The Still Waters
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.|
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me
beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of
righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy
staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine
enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my
life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”
(Psalm 23 – A Psalm of David).
For centuries, David's Twenty-third Psalm has been memorized and studied the world over. It has a calming effect upon our anxious thoughts, and it has brought spiritual peace to many who are going through a frightening, or trying, human situation. Simply reading it can often cause a stillness within, as our ear turns to the ancient voice speaking to something deep inside us, just beneath the troubled thoughts.
The mental images we perceive when reading such a psalm, along with the parables and other illustrations in the Bible, are symbolic. For instance, “the still waters” mentioned in the Twenty-third Psalm symbolizes the currents of thought that stream through our consciousness, when these currents proceed from the spiritual peace and understanding of God. These divine currents of thought are the 'waters' flowing through the human mind, which are smooth and calm to our spirit. They combat the turbulent, stormy, fear-producing suggestions that claim to threaten the well-being of ourselves and those we love. These still waters are harmony's selfhood, so to speak. These divine currents combat depression, despair at the seemingly hopelessness of a material condition, and even the destructive storms of hatred that would rob us of all good.
In fact, the Twenty-third Psalm is so universally read because, in its entirety, it's a beautiful example of the symbolic use of material objects to represent spiritual realities. Because of our material mindedness, we need to have physical objects as symbols; material forms are our biggest frame of reference. Line by line, in this particular psalm, the symbolism sings out to us of the spiritual side and dimension of things—all of which, when mentally entertained and grasped, can have a great, healing impact upon our life experience here. A change in thought (from the materially devastating to the spiritual fact of God's loving control over all) changes the outward expression of things for the better. And, each individual who ponders this psalm sees symbolism in his or her own unique way. Since I'm always analyzing things to the nth degree, I thought I'd share my own symbolic sense of the Twenty-third Psalm, for anyone interested:
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Two images appear to me: first, a picture of the dependent, innocent sheep, guarded by a master, or keeper, from the threats of their environment. The sheep symbolize the material identities of people, guarded and kept by an ever-present shepherd, symbolic of God. This shepherd is devoted to their health and well-being. The sheep, both ignorant and helpless, don't necessarily comprehend this. This first part of the line, thus, symbolizes the ever-presence of the divine Creator, still guarding and protecting (shepherding) Its creation and all identities created, though not necessarily perceived by those identities. Yet, if we (the sheep) stay close in thought to this shepherd (God), we'll stay within a spiritual realm of protection.
In the second part of the line, this guardian is also shown to be the ultimate provider, or Source, of all the good the sheep require. This symbolizes that the Creator, (the divine Spirit of God) being the infinite producer of all good, is always able to provide whatever Its children require for a full and rich life, any where, any time—for those who stay within the shepherd's boundaries, and don't wander off into places of thought that do not include the shepherd's presence. In other words, acknowledge and don't forget God's presence and power, or you'll be wandering away in thought to a place where you don't turn to the Almighty for deliverance from whatever physical threat assails you, including lack of any good thing.
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.” Once again, two separate images are produced: the first part of this line is that of the shepherd forcing the sheep to rest in 'green pastures', which clearly symbolizes a broad, comfortable (even lush) peaceful place. The image of calmness, rest, and unburdened existence is strong. The symbolism is that, armed with the knowledge of God's invisible presence with us at all times, we are able to bring forth, materially, our own 'green pastures', where we may mentally rest from the chaotic, burdensome trials of the false, mortal sense of being—that false sense of material existence where our 'shepherd' seems to be missing, but is not. Mentally resting and realizing that we're still in God's kingdom can transform the material situation, no matter how bad it appears to be to the physical senses. The divine messages flowing to us quiet the threatening suggestions.
The second part of this line brings the sheep to 'still waters'. As mentioned before, this symbolizes the stillness of mind which must first exist within us for our peace, joy, and sense of well-being to break forth into the discordant human scene. We must silence, or calm, any material, stormy thoughts within, and replace them with spiritual facts of God's omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. The still waters symbolize the peace which takes ascendancy in our consciousness when we turn from the material scene before our eyes, and reach for the spiritual truth of things. The thoughts reminding us of God's loving control over all are the calming agents which stream through our consciousness, when invited. Such spiritual truths battle and defeat the specific, aggressive suggestions of anger, fear and despair. Then we realize that the divine Intelligence, Wisdom, and Love of God is still able to control all things in creation, even on the material plane. Our part is to keep our 'waters' (thoughts) more purely spiritual. We are led to acknowledge the realm of Spirit, ever-present with us, but clearly invisible to the physical senses which see only material chaos.
