Don’t judge me but I had never really been a fan of Psalm 23. It always reminded me of funerals and the 19th Century hymn, The Lord’s My Shepherd, that is often sung at them. That hymn just sounds so miserable and I always associated the Psalm with the same sense of misery so never really paid it much attention.
Of course, Stuart Townend has written a version of The Lord’s My Shepherd more recently that I really like and my own church’s worship band has written another rendition called The Shepherd, which is really upbeat and joyful, available on their album: We Are Your Church, downloadable on all good music platforms (shameless plug!). I was listening to this particular song at the start of the year at the same time I had the idea to meditate on a different bible verse each week.
I thought if I could concentrate on one verse a week, and really roll it around in my head during that time, I would (a) be more likely to remember it for future reference and (b) be able to focus on different aspects of the verse and get something new from it throughout the week. As I had been listening to The Shepherd at the time, I though that Psalm 23 would be a good place to start and I broke it down a section at a time, over, what turned out to be 5 weeks. I can honestly say that it was an incredibly enlightening process which I have continued to do with other bible verses.
The part of Psalm 23 that really spoke to me, and that I want to share with you today, was the beginning of verse 3 (from the ESV version): ‘He restores my soul’. Every time I came to that part, I felt such a wonderful sense of peace knowing that, in a world so full of chaos and busyness, God can bring restoration to my soul. But what does that word, ‘soul’ refer to? In the original Hebrew the word is nephesh, or our idea of ‘self’. The word ‘restores’ is translated from the Hebrew word, shub which means ‘to turn back’.
Have you ever watched the TV program, The Repair Shop? People bring in their worn, damaged or broken family heirlooms and a team of experts restore them to their former glory. There is usually a lovely background story to each possession and the owners are always thrilled to bits with the results of the restoration. For the heirloom, time is ‘turned back’. The broken becomes whole, the dull becomes shiny, the non-functional becomes effective.
When we acknowledge the Lord as our Shepherd and follow where He leads, He will guide us to places of restoration and renewal. David wrote Psalm 23 from experience and we only need to look at the previous Psalm to see where he had been: ‘ I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night but I find no rest’ (Psalm 22: 2). And yet, the same man wrote, ‘surely your goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.’ (Psalm 23: 6). David found restoration through his God, and, in the same way, our weariness, anxiety, hurt and despair can be ‘turned back’. When we rest in God, we are refreshed and renewed and ready once again to follow where He leads.
Are you a restoration project in need of some expert repair. Let the Lord lie you down in green pastures and lead you beside still waters and you will find refreshment for you soul.