Before bedtime we have a little devotional together and I've taken advantage of this time to help him not only relearn these Bible verses, but understand them as well. This time around, instead of memorizing the verses by rote, he can read the passage himself. We are going line by line through the Psalm in a somewhat condensed inductive method, exploring each phrase as he commits it to memory. We encountered the first phrase of the third verse a couple of weeks ago and I've found myself meditating on it over and over ever since.
He restores my soul.
There is a great deal of truth and insight wrapped up in this simple phrase. Here are some thoughts word by word.
This pronoun refers back to vs 1. It references "The LORD," Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, here seen as a gentle Shepherd. I was thinking about how our image of this passage is often mixed with the story Jesus told about the shepherd who went to find the one lost sheep. Knowing that one out of 100 was missing and longing for its safety, he went and searched for it until it was returned delicately to the fold. I am not a scholar enough (at all) to know if this is an unprecedented way to view Yahweh. In the Psalms we see "the LORD" as a rock, a deliverer, light, salvation, owner of the earth, etc. Only in two other Psalms is Jehovah referred to as a "Shepherd" (Ps 28 and 80). Nevertheless, the picture being painted, and the dimension being revealed of the LORD in this Psalm is of One who cares for, guides and protects those who would be led by Him.
There are a great deal of implications emanating from this single word. I think of the following, implicit in this single word: past and future; on-going; teleology; exclusivity of the Spirit; necessity of action; compliance of the recipient.
Some further expansion:
- Past and Future. The need for restoration is rooted in the past. When man sinned and each of us found ourselves with his nature, the necessity of restoration was (is) required to reestablish fellowship with the Creator. Restoration has a place of resolution seen far into the future (from the human perspective) and in fact will not be totally realized until after death
- On-going. Not a singular event. Rather, a constant, needful prodding and shaping that took place, is taking place, and will continue to take place
- Teleological. It is not an arbitrary process. There is a purpose and unique journey and role for each one being restored
- Exclusivity of the Spirit. Only God can restore. Previous verses speak of the physical needs being met. (Not being in want, green pastures, quiet waters) This restoration of the soul touches a place only the Divine can intersect. Physical contentment mentioned in surrounding verses merely masks the depth of need healed only by the Creator whose image we bear.
- Necessity of action. This process of restoration is central to fellowship with the LORD, the shepherd, and essential if we are to have hope of eternal fellowship with Him (v 5).
- Compliance of the recipient. He does not force restoration upon us, he freely gives it, but we must accept it. I have wondered if we are best made aware of our need for restoration once we settle in the green pastures and rest by the quiet waters. Perhaps here in the quiet moments can our need of restoration cut through the din of our assiduous lives.
This continues to be a personal Psalm in which we realize that even though shepherds never attend just one of the sheep, this Shepherd has made himself continuously available to the individual.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness...
Similar observations can be made throughout the remainder of the Psalm.
As mentioned earlier, this is a dimension unique to this Shepherd. Where other shepherds can only meet the needs of the physical, this Shepherd is uniquely qualified to minister directly to the spiritual needs of those He tends.
What nuggets of scripture have impacted you or ministered to you like this has to me?