He Restores My Soul

When the sheep is downcast, the shepherd comes to restore and put the sheep back on its feet.

Psalm 23:3 – He restores my soul…

This article is inspired by chapter 5 of the book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Phillip Keller.

According to Albert Barnes in his commentary, this phrase “He restores my soul” means literally “He causes my life to return.” This leaves us with a question, why would a sheep in the excellent care of the loving Shepherd need restoring?

We know that even under the best shepherd’s care, a sheep can get himself into danger. Sheep wander. Sheep end up on their backs and find themselves in a bad way because they can’t get back up. Keller, as a shepherd in the field, saw many sheep who were “cast” or “cast down.” He points out that this term for a “cast” sheep is an old English term for a sheep that is on its back and cannot get up on its feet. The sheep is in danger and will die if the shepherd does not find the sheep and help set it back on its feet. He sometimes knew a sheep was downcast by looking in the air above the pasture and seeing buzzards circling. The other animals knew the sheep was in trouble and close to death.

David himself was “cast down” at times and in need of restoration. Sometimes it was because of the oppression of the enemies around him. Other times it was other adversities in life. Even more than that, David found himself downcast and on his back because of his own sins before God. David, as God’s sheep, needed the Lord as His shepherd to help set him back on his feet and work with him until he could stand and walk again.

Keller observes three reasons why his sheep would get downcast (on their backs and unable to get back up).

  • Seeking a soft spot – His sheep would find a nice soft spot in the ground where there is a depression in the ground. Eventually the sheep would be laying such that she couldn’t get her feet to contact the ground.
  • Too much wool – Sometimes it was just too much wool, and all that heavy and soft coating disabled the sheep from rolling back on its feet.
  • Too fat – The sheep was at times just too heavy and it couldn’t move or adjust itself like it should.

If you think about the parallels to ourselves spiritually, you can see why sometimes we are cast down and in need of restoration. Maybe we got too comfortable in life, and we lost sight of the important things. It might be that we just want to seek the soft spots of life and avoid anything that might cause us discomfort. We fail to grow, and we end up on our backs spiritually flailing and in desperate need of the Shepherd’s restoration. Other times, we just got too fat on the blessings of life, and we can’t move too well spiritually.

This is not to say, and please hear me, that anytime we are suffering that we have lost sight of what’s important. That wasn’t true for Job, for Jesus, or for many other people that follow God. Sometimes the most faithful suffer the most. Elijah was downcast and despondent because of how bad it was in Israel at the time, and God lovingly set him back on his feet (1 Kings 19). God restored the depressed Elijah’s soul.

For others followers of God the problem is complacency. We need some loving training from the Lord as our Shepherd. We might have to lose weight spiritually (Hebrews 12:1-2). Jesus offers us His clothing and not the cumbersome fleeces of material prosperity (Revelation 3:14-22, see below). It might be that the Lord has to take us through some difficult training to set us back on our feet again (Hebrews 12:5-11).

But its worth it, isn’t it? What’s the alternative? If you as a sheep stay on your back flailing, you will die. The wolves will find you, and the vultures will clean up what’s left. You don’t want that for yourself, and certainly your Loving Shepherd doesn’t want that for you.

Thank Jesus that He seeks us out when we are downcast and works to set us back on our feet. He restores our soul. God brings us back to life again!

Remember When?

Today, I would like for us to consider two passages of Scripture where God calls us to our former days. Remember When? This is a great exercise for a church, for individuals and for married couples. It’s time to revisit how we used to be, what we used to feel like, and what our perspective was back then.

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.
(Hebrews 10:32-36)

These Christians were about to give up and go back to Judaism in order to avoid the persecutions they were facing. They were just done, and they were tired and discouraged. Sadly, some just wanted to quit. This is a very real situation for many Christians, many churches and many marriages. What does the Hebrew writer ask them to do? Remember what it was like when you first became a Christian? Do you recall what you felt like? How did you feel about living for Jesus, even when you were being persecuted for it? What happened to that fire and that enthusiasm? It’s time to go back to the beginning like you were on the honeymoon with Jesus.

Here’s another passage in which Jesus is speaking to the church of Ephesus. They were “doing” everything right, but they were about to lose their fellowship with Jesus. Why? The love they had at first was gone. As one writer said, “They were gun barrel straight on doctrine but without any gun powder in the bullets.” What does Jesus say is the remedy? Go back to the beginning. Get back to your roots. Remember what it was like when you first became a Christian?

