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The Fundamentals: Divine Restoration

The Shepherd The Sheep And The Shortage

The Fundamentals:  Divine Restoration

Psalm 23

1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:  he leadeth me beside the still waters.  3He restoreth my soul:  he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.  5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:  thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.  6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Here we are again, sitting down to study this most beloved Psalm.  My prayer is that it is becoming more and more clear to you the power behind these words.  In fact, they are not just words to be read or quoted or memorized (all good activities), but words with meaning, with life, words with power!  Words that were written over 3000 years ago by a king who had been a shepherd before being a king!  David, a man with experience shepherding - real-live sheep, but also a man ordained (set apart by God) to rule a nation, a people that God loved.  Twice in the Bible, David is described as "...a man after God's own heart."  Could the Holy Spirit inspire men to write those words about you?   David the shepherd/king was not a perfect man (we read of his choices to sin in the Old Testament), but he was a man who had a heart that leaned toward God, He wanted God.  Praise the Lord, that the Holy Spirit inspired David to write these words that you and I need to read today - all these years later.  The passing of time, does not change the meaning or power behind God's Word - for in Hebrews we read that,
"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever."
And in John 1:14 the Bible tells us that Jesus is the Word,
"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us..."
So, this Word that we have is the same at the time of David as it is today.  And tomorrow, we will be able to pick it up and the Holy Spirit will continue to speak to the heart that is wanting to know more of Him.  Stop a moment and have a heart check.  Why are you reading this lesson?  Have you joined us with a hunger and a thirst for more of God?  If you have, you will be fed!
Ok, so let's stop right here and go back to the beginning and read Psalm 23 again.  This time, slowly thinking about the words as you do.  If you are anything like me, your mind races ahead, reads quickly, filling in what I know, and it is easy to miss the meaning behind these God inspired words.  When you read it this time, read it prayerfully.  Read it asking the Lord what He wants you to learn from it.  What nutrition for growth does He want you to pull from it as you chew and meditate on it?  What drink of cool clear water does the Holy Spirit want to give to your soul to restore it to life and health?  What exactly is the Lord saying to you, personally for you, where you are today?  Feel free as you prayerfully reread to take your pen and mark places that stand out to you.  Look for words that speak hope to your heart.  Look for words that tell you who the Lord is (Hint: He....)  and what He is doing through this one chapter of the Bible.  You could even mark the parts that show who He is addressing (hint: my...)  You could even put a little "?" by the areas that you don't have clear understanding.  Please, don't get bogged down with this, but let it be something that slows you down and helps you focus on the many truths in this six verse Psalm.  STOP!  Now is the time to prayerfully re-read.
In previous lessons we learned that the Lord - Jesus Christ is our Shepherd.  That means we must be His sheep.  Remember in the LifeLine study of The Beatitudes (Lessons 1-12), when we learned that the Beatitudes were written for Christians and their character development?  Here in Psalm 23, it is important to realize that when we accept Christ as our Savior, confess our sins to Him, and repent, He becomes our Good Shepherd, leading, guiding and caring for us his sheep.  So just as The Beatitudes are for Christians, Psalm 23 is also written to the ones who are following the Good Shepherd as a sheep in His fold.   We also learned that our Shepherd knows what is best for His sheep, we referred to this as divine sustenance.  The best of the Lord may not always be what the sheep (you and I) want, but it is exactly what meets our needs.  So, the Shepherd will provide the necessities for the sheep - those things that are necessary or needed for the survival, growth and development of His prized possessions - us!  The Lord loves us so much that He is going to provide the best for us - He is going to lead us to the best food and water - the Word of God enlightened to our hearts by the moving of the Holy Spirit.    It will be the grass (Word) that has the best nutrition to keep us spiritually well fed and healthy.  He is going to then take us to pastures where we can safely lie down and chew over the Word that He has given.  During that time of meditation, the wholesome nutrition from His Word will soak into us building our spiritual heath and giving us strength for the path ahead.  The Word will cause us to thirst, and the Holy Spirit will quench that thirst ministering and refreshing us through an understanding of Him!  Not only does He feed us and water us, but the Good Shepherd checks us over or "visits" us - to see if we have things in our lives that are hurting our development and stealing our peace and joy in Him.  The Lord will work to remove those things that "bug" us so that we can calmly walk with Him and not be so wrapped up in our little issues of distraction - experiencing discomfort, discontentment and possibly even influencing others the same.  Oh, the Lord is so good!  His love for us is so evident in His presence and guidance in our lives.  Truly, He is The Good Shepherd.

