“He restoreth my soul.”
Entirely too much emphasis has been given to the idea that of necessity sheep are “wanderers” and “strayers.” In certain circles the story of the sheep with a broken leg — purposely broken by the shepherd due to its willful wanderings — has gone its endless rounds. (The truth is seldom mentioned in this connection that this sheep was the only one of that particular flock whose leg was broken as a chastisement for having wandered, and that this was the exception of the flock rather than the rule ) . In the same realm we often hear the text, “All we like sheep have gone astray.” There is nothing wrong with this text. It is God’s Word. The mistake is in the misinterpretation. The “all” in this text expresses the universality of sin. “We have all sinned.” No man by nature can say he is right with God, therefore needs not a Saviour. By nature all stand guilty before God, and all need a Saviour. The text does not imply that those who, by the grace of God, have found deliverance from their sin, and now delight in following their Saviour-Shepherd, must wander from Him again. God’s grace is sufficient. Sin is not a necessity. Our Shepherd keeps all who hear and heed His voice.
“He restoreth my soul.” This most certainly does teach that there is restoration for the wanderer from the fold of God. No believer who falls should remain in the mire, but, like the prodigal, should arise and return to the Father. Better still, when once a slip has been made, then and there is the time to return and be restored. The sun need not set upon your sin-stained soul. Bow at once and seek the forgiveness of your Shepherd, for great is His mercy. The tender Shepherd loves the wandering one and seeks to draw him back. This wonderful word, however, is no guarantee that every wanderer shall be restored. The wanderer has a will of his own and can be restored only on condition that he turn from his wanderings, and return to the Good Shepherd in penitence and faith just as any other sinner must do. God’s cry is, “Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel.” Human beings differ from natural sheep. Men know from whence they have wandered, and they, like the prodigal, know their way back to the Shepherd’s fold. Our Shepherd calls, and calls, but he will never force the wanderer back into the fold.
A beautiful story is told of a shepherd in the highlands of Scotland. An only daughter, dear and precious to his heart, specially loved to hear her father call his sheep. He had a unique way of calling. The daughter was trapped and led away into a life of sin. Her shame prevented her from revealing her whereabouts to her fond father.
The brokenhearted shepherd abandoned his flock and fields to go in search of his wandering child. On and on he went looking and longing for his precious daughter. Eventually he was seen and heard along the streets in the slums of London. Passersby were startled as they heard this highlander give his shepherd’s call up and down the streets and byways. It appeared that the poor shepherd’s search would be in vain, but with a heavy heart he continued his course in every place where his wayward lamb might be found. Heartbroken and weary he was almost at the point of abandoning his unrewarded efforts when a sin-scarred inmate of a house of ill-fame abruptly arose amid her giddy and godless company and rushed out into the street to see from where came that peculiar call so precious to her in her unstained life of the yesteryears. Can it be the cherished voice of her beloved father? Is it possible that he loves her still and has come to call her back to his heart and home? Yes, it is true, for there he stands calling again. Her heart flutters with mingled joy and shame as she rushes down the street and flies into the arms of her forgiving father. “Wandering sheep, far from the fold, the tender Shepherd is calling, calling still. Come now and know again the caresses of His loving care.
David knew by a sad experience that his Shepherd restores and forgives the poor straying sheep who pleads for mercy. Peter followed afar off, then fell an easy prey to Satan’s snare. He, too, hurriedly sought a place of penitence where he wept his way back to the place of peace and pardoning love. Let us not think that wandering and straying are the rule among the sheep of God. The Greek word for sheep is literally “that which walks forward.” This is in keeping with Jesus’ words, “My sheep follow Me.” Wandering is the exception and not the rule. We need not stray away, and if we keep close to our faithful Shepherd and readily heed His voice we shall not sin.
Restoration Provided In Redemption
In addition to the commonly accepted idea of soul restoration taught in this text there is a blessed truth which is too often overlooked. It is shamefully true that only a half redemption is often taught by some who boast of being thoroughly fundamental in doctrine. No truth on earth has been so much hated as that which emphatically declares that a full redemption is freely offered to the whole of mankind by our Saviour-Shepherd. Satan the inveterate enemy of both sheep and Shepherd is pleased with the man-made theology which would leave us half-healed to limp through life with no hope of deliverance until we reach the door of death.
It is not the purpose of this bit of exposition to teach some particular brand of theology. The Bible is not a book of theory. It is one of truth — glorious truth which promises freedom for the fettered soul. Jesus said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” In the same chapter He said, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” John 8:36. We are all agreed that freedom from the power of Satan and the guilt of sin, and for the most part we are agreed that we need deliverance from the nature of Satan and the pollution of sin. Many part at the point of truth which asserts that this need — complete restoration of soul — is abundantly provided for through redeeming grace. Many will not believe this. They like the half and half way. They are much like the little girl who remonstrated with her mother against asking forgiveness for her sin; “for”, said the child, “I think sin is rather nice.”
“His Name shall be called Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.” All professed Christians believe there is a present pardon from our guilt of sin, but why do all not believe there is present purity from our defilement of sin? Oh, when will all who are called believers accept the plain truth of the Gospel — the whole Gospel — and freely throw to the winds the conflicting theories of men? Let tongue and pen proclaim in language clear and plain, that the Gospel of our Saviour-Shepherd declares there is both pardon and purity provided now for every believing soul. There is a free cancellation for every sin, and there is a full cleansing from every pollution. Through unbelief and disobedience to God we lost the image of God from our soul. Through faith and obedience to Christ the image is restored. Paul tells us this image consists of “knowledge,” “righteousness,” and “true holiness.” (See Col. 3:10 and Eph. 4:24). The same writer says, “But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” I Cot. 1:30. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil,” I Jno. 3:8. “Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” Titus 2:14.
Another truth presents itself at this point which is certainly worthy of our consideration, even though it is often passed over by those who believe in full and present deliverance from sin. It is an easy matter for us to adopt the idea that we are delivered once for all, and that, since we have found a complete cure for our plague and have the fullness of the Spirit dwelling within, there is therefore nothing left for us to do but to live and labor for Christ victoriously. Many with this conception of the Christian life have forged ahead heedless of their need of soul recreation, or restoration, until they ran into discouragement and defeat. At this point some are tempted to believe there was something wrong with their consecration, or even to disbelieve in the provisions of God’s grace for a completely victorious life.
The soul, like the body, must have its pauses, or restoration periods, or else suffer a breakdown. A man may be pronounced a subject of perfect health, but let him take little time for necessary food, sleep, and rest, and the results will be a ruined body and wrecked nerves. The same truth applies to the soul.
The soul of man might be likened unto a well charged battery. It is made to take the wear and work of every day’s demands and to hold the necessary charge, provided there are no shorts, corrosion, loose connections; provided the water is kept intact, and the generator is working well. Should any of these troubles develop, and the necessaries be lacking, a rest period and a recharging will soon be required. Even then extra heavy duty may demand special recharging.
It is only as we keep well related and tightly held in place by our Saviour-Shepherd, and with the generator of prayer working well, that we can keep our soul in order. Even at the best, special seasons of retreat to the secret place of waiting before God, and drinking in the sincere milk of His word, are essential if we would be at our best for Him. “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile,” said Jesus to His crowd-pressed disciples. Even our Lord had these special seasons of silent watches for Himself. How much more do we need these times of soul recreation — shut out from even our dearest friends and closest kin, and shut in with our Saviour-Shepherd who waits to restore our souls.
“Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” Ps. 27:14.