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’
(Revelation 2:1-7)

I think those of us who are older should spend more time just listening and observing those who are younger. Instead of constantly being in teacher mode, maybe we as the teachers need to be the students. Those young Christians have a lot of zeal and idealism, and we would do well by remembering what it was like when we were that on fire for Jesus. Instead of accusing them of being young, arrogant and idealistic, maybe we could get stirred up again by working with them.

It might be that we observe a young married couple that is just gushing with love for one another. We can gag at that and make fun of it, or we can say to ourselves, “Remember when?” Maybe our romance, and idealism, and fire is gone and we need to do some rekindling. Instead of making fun of that young couple by telling them the “reality” of what’s coming, maybe we can rejoice with them and help bring our fire back once again.

The Written Word Comes from THE Word

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
(Hebrews 4:12-13)

Last night in our Bible class, we were discussing the power and living nature of the Scriptures. The reason this book is like no other is because it flows from the mind, soul and being of an all-powerful God. The word of God, the Scripture, is the very breath of the Word of God, Jesus Christ.

Jesus is living, so His words are living. He is active in the world, so His words are also active. Jesus is powerful, so His words are powerful. The words Jesus said were often sharp, so naturally the written word that came from His mouth would also be sharp. Jesus read the hearts of men, nothing was hidden from Him, and the same goes for the words from His mouth, they read our hearts. His word is just like Him in that it shines the light and exposes the darkness.

There is no other document like the Bible ever written in human history because there is no other person like Jesus. He authored every word.

May we today stand in awe of the Scriptures, as we stand in awe of the Savior and Lord who gave it to us.

What Will Be On My Lips Today?

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
(Hebrews 13:15)

We are a holy priesthood. As Christians, we are serving God in His temple offering up sacrifices. The old temple is gone, and with it went the Levitical priesthood. Jesus is our high priest, and every Christian serves as a priest.

Our sacrifices are not like those of the Old Testament order. There is no altar in front of the church building where we bring lambs, bulls and goats. We are not to be pouring out oil and wine as a drink offering.

We are the offering. We are the sacrifice…Daily. Our character, our thinking, our choices, our words, our generosity, and our relationships are all part of our spiritual service to God (Romans 12:1-2). That is true religion, according to James (James 1:26-27).

Specifically today, let us consider that the sacrifice we are to be offering to God is praise from our lips. It is readily apparent that everyone’s favorite topic is themselves, and the Internet/Social Media doesn’t help that much. For us to have the praise of God on our lips is truly a sacrifice because we are giving Him the attention and glory rather than ourselves.

The apostle Peter also spoke of you and me as priests offering up spiritual sacrifices to God. Notice the connection to our words.

you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
(1 Peter 2:5)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
(1 Peter 2:9-10)

So, what will be on my lips today? Gossip? Complaining? Dirty Speech? Rough joking? Remember that the lips reveal what is in the heart. If our wells are dirty, so will the water be at the faucet. What’s down in the well comes up in the bucket.

Don’t we all need to fill our wells with more of the praise of God? Shouldn’t we all devote more time to meditating on the wonderful character of God, so that praise is a natural result of what has been going on in our hearts?

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to recite my statutes or take my covenant on your lips? For you hate discipline, and you cast my words behind you. If you see a thief, you are pleased with him, and you keep company with adulterers. “You give your mouth free rein for evil, and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother’s son. These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you. “Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver! The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”
(Psalms 50:14-23)

The Power of An Indestructible Life

who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life.
(Hebrews 7:16)

We are studying Hebrews in our congregation, and we are currently looking at how Jesus’ priesthood is compared to that of Melchizedek’s. Lots to study and discuss, but today I just want to focus on the fact that Jesus’ priesthood is eternal. He has the power of an indestructible life.

He came to save us from the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15), that through him we might live eternally after we die. But He also came, died, and rose from the dead so that we can live with full hope and confidence in this life (Hebrews 6:11). Jesus is indestructible, and the cord of our soul is securely tied to Him. He is a sure and steadfast anchor to our soul, because He is indestructible (Hebrews 6:19). Jesus isn’t going anywhere.

With all the change and decay around us and within us, we can lift up our spirits and be assured each moment that Jesus has the power of an endless life, and He promised to be with us always. If we are walking with Him and abiding in His word, then that indestructible life dwells within us and works in us.

but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.
(Hebrews 7:24)

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
(Hebrews 13:8)

And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”
(Hebrews 1:10-12)

 

He can deal gently

He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.
(Hebrews 5:2)

Since he himself is beset with weakness. I looked up the word that is translated “beset” here in Heb. 5:2. The mental picture I get from this word is something that surrounds us, hangs about us and binds us. That is a very accurate picture of sin, isn’t it?

