He restores my soul . . . (Psalm 23:3)
The good shepherd puts upright those sheep that fall and cannot get back on their feet. One shepherd says that sheep will also stray into private gardens and vineyards. If an owner of such places finds a sheep on his land, the sheep becomes his property. Therefore, “He restores my soul” also points to the way God brings His sheep back when we stray into dangerous territory.
I’ve two kinds of straying. One is when I deliberately wander into something I should not. Foolish me. The other is more like being grabbed and pulled where I do not want to go. For the latter, I cry for help and God is right there to pull me out of danger.
The other is more complicated. God gives me a new nature and the mind of Christ. I am supposed to live by this amazing grace which involves a choice. I’ve had times when the choice was easy. I’m not drawn at all by stealing, murder and several other sins, but there are a few that more easily tempt me. The Bible tells me what I need to do to stay out of those dangerous places . . .
Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. (Ephesians 4:22–27)
Lying to a neighbor or going to bed angry give the devil “opportunity” to have power over me. I’m usually not guilty of these two examples, but can wander into other forbidden thoughts, emotions, speech or actions. This is a simple diagnosis. It is sin, an undisciplined spirit. It is putting myself in a place where my life is threatened to become the property of my spiritual enemy. Like the people of God fleeing Egypt, my enemy says, “I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them. I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.”
Reading those words makes me shiver. Satan does try to destroy me. I don’t want that to happen, but like a silly sheep, he lures me. Sometimes when I know the danger, I go anyway. But I don’t have to let the old self rule, or put myself into the devil’s territory. God has given me the resources to escape those wandering ways. He comforts me with what He did for His people threatened by the Egyptian army: “You blew with your wind; the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters.” (Exodus 15:9–10)
I’m sitting here confessing my stubborn foolishness and dangerous choices. However, I cannot keep from straying without the care of my Savior, and must call out to Him as did the psalmist who said . . .
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock. You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth . . . . Stir up your might and come to save me! Restore me, O God; let your face shine, that I may be saved! (Psalm 80:1–3)
The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want!