The Twenty Third Psalm is a three part series. If you missed Part One – The Lord is My Shepherd you should read it before reading this.
As we continue reading Psalm 23 we see the shepherd at work. He is the leader, provider and protector of his flock. He knows every animal by name, and values each one more than his own life. These verses take us to the heart of pastoral care.
Walking ahead of his sheep and calling them to follow, the shepherd finds fresh pasture to graze and safe places to drink. The shepherd takes care of his sheep in every way.
Psalm 23 – A Psalm of David
He restores my soul. (vs. 3)
As a shepherd leads his sheep to still waters for rest and cleansing, so the Lord restores and refreshes my soul! It is the Good Shepherd then, who in restoring our souls binds up our wounds, heals our sicknesses, and gives us strength in place of weakness.
The Lord (Jehovah Rapha – The God who heals) restores my soul, He restores my heart and the dreams once shattered are now replaced. He makes those things important which once were thought to be unimportant. He heals, showing that He knows where I am, and that He delights in me!
It is in the restoration of my soul, that I sense the Father’s love. It’s like the gleam in my earthly father’s eyes which said he loved me. I think maybe my heavenly Father had a gleam in His eyes also, when He knit me together in my mother’s womb. And as I look in the mirror I find that the Father has put the gleam back in my eyes! He restores my soul.
Strength returns and the Lord heals and creates life in me again, giving me the fullness of His heart. A heart of faith, love, hope and repentance, which I had compromised because I had become faint of heart. Now it becomes, once again, a heart confiding in God.
It is in that barren land of my soul that I am exposed to the delight of God’s heart once more. It is here that I become a woman who can show up once again to the battle and offer courage to many others who have suffered loss of heart!
He guides me in the paths of righteousness. (vs 3)
Sheep are notorious for straying, getting lost and taking the wrong path and falling into harm’s way. The shepherd knows this about sheep so he gently guides them, keeps them from getting lost and brings them safely back home.
The Shepherd knows I can be a lot like those sheep. In restoring our souls, He makes us hunger and thirst for righteousness. Righteousness is following the divine and moral law of God. It means in spite of what the world says we still have to take a stand for the things of God.
So He instructs me by His word, and He gave me the Holy Spirit to enable me to walk the paths He leads me down. When I stray from the path God has put me on, the Holy Spirit taps me on my heart, turns me around and says, “This is the way, walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)
The Lord restores our emotions, He gives us joy in the morning. (Psalm 30:5) That doesn’t mean we will cry all night but the next morning everything will be ok. It means the “dark night of the soul” may last for a season, but we will know joy again. In restoring our emotions, the Shepherd does not promise to keep us from all sadness, but He does promise that His joy is always waiting for us on the other side of our seemingly endless suffering. He will turn our mourning into dancing and replace our sackcloth with new garments of joy.
The Good Shepherd brings restoration to our minds. He changes our way of thinking by reminding us to look at everything with His perspective in mind. When we do He makes us wise and discerning. We no longer think as the world thinks, we look at life from God’s point of view. Instead of being self-focused we become God-focused. Instead of thinking the Shepherd is out to harm us, we embrace His love and ask Him what He is up to. As He restores our mind, this new way of understanding redefines who we are and how we live. We begin to hear and understand and know the voice of the Shepherd.
I can walk confidently knowing that God is going to lead me down the right path, guiding me each step of the way, knowing He will bring me safely home.
I need to remember that.
For His name’s sake. (vs 3)
Why does the Lord desire us to be on the right paths? It is for His name’s sake. For His name’s sake simply means for the reputation of God.
You may think that God can take care of His own reputation and you would be right. However, how people view Him in light of our behavior may cause them to believe that God is not worthy to be recognized as Holy and surrender their lives and follow Him.
God’s name is the name above every name. He does these things so that all who see will know that He alone is God. He is not doing any of this for my name’s sake, but for His.
How do you protect God’s reputation? The way I walk is making Him known to all who are watching. I need to be mindful of the way I live life, not just on Sundays but 24/7. I need to live so that I bring honor and glory to Him in all that I do, in my marriage, in my parenting, in my job and in my ministry etc. My mantra should be “To know Him and make Him known!”
I need to remember that.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me. (vs 4)
Even when sheep go through a dangerous valley, the shepherd is beside them. At the end of the day, the shepherd leads the flock back to the fold and stands by the open door to examine each one as it enters.
As I read this verse I am reminded that it that flowed from the heart of King David during a dark, painful time in his life. King David was experiencing a very difficult time, a time of hardship, great danger and deep suffering. In a broken world, these will invade our lives too. At some point we will also make that long, slow, painful walk through the “valley of the shadow of death.”
You may be walking in the valley even now. As I write I just returned from the area in town where an F3 tornado destroyed 344 homes and damaged countless others. I can’t even begin to fathom the darkness that overshadows the lives of the victims. As I’ve prayed for those I know and those I don’t know, whose lives were changed in an instant Easter night, a thought illumined the darkness that blanketed my heart as I prayed. In order for there to be a shadow, there must also be a light. That light is Jesus, the Light of the world. Jesus walks through the valley with us, always by our side. We are not alone!
Jesus is the Light, but He is also the Great Shepherd, who walks with us and guides us. He will comfort us with His presence, even in the valley of the shadow of death!
If I find myself in a valley of deep darkness (or shadow of death), I don’t need to be afraid, the Lord is with me and will guide and protect me, so that I can rest. When I begin to feel that fear welling up inside me – I need to refocus – and know that the Lord is my Shepherd and I am His sheep.
The Lord is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life of whom I shall I be afraid? When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and my foes they stumbled and fell. (Psalm 27:1-2)
I need to remember that.
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me (vs 4)
A shepherd carried a “rod” to fend off wild animals (1 Sam 17:43; 2 Sam 23:21) and a “staff” to keep the sheep in control. These represent God’s constant watch care over His own and brings “comfort” because of His personal presence and involvement with His sheep.
God has authority over my enemies. Even if I stumble, lose faith, lose heart, lose my grip on God’s words and become weak and afraid, I am able to trust God for the victory! He will never leave or abandon me! (Hebrews 13:5)
I can find comfort in knowing that God is El Roi, the God who sees all, and that nothing escapes His notice! (Psalm 139:7-12)
I am one of His sheep and He will deal with anyone who messes with one of His sheep!
I need to remember that.
Something to think about
As I feed on the richness of God’s Word and I’m cleansed in the still waters, I am refreshed and restored! Life takes on a whole new perspective and I am able to look ahead with expectation once again. But that only happens as I get to know MY Great Shepherd! The way I get to know my God is through His Word, prayer and obeying what He says.
Our restoration is also not simply individual. The Shepherd is never the shepherd of just one sheep. He is the Shepherd of the flock. In restoring the individual lives of the sheep, He also restores the life of the flock. He makes it a flock of healthy and strong sheep, able to band together for the good of the flock.
None of this restoration is instantaneous. The healing of the sick and the wounded takes time. The strengthening of those who are weak takes time. The renewing of the mind takes time. The Good Shepherd uses the flock in the restoration of the individual. As the individual grows stronger, he in turn is used by the Shepherd in the restoring of others. May we remember our restoration is not only about us, but part of God’s bigger plan! The Good Shepherd restores our souls so that we may be used by Him in the restoring of the souls of others.