A Restored Soul

Sunday, July 21, 2019
Pastor Mark Aune

Psalm 23

Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace. Amen

Can you remember a time in your life when a biblical text or story did for you exactly what it said it would do in a moment when you really needed to know the presence and the power of God in your life?

A time or moment in your life when the power of God’s word and the promises in that word restored your soul.

I can still remember the first time that happened for me like it was yesterday when a biblical text revealed to me in real time and in a specific situation the power of God’s word to actually do something.

The date was December 31, 1979. I was in New Zealand as part of a Lutheran Youth Encounter outreach team. Our team was leading a New Year’s Eve camp for a small group of Lutheran youth in New Zealand.

We’d been in the country for 2 months. We were homesick having spent Xmas on the other side of the planet and we received a phone message that the father of one of our team members had been in a car accident back in Minnesota and wasn’t expected to live.

He was a Lutheran pastor. Our group of eight was scattered around the camp and as we slowly assembled and shared the news we all felt very vulnerable, far from home and our hearts were breaking for Susie, the daughter and our fellow team member.

We were huddled together in a room, trying to comfort and support Susie and one another. There were a lot of tears. I remember distinctly reaching for my bible to read something, anything and the first text that came to mind in that moment was Psalm 23.

Yes the 23rd Psalm. I was still in the process of learning what was in the bible but I knew about this psalm. It was familiar. Like it is to so many.

So I read the Psalm and something happened. The words had power and the power was in the promises of this beautiful Psalm. The power was real in that moment of hurt and despair and we all felt the presence of God as shepherd.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

This was a strange thing to hear when all we wanted for was this news to be wrong, for the despair we felt to disappear and for all of us to not feel so alone and isolated in a place so far from home.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

This is not an easy thing to understand when all you want is for whatever has just happened to you not be true.

It is not surprising to me yet it is fascinating to me how we reach for this psalm when we are in need and we say the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

When I asked the Tuesday bible study group why this psalm is so powerful I filled a full page of notes from their responses.

It has been put to verse and sung.

It speaks directly to you, comforting and it gives you strength.

It is declarative. It is not a psalm that is asking God to please help me or saying I’m in trouble. It is not a psalm where we are doing the asking.

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 right paths for his name’s sake.

Pay attention to the verbs. Pay attention to God’s action, God’s movement, God’s promise to you and me.

When we are in desperate need, the good shepherd is there leading us to still waters, green pastures and down the right path for His name sake and because of this promise, we shall not want. The good shepherd restores the soul.

What does a restored soul look like for you?

Is it moral perfection, a life without sin?

Is it to be disengaged and immune from the day to day challenges of this life we are living?

It is perfect alignment God and God’s will in your life?

It is not these things at all.

A restored soul can say with complete confidence, I shall not want and actually mean it.

  • I shall not want means
  • I shall not worry,
  • I shall not doubt,
  • I shall not underestimate the power and the presence of God to do whatever it is I need to have done in my life at this moment in time no matter what my need may be.

A restored soul allows itself to be lead to green pastures and still waters and it recognizes the need for these kinds of places because they are places that create space for the soul to simply be present with God the good shepherd.

Green pastures, still waters, refuge in the midst of turmoil and stress and heartbreak.

Are you not in need of places like this?

Have you allowed the good shepherd to actually lead you to these kinds of places when you are all tied up in knots inside over what it going on in your life right not. Or are you trying to go it alone because you think you can go it alone.

A restored soul understand and lives out the difference between a need and a want.

I need a shepherd to lead and guide my life.

Faith recognizes and confesses our own insufficiency and looks to a shepherd rather than trying to go it alone.

A restored soul keeps walking. One step at a time. Moving forward even when we cannot see what is in front of us or where we are going.

Walking is as basic as it gets.

Oswald Chambers says, “There is no thrill for us in walking, yet it is the test for all of our steady and enduring qualities.”[1]

And so the restored soul walks. It keeps walking

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me.

You know about valleys. We’ve all been in them. The sides are steep. You cannot see what is over the ridge on either side. You cannot see where the valley ends and the only way through a valley is to walk through it.

Perhaps this is the promise that makes this psalm so beloved, so powerful, and so real. Is this not the heart of Psalm 23?

Even though I walk through the darkest valley. Notice it doesn’t if I walk through the darkest valley or maybe I will walk through the darkest valley. No, it says even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me.

This is what it means to say I shall not want. This is what it means to have a good shepherd whose rod and staff bring comfort, peace and strength.

And when we walk through the valley, led by the good shepherd of the sheep, we come to understand how and why our souls are restored, again and again and again.

Each time an unexpected grace, a fulfilled promise of hope that a broken soul can and will be restored by the good shepherd of the sheep.

Jesus says, I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me. My sheep hear my voice and they follow me and I give them eternal life.

The final restoration. The promise fulfilled where goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long. Amen

[1] My Utmost for His Highest July 20

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