Text: Psa 23:3 – ‘He restores my soul.’
How pleasant, how delightful, is this psalm! And yet what does it have to do with our lives today? David, the shepherd-king, lived in a world of green pastures and still waters; we live in a pulsating world of silicon chips and space travel. David’s world seems a million miles from ours.
And yet – if ever there was a time when we needed to re-discover the glorious truths contained in this psalm, then that time is now.
For who will deny that many people today are experiencing an intense sense of personal need and emptiness? – This psalm teaches us that there is One who can meet that need and fill that emptiness.
Who will deny that many today have lost their way in life? – We learn here that the is a great Shepherd who can guard us and guide us through all the changing scenes of life.
And who will deny that many people are afraid: afraid of life and even more afraid of death? – Again, David reminds us that when God is with us, nothing need daunt our spirits.
I put it to you, then, that the 23rd Psalm is more than a lovely piece of religious poetry. It is also a timeless and a timely reminder of the adequacy of God for all who would follow in his ways.
In this phrase we find three exciting truths to thrill our hearts and encourage us:-
1. The truth about a personal relationship with God.
‘He’ – that is God – restores ‘my’ soul. This thought is repeated in the next verse, ‘for you are with me.’
David is sounding here a note which is sadly lacking in many lives today. It is true that many continue to believe in the existence of a god. But god for the majority of people is just a vague ‘someone, somewhere’ – a someone who has little interest or involvement in our own lives. But to be a Christian is to believe that is it possible – that it is imperative – to have a personal relationship with God. It is just as our Lord prayed, Jn 17:3 “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
Here is something both to challenge and to cheer us. It challenges us to consider our own lives as professing Christians. It reminds us that it is perfectly possible to live an outwardly respectable life; to attend a place of worship Sunday by Sunday; and even to hold a position of leadership within the Christian church; – and still to have missed this essential point: the truth about a personal relationship with God.
But it cheers us, too, to think that this is the God with whom we have to do. Not a God who, as it were, leans over the balcony of heaven and mocks us in our weakness and waywardness. No: here is a God who comes down to us, and dwells with us, as a loving father among his children, and as a caring shepherd among his sheep.
2. The truth about the present reality of God.
This verse is in the present tense.
God often reminds his people about the importance of their daily dependence on him. Do you remember how, when the Israelites were in the desert, God sent manna from heaven to feed them? But this heavenly food was only given one day at a time. If they tried to store it up, it became rotten and inedible. We, too, must learn to trust God today.
Some people are content to look back on past blessing. ‘Oh,’ says someone, ‘I gave my heart to the Lord 5…15…40 years ago.’ And that’s wonderful. But just remember this: that my testimony of conversion is only valid if I can show some evidence of God in my life today. So Paul, in Eph, urges them to live a life worthy of their calling.
Others are guilty of the opposite error: they are happy to leave any serious consideration of the claims of God on their lives until the future. ‘Tomorrow,’ they say, ‘next week, next year. When I’m older, when I have more time…’ But it’s madness to delay – we don’t know what tomorrow may bring. Surely it’s foolishness to gamble with something that doesn’t belong to us, and the future does not lie within our control. Therefore, the dominant note of God in the Bible is, ‘Today…Now.’
3. The truth about a perfect restoration by God.
What is David admitting when he says, ‘He restores my soul?’ He is confessing that there is in his soul a beauty which has become defaced, a gooodness that has become corrupted, a wholeness that has become decayed; – that there is in his life the pervasive and destructive principle of sin.
And it’s not just David, is it? ‘We all, like sheep have gone astray…’, Isa 53:6. And in Christ we find our perfect restoration. ‘There was no other good enough…’
And this restoration is perfect. For Christ does not forgive us, and then leave us. When he saves, it is ‘to the uttermost’ – completely, and for ever. He gives a new joy, strength, purpose, and desire that no-one else can give, and no-one else can take away.