I appreciate all of you who pray for and study with us. I have found writing to be very challenging. This form of communication is more difficult for me than preaching and teaching.
It has always been my desire to provide insight and inspiration to those who read along with us. As we return to the 23rd Psalm our prayer is you will be edified in the few minutes it takes to read this month's post.
"He restoreth my soul." (Psalm 23:3).
Before we get into the exposition of this verse, let me remind you that this statement is made by one who knows the Lord as His Shepherd. This statement is for believers. That means that restoration of the sheep presupposes that you belong to the Shepherd. If you do not know the Lord Jesus you don't need restoration, you need what theologians call "regeneration". Simply put you need to be born again; you need to accept Jesus as your Savior and Lord. You need the
Good Shepherd to become your shepherd. I just feel impressed to add this to our discussion.
Now on to the text itself.
This statement is the third of seven actions of the Good Shepherd that benefit his sheep. David writes "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul."
From the tranquility of green pastures and sufficiency of still waters, David focuses upon another vital action of shepherding: "Restoring His Sheep". Lets explore what David is really saying.
II) The Definition of the Soul.
Let me give you a simple definition of the soul. The soul of man is the immaterial and eternal essence each possess. Our soul is uniquely conveyed by personality. If Jane and Jan are identical twins in appearance, they present discernable and distinguishable differences through their personalities----their soul. They are identical and yet individual because of their soul!
The Soul then is that invisible part of you that is made up of the mind, the will and the emotions. We discussed this to some extent in the earlier blog of verse 1 "I shall not want." Your soul is a triad: the rational (mind); the volitional (will) and emotional. Genesis 2:7 says of man alone "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."
The Lord's breath of life made Adam and all who follow a living soul. It is that given by God that makes us who we really are.
III) The Condition of the Soul.
"He restoreth my soul."
David writes as a shepherd so we must look at this through the shepherd's experience. If you tend sheep, restoration is a constant activity of the shepherd. You might say, it is a constant task.
Sheep by their nature, wander away from the flock. Even more so, sheep are prone to be cast down. Unlike other animals, when they repose it is quite easy for their weight balance to shift and a sheep will find itself on its back. It cannot roll over and restablish itself. While a dog or cat rolls onto its back and quickly regains mobility, a sheep cannot. They will remain on their back and they are in essence stuck. Shepherds would call this a "cast sheep."
A lamb in this predicament must have help to regain mobility. It will lie there with all four legs pointing towards the heaven, totally helpless. If prolonged, shepherds tell us that the digestive system in this animal will in essence back up, causing immense problems. A cast sheep is in danger; if left alone it will ultimately die.
Thus, a good shepherd every morning would survey his flock and get them on their feet. If an ewe was cast down, he would go to it and gently roll it over and then straddle the animal. He then puts his arms underneath and centers them between the legs and lifts up the fallen one. As the animal is made to stand, the shepherd would not release his position until the blood flow strengthens the legs and the sheep is able to walk again.
There are many spiritual implications. Just as a sheep may become cast, so do our souls. Psalm 42:5 states "Why art thou cast down, O my soul." It is the imagery described above of the sheep. Psalm 43:5 repeats this question verbatim "Why art thou cast down, O my soul?"
It is a spiritual predicament every honest Christian can identify with. How do we get cast down?
Let me suggest three ways:
#1. Sin. Unconfessed and unforgiven sin in the life of a Christian will cause you to lose your spiritual equilibrium. Sin produces guilt and fear that are residues long after the sin has been committed. Just as a sheep gets upside down so to speak, so do we. Sin just does that to us.
#2. Self. Only one person can occupy the throne of a believer's heart; Self or the Savior. There are no other choices. When self rules the throne we can invariably expect to be cast in much the same way the sheep do.
A sheep was intended to stand on its four legs and graze. When the ewe is cast down it is on its back looking toward heaven which is quite unnatural. When a Christian is cast down he/she gazes downward. That is quite unsupernatural if you will allow me to state it that way. God intended for His children to stand and look upward to the heavens. That is the normal position of a believer. To be preoccupied with self causes our gaze to be out of whack! In essence the focal point of our lives is blurred.
