Psalms 23 (pt. 5)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psa. 23).

Today we will continue with our study of Psalms 23 by looking at, “He restores my soul.”  It may seem odd to the casual reader that we may need to be “restored” since, as His sheep, we are in His presence.  But, the reality is that we all suffer from times when we are downtrodden.  As I was thinking about the words for today’s lesson, I remembered a peculiar thing about sheep I saw growing up. We lived in a relatively small town surrounded by farms, and on occasion, my friends and I would take our bicycles and ride past the pastures. At least once, we saw one of those animals lying down “upside down,” unable to get back up. I remember the farmer or his helper being near enough to assist the unfortunate animal back to its feet. We did not think much of it at the time, but later I would hear of it again and looked up the strange phenomenon.

It turns out it is not altogether uncommon for that to happen to sheep, especially when their fleece is at its thickest, making their backs very wide. If the sheep becomes unbalanced and falls, it will be unable to create enough momentum to roll over onto its feet again. The malady is common enough that an animal in that predicament is said to be “cast.”  What may seem funny to you and me can actually be life-threatening to it.  There may be predators who will take advantage of the plight of the sheep, or the stress may simply be too much for it, so without the shepherd’s timely assistance, the frightened animal can die. One of the duties of a committed shepherd is to keep a keen eye on the welfare of his flock to ensure they do not fall, or if they have, that he is near enough to save the terrified animal.

In 1 Corinthians 10:12, Paul has a dire warning for Christians, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”  We, like the unfortunate sheep, may become too burdened and fall when temptations pile up.  But, unlike the animal, our plight is not brought upon us by natural causes but rather by the sly plans of the evil one. 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  When those times happen, and they almost certainly will, He is there to help us back up – to “restore our soul.” Like I said in an earlier article, our Shepherd never sleeps or takes a vacation. He never gets sick or finds another job and leaves us to the mercy of the elements (or temptations). We don’t need to fear anything because He is ever-present. Heb. 13:5-6, “…for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

While there are times when we absolutely will fall, we need to remember that we are not helpless against the devil’s attacks. We have the power to rid ourselves of the ever-growing “fleece” of temptations being stacked on us. With God as our shepherd, we have a way to escape the pernicious onslaught. 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”  Study the Word. Stay in it. Remain obedient and resist the devil. But, when you fall, look around because God, through His son Christ Jesus is right next to you, arms outstretched, ready to pick you up.  But only if you call on His name. If you are on your back, if the temptations have proven too heavy, and you have lost your spiritual balance, call on His name in prayer. Do it now.

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