DIVINE RESTORATION

We have now arrived at verse three which starts as, "He restoreth my soul..."  In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we read.
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."
As His sheep in our Savior's flock, we have already been made new in Him.  Our sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ, and we are set free from those sins that had bound us to the world.  We are brand new in our inner man.  Romans 6:6 says,
"Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin."
So, as a born-again sheep we have already been set up or established in His flock.  We have been changed and set free to safely follow our Shepherd wherever He may lead.  So why would our soul need to be restored if we are already in Him?
Sheep are not promised the perfect easy life.  As a Christian you know that difficulties and trials still come.  Circumstances still surround you, that distract you from your Shepherd.  Temptations are there calling you in their direction.  Maybe death knocks on your family’s door and grief puts its hand over your eyes.  And it is easy to wander off in a direction that looks "better" than where the Shepherd is leading.  Each one of us face these trials.  Some of them brought on ourselves by our own poor decisions and other trials because of the decisions of others.  The strength that we had experienced in the Lord, our Savior begins to weaken as we turn our eyes, our focus, toward our "problem."  David, the shepherd/king also wrote multiple times in Psalms 42 and 43, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted with in me?" Yes, even David experienced times of turmoil within his soul.  Let's look at why this happened to him.  In scriptures we read that David (whom God called "a man after God’s own heart") chose to disobey the Lord by not resisting temptation.   The enemy of his soul came at him by placing an enticing treat before his eyes, and David chose to not turn away, but to sin by having an affair with another man's wife.  This sin then was compounded as David saw the need to try to hide his sin from others, and eventually decided to set up the murder of the woman’s husband.  Yes, this is David - the man after God’s own heart.  This is David who had already written the 23rd Psalm!  How did these decisions affect David's relationship with the Lord his Shepherd?  In Psalm 32:3-4 he wrote,
"When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.  For day and night thy [God's] hand was heavy upon me..."
David's soul was in turmoil.  He had no peace.  He was struggling with the knowledge of what he had done - he knew his guilt.  He was cast down.
Let's take a moment and have a sheep lesson.  Now I am talking about the sheep that actually "baa."  Did you know that sheep can get "cast"?  This is the strangest yet most interesting thing to someone who has not spent time with a flock of sheep.  Sheep are known for their character of wandering (sound like anyone you know?).  They easily are distracted by grass that is greener "over there."  Often, they find a place in the land that is a little lower and there they lay down much to their demise.  In the comfort that they have chosen, the weight of their body gets off center as they stretch their legs out to relax, and they find that they have rolled onto their side or back far enough that they are unable to get back up on their legs.  This is called a "cast" sheep.  In this awkward position, gasses build up in their tummies, blood circulation is cut off to their legs and if they are not found and righted, they will soon die.  A cast sheep is susceptible to the heat of the day and also to animals looking for an easy meal.  They are helpless.  They can do NOTHING for themselves.  A cast sheep needs to be restored.  This is the point where a good shepherd - who has lovingly been counting and caring for his sheep, realize that one is missing, goes out in search of it, finds it cast on its back, flips it back, supports it while rubbing its legs to get the blood circulation flowing, gently talks to it and stays near its side until the sheep is able to safely join the others.
Now back to David.  He needed to be up righted.  David had gotten distracted and disobeyed his Shepherd, getting himself into an awful position.  He had taken his eyes off the Lord and wandered so far away looking for the "better things" that he could no longer hear the voice of his Shepherd.  His soul was so cast down.  David needed to be restored.  That word restore means "to repair, renovate, to return someone; reinstate to a former condition, place or position".  Think of a house that is newly built.  It is beautiful and complete, serving its purpose for the family that lives in it.  Over the passing of the years, it begins to fall apart.  The faucets leak, the floors buckle, the termites come and fill themselves with the supporting wood structure of the house.  The roof sags, the shutters fall off one by one.  And after years of use and misuse it falls into disarray.  The house is no longer livable or just barely.  And then one day, someone comes along and sees the potential of that house, steps back, considers the cost, buys the heap and begins to renovate it.  After much work, it is restored to the structure it had been in the beginning.  In fact, maybe they even did some upgrades, and it is even stronger and more beautiful than it was in the beginning.  It was restored - completely!  Strong, useful, and beautiful.  
Just as sheep are not able to "uncast" themselves, David was not able to restore himself.  This was an act that only the Lord, God - The Good Shepherd was able to do for him.   David had to be willing to cooperate - humbly, repentant for his ungodly choices - sins.  He had to be willing to allow the Shepherd to set him up.  And we find in the Psalms that he was.  Psalm 51:10-12 is a point in David's life where He is calling out to the Lord.  You can hear the cry of his soul for restoration throughout this passage.  Listen:
"10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.  11 Cast me not away from thy presence: and take not thy Holy Spirit from me.  12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit."
A few short verses later we read
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."
O Christian there is hope.  David knew that when He came to the Lord with a broken heart-felt desire for repentance of the sins he had committed, the Lord His Shepherd would not despise or reject him for the Lord knows the heart.   Back to Psalm 32, David said,
"5 I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid.  I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.  Selah.”
David had chosen to go another way, to do wrong, yet the Lord knew his heart and forgave his sin and restored His soul!   Thank you, Jesus!
Christian, this is so encouraging!  If the Lord restored David, He can do the same for you!  Are you in need of restoration?  Were you once focused on Jesus, hungry for Him, following after Him and now you find yourself distracted, feeling down, depressed, fearful and no longer experiencing the joy of your salvation?  Were you trying to get some of that "greener grass" just over there?  If so, take a moment and think about how David and possibly you turned away.  Was it because you took your focus off Jesus and set your mind, your desires on someone or something that is NOT the Good Shepherd?  Are you now a cast sheep frantically flailing about on your back?  You cannot fix this situation yourself.  You need your Good Shepherd to step in and restore you.  Earlier we read the beginning of Psalm 42:11, now let's read the entire verse,
"Why art thou cast down, O my soul?  and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God:  for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God."
Our hope is in God!  Begin to praise Him, turn your eyes and your heart back to Him.  You MUST turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Reminds me of a song named the same.  Listen to the first verse and see if it describes where you are today:
"O soul, are you weary and troubled?  No light in the darkness you see?  There's light for a look at the Savior, And life more abundant and free!"
And then the chorus:
"Turn your eyes upon Jesus,  Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace."
With your focus on Jesus all those other circumstances that are surrounding you will become dim!  The nonessential things of life will fall away.  Your time spent feeding and meditating on His Word and allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to you will build your strength and right your "cast mind".  Your loving Shepherd will pick you up, place you back on your spiritual feet.  He will be Jehovah-Rapha (God your Healer) to you as He restores your soul and prepares you for the paths of righteousness that He has stretched out before you.

