The Shepherd's Psalm —Part (iv)
The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name's sake.
Yea, 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.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Some years ago, I was hiking alone in England. The trail (or as the English say, the "footpath")—was isolated and very poorly marked. This is a rare situation in England, known to hikers as the land of well marked trails. At one point, as I later discovered, only a couple of miles from the end, I became disoriented. I was tired and lonely and hungry. There seemed to be no other humans for miles. What should I do now? I longed to meet another hiker, or a local resident; even a friendly dog would have been a relief. No one suddenly or miraculously appeared. No laughing border collie wagged its welcoming tail.
What would you have done in similar circumstances? Well, I found a comfortable rock, slipped off my rucksack and sat down. Then I ate the lunch I should have eaten about two hours earlier and drank a half of a liter of water. My energy returned. Using my map and compass, I figured out my location and with a spring in my step, walked to the bus stop in the little town that marked the end of my hike.
As we move on to verse three of Psalm 23 and meditate upon it, we see the wonderful promises it contains for life's journey. "He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake" (Psalm 23:3) The words are overflowing with comfort and encouragement for all the members of the Good Shepherd's flock. No believer is left out and it is applied on an individual basis. The lovely truths of this psalm are not mere generalities. We do not read: "He restores our souls" Such a statement would be welcome encouragement for God's people, but how grandly greater is the assurance "He restores my soul". He cares about me! He loves the world but, praise His name He loves me. Yes, my friend, if you are His you can personally claim this blessing of restoration, no matter how withered and drooping you feel.
Day by day we all move along, sometimes reluctantly on the journey of life. At times our happy feet march to the triumphant music of success. At other times we drag ourselves weary and worn, and perhaps even broken along the ruggedly steep paths of life—over rocks and ridges and along precipices dangerous and frightful. This lies in the nature of being human. Sometimes we have cheerful and supportive companions on this great trail of life. These may include a spouse, family, friends or fellow Christians. But at times we plod on not only tired but seemingly alone and perhaps unwanted. The way seems miserable, the going is rough and the shadows are lengthening.
When the traveling is wearisome and lonely, and our minds are stretched, elastic like, to their limits the awful ghosts of past sins and desires are inclined to haunt us. Regrets dart from the dark recesses of the mind and mingle with the cares of today and the fears of tomorrow. Like a delicate flower on a dry and windswept hillside we begin to wither, and the serene look gives place to frowns and wrinkles.
When our spiritual pilgrimage becomes unbearable, we need to take time out. We must take time to rest in God's presence. As the Bible enjoins us we must be "Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10)
If we take time to rest in His presence we can refresh our spirits as we enjoy the sustenance of God's word and drink deeply at the "wells of Salvation". Then using the compass of God's truth, we can set our course towards home in the eternal City, just as our great spiritual forefather Abraham did. "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God." (Hebrews 11:8-10).
If our own foolish misconduct, our own sin and rebellion is the root of our withered and miserable condition, restoration is, bless God, still available. "And who among us has not sinned over and over again in the years since first we trusted Christ? God calls us to confession and repentance and provides cleansing for the sinning hart. The gospel for the sinning saint is found in I John 1:6-9, "If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." And believing this we can humbly say amen to the words, "He restoreth my soul".
King David cried out to God in anguish of soul "Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways and sinners shall be converted to You." (Psalm 51:9-13).
God heard his heart rending wail "Hide thyself from my sins and blot out all my iniquities." God graciously restored David to fellowship with Himself and gave him back the joy of salvation.
David and every other repentant, sinning believer can claim with joy overflowing: "He restoreth my soul." Only the forgiven can appreciate the warmth of His tender love.
Perhaps one of my friends will confess in his or her own heart. "I have repented oh, so often; but I keep falling on the rocks of temptation and sliding on the slippery scree of evil desire. What can I do? I’ve tried to gain the mastery over a particular weakness and failed again and again. I think I am doomed—sin is in my very nature". Like David, you cry out "Behold I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." (Psalm 51:5)
There is good news in the verse before us for those who are in such a predicament. Look at Psalm 23:3, "He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake."
God’s children have yearned over the centuries for power to break the binding habits of sin. The Lord Jesus taught His own disciples to pray, "Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil." Does God answer this prayer? Yes, if we obey His command in Jeremiah 6:16, "Thus says the Lord: 'Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is. And walk in it: Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, 'We will not walk in it'."
We are to ask after the old way, and upon finding it we are to walk therein. Many professing Christians, like Jeremiah’s hearers, sadly refuse to walk in the old paths; they are doomed to keep on repeating the same old sins, and living the same old life of spiritual mediocrity. The path can be found where the Lord Jesus is. After the resurrection, two of His disciples made a journey to Emmaus. These two disciples don’t appear to have been any of the twelve apostles, and it seems probably that they were a married couple. In any case, they were sad and discouraged. Their hopes had been dashed—the one they thought would deliver their nation from the iron yoke of Roman bondage was dead and buried. There was something however, that they didn’t know about. Christ had risen from the dead in triumph over sin and the grave.
A marvelous thing happened as they trod the weary Emmaus Road that day. "So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them." (Luke 24:15) These two dear people didn’t recognize their beloved master until later but something should have tipped them off--the presence of the Man of Calvary made a great difference to their walk that day, "And they said to one another, 'Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?'." (Luke 24:32).
If we walk in His company and seek to know Him in the scriptures, our hearts too will burn within us. They will burn with love to Him and with a strong desire to obey His commandments. Then shall we understand in a spiritual sense the words of Isaiah 35:1, "The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them." And they shall walk in "the Way of Holiness" (Isaiah 35:8) and we will experience the promise of Psalm 23:3, "He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake".
Jack Scott loved his Lord! He passed away on January 10, 2001 after a lengthy illness.
He is missed greatly by his family.
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