Sunday, April 11, 2021

Psalm 23 - Part 3 - Restoration and Righteousness

  Often, I don't sleep very well.  I have a hard time getting to sleep, and I regularly wake up in the middle of the night and then have a hard time getting back to sleep.  One of the things I've found recently that helps me get back to sleep is to meditate on different excerpts from the Bible.  I've been rather fixated on the 23rd Psalm for a while (and my success rate of falling asleep after thinking about it has been pretty good), so I thought I'd do a series of posts on my thoughts on it.  This is part 3 of my 'meditations' on Psalm 23.  

He Restores My Soul

'Restore' is an interesting word.  In my mind, the scenario it conjures up is:  a store of something, in this case, whatever a soul stores has been depleted, exhausted, and it gets built back up again.  Re-stored.  Exhausted is another good word.  When I'm tired, no just physically, but combined with all the other ways one can be tired, my outlook on life gets very negative.  I feel depleted, used up, spent, baked, 'done'!  

But God says 'the joy of the Lord is my strength'.  He rejoices over me with singing.  And He restores my soul.  It doesn't often happen in a snap.  Actually, a good sleep is what I need a lot of the time.  There is a lot of truth in the statement 'His mercies are new every morning.'  I can then face another day with a renewed attitude, perspective, and vigour - physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  

Update Dec 18, 2023
I recently realized that the restoring mentioned here could also be required because something was lost or taken from you.  The Bible says that the devil comes to '...steal, kill, and destroy...'  

I recently had a situation where I felt like my peace, faith, and trust in a relationship was stolen because of something hurtful that was said directly to me.  As I took time to ponder how this happened and what I could've done differently, I was led to the story of David and Goliath.  When David came to the battlefield to deliver his brothers some food from home, he started asking questions about Goliath.  His oldest brother heard what he was doing and said some pretty mean things, that likely weren't true:
"Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? 
I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; 
you came down only to watch the battle."
1 Samuel 17:28

I don't know what kind of relationship David had with his older brother.  This didn't seem to phase him too much, so perhaps this had happened a lot in the past?  Certainly the first few times this would've hurt.  David would need to be restored on the inside to get past this.  I mean, generally a younger brother looks up to his older brother, but it seems the respect and love in this sibling relationship has been lost/stolen.

I'm sure there's a deeper meaning to David's phrase '...You restore my soul..' than 'Whew, God - I'm tired.'  I'll know I'll read/think about this differently from now on.

He Leads Me in Paths of Righteousness...

...For His namesake.  Isn't it interesting that God ties his reputation to my direction?  The name of God is one of the massive underlying themes of the Bible - its who He is.  The Israelites had all kinds of names for God to remind themselves of who He is.  A person's name in Biblical times was tied to who they were.  God even changed some people's names to give them a new identity (and a new path?) in life:  Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah, Jacob to Israel.  I get a lot of comfort knowing that my direction in life is ultimately guided by God.  If I start to stray, He'll make sure I get back on His path for me.  

When I was younger I used to fret about finding God's will and direction for my life.  I'd get to a point where I'd almost have analysis paralysis trying to discern what God's 'path' for me was.  Now I feel much more secure as I 'commit my way to the Lord..' because '...He will direct my path.'  Prov. 16:3.  Even if I live up to my human nature and get inadvertently distracted or turned around, I can rest assured that God is still in control. Proverbs also says 'Many are the plans of a person's heart, but its the Lord's purpose that prevails.'  God has put His name and reputation on the line as a guarantee.

Another interesting point of note: In the Lord's prayer, Jesus told the disciples to pray '..lead us not into temptation...'  I don't think temptation is a place, but more of a perspective/mind-set.  God intentionally leads us beside still waters, or into valleys of death, and I'm sure a bunch of other curious places.  Because we're human, any of these places has the potential for temptation if we decide to stray away from Him.  Its not difficult to get lazy and complacent beside still waters.  Its easy to fall into despair and depression in valley's of death.  Perhaps Jesus was saying, 'Be aware! Be alert!  The enemy is about, prowling for distracted, sheep whom he can devour.'

He leads me in paths of righteousness

November 18, 2023 Update:
I've been thinking more about the concept of 'paths' in association with sheep.  In particular there are several video clips online of a sheep rescued from a ditch that, because there is not dog, or path, or herd to guide it, immediately runs directly back into the ditch.  Paths are important.  They can protect us from hazards like ditches and brambles that we can get caught in (sheep's wool getting stuck in brambles is like velcro).  They show us the way, and not just any 'way', but clearly a way many have gone before.  There is a history there, and that history is important.  The author of the book of Hebrews makes a similar association after finishing their summary of the 'heroes of faith' in Hebrews 11.  The next chapter begins with:

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.."
and continuing a bit further down with a reference to Proverbs 4:26:
"So give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways."

Other posts in this series:

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