Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Psalm 23:3 – Restoration & Guidance

He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” (Psalm 23:3)

Have you ever heard of a cast sheep? Before I read Mr. Keller’s book, I had never heard of that term before. Basically, it’s a sheep that has turned over on its back and cannot stand back up without help. The sheep will die if left that way for even a short amount of time, either from gas building up in its abdomen or as easy prey to a predator. All that is typically needed to save that sheep’s life, though, is for the shepherd to go over and help it back up.

What a simple but appropriate image of God’s restorative work in our lives! How many times have you found yourself down on the ground, unable to stand under your own power and calling out in desperation for your Shepherd to help you back up? I know I’ve found myself there more times than I would care to admit. Yet, the simple and enduring promise is there: “He restores my soul.” When I am tired or beaten down by sin or simply life in this world, when I am discouraged or lost as to which way to go, my Shepherd is right there waiting for me to turn to Him – to trust in Him – so that He might restore my soul and lead me in the ways of righteousness.

     He restores my soul from the stain of sin. – Isaiah 1:18; Acts 22:16

     He restores my soul from the weariness of this life. – Matthew 11:28-30

     He restores my soul with a hope of eternal life with Him. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:8

It’s important to remember, though, that He restores my soul with the intent that I follow His lead in the paths of righteousness. If there are paths of righteousness, there are also paths of unrighteousness (Matthew 7:13-14). Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Jeremiah 10:23 adds, “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.” It’s quite clear from these passages that I am not able to determine on my own which paths are ones of righteousness and which are ones of unrighteousness. Yet, this is exactly what we try to do so often, isn’t it? This is how we get into trouble in the first place! 

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6)

We tried to choose our own paths and found ourselves hopelessly mired in the pits of sin. We were that cast sheep, crying out for help. And Jesus suffered and died so that He could offer us the restoration we so desperately needed. And He continues to offer restoration to those who fall but cry out for His help. So why then would we not gladly follow His lead in the paths of righteousness? We have His word (Romans 1:16-17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17) and His example (1 Peter 2:21-24) to follow. Let us be diligent to follow faithfully!

Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:24-25)

Thanks for stopping by!

~Erin~

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Psalm 23:2 – Green Pastures & Still Waters

He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.” (Psalm 23:2)

As was said in the last post, the rest of Psalm 23 expands on the basic truth stated in verse 1, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” For all those sheep who submit themselves to the loving care of the Good Shepherd, the blessings are bountiful and beyond compare. Here in verse 2, the focus is on the abundance and the superior quality of the sustenance that the Lord provides to His sheep. How great a blessing is it that our Lord does not just make provision but that He provides the very best!

In his book, Mr. Keller points out that the best areas for sheep are typically dry and semi-arid and that green pastures would require a lot of diligence to build up and maintain. Likewise, it would take some effort to either find or create such a good watering hole for the sheep. This is especially important since sheep, without guidance to a good water source, would simply find their own, quenching their thirst at polluted and parasite-infested watering holes and often ending up sick.

How familiar does that sound! How many times do we search out our own means of quenching our thirst for love, meaning, and happiness and find only misery as a result? This is a pattern long known to man: “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns – broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13). The bulk of the book of Ecclesiastes focuses on this very thing. Yet, after pursuing desire upon desire and finding emptiness in every single one, the writer’s conclusion is this: “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

This is why those who hunger and thirst after righteousness are blessed (Matthew 5:6). They go to Jesus as the source of the living water (John 4) and the bread of life (John 6) and in Him find such fulfillment that could never be found in any other source. Jesus has done the work needed to provide His sheep those green pastures and still waters. He laid down His life so that all who are found in Him “may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). He makes provision for our every need, whether physical (Matthew 6:25-34) or spiritual (2 Peter 1:2-4).

But to enjoy His care I must accept His leadership. Going back to Psalm 23:1, I must submit myself as a trusting sheep in His fold. And so I must ask myself: Am I insistent on going my own way, or do I appreciate the leadership of my Shepherd and follow Him to the great blessings He provides? Do I turn to His word to fill my heart up with His rich spiritual sustenance and to find in Him a place of peaceful rest?

Mr. Keller points out that for sheep to choose to lie down means that they feel no fear, tension, aggravation, or hunger. They are content and at peace. What allows them to be this way? The presence of the shepherd in whom they trust. This reminds me of Peter who, although imprisoned and facing certain death at the hands of Herod and the Jews, was able to sleep (Acts 12:1-6). Whether he would awake to rescue (as he actually did, Acts 12:7-11) or death, he was at peace in the presence of his Shepherd. We too can have this peace “which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:6-7) as sheep in the Good Shepherd’s flock. Praise be to God for His mercy and love!

Thanks for stopping by!

~Erin~

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.