These past few weeks we’ve been looking at a Psalm written by King David from the Old Testament, one of God’s satisfied sheep. We learn in this psalm that while others look all over the place to find satisfaction for their lives, David said he found satisfaction in the Lord. “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” And he testified that when this Shepherd is your Shepherd, you will never want for rest or refreshment or guidance to right paths.
Today we’re going to look a little bit further along in the psalm as the songwriter tells us, “He restores my soul.” Before we study this together, I invite you to bow your heads with me as we ask God to help us understand His Word. Let’s pray.
Father, may the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, for you are our rock and salvation. In Christ’ name. Amen.
You’ve heard the children’s nursery rhyme, “Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep and doesn’t know where to find them . . .” The advice she receives: “Leave them alone and they’ll come home, dragging their tails behind them.” We learn a couple of things from this children’s rhyme.
Little Bo Peep is a lousy shepherd, for she keeps losing her sheep. However, sheep don’t come home dragging their tails behind them. Typically, when sheep wander off, they don’t wander back.
Sheep get easily lost. Philip Keller in his book, A Shepherd looks at Psalm 23, describes sheep as one of the most high maintenance class of livestock on the planet. They are defenseless, dependent, helpless, and not very smart. They have a tendency to nibble themselves lost as they go after one green tuft of grass to another without paying much attention to where they need to be.
Sometimes sheep get stuck on their backs after they have lain down, and they cannot get back up. This position makes them easy pray for predators. Also, they can literally drown inside if they on their backs too long. It’s a deadly thing for a sheep to get stuck in this position. They need to be restored. Part of the shepherd’s job is to find that sheep and restore him back to the flock.
Jesus describes something like that in Luke 15 where He tells the story of a shepherd who had a hundred sheep. At the end of the day, as he brings the sheep back to the pen and counts them, he notices one is missing. So he leaves the ninety-nine behind and goes searching for this lost sheep. (Perhaps he even finds him stuck on his back.) The shepherd puts the sheep on his shoulders (in all likelihood because the blood had made his legs go numb so he couldn’t use them). He carried him home and rejoiced in restoring that sheep back to the flock.
Again and again you read accounts of shepherds who see it as a regular part of their daily routine to search out sheep that are lost and then bring them back to the flock. They have an amazing amount of patience. They don’t write off even one of their sheep, but go after them and restore them back to the flock, back to a healthy life, a promising life with the Shepherd.
Having been a shepherd himself, David testifies, “Like this shepherd who restores the sheep, the Lord is my Restorer. He restores my soul.” When you and I think of the word restore, we may think of being restored back to health. I also think of restoring things, such as antique cars or a neglected house. I have friends who are very good at restoring furniture. The furniture pieces may have been painted and scratched up, but my friends bring them home to get the paint off and sand them down. They restore the luster and bring life back into each piece. David tells us that’s how God works with my soul.
Some people wonder if humans even have souls. Jesus talked about the soul a lot. For instance, “What does it profit a person to gain the whole world and yet lose his soul?” That point is a serious one. Yes, we do have a soul Ð every one of us. It’s our inner person. There’s an external, visible part of us and an internal part of us. The soul is what makes me a whole person. It unites us and makes us who we are, so to speak.
David says, “He restores my soul.” The Bible tells us the soul can oftentimes find itself in a very unhealthy state and needing to be restored. In the Old Testament, especially the Psalms, we find the soul can get stuck and cast down. It can get sick, troubled, lost, bitter, thirsty, weary, sorrowful, pained, full of longing. David experienced all these things in his own life. Many of the Psalms that speak of these emotions are credited to him. However, he had a God who specialized in restoring his soul, and David is reveling in that fact in Psalm 23. He restores my soul.
Years before David wrote this Psalm, he had an affair with a married woman. She became pregnant, and in an effort to try to cover it up, he had the husband killed in the front line of battle. David thought all was fine after that, but the scandal was heard throughout heaven, and God came after David, His lost sheep. God confronted David through the Prophet Nathan and said, “I know what you did.” David was a broken man. He confessed his wrongdoing, which was the beginning of restoration. In Psalm 51 he wrote, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and restore to me the joy of your salvation.” He wanted restoration.
In Psalm 32, as he looks back on this incident, David said, “When I tried to hide my sin and cover it up, my soul became dried up and weak. I was absolutely weary. And then I confessed my sin and received God’s forgiveness” (vs. 3, 5 paraphrased). He became restored.
Or perhaps David was thinking about the many early years of his life that he spent in the wilderness running from King Saul, who wanted to kill him. Saul saw David as an enemy who was tryng to take his throne away. David had many close calls, and again and again he would become weary and discouraged, wondering if he was going to get out of the situation. But then God would minister to him. His soul would be restored and he would find the strength he needed to keep going.
David also went through a period of anguish and grief over his son Absalom, who had been killed in battle. When he received word that his boy had been killed, he cried aloud, “Absalom, Absalom. I lost you.” He was a broken man. But God restored his sorrowing soul, his inner person, and got him going again so he could go back to ruling his kingdom.
The same Shepherd who restored David’s soul, and continued to restore it throughout his days, is available to restore souls like yours and mine today. In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he looks back on his life and reflects, “So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day” (4:16). He is talking about his soul being restored by God. How does that happen in a person’s life today?
It first begins when an individual steps into a relationship with God’s Son Jesus Christ. God sent his Son, Jesus, into this world to die upon a cross for your sins and mine, for those things that make our soul sick and separate us from God. He did that so our souls might be restored, the relationship mended, and we could become new creations Ð restored souls. That’s where it begins, when we commit ourselves to Jesus Christ and into His care.
Then we continue with an ongoing relationship with our Good Shepherd, such as in confession when we hear the absolution for our sins and are pointed to the cross and reminded that sin has been forgiven through Christ.
In our church, we give people a weekly opportunity to confess their sins at the beginning of the worship service. We do that because we need it. All of us are sinners and need to come to that throne of grace and hear the healing words of forgiveness. We need to admit to God that we need His help, we are sinners, and the old Adam within us is still alive and needs to be drowned again and again in confession and forgiveness. Confession is a time of restoration.
In my life, I’ve learned the power of confession on a daily basis. Martin Luther talked about repentance as our daily baptism Ð drowning the old sinful person within and allowing the new, forgiven person to arise and be restored as we follow Jesus Christ. I recommend a daily confession in your prayer time.
I have also discovered the restoring power of solitude, sitting quietly with God, not doing anything but being with Him. Like Scripture says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” When was the last time you just were still and had some extended solitude alone with the Father who loves you?
God also comes to us in His holy Word. As we go to church on Sunday to hear His word preached, or tune into a radio program such as this one. When we open Scripture itself, we are revived by it. The Holy Spirit works through that Word and amazingly restores us with the promises of God and His direction for our lives.
I recently talked with a member of my congregation who has been battling some severe depression. While she was thankful for the therapies, what has really brought about healing has been her daily devotions. She said, “I have my devotional book with me. I’m using it, and it’s making a difference.”
God uses a variety of ways to restore souls. Our church is big on small group Bible studies. I recently heard a testimony from one of our members who said, “I once hated life, but I got into this group. And as we talked about our fears and God’s promises, it was a turnaround for me. He restored me and I find myself now saying ÔI love my life,’ which I’ve never been able to say before.” That’s the restoring touch of the Good Shepherd.
Only you and God can know what shape your soul is in these days. But if you’re feeling lost or cast down and stuck, if you are sorrowing within or weary, this God who was David’s Shepherd is available to you. I invite you to come to Him Ð entrust your soul to His care, for He specializes in restoring souls. Invite Him in.