Psalm 23 1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3 he restores my soul. He guides 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. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
The beloved 23rd Psalm is power-packed with life-giving words. The pictures of the ways the Shepherd takes care of the sheep are rich, meaningful, and life-giving. I am so thankful for each characteristic of the Shepherd, and today I want to focus specifically on verse 3 and on how God restores our soul.
What does that even mean? He restores my soul? It literally means, He causes my life to return. When God created Adam and Eve, He breathed into them the breath of God, and at that point, they became a living soul.
Sin mars our soul.
Sin stains the image of God in us.
Sin suffocates the breath of God.
Sin taints the way we view ourselves.
Sin muddies our purpose.
God, in His mercy sent Jesus to redeem our souls, to restore them
to their original condition as they were designed in the heart of God. Think of the restoration of our souls like the restoration of a computer. When a computer is restored to the factory settings, it is taken back to the intended manufacturer’s condition, the condition the developer created it to possess. When a virus takes over your computer system, sometimes it is necessary to wipe everything clean and take it back to that original state.
Something similar happens when God restores our souls. He resets them to that intended, original design where we are pure in heart, where we can be free to enjoy the presence of God, where we can understand our value and worth and where we can walk in and enjoy the purposes for which God created us. You know the frustration of trying to use a computer that isn’t working the way it is supposed to. For many of us, our whole lives are tied to our computers. You many have even said of your computer, “My whole life is on my lap top,” and when it isn’t working correctly, your whole life feels tangled and complicated quickly, doesn’t it?
You may deal with computer problems for a while because taking the time to get it fixed and reloading everything is difficult and time consuming. But at some point, if you are going to accomplish what you need to accomplish, because your life is tied to your computer and you need your life restored, you have to stop and go through the process of having your computer restored. Once you do, the tasks that depend on your computer working well are so much easier. There is fresh wind in your sails when you have access to the hard drive of your electronic life. That illustration pales in comparison to what God does for us when He takes us back to that original setting; when He restores our souls and gives us new life in Christ, but perhaps it gives you a picture to wrap your mind around as we talk about the restoration of the soul.
The busyness of life, the overwhelming nature of the things we face, the needs of people around us, the sickness, the struggle, the brokenness, the aloneness we feel, the endless decisions we have to make, the responsibilities we have, the work we must do, managing the relationships we have been given to steward, the things we have to figure out–all take life and energy from us. They can wear on us mentally, physically, and certainly spiritually. Maybe our mental status can be regained with an extended vacation or by building in better margin in our lives. Perhaps our physical bodies can be restored with rest, medication, and exercise. But our souls? They take a work of God. Satan’s goal is to mess with us in order to mess with our souls. He wants us weary of soul. He wants us wounded in our souls. He wants us discouraged about our relationship with God. In Matthew 10:28 Jesus told His disciples to be afraid of the One, Satan, who could destroy their souls. We must be aware that just as God is trying to nurture and build us up in our soul, the devil is looking for an entry point.
Remember that song, “You’ve lost the loving feeling?” It can happen to us spiritually can’t it? Our God-connection, our inner joy, our peace—these intangibles that are so life-giving, that take place in the core of our souls, have to be restored. And we can’t fix what is broken. It is the Lord who is our Shepherd. It is the Lord who restores our souls. Restoration of the soul stands outside of ourselves. When our souls get weary, we can easily forget just what it is for that we have been redeemed. We can lose sight of our value and worth. We can take our eyes off of the eternal and slip into discouragement and despair. We can forget that the Shepherd wants to walk with us, to oversee the rhythms of our lives, to guide the twists and turns in our paths, and to protect us when danger lurks. When our souls are disconnected or disjointed or disheartened, we need to remind ourselves that God, our Heavenly Father, our Gentle Shepherd, wants to restore our souls. It is more than a one-time restoration. It is more than a one-time factory resetting, but it is a regular, ongoing and necessary experience that we need with the Shepherd—for this restoring of our souls. In fact, I would submit to you that the restoration of our soul can become a daily experience for us as we center ourselves in Christ or receive an alignment from Him each day.
How does God restore us? After He restores us to that manufacturer’s original setting through salvation, I want to suggest some ways that God comes to us to restore our souls, to heal who we really are, and to take us repeatedly back to the place He intended when He created each one of us. Jesus repeatedly redirects our souls to the path of righteousness, to the place of peace, and to the place of victory in Jesus. How does He do that? How does God reconnect, reset and restore our souls?
1. He restores me with His Word.
Our souls have to be fed. Our souls house the real us, and who we are really are is more than skin and bones. It is more than personality and thoughts. There is another level beyond the intellect and emotion. The soul, the core of our being, needs nourished just like our physical and emotional and intellectual beings do.