“He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.” In the first part of this passage, Soul is who and what we really are—God's divine children, made and maintained in the spiritual image of the infinite One. This sense of sonship and daughtership to God must be perceived, however faintly, or we aren't restored enough to have faith in the divine Presence, actually active and powerful, protecting the real, spiritual Self of each of us. The spiritual currents of thought, which we allow to flow through consciousness whenever we turn to God, brings back a faint memory of our real, spiritual selves, and God as our divine Parent and Source. Then material fears vanish, and spiritual power is free to transform our life experiences. When we 'restore our soul' (our true sense of identity which is spiritual, not material) we also restore our sense of sonship and daughtership to the divine. This opens our thought to our divine inheritance of good, and good alone. This good includes immortal life and health, and abundant supply. (Since everything has to last eternally, we're all right now, whatever dimension our mind is dwelling in.)
The second part of this line speaks to me of the shepherd leading its flock into 'paths of righteousness'. This symbolizes the great battle between right and wrong, good and evil, that always seems to be raging in the human condition. There's no contest, however, for the shepherd; good alone is all that shall be allowed to exist for Its sheep. This symbolizes, to me, that spiritually speaking, we're always safe and sound forever; nothing in the material realm of thought, or physical illusion of existence, actually separates us from our true, spiritual being. But in order for this safety zone to be useful on this material plane of thought, we must stay close in thought, belief, and goodness, to God, our Shepherd. The protection and safety zone of the shepherd won't reach those rebellious sheep who deliberately run, walk, or crawl away, into the darkness of thought, where no shepherd is. This means we must stay on the shepherd's path, and in the shepherd's sphere, to be safe at all turns. In other words, we can't do wherever we want, nor be destructive, and still try to evoke God's ever-present protective power in the human condition. The humanly destructive impulses and indulgences must be abandoned for our true safety, and our true selfhood, to be realized. God's will is all that keeps us safe. We must remain in God's Righteousness.
In this part, also, note the last words, 'for his name's sake.' This symbolizes the Father and Motherhood of God. To me, all God's children are part of the divine Family. The shepherd is actually related to the sheep. Our individual, Christly (spiritual) identities belong to God. We are God's spiritual off-spring. Our true, spiritual selfhood is the 'name's sake'. As spiritual, rather than fleshly beings, we have God as our only real parent and source of being; our only Creator. Our true, Christly selves are what is being referred to here. And for the sake of our true, spiritually good and pure identities, (always known to God) the Almighty overlooks all the wrong we do, while under the delusion of material existence. Further, it is for this divine sake of who we really are, (for the sake of our higher and spiritual identities known to God) we must be brought back, humanly, to the paths of righteousness in thought concerning spiritual reality—destroying within ourselves, all hatred, envy, falsehoods, perverted fleshly indulgences, and whatever other bad material traits we justify and cling to.
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
In this first part, notice that it doesn't say 'the valley of death', but rather 'the valley of the shadow of death'. Then it tells us that where this shadow exists, we'll fear no evil. To me, that's symbolically saying that material death is a shadow, without substance. It isn't real—it's a specter only. Our eternal life in God is never shut down or diminished in any way. Death has no substance; therefore, it is not a real evil. The physical death process is nothing, and we walk through it, not to it. We pass from a belief that we've died physically, to the realization that there is no death. Our Christ Consciousness, our Soul, is still alive and well, manifesting whatever form of body comes with our new comprehension. Material death can't touch us, because the substance and life of our body, soul and mind (consciousness) is spiritual. Matter can't touch Spirit. (Actually, neither can the world beliefs of the flesh touch us; and when we know this with conviction, it's the key to physical healing.) We're the children of infinite Spirit. We can't be touched. No one and nothing can kill what God has created.
In the second part, God's ever-presence with us is emphasized again. The shepherd never looses sight of the sheep.
Thirdly, the 'rod' and 'staff' are symbolic of the weapons of God, the tools used to maintain control and harmony in the spiritual universe, of which we are a part. For a shepherd, a rod is a long stick which can reach a great distance out in front of the shepherd. It can also beat away predators. I believe the staff is a hooked end, which can easily slide over the head of a wandering sheep and pull it back to the flock, or the shepherd's protective domain. The symbolism here shows that we can depend upon God's shepherding, and the tools of Spirit's warfare on our behalf. Those tools defeat the beliefs of Satan—that state of mind governed by a false, material sense of existence, which denies the existence of infinite Spirit.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”
The first part of this passage depicts a feast being called for someone, in front of this person's 'enemies'. Symbolically, God is creating this strange party for each of us. Yet, who want enemies at a party? This question comes because we think of people as our enemies, instead of our own thinking and acceptance of world beliefs as our true enemies. It's like that saying (and I have no idea who said it, but I'm sure it's in the public domain by now) “We've met the enemy, and it is us.” To me, the symbolism of 'enemies' in this passage is that God has called all the material beliefs of the world, the flesh and the devil, before us, all at once.
