He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Psalm 23:3 (ESV)
David says that our Good Shepherd restores our soul. In other words he returns our soul to the starting point. Soul in this context means life or spirit. It refers to a spirit that is exhausted, weak, sad, anxious or wore down with cares. Our Good Shepherd is the one who brings it back to full joy; he encourages it to continue in the faith. He refreshes our soul when we are dry and lifeless.
There seems to be times in our lives when we identify with the words in Lamentations 1:16, For these things I weep; my eyes flow with tears; for a comforter is far from me, one to revive my spirit. (Lamentations 1:16 ESV) The words of Solomon ring true, A man’s spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear? (Proverbs 18:14 ESV) To quote John Piper, “If our hearts are strong in the Lord, if our soul is refreshed, we can endure the pain of the body. But if the spirit is broken, if our hearts are downcast, if our soul is flat like a deflated beach ball, what can you do? The very will is broken; the flags of our affection just hang there with no wind to unfurl them.”
How does our Shepherd restore our soul? The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. (Psalm 19:7 ESV) Law in this instance means instruction. There is nothing like the promises (instruction or truths) of God that he has given us in his word to revive our souls. David wrote, . . . the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. (Psalm 19:8 ESV)
Drugs cannot restore us, sex, entertainment, nor relationships will refresh our souls, only God’s word. Promises like “He will never leave or forsake us” (Hebrews 13:5), “All things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28), are guarantees that God is working in our favor.
In Psalms 42 and 43 are found these words of a distraught psalmist: Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? (Psalm 42:5, 11; 43:5 ESV) The psalmist is obviously experiencing a dark night of the soul. In the midst of his darkness he prays, Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! (Psalm 43:3 ESV)
It is a word from God that the psalmist seeks (light and truth). He seems to be asking God to reveal himself to him so that he may have some guidance and relief while in the darkness. In another psalm we read, The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. (Psalm 119:130 ESV) Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105 ESV) From the lips of Jesus we are told that God’s word is truth (John 17:17).
The psalmist knew that God’s word would bring him to God and with God he would find the refreshing his soul needed; exceeding joy (Psalm 43:4) In the dark hours of the soul we must learn to wait upon the Lord, trust his promises and know that he will do what is good for us. He will restore our souls.
Do you turn to God’s word to refresh your soul?
Scriptures for meditation:
1 Peter 5:10