He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. —Psalm 23:3-4
The LORD, our Shepherd, frees us from fear and gives us rest in green pastures. When sheep are afraid, they will not lie down since the only defense they have is to run from a predator. But those sheep that belong to the Lord feel secure and confident in Him—so completely sure that they can’t help but lie down and rest in green pastures. His very presence is safety. As the people of His pasture, we can rest in contentment because the Lord is powerful to protect His own. His presence has this peaceful effect on His sheep. In the quieting of our anxiety, in green pastures and beside still waters, He restores our souls.
Restoration is needed when the original beauty and function of something has been lost or broken, or has faded. There is a ‘new creation’ beauty in the soul of God’s people that gives Him much pleasure and joy. It is not primarily for us that He restores our souls, although the benefits to us are innumerable, but for His name’s sake and His glory.
What needs restoring in our soul? When one comes to faith in Jesus Christ, who is the Great Shepherd of the sheep (Hebrews 13:20-21), that person is made alive in Him and is made a ‘new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Our souls were dead in sin, but now have been made alive by grace through faith in Him. Even though we are God’s new creation, we are still in the flesh, living in a fallen world that can sometimes tempt us to succumb to old ways of coping; to be fearful or anxious, or seeking fallen comforts. Emotions can bring us low and attempt to rule our souls. The culture is hostile and weighs us down.
Opportunities can turn into over-commitments that threaten to pull us out of the ‘paths of righteousness.’ Sin crouches at the door and a cry to the Shepherd wells up in our hearts, “Create in me a clean heart; renew a right spirit within me; restore to me the joy of Your salvation” (Psalm 51). And the Lord hears our bleating cry! He restores our souls.
He restores our souls by nourishing us with His truth and filling us again with the living water of His Spirit. In His time, He will take the rod of His promises, His precepts and commands, and prod us to stand up and continue on in the paths of righteousness. It is not a mystery to us what the paths of righteousness demand. The Shepherd has gone before us on these paths—on up to the cross, where He became sin that we might be the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21). “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls” (1 Peter 2:24-25 NASB).
The Good Shepherd laid down His life for the sheep. And so, He leads us to submit in love to His imputed righteousness, follow Him and journey on for His name’s sake. Even when the path takes us into the valley of the shadow of death, He is with us and our fear is taken away. He has victoriously walked through that valley before us and sympathetically leads us. This is deep, soul-restoring comfort found only in the Lord who is our Shepherd.
I love my Shepherd, He shall keep My wandering soul among His sheep; He feeds His flock, He calls their names, And in His bosom bears the lambs.
Should death, and hell, and pow’rs unknown, Put all their forms of mischief on, I shall be safe; for Christ displays Salvation in more sovereign ways. Taken from “The Offices of Christ” by Isaac Watts
What causes unrest in your soul? What remedies can you find in Psalm 23?
Remember and think on the times the Lord has restored your soul and comforted you. What Scripture did He give you to keep you in His fold?
As we approach a new year, are there spiritual commitments for you to make that would help you follow the Lord’s leading in the paths of righteousness?