His Care For You Within The Strong Tower

"Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you."

1 Peter 5:7

Need for attention and healing,
Need for food and comfort,
Need for support and understanding,
Need for money and freedom
And on and on the list goes.
You and I are needy people!
All of these needs are legitimate.  Praise the Lord that He is our strong tower.  When we face a problem or a difficulty, we can go directly to Jesus Christ - our Strong Tower and there  we will find that He cares for us.  "The Name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous runneth into it, and is safe."  Proverbs 18:10.
The story is told of a woman who was planning to attend a church service with her husband and son.  Just before they were about to leave the house, she started to feel ill.  Her husband was the preacher and was concerned with leaving her for that length of time.  He even considered cancelling the trip.  Just then the young boy spoke up and said, "Father, don't you think that if God wants you to preach today, He will take care of mother while you are away?"

Later in the day, when they returned home, they found that Civilla Durfee Martin was feeling much better.  During their absence, she had thought about what her son had said, she sat down and penned the words to this song which her husband then put to music.    These words have been an encouragement to hundreds of people throughout the decades.  God will take care of you!  A powerful promise from our loving Savior, no matter the circumstances we find ourselves in, God will take care of you!

God Will Take Care Of You

Civilla Durfee Martin

Be not dismayed whate'er betide,
God will take care of you;
Beneath His wings of love abide,
God will take care of you.
 
Chorus
God will take care of you,
Through ev'ry day, o'er all the way;
He will take care of you,
God will take care of you.
 
Through days of toil when heart doth fail,
God will take care of you;
When dangers fierce your path assail,
God will take care of you.
 
No matter what may be the test,
God will take care of you;
Lean, weary one, upon His breast,
God will take care of you.

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