As strange it may seem, shepherds tell us that the sheep's wool can cause it to be cast down. When left unsheared, the wool becomes a hindrance to the sheep's balance. While wool is naturally grown by the sheep and quite beneficial to man, good shepherds will not let the coat of wool become an obstacle to the well being of the animal.
Wool so reminds me of the self life. The self life is always present in the believer. It was not eliminated at your conversion but it must be kept in its proper place. It must constantly be sheared, just like the wool,in order to produce vibrant and mature Christians. Left unattended, the self life will produce all manner of obstacles to our Christian walk.
#3. Sorrow. As noted above, the psalmist twice asks the question, "Why are thou cast down, O my soul?" One experience of lost and saved alike is sorrow. It originates within the soul. There is both natural and unnatural sorrow for the Christian.
Sorrow is an issue of the soul. The emotions of grief, for instance are normal. Jesus teaches us in the Sermon on the Mount that "Blessed are they who mourn" (He's referring to our sins). We should mourn over our sins; we should mourn over the wickedness of our land. We mourn over the death of loved ones. We should lament over lost souls.
There are other emotions that distress the soul to the point of sorrow that are unhealthy. Constant worry, anxiety (that often leads to depression) and regret are just a few of the emotions that will cause our souls to be cast down. These prey upon our joy and skew our ability to comprehend and communicate with the Holy Spirit within.
#4. Suffering. Often a Christian who experiences suffering will become discouraged. A discouraged Christian can easily become a "cast down" Christian. Peter in his first epistle, Chapter 3 takes up this discussion. Each of us would be edified by studying what the fisherman had to say about suffering. Suffering is a cause that sometimes cast us down, make no mistake about it.
To be "cast down" demands attention; in particular the attention of the Good Shepherd: the sheep must be restored.
IV) The Restoration of the Soul.
"He restoreth my soul."
What a tremendous promise, what a precious truth these words are. Note David says it is the Lord who does this. Just as the shepherd must personally do this in his flock, so does the Lord for His own sheep. He restoreth my soul. Amen
What does that say to us? Well, let us look at what we said previously about the reasons our souls become cast down.
#1. Sin. You know the provision for your sin. It is the provision of cleansing. I John 1:9 "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." That could not be more explicit.
Ford Motors used to have a commercial slogan that said "Quality is Job One." Heaven says confession is Job One. And that begins with honesty over our sins.
When we confess He will restore. Is that simple enough?????I believe it is. Confession is received because of the Cleansing Blood of the Lord Jesus.
So cleaning for our sins begins the Restoration process.
The only remedy for the self life is Calvary: death to the self life . "I die daily" Paul wrote. Just as crucifixion was not intended to be an instanteous death, our old nature does not die by waving a magic wand. It is a constant and conscious act of dying to self.
We don't really know if sheep experience sorrow. Experts debate that subject in the various species of animals. However it seems right to believe that the cast sheep is sure glad to see the shepherd arrive and restore it to its proper place.
There is no debate about sorrow in the human soul. While many well meaning professionals treat soul sorrow with therapy and drugs there is a surer remedy for the "sheep of His pasture." Our good shepherd provides comfort to His own when we are cast down. Someone well said, "You don't know Jesus is all you need, until you reach the point that Jesus is all you have."
Scripture time and again points us to the fact that our Lord is the God of Comfort. He certainly restores our souls. Just try Him. Embrace His comfort. Note that David has already touched upon the truth of comfort: "Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me."
No shepherd worth his salt wants to see his sheep suffer. He will go to extra ordinary lengths to protect his sheep and restore those sheep on a daily basis.
While human suffering is inevitable, The Good Shepherd of our Soul went to Calvary and suffered there in ways no mere mortal will ever understand. In doing so, He drank the cup of suffering for every man. He can say I have been where you are. Suffering is experiential with Him and not something He has to guess about! James S. Stewart preaching on this subject of suffering once said; "Your sufferings are His Sufferings, your sorrows, His sorrows."
Thus, He can and does restore our souls when suffering comes our way. What a shepherd, what a savior is He.
Are you cast down in your soul? Cry out to Him. He is the Good Shepherd.
He is the Great Restorer of our Souls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!