Why could the priest “deal gently” with those who are weak and wayward? Because he understands at a very personal level the weight and power of sin that can overwhelm us. The result of his sinful struggles was not hardness and judgmental-ism, but rather compassion and mercy. He knows the struggle.

It is the same for us today as Christians. We are all priests of God in His royal priesthood (1 Peter 2). We all know the weight of sin and how it can hang about our necks, surround us, and bind us. What is (should be) the resulting attitude in our hearts toward others? Compassion. Dealing gently. Why? Because we understand. We get it.

…to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us..
(Titus 3:2-7)

Jesus Our Brother

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,
(Hebrews 2:10-11)

For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
(Hebrews 2:18)

It was “fitting” for Jesus to be made flesh, live like us, and to be made “perfect through suffering.” This makes Him our brother. More than that, it says Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers. He being the Son of God and we being the children of God all have one Father (“source”).

When you are tempted, and when you are suffering, you have a brother who understands. I know that I have a physical brother, Mark, who is also a brother in Christ. When I am struggling or down, I know he will listen, understand, pray for me and give me wise counsel. That is such a comfort. But even more than that, Jesus is my brother. He understands, and He listens, and He brings comfort. Jesus went through all that we have gone through, and He knows our situation completely. When we come to the throne we find mercy and grace because He is our brother.

I often think of Jesus as Lord, God, Savior, and Christ, but not as much as my brother and my friend. Maybe you think the same way, I don’t know, but take time to meditate upon Jesus being your brother and what that means for you.

Trust – Not Knowing

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
(Heb 11:8)

Trust. In order to trust another, it by definition means you don’t have all the answers and information. You don’t possess all the details and you are going on the word of someone else.

Abraham was told to take his family and his corporation and go. Go where? Go where God told him to go! That’s not a lot of information to go on, is it? But it was all the information Abraham needed.

Sometimes we really geek out on the details and have to know all the information. God doesn’t work that way with us. He wants us to trust in Him and His promises without having all the facts. You will not be able to know how everything is going to turn out in specificity. The Lord isn’t going to send us a spreadsheet with charts.

I’ll leave you with a short passage from Exodus that tells of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. They didn’t have all the information and details. Their job was to be silent and go forward. Trust God and let Him take care of the rest.

And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” The LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward.
(Exodus 14:13-15)

See to it

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;
(Hebrews 12:15)

See to it. There are things that require our attention. The toilet is leaking at the base, I need to “see to it” and fix the problem. You realized someone stole your debit card information and is spending your money, and you “see to it.” You instantly know the seriousness and urgency.

The Hebrew writer tells us to “see to it” that no one fails to obtain the grace of God. Christians can and do fall away. Our hearts can be hardened, calloused over by the sin in which we are living. We can lose our confidence and joy and consider throwing in the towel. That’s why all Christians need to be on the lookout for each other, because those very things are going on in the brethren around you. Whether it is happening to you right now or not doesn’t matter, it is happening to someone around you. See to it.

Reach out to them today with encouragement. Say a prayer with them over the phone. Remind them with verses from God’s word about the presence and grace of God. Take them out for coffee. Sit with them. Listen. Be compassionate. Realize that they are at war and Satan is having a heyday with them. See to it that you be God’s instrument to bring a little comfort, relief and hope to their hurting hearts.

We do have incredible power and influence when we walk along with God to encourage our brethren. It makes a huge difference, don’t believe otherwise.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,
(Hebrews 10:24)

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.
(Hebrews 3:12-14)

God will equip you

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
(Hebrews 13:20-21)

God wants you and me to do his will and to work what is pleasing in His sight. But we don’t know how to do that and we are not equipped to do that. This is no surprise to God. That’s why we see here in Hebrews 13 that the God who raised Jesus the Great Shepherd will also “equip” us with “everything good” so that we can do the things that please Him.

I love this so much. God did not leave us alone out there in the dark with a bunch of expectations and no help on how to accomplish them. He is working on you and me everyday to give us the spiritual tools and talents to work in His kingdom. Many other passages say the same thing, God is working in us and He doesn’t give up on a project (Philippians 1:6,11; 2:13; 2 Cor. 9:8; Ephesians 2:10).

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
(Philippians 2:12-13)