“He restores my soul.” Psalm 23:3a
Sheep have a habit of wandering away from the flock. They become interested in one clump of grass, and then another and another – until they discover that they have strayed far away from the shepherd and the other sheep. When night comes, the lost sheep is in great danger. It could became a meal for wolves, a mountain lion, or even fall over a cliff.
When the shepherd comes back to the fold, he counts his sheep and discovers that one is missing. The shepherd then leaves his servant to guard the flock so he can go out and find his lost sheep and bring it back to the fold.
Some sheep will develop the habit of going astray. Night after night, the shepherd finds the same sheep missing. Eventually, the shepherd will break its leg. Back in the fold, the shepherd makes a splint for the shattered leg and during the days hat follow, he carries that crippled sheep close to his heart. As the leg mends, the shepherd sets the sheep down by his side. The sheep must still depend on the shepherd to cross streams and rocky knolls.
After the leg has healed, the sheep has learned a valuable lesson – stay close to the shepherd’s side. You may think this is cruel or hardhearted until you understand the heart of the shepherd. The shepherd knows the sheep must remain close to him if it is to be protected from danger. So he breaks his leg, not to hurt it, but to restore it.
Have you ever wandered away from God, forcing Him to move in and break your leg? I don’t mean He literally breaks your leg, although He could. Maybe you felt God’s discipline was too severe and harsh. But when you know God’s heart, you realize that these afflictions came in to your life because He wants His sheep to depend constantly on Him. He longs for us to stay close to His heart.
King David understood this when he wrote Psalm 23. David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and tried to cover it up by murdering her husband, Uriah (2 Samuel 11). David lived with the guilty memory of his sin for nine months before God sent his prophet, Nathan, to restore his servant (2 Samuel 12:1-15). David’s unbearable anxiety and guilt were removed the moment he confessed his sin to God and experienced His forgiveness (Psalm 32:1-5; 51:1-4). He was restored back to fellowship with the Lord the moment he came clean with Him.
Please understand that our Good Shepherd is the One who “restores” us, just as the shepherd is the one who restores his wandering sheep. Sheep do not restore themselves. The shepherd does. Likewise, we cannot restore ourselves when we have wandered from God. Nor can our spouse, pastor, church, or close friends restore us. This is God’s responsibility.
Have you gone astray from the Lord and sunk deep into the darkness of sin and shame? Do you believe that your sin is greater than God’s grace? Are you convinced that God could never forgive you and restore you back to closeness with Him in light of what you have done?
Listen to the heart of our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. He said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Jesus has the best interest of the sheep in mind. He laid down His life so that those who believe in Him may have eternal life (John 3:14-15). The word “for” in this verse refers to the substitutionary death of Christ. Christ died “for” us or “instead” of us. He died in our place.
God could have permitted us to take our own punishment. But instead, 2,000 years ago, God’s perfect Son took our place on the cross and died as our Substitute. The Bible tells us, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
A California newspaper reported that a man fired a gun into a pedestrian-filled sidewalk. To shield a three-year-old boy from the hail of bullets, a twenty-nine-year-old apartment manager grabbed him and ran back into the building. Carrying the boy, he ran up a flight of stairs before collapsing from two bullet wounds in his chest. A policeman observed, “He brought the boy out of the line of fire and died because of it.”
As our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ took what caused our death, our sin, and died for us before coming back to life three days later. By dying in our place, Jesus satisfied God’s holy demand to punish our sins. There is no need for us to punish ourselves. Christ took our punishment so we can enjoy fellowship with Him after we receive His gift of everlasting life (John 3:16; I John 1:3-4). No amount of our sin is greater than God’s love and grace (Romans 8:38-39; Ephesians 2:8-9).
Jesus also said, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own” (John 10:14). It was important for a shepherd to know his sheep. He must know their needs, weaknesses, and their problems. Without this kind of knowledge, he would not be able to adequately provide for the needs of his sheep.
Christ is the Good Shepherd not only because He lays down His life for us,but because He has an intimate knowledge of us. He knows everything about us – the good, the bad, and the ugly – and He still loves us. It is also important that the sheep know their shepherd. They must know his voice so they can respond when he calls them. They must learn to trust their shepherd so he can provide for their needs.
The more we understand how intimately our Good Shepherd knows us and loves us, the more we will believe that no amount of our sin disqualifies us from approaching Him. He wants to restore His wayward sheep. He wants to hold us close to His heart. Will you permit Him to do this in your life? If you will, you can know as David did that when the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want for restoration.
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, my gracious and good Shepherd, thank You for Your unlimited love and grace towards me. Thank You for laying down Your life for me so I may have Your life forever the moment I believe in You. Even though I am prone to wander from You, this does not diminish Your love for me. You still seek me out to restore me back to fellowship with You. Thank You for the pain I have felt when I have wandered far away from You. That pain teaches me to come back to You and to stay close to Your heart. Help me to show the same restoring grace to others who have wandered from You as You have shown to me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.