November 30, 2008, Chicago, Illinois
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Question: Am I allowing God to restore my soul?
Psalm 23 is a precious passage for Christians. It affirms the watchcare of God over his children and reveals his purpose for us.
David was a shepherd before he was a warrior or a ruler, and he knew what it meant to tend to sheep. The imagery of God as a shepherd was already used in the Scripture before David, but he developed the thoughts further, as he was inspired by the Holy Spirit.
The name used for God is Yahweh, the covenant name given to Moses in the burning bush experience, sometimes translated in some English Bibles as Jehovah, normally translated with all capital letters in English, LORD. For the Old Testament Israelite community, it instructed them of the faithful and gracious way God would provide for Israel and for the individual Israelite believer. In the New Testament context it teaches us about Christ, the Good Shepherd (John 10) who redeems and cares for his own. This covenantal God, who has called us to enter into relationship with him also promises to do more for us that just save our souls after death.
But the thrust of the psalm is spiritual in nature, for that is where real life is lived. After making the introductory statement of God’s watchcare, in these opening verses he mentioned five ways the believer experiences the goodness of God. First, he feeds us lavishly with abundant spiritual food, referring to the Word of God. Second, he refreshes us with the fellowship of his Spirit. Third, he rebuilds, restores, redeems our very souls from the damages caused by sin. “Soul” here means not just the life beyond the grave, but our very selves, our mind, emotion, and will. Fourth, he guides us in his righteous paths. Fifth, he uses us for his name’s sake, that is for something more profound that we could ever imagine or achieve on our own.
The heart of these verses is the phrase, “He restores my soul,” for this is the center of God’s work in our lives, to redeem and restore us. How can I be restored within? By letting God do his work through his word and Spirit.
My Shepherd will supply my need,
Jehovah is his name;
In pastures green he makes me feed,
Beside the living stream.
He brings my wand’ring spirit back
When I forsake his ways;
And leads me for his mercy’s sake
In paths of truth and grace.
When I walk through the shades of death,
Thy presence is my stay;
A word of thy supporting breath
Drives all my fears away.
Thy hand in sight of all my foes
Doth still my table spread;
My cup with blessings overflows,
Thine oil anoints my head.
The sure provisions of my God
Attend me all my days.
O may thy house be mine abode,
And all my word be praise!
There would I find a settled rest,
While others go and come,
No more a stranger or a guest
But like a child at home.
Isaac Watts, 1674-1748
Lord, we have each been scared by the world and by our own sinful choices. Yet you are a redeemer and with you there is forgiveness and hope. We pray for your Spirit’s work in our hearts this day, restore our souls by your Word and b y your Spirit. Give us rest and strength and then grant us the grace to follow you as you lead us in paths of righteousness for your name’s sake. Amen.