September 17, 2017
Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“But Elijah, himself, went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a lone broom or juniper tree and asked that he might die. He said, ‘It is enough: now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am no better than my fathers.’ As he lay asleep under the juniper tree, behold an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Arise and eat.’ He looked, and behold, there was a cake baked on the coals, and a bottle of water at his head. And he ate and drank and lay down again.”
1 Kings 19:4-6
“Dear child, God does not say today,
He knows your strength is spent;
He knows how long the road has been,
How weary you have grown,
For He who walked the earthly roads alone,
Each bogging lowland, and each rugged hill,
Can understand, and so He says,
‘Be still, and know that I am God.’
The hour is late, and you must rest awhile,
And you must wait until life’s empty
reservoirs fill up,
As slow rain fills an empty upturned cup.
Hold up your cup dear child, for God to fill.
He only asks today that you be still.”
Grace Noll Crowell
Today’s Study Text:
“He refreshes and restores my life, my self.”
Psalm 23 – Part 9
“My Soul Restorer”
“The Lord is our Shepherd…
He refreshes us when weary and encourages us when we are cast down.”
Dr. Robert C. McQuilkin
What does it mean to me to know that my heavenly Father will restore my soul?
“The house of my soul is too small for You to come to it. May it be enlarged by You. It is in ruins, restore it.”
Augustine of Hippo
A. “A down sheep is a dead sheep.”
Old Shepherding Maxim
B. “Why are thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted in me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.”
My grandparents didn’t have too many worldly possessions to pass on when they died, but somehow, I ended up with two of my grandma’s dining room chairs. I can’t begin to tell you how many people sat in those chairs through the years, needless to say there were many for my grandparents home was what we called, Grand Central Station. The front door was always unlocked and the welcome mat was always out, signaling to anyone, “This is your home, too.” This was just the way my grandparents generously chose to live their lives.
When I found these two chairs in the back of a storage shed, you can only imagine the condition they were in. Lamenting the fact that they were wobbly and scratched, I happened to tell a friend about my desire to fix these two “antiques.” To my delight, my friend recommended a man she said “restored” old furniture.
This was the first time I had dealt with someone who took something that was a total mess and quite frankly, turned it into a treasure. I learned, to some extent, what it was to have something “restored.”
It is very notable that David, when writing about a shepherd and his sheep, includes the phrase, “He restoreth my soul.”
As I pondered the definition of restore which means: “ to bring back into existence or use or to bring back to an original state,” it seemed apparent that this was one of those places where a shovel and hoe were necessary “Garden” implements, as we discover an interpretation which runs much deeper than surface repairs which turn old, used pieces of furniture into useful items.
I began my search by taking a look at the words David used in Hebrew to show the meaning and intent he had when he used two particular words, “restore” and “soul.” In Hebrew, to restore has many meanings but when we apply these definitions to Psalm 23: 3, we find it leads us to a place where we turn back, where something is recovered and taken back home and because the Hebrew word for soul, as used in this text, means “a breathing creature,” I can only imagine David looking at the sheep under his care and reminiscing about the times he had to “recover” one of his animals and bring it back home again.
This particular truth took on much deeper meaning as I uncovered more information about the actual care and keeping of sheep. Author Phillip Keller, experienced at returning sheep to the fold in his years working as a shepherd, explains “the significance of a ‘cast’ sheep or a ‘cast down’ sheep.” He
describes the events or process which can lead to a sheep getting into such a dangerous position that they could die. As he shares:
“The way it happens is this. A heavy, fat or long-fleeced sheep will lie down comfortably in some little hollow or depression in the ground. It may roll on its side slightly to stretch out or relax. Suddenly the center of gravity in the body shifts so that it turns on its back far enough that the feet no longer touch the ground. It may feel a sense of panic and start to paw frantically. Frequently this only makes things worse. It rolls over even further…as it lays there struggling, gases begin to build up in the rumen. As these expand they tend to retard and cut off blood circulation to the extremities of the legs. If the weather is very hot and sunny a ‘cast sheep’ can die in a few hours.”
What caught my attention, in learning about the dangerous situation a ‘cast sheep’ could easily find themselves in is the fact that when a sheep lies down in a special place, they are most likely completely unaware of the danger they could find themselves in. I thought how like my own life, for often I have little ability on my own to correctly assess the dangers which lurk around me, putting my life in jeopardy, especially when it comes to the ensnarements the evil one places in my path as he tries to trip me up and then watch me fall spiritually. This is why having God as my Shepherd makes my life and yours an experience where we know we are in the care of a faithful and trustworthy guide. Roy L. Heller draws a comparison between an earthly shepherd and our heavenly Shepherd which should provide us with great encouragement, “While shepherds may lead, pasture, and guide, only God can restore the vitality and life of those who are in this flock. This is no ordinary shepherd!” All I can say is, ‘PRAISE GOD.”
Our extra ordinary Shepherd is a specialist in searching for sheep who may have fallen or who find themselves in rough circumstances where they are floundering and can not do anything to help themselves. James H. Evans, Jr., in commenting on the phrase, “He restores my soul,” notes that it is the “care of the inner person” that is our Shepherd’s concern. The restoration of our inner being is the focus of our Father’s attention because when this process is active within our soul, will be “revived and enlivened.” How grateful we can be that our God, our great Shepherd, through His eternal love for each of us, takes our lives, which we soiled by sin, and restores them to radiate His purity. As author David Roper so correctly points out, “’ It is God’s will that (we) should be holy…’ (1 Thessalonians 4: 3), by which Paul assures us that God’s ultimate intent is to make us good. Every day He is leading us down the path toward righteousness. We’re inclined to think of God’s will solely in terms of where we will go and what we will do when we get there, and certainly God does have a plan for each moment of our lives. But God’s direction primarily has to do with holiness and His determination to change us beyond recognition – to make us as good as He is.”
When we stop to consider all that is encompassed in our lives by our loving Shepherd’s restorative care, in the words of Pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon, we will find that, “When our soul grows sorrowful, He revives it; when it is sinful, He sanctifies it; when it is weak, He strengthens it. Do we feel that our spirituality is at its lowest ebb? He who turns the ebb into the flood can soon restore our soul. Pray to Him, then, for the blessing – ‘Restore Thou me, Thou Shepherd of my soul!’”
“He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And He hath put a song in my mouth, even praise unto our God.”
“Sometimes my heart is weak, and falls down, but he lifts it up again and draws me into a good road.”
“Restore us again, O God: and cause Your face to shine on us, and we shall be saved!”
“The blessed Spirit of God is every brooding over human hearts to do His choice and beloved work of reparation and restoration. When the sheep is missing from the flock He goes after the truant until He finds it, and restores it to its place among the rest…when one child is away in a far country, His own joy is at an end until he is back. O gentle, tender-hearted, pit Savior, how eager Thou art pursuing these Thy weak unworthy children.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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