Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 4, 1970

"He Feedeth His Flock Among The Lilies"


In the Song of Solomon the bride is extolling the virtues of her beloved, and declares of him that, "he feedeth (his flock) among the lilies." (2:16 and 6:3). One of the most eloquent and moving sermons to which this writer ever listened was preached from this text some forty years ago by the late J. M. Vander Meulen, sometime President of Louisville Seminary, and a highly esteemed teacher. He stressed the fact that "man shall not live by bread alone," but that there are hungers of the heart and soul that must be satisfied as well as hungers of the body. The bridegroom of Solomon's Song might have been prosaic and common-place in many ways, but it was a mark of excellence and grace in him that he chose to feed his flock "among the lilies" rather than on the rocky hillside. The grasses of the hillside could have provided the same sustenance as the grasses in the valley where the lilies grew, but how much better to feed his flock where beauty and fragrance could be found as well as food!

So great was the impression created by this sermon that for forty years it has lingered in memory, although the lips from which it came are long since silenced in death. But the haunting, eloquent words kept coming back to us last week as we travelled through the villages and squalid little settlements of Mexico. Here are a people ground down in poverty and destitution. It has been said that the slums of Cairo, Egypt, present a picture of wretched human existence which cannot be surpassed on the face of the earth. Well, we have seen those slums; and we have seen conditions in central Mexico that are every bit as miserable and pitiable. Here in affluent America it is well nigh impossible for the average Christian to have any adequate conception at all of the poverty in which so many thousands of our next door neighbors eke out their short years.

But between Cairo and Mexico was this significant difference: Every forlorn and primitive dwelling we saw in Mexico, no matter how crude and barbarous in its accommodations, seemed somehow to have space for some sort of flower garden! The huts might be made of mud or sticks or dried grasses; some of them were little more than rough lean-tos, but they all had their flowers. As the train rolled along through vast range lands, we would often see a solitary, lonely dwelling set back from the tracks, composed of one small room — but with a pot of flowers hanging alongside the weather-beaten wall. From time to time we passed work trains along the way, with their boxcar dwellings for the crews . . . . and saw on every car evidence of this deep-seated primeval hunger for beauty. A rusting bucket would be on a window ledge or hanging from the side of a car with a beautiful flowering plant of some sort in it. They might have no time or opportunity to grow turnips or potatoes or corn — but they had a hunger for beauty which would not be denied.

One mark of man's divinity surely is the very scope and magnitude of his hungers. A hog would probably be as happy in a mud-hole as in a rose garden; he has no hunger but that of the body. But a child of God! he must have a thousand things of which the hog is not even aware. He does not live by bread alone; his life "consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." If he tries to feed his "soul" on "things," he is a fool. Christ said so. (Luke 12:13-21.) He must have beauty, and friendship and the companionship of loved ones. From the very beginning, God saw that "It is not good that the man should be alone." (Gen. 2:18.) Great music, great literature (and the rose garden!) become as essential to him as bread and meat.

Above all else, man has a hunger for God — a hunger which lesser creatures of earth cannot even apprehend, much less comprehend. David sang, "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, 0 God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?" (Psalm 42:1-2). The grieving Job was not nearly so distressed by his aching, suffering body and his abject destitution as he was by the terrible emptiness of his life when he felt God had withdrawn his presence from him. Across the centuries and across the miles we can still feel the utter desolation of his anguished cry, "0 that I knew where I might find him!" (23:3). Deep within the heart of every human being lies that hunger for God. It is often stifled, choked off, crowded out by "the lust of other things," but it is still there! Dormant, perhaps, but still a part of man's innate endowment. How barren and bereft the life that is spent only on the rocky hillside or in the wastelands, and never feels the rich fulfillment of walking "among the lilies." It is the duty and the high privilege of children of God to live such lives among their fellows that people around them can be aware of the beauty and warmth of their companionship with God. Men of the world may spend their years in a frantic struggle for gold, but the faithful follower of Christ recognizes that man "does not live by bread alone," and his life, as a consequence, has a radiance and a beauty that causes even the herding of sheep to take on a special quality. "He feedeth his flock among the lilies."

— F. Y. T.