The second part shows the divine purpose of assembling these 'enemies' of thought: From things I've studied in the past (in a Comparative Religion class) anointing was an ancient custom of showing honor to a guest. In many old world countries, perfumed oil was an expensive commodity, and pouring or rubbing it on one's head would be like bowing to a dignitary, or pinning a medal on someone. To anoint someone's head with oil before one's enemies, would be a direct message to “back off this person, or else.” Such an anointment is a message of status.
The third part of this passage refers to filling someone's cup to overflowing. This is symbolic of God's infinite supply to the honored one. Again, honor is being demonstrated to God's off-spring. This whole passage is symbolically representing the Almighty as showing that there is a higher authority protecting each of us, from all the material beliefs of physical law that seem to war against mankind; and the divine power has 'anointed' his children over these falsities, giving us dominion over them, when we accept our divine heritage and spiritual identity, and reject our fleshly identity. In other words, before all the enemies (beliefs) which war against mankind's spiritual harmony, God is, in essence, saying, “Back off from attempting to touch, or become part of, even one my own children.” To us, God is saying what Christ Jesus told his disciples once, “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” (Luke 10:19).
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Here, first part, the narrator leaves goodness and mercy in his wake. It follows him. This means, that these two qualities go with him wherever he goes; they are part of him, and thus these are the wake he leaves behind, anywhere he's passes through. This symbolizes the state of mind of those who stay within the shepherd's realm, and keep a constant awareness of the shepherd's presence and protective power. Safe in God's keeping (and remaining constructive instead of destructive in behavior) we have nothing to fear and nothing to lie, cheat, steal, or kill for. We can express all the good and mercy which our lives here require, because our divine Shepherd takes care of all our needs, including protection. When relied on, healing and positive change does materialize in the human scene for us. The invisible One works, even when we're asleep, altering what we believe to be material law and bad physical circumstances of body, finances, and other discords. Spiritual power trumps the false claim of material power.
The second part uses a material image of house to symbolize our dwelling place. Yet, 'the house of the Lord' is clearly not a physical structure; rather, this reference symbolizes our true, spiritual dwelling place—our forever oneness with infinite Spirit—the spiritual consciousness (the Christ Consciousness). Dwelling, or remaining in a spiritual state of consciousness, remembering our true selfhood and the spiritual selfhood of all others in creation (including all life forms that express Spirit's infinite ability to create) we dwell in the house of the Lord. We stay close to the Shepherd. Remembering God's spiritual creation, we lose anxiety over the physical appearance of things, because we dwell in the knowledge of Spirit's ever presence and loving control over all, where no destruction is allowed to exist for anyone, despite the material appearance of things around us. God is always present. God is always actively maintaining our true creation. The temporary material sense of things transforms, when we dwell in the house (consciousness) of spiritual, rather than physical, existence. Things actually lost materially are restored; there is no spiritual loss, not even of life.
In 2002, this website, The Still Waters, was created in honor of David's Twenty-third Psalm. When creating the website, my desire was to contribute a few, small currents of spiritual truths into the waters of world-thought, for the purpose of calming the storms of hatred, fear, and lack, which we all must endure on this human plane of existence. Let's face it: most of the time, God seems to be just a myth. It's hard to believe in and trust something we can't see or perceive materially. That's why we trust only material remedies, in most cases. Having been in the spiritual healing arena for the last few decades, I've noticed how many people will trust God with small, less important things—but most would never think of trusting God with the more important things, such as their health. The myth of God's absence is strong. The illusion of materiality as reality is convincing; yet it remains an illusion, waiting to be proven wrong through spiritual power.
Physical so-called 'laws' seem to deny spiritual presence and power at every turn. Thus, the material sense of the universe, with its beliefs in both good and evil powers apart from God, has a strong grip upon the minds of us here; and it produces so much chaos and unhappiness. Yet, awakening to one, tiny, spiritual reality can change the greatest dilemma into nothing of importance at all. I've been a witness to this all my life. When the peace of God stills the turbulent waters within us, the physical healing of body, or situation, occurs. We are all welcome to those Still Waters.