards come forward now please…

[1] Kenneth Bailey, ‘The Good Shepherd’, page 41.

[2] Kenneth Bailey, ‘The Good Shepherd’, page 42