Psalm 23:3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his names sake.
As we run with the herd through the busy fileds of life, over each hill and through every valley, there have been endless times when we need to stop, catch our breath, renew our strength, and be refreshed. Finding and following the right path during those times is always challenging. And that is why this verse is so encouraging to those who are His sheep, because the Good Shepherd –
Restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness…”Psalm 23:3 ESV
When we are weary or downcast, our Shepherd restores us. He returns life’s vitality, energy and joy, He revives our passion, in all areas, and He renews our strength. We find our body, mind and soul fully restored and recharged. I have experienced this often, haven’t you?
Have you heard of a sheep being cast down? It is interesting about sheep and insightful as it applies to us people.
a cast sheep
A “cast” sheep is one who is on its back and cannot get up again by itself. On its back, feet in the air flailing, struggling to stand up but without success, often bleating, frightened and frustrated. The owner, the shepherd must find it within a short time or the sheep will die.
As it lies there struggling, gasses build up in their rumen. Because they are expanding, this cuts off the blood circulation to the extremeties, especially the legs. If the weather is hot, the sheep will die within a few hours. If it is cool, it may survive in that position for several days.
When the shepherd does find it, he will tenderly roll it on its side, relieving the pressure from the built up gases. Then he will lift the sheep, straddling it to hold it up, rubbing the limbs to restore circulation to the legs. Little by little it would regain its equilibrium, until it runs off again into the herd. The sheep has been restored. From downcast to restored. That’s the exclusive work of the shepherd.
How often have I been cast down? Unable to get myself out of the funk I’m in? Stuck. Unable to move forward. Left on my own, waiting for a, force greater than myself to act upon me. Something to get me going again.
It is the sheep whose Shepherd is the Lord, that will be found in time, in the hot sun and restored to vitality. It is the sheep, whose God is the Lord, who will be rescued from an upsidedown world, be revived, find strength and keep on going refreshed. It is because the Lord is my Shepherd, that my body, mind, and soul is restored.
I love that this verse doesn’t end with the sheep being restored and renewed. That is wonderful and absolutely needed. But when we are revived, restored and renewed, we need detailed direction next. We need to be led. We need to know what to do and where to go. Right?
So, of course the psalm next says –
He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His names sake.
We sheep, being creatures of habit, if left to ourselves will follow the same ole path and trails until they become ruts. We will graze the same ole hills ’til they become desert wastelands. The land will become “sheeped to death” with deteriorated trails that now look like muddy gullies. This is what happens if we sheep, are left to ourselves. We go our own way, the way we always have gone, the way of our own destructive habits.
Can you identify within yourself those destructive ruts your habits have entrapped you in? I can.
That is why “The greatest safeguard a shepherd has is to keep his sheep on the move,”according to Phillip Keller, a professional shepherd and scientist. He states in his book, “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23”:
- No other aspect of ranch operations requires more attention than moving sheep
- On average, new ground almost every week so that the sheep don’t overfeed the same ground too frequently or too long
- There must be a plan of action regarding the rotating of grazing
- Contrary to popular thought, sheep cannot “just get along anywhere”
- They require careful handling and detailed direction, more than other livestock
You see, we sheep need to keep moving, but moving in the right direction and on the right path, not rut. No wonder, the emeny of our souls convinces us to look for comfortable spots, soft, easy spots. But in those comfortable spots, we become wolly – fat, not healthy or productive. Undisciplined and lazy – spiritually, emotionally, and mentally.
a wolly sheep needing shearing
God knows what He is doing with me as He sets me on my feet with a restored soul and leads me in the right path. Not the wrong rut, comfortable path, but the right path – naturally, morally and legally. He guides me along a new normal path of justice and rightness.
The Shepherd is guiding and leading us in the right path, but the problem is, we don’t want to follow Him. It’s so much more comfortable in our dreary rut with our predictable habits. Moving us into unfamiliar fields to graze on new thoughts and principles is scary. Mixing our life up and rotating our ideas to become more like His is challenging, and difficult and SO new.
But as He leads us along the right paths, and as we choose to follow His ways, we are learning to honor Him. The name of our shepherd is being honored and His character is being seen in our lives. And other lost and worn out sheep can see that there is a Shepherd who cares, leads, restores and loves His sheep. They too can join His fold and find restoring and leading.
For God’s sake, won’t you let Him restore and lead you? Aren’t you glad that He does?
“A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23”, Phillip Keller; Zondervan Books 1970, 2007