Psalm 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
If you are wandering through life and are wondering why you are here or what difference your life makes, if you are seeking answers to those questions from anywhere outside of God’s Word, you are going to come up short. Quit googling, “What is my life’s purpose?” or “Why am I here?” You will be left confused. You will easily be discouraged. The Word of God alone has the answers you need. You see, it is in your soul where you gain identity and purpose. It is in your soul where you will be convicted to follow a certain path. It is through our knowledge of the Word of God that our souls are in a right connection with our true selves and with God’s plans. Wisdom and inner strength also comes to our souls through the Word of God.
If your relationship with the Lord has waned, if your spiritual self has gone to sleep or is disconnected from God, the quickest way to reconnect is to get into the Word of God.
Psalm 119:93, “I will never forget Your precepts, For by them You have revived me.” (NASV)
Restore your soul through the Word of God. I know it can sometimes be tough to read and understand. Let me encourage you to take whatever verses I preach on each week and read them again throughout the week. As you re-read them, you are depositing their truth and eternal value into your soul. If you re-read them the week I share them, you are using that skill of repetition to hide them in your heart. And even if you can’t remember what I preached on two weeks later, the power of rehearsing those Scriptures will have done its work in you to encourage you. You see the Word of God will stand up in you. It will LIVE in you and breathe into your life what God wants it to accomplish.
When you read the Word of God, I want you to ask yourself three questions:
What does this passage say?
What does it mean?
What does it mean to me?
Let me use the 23rd Psalm as an example. What does the 23rd Psalm say? It says that God is in a relationship with us like a Shepherd is in a relationship with the sheep. He leads the sheep to where they can eat and rest. He protects the sheep when they are in danger, and He will take care of the sheep when they get hurt. He guards the life of the sheep, and takes them safely home.
What does the 23rd Psalm mean? God is in a relationship with His people that is hands-on. He watches over our lives like a shepherd watches over sheep. He will look out for His people even in the midst of trouble, and He will comfort them in the midst of hurt and pain. The sheep just need to follow Him. He knows the way out of difficulty to a better place, to a Heavenly existence.
What does the 23rd Psalm mean to me? It means I am never alone. Every moment of every day, I have Someone to turn to, Someone to talk to, Someone to trust in. It means I have a Provider and a Protector. It means I don’t have to worry or be afraid. It means I don’t have to have all of the answers or know which way to go next. It means I only have to follow God because He will take care of me. It means I will not be destroyed by the trials of life. It means God is taking me through the hills and valleys to be with Him in Heaven forever.
There is nothing this world could offer me that could compare. No one else can promise me they will never leave me. No one else can be available for me 24/7. No one else has every answer to every problem. No one else knows the way out of trouble. No one else can get me from here to Heaven while comforting me in every situation that seeks to drain me of life. No one.
That connection, those conclusions, feed my soul. Do you see how beneficial the Word of God is? When you allow the Word of God to become more than words on a page, but when you allow the Word of God to become a conversation between you and the eternal, loving, redeeming God of the Universe, your soul, the part of you that was made for Him, the part of you that was made to respond to Him, the part of you that can connect with Him, comes alive and you are satisfied and full of the kind of life that matters most. Let the Word of God restore your soul today.
He restores me through confession and forgiveness of sin.
You are always one prayer away from a do-over. You are always one prayer away from a fresh start. When sin creeps into our lives, it will suffocate the work God has done and is doing in our souls. It will weigh our souls down. It will burden us down. It will slow us down spiritually. Spiritual things will become fuzzy, clouded, and lose their clarity and impact. The voice of the Shepherd will be heard less and less when we let sin accumulate and then dominate our souls.
Confession and forgiveness, however, are the mechanisms through which God breathes new life into our souls. The writer of the 23rd Psalm, King David, knew how crushing and crippling sin was to his soul. David described the feelings of unforgiven sin like the crushing of his bones. David got in way over his head. His soul was submerged in sin. He had an affair with a married woman, got her pregnant, and then had her husband killed to cover up what he had done. Sinning is one phase of the crippling of our souls, but when we follow with a plan to cover it up, our souls go from crippled to crushed. David said in Psalm 32:4 that his strength was sapped as in the heat of summer because of his sin. He couldn’t move. He lost his joy. He lost his ambition. He lost his effectiveness. His soul suffered. Sin causes a sickness or suffering of the soul.
David wasn’t convinced he could keep going. It was only when he confessed his sin to God that his soul started to live again. Just as we need a daily dose of God’s Word to enable us to be bolstered in our souls and have our spiritual selves awakened to the purposes of God, so too, we need to regularly examine ourselves before God and confess our sin to Him. You cannot just take my word for it when I tell you that God loves you, that His plan for you is awesome, that He can empower you to live with joy and have an abundant life, that He is waiting on you to make a move toward Him that will release His power in you, enabling you to live your best possible life. You have to experience it by confessing your sin and asking for forgiveness. Your willingness to confess your sin releases God’s power to forgive.
