Our Shepherd Restores

May 9th 2024

Our Shepherd Restores

“He restores my soul. . .” – Psalm 23:3a

I often ask people this—what does the unbeliever need most? Some of you are already saying…Jesus. Always a good answer, right? Yes, but I often answer…the Gospel. They need the actions of Jesus to save. His intentional action at the cross, the grave, and beyond. But what about the believer? What do we need most? I would still say the very same thing…the Gospel. Certainly not for repeating our salvation, but for restoring and building us up in our salvation, and to always remind us of what Christ has accomplished on our behalf.

The Gospel should be the fuel for our souls, and the motivation to love Him because of what He has done for us! As the very centerpiece of this beloved Psalm, and our series on shepherding, is this jewel of grace… “He restores my soul” (Ps 23:3). Our Shepherd leads us here, feeds us for this purpose, and guards this work. And He does this for both His once-forever saving work, and His continued changing work.

The word soul in verse 3 is nephesh in Hebrew. It can infer the qualities and “aliveness” of our physical life, not just spiritual. But with the context of David’s language, here, it likely is both spiritual and physical. On the one hand, David is talking about physical things, using the picture of shepherd and sheep to physically represent reality. But David certainly isn’t saying, “thank you Lord for taking care of my body, that’s all I’m really looking for here!” No, as we can see throughout the Psalms, the greater context in the entire book is spiritual and eternal. In identifying Himself as Shepherd, Jesus would later refer to the spiritual and eternal in John 10:27–28, saying, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” These sheep were indeed born of the Spirit, not just the flesh (John 3:5–6).

Our Great Restoration

The word the Psalmist uses for restore is a redemptive word. It’s the word shuv in the Hebrew, and it means to turn back, to rescue, or to return. And remember our context. Who is doing this work of restoration? It is sovereignly and wonderfully our Good Shepherd, our Lord. In our salvation, in the work of our great restoration, there is both divine accomplishment and human responsibility. But which trumps the other? Who here is the author of the restoration? Throughout Scripture, we see this clearly as being the work of our shepherding Lord. He is the one turning us back, rescuing and returning us to Himself.

Jesus certainly calls on us to repent, an act we are responsible to obey. In Mark 1:15, immediately as He begins His earthly ministry, Jesus sets the foundation of saving faith and commands us to repent and believe. But scripture is clear—no one seeks after God. We are dead in our sin, unable to respond (Eph 2:1–3). But God… “but God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us… made us alive together with Christ” (Eph 2:4–5). Ephesians 2:1–10 is a wonderful place to revive your amazement of the Gospel!

In John chapter 14, Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” This is the heart of the Gospel… that in love, God sent His Son to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life. John 3:16 says that because “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son.” In 1 John 4:10, we see this was an act of supreme love, that “in this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation [perfectly satisfying payment] for our sins.”

Yes, we have sin in our lives. Not simply sins on the surface, but sin that is part of our very nature. The Apostle Paul says in Romans 3:23 that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And remember Ephesians 2:1–3, that we are all dead in our sin and transgressions against an infinitely holy God. But this is when we remember the good news, the Gospel. That being God Himself, holy and blameless, Jesus alone could live the life we could never live, and pay a price in His death that we could never pay. This is the great restoration—great in value, great in cost.

Our Continuing Restoration

The restoration that God works in our lives also has a continuing component. For the believer, His sheep, this is what we call sanctification. Sanctification is that work of God in using “all things together for good,” to the end that we are “to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom 8:28–29). Simply put, it is God’s work to set us apart for His glory. This happens immediately in saving us, but then our good and gracious Father begins to mature us, change us, and conform us. This too is restoration and is a progressive process in our lives as He truly is the potter, and we are the clay (Is 64:8).

We see this played out in Hebrews 12:2, where we see that Jesus is the founder, or author, of our faith. But not only that, we see He is the perfecter of our faith as well. This speaks of Jesus’ ability to provide for our faith, to preserve and protect our faith, but also to mature, mold, and shape our faith. And as our Good Shepherd—thinking of restoration—He restores our faith. Whether in sin or suffering, faith is tested (Jas 1:2–3). In these trials and testing, what a comfort to know that we are shepherded by a perfect Shepherd, who is also a perfecting Shepherd.

In all things, He sovereignly reigns with love over His sheep. And love is the greatest command, for God and for one another (Matt 22:37–39). In this series, I’ve given you much more about His love and shepherding of you. But the love that He has poured into us should be pouring out to the world around us. Starting in your homes, your families, your church, and seeping into every other avenue He gives. Growing in our love for others is therefore a product, an outworking, of the love of our redeeming and restoring Shepherd. May we be growing faithfully in reflecting Him throughout our lives.

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Author: David Mataya

David serves as the Pastor of Discipleship at Redeemer Bible Church in Gilbert, Arizona. He is a trained biblical counselor (CCEF @ Westminster Theological Seminary) and oversees counseling and small group ministries at Redeemer. David has served in a variety of ministries in previous churches, as well as having an earlier career in technology. He and his wife, Colleen are now empty nesters with two adult children, Morgan, Riley, daughter-in-law Bailey and grandson Owen.