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