And when He does, it is like spiritual CPR takes place, and your spiritual heart will start to beat again. When He does it is like smelling salts that revive someone who has fainted. Remember in Luke 15, the story of the Prodigal Son. He had messed up. He had been rude, disrespectful and arrogant. He went off to live on his own and wasn’t going to have anyone telling him how to spend his time or his money. He forfeited his place as a son in his father’s house. He lived the way he wanted to, and it took a toll. It took a toll on his physical body, on his emotional well-being, and on his soul. He no longer saw himself as a son to his father. He no longer saw himself as worthy of love. He no longer saw himself as a person of value. And the only future he saw was that of a slave. Do you see how sin robs us of who we were meant to be?
He not only realized what had happened to him, what he had done to himself, but he came home and confessed what he had done. His confession was met with mercy and grace. He got what he never deserved. He was restored. He was restored to a place of honor as his dad called for the best robe in the house to be put on him. His dignity was restored as a ring was placed on his finger. His comfort was restored as shoes were placed on his feet. His provision was restored as a fattened calf was killed to feed and nourish him. But the most important thing is that he was restored to the father. The connection he needed, the guidance he needed, the love he needed, the friendship he needed, the protection he needed, all was found inside a relationship with his father. That was what made it well with his soul.
I John 1:9 tells us that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. And when we do, we will be spiritually resuscitated in our souls.
He restores me through His abiding presence.
David was keenly aware of the presence of God. Just as a shepherd speaks to the sheep, God would speak to David. There would be instruction to lay down and rest or an invitation to stop and eat or get refreshed with something to drink. The very practical rod and staff of the shepherd were there to nudge the sheep on or to pull him closer back to the right path. There were actions the shepherd took that comforted the sheep. There was oil to soothe the sheep’s hurts. The shepherd and the sheep were in daily contact. All of these are reminders of the abiding presence of God our Father.
And then David said, “My cup overflows.” Jesus says in John 10:10 that He came to give us abundant life or life to the full. He talked to His followers about the Holy Spirit as being like “streams of living water” that would keep us from ever thirsting again, from ever wanting to satisfy the desires of our soul with anything but Him. What David says is that the presence of God in his life supplies him with more than enough of everything his soul needs. He has contentment. He doesn’t have to try to fill his cup. He doesn’t have to try to manufacture joy. He doesn’t have to try to find peace. He doesn’t have to go looking for contentment or fulfillment or satisfaction. His life is filled to overflowing just because of the relationship he has with the Shepherd. Have you had that kind of experience with God where you don’t long for anything else because having Him is more than enough?
I also think about this overflowing cup as the many blessings that God continues to pour into our lives as we walk with Him. His grace and mercy will never run out. His love has no limit. Besides that, He just does things that remind us of what a kind and generous Father He is. When we are blessed with healing or strength in our physical bodies, when something unexpected happens that results in a financial blessing or when someone just shows up at the right time with a word of encouragement or desire to help us in a special way, we have to know that is God at work to remind us that He is walking beside us.
The way God meets us here in this House of Worship, is good for our souls. His manifest presence gives us perspective. We can come in here stressed out, freaked out and fed up and leave here with a glad heart. Time with Jesus is time well spent. David took time to acknowledge the presence of God. It wasn’t casual for David. He didn’t just punch some kind of spiritual time-clock and say, “OK, that box is checked. I’ve done my worship duty and said my prayers.” No. Engaging with God’s presence was life-giving and life-changing for him on a soul level. Look at this verse, penned by the same David who wrote the 23rd Psalm: You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16:11
Kind of flowery language for a man’s man, right? Kind of emotional stuff from a war-hero and King of Israel. But this was the experience David had with the presence of God. Engaging with God’s presence made him sing, dance, shout, and weep, and he basically said, “Being with You, God, is the highest high I could know.” David was the King. He could have engaged in any earthly experience available. He could have sought any earthly pleasure he desired. He did when he sinned with Bathsheba and that was it. He saw the futility of living life on his own, apart from God’s abiding presence, and he acknowledged here in Psalm 16:11 that the greatest joy that could be known was found in God’s presence.
It was requested of me that I go to the hospital on Friday to see a lady who had come only once to this church. Nearing the end of her life, she was deeply troubled in her soul. She was afraid to die. After talking for a while and after answering a few questions she had about heaven, she said she was ready to pray to accept Christ as her Savior. She was transformed in an instant as heaven came down and glory filled her soul. She said she felt God’s presence and she was now at peace. It was truly supernatural.
I think if I were going to go into the billboard advertising business, I would make a sign that just says:
What are you waiting for?
God wants to restore your soul today. Perhaps He needs to take it back to the factory setting, to its original design before sin entered the picture. Perhaps He needs to take it back to a certain date in your history when you were truly walking with him. You remember how you felt at church camp when you were all fired up about your relationship with God? Maybe it was your baptism when your love for God was at its peak. Maybe you’ve lost that loving feeling. Perhaps you need to get inside of His Word and allow it to revive your soul. Perhaps you need to release Him to restore your soul by confessing your sin. Maybe you need to quit running from His presence and allow Him to fill your life to overflowing today. What are you waiting for?