Psalm 23, continued
* Pray. Ask God to give you an open heart and mind to learn new truths from His Word. Read Psalm 23 through three times. Record any thoughts or questions you have in your journal. If a verse stands out to you, write it on an index card and begin committing it to memory.
“He restores my soul.”
Psalm 23:3a, NKJV
Psalm 23 is written by a sheep expressing to others the kind of care his Shepherd provides him with. There is evidence of this fact in the very first statement of this Psalm, “The LORD is my Shepherd.” I find it hard to believe that a “goat” would make this calm and then continue on describing to others the benefits of belonging to the Shepherd’s fold of sheep. I believe it is also safe to say, because we know this is a Psalm penned by a sheep, it is possible and highly probable for that sheep who belongs to the Good Shepherd to fall away and become in need of restoration. If this is not the case, for what other reason would David have said, " He restores my soul"?
This Psalm is David’s proclamation of all the benefits of belonging to the fold of God. One of the great benefits in belonging to this flock is knowing that when that when one falls down, the Good Shepherd is there to restore us, to rescue us, to set us once again back on the path of righteousness.
In studying this verse I’ve come across some very interesting facts about sheep. Have you ever heard the term “cast sheep”? I had not either. Let me explain what it means. A cast sheep is a sheep who has laid down on the ground and while laying there, has, for many different reasons, rolled over onto it’s back with legs sticking straight up into the air, and is now unable to get up. This predicament can be fatal for the sheep. If the day is hot and sunny, a cast sheep will most likely only survive for a few hours. In cool, overcast weather, the chances of survival for the cast sheep do increase, but only by a few days. Putting the weather aside, if the wolves find the sheep in this cast down position, they are going to enjoy lamb chops for lunch. The life of the sheep once again relies solely on its shepherd.
Today we will answer the following questions:
~How does a sheep come to be known as a cast sheep?
~What does the shepherd do for the cast sheep in order to restore it back to the flock?
~What does all of this have to do with you and me?
Picture in your mind a beautiful day. The pastures are filled with lush green grass. Our sheep of the day, let’s call her Dolly, has enjoyed a nice meal and is ready for a little bit of R&R. In search of that “perfect” spot, Dolly wanders away from the rest of her flock. She finds a comfy, soft hole to rest her weary body in. She nestles safely down into her little cubby of a bed and enjoys her time of rest. That is, until she tries to get back up. Because she has chosen the comfiest of places to lie down and because her wool coat has become too heavy causing her to be “weighed” down, she is now unable to get up. In her pursuit to rise to her feet, she has rolled over onto her back and is now stuck, legs sticking straight up into the air; a sight, I might add, is most unbecoming for a lady.
There are a few problems here for our little Dolly: first, she has wandered away from the rest of her flock- no one is able to hear her cries for help; second, her time to get out of this mess is limited; third, she is in need of some serious grooming- her wool coat is way too heavy; and fourth, if the wolves find her this way, she will be their lunch. Thankfully Dolly has a good shepherd who is always looking out for his sheep and notices that she is missing. Her shepherd begins to search frantically for her and even though Dolly has wandered away from the flock, he hears her crying for help. From a long way off, Dolly’s shepherd sees her and begins running just as fast as he can because he knows that time is of the essence.
“Dolly!” her shepherd calls as he runs to her. Her heart melts at the sound of his voice. Relief floods over her. Her shepherd is coming. She is safe. “Oh, Dolly! What on earth, you silly little sheep. Let’s get you up, ole’ gal.” Dolly’s shepherd gently rolls her over so that he can help her stand to her feet. Standing over her, he places his left hand under her left side and his right hand under her right side. Carefully he lifts Dolly to her feet and begins rubbing her all over in order to get the blood circulating throughout her body again. After a few moments the shepherd stands back to see if Dolly is ready to stand on her own. Oops! Still a little wobbly, Dolly takes a few steps and down she goes. Her shepherd immediately goes to her and continues loving on Dolly. Over time, Dolly is able to stand on her own four legs again and runs to meet her flock. With joy in his heart, her shepherd stands; Dolly has been restored!
In Dolly’s pursuit of finding that perfect spot to rest in, she ended up in a pit of despair. She wanted comfort. She wanted seclusion. She wanted what she wanted. I’m sure Dolly knew what would happen to her if she wandered away from the flock and laid down in that hole. Quite possibly it had happened to her before. Would this time be different? No. The same pit led to the same result. Aren’t we just like Dolly? We keep going back to those same things, relationships, and places that only lead us to times of despair. We think to ourselves, “I can do it this time. I’ve got things under control.” But, we don’t. We don’t know what’s best. Those things, relationships, and people that LOOK good, yes, they may be good, but they may not be God’s best.
Not only did Dolly think she knew what would be best for her, she was also carrying around some major baggage. Her wool coat was too long. It was matted and full of sticks, ticks, and other nasty debris. Dolly needed a day at the ‘Shepherd’s Salon.’ Her friends couldn’t do it for her, because they, well, they had four legs and how were they going to hold the shearers? No, seriously, they had just as many issues as she did. They could probably pick a few sticks and ticks out of her coat, but the major work could only be done by the shepherd. I’ve learned that my friends don’t have all the answers and I don’t have all the answers. Yes, they provide Godly counsel and I pray that I offer to others Godly counsel, but to really deal with all our stuff, the Good Shepherd is the only One who can cut away that baggage. From personal experience, sometimes cutting away all the stuff we’ve clung to for so long, or that’s clung to us, can be hard, but in the end it is well worth the pain.
As Dolly lay there alone, wolves were honing in on her. She was a prime target for them; a free meal. There was no one around to come to her rescue, or so they thought. Friends, when we isolate ourselves from the rest of the flock, the enemy is standing by ready to chew us up and spit us out. Scripture specifically tells us to encourage one another, to serve one another, and to NOT forsake the assembling of ourselves. God has placed each of us in the body where He sees fit and it’s for the benefit of all members (Acts 2:46-47; 1 Corinthians 12; Hebrews 10:23-25). We need each other.
The most beautiful scene in this story is the restoration of Dolly by her shepherd. He came to her in her time of greatest need. He literally lifted her from the pit she was in. Dolly’s shepherd stood with her, loved on her, showed her grace and mercy, kindness and compassion. My Jesus did that for me. He lowered Himself, crawled down into the pit I had dug thinking I knew how to handle my life, and gently lifted me up. My Jesus cut away all the baggage I carried and clothed me with His garment of righteousness. He set my feet upon the rock and gave me a story to go tell.
Are you in a pit right now? Do you feel the enemy honing in? Are you alone and weary? Oh, sweet one, call out to the Good Shepherd? I can assure you, He is listening for your call. He is ready and willing to restore your soul. He loves you more than anything.