- The 23rd Psalm Series
- The Lord is my Shepherd – That’s Relationship!
- I shall not want – That’s Supply!
- He maketh me to lie down in green pastures – That’s Rest!
- He leadeth me beside the still waters – That’s Refreshment!
- He restoreth my soul – That’s Healing!
- He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness – That’s Guidance!
- For His Name’s Sake – That’s Purpose
- Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death – That’s Testing!
- I Shall Fear No Evil – That’s Protection
- For Thou art with me — That’s Faithfulness!
- Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me – That’s Discipline
- Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies – That’s Hope!
- Thou annointest my head with oil – That’s Consecration!
- My cup runneth over – That’s Abundance!
- And I will dwell in the house of the Lord —–That’s Security!
- Forever – That’s Eternity!
(1) Restoration may mean bringing back that which has gone astray. We think at once of the parable of the Lost Sheep recorded in the Gospel of Luke. Yonder is a shepherd with a flock of an hundred sheep feeding around him. One of them wanders off unperceived, and is lost. Though ninety and nine remain, the good shepherd misses the lost one; he goes forth to seek it; having found it, perhaps far away in the wilderness or the mountain, and it may be near to nightfall, he brings it back with him to the rest of the flock. He does this most tenderly and lovingly. Though it has cost him toil and pain, he does not use it roughly; he does not scourge it before him, or drag it after him; he does not leave it to hireling care; he lays it on his own shoulders, rejoicing, and so brings it home.
With just such tender, compassionate loving-kindness does the Lord the Shepherd bring back the wandering soul; He bears us no grudge for the toil and pain we have cost Him, but rejoices over us; He forsakes us not, nor leaves us to our own strength, till He has carried us across the threshold of celestial bliss, and set us down among the saints in light, the home-doors folding us in.
(2) But it seems more in keeping with the language used to understand restoration to be revival of fainting life. It may then be regarded as an anticipation of that profound saying of Jesus concerning His sheep: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly”—a life ever enlarging in strength and depth and fulness and joy. The hot sun has been beating down upon the flock, and they are sorely exhausted; their “soul” is faint and weary, and the shepherd uses suitable means to refresh and restore them; and then he leads them in the right ways, known to himself, whither he would have them go.
Christ shelters us from the heats of life in the shade of His own majestic Personality. The thought of restoration in the protecting shade of the Divine presence occurs repeatedly throughout the Scriptures. It strikes the keynote of the Ninety-first Psalm. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” It is the central idea in Psalm One Hundred and Twenty-One. “The Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.” It is in view of this that the promise follows:—“The sun shall not smite thee by day.” Isaiah dwells upon the thought with evident delight. “For thou hast been a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat.” Again, with the thought of the Divine presence in his mind he sings, “And there shall be a pavilion for a shadow in the daytime from the heat.”
(1) First among the means of “restoring” is God’s Word, read, heard, meditated upon, hidden in the heart, conversed about, prayed over, loved, opened and applied by the Holy Spirit; with its revealings, instructions, records of experience, saintly examples, consolations, mighty spiritual energies, exceeding great and precious promises.
The Bible is not a book that has guided only the lives of fools and women and babes. It has moulded the lives of the noblest, and made wise men like Carlyle, Bright, Gladstone, Tennyson, Shakespeare, and Milton as vessels of power and grace. It was for many generations the chief if not the only text-book of our Scottish sires; and those whose praises are in all the churches were made brave enough to live and strong enough to die, drawing deep draughts of grace and power from the stream of Holy Scripture. In the enfolding universalness in which its unity is found; in its deep power of truth-revealing, its uplifting and guiding grace, its ocean-song of majestic phrase and captivating words, the irresistibleness of the Divine within and about it, it vindicates its claim to be Literature, and the greatest utterance of Literature in the language of men.2 [Note: L. MacLean Watt, Literature and Life, 70.]
(2) Then there is the blessed intercourse of prayer, whereby the creature-spirit comes into immediate communion and fellowship with the Infinite Spirit. There is restoring for our souls in the very contact with God, and in the answer that He sends. Let experience declare. We have gone into our closets, and bowed our knees or cast ourselves on the floor, under an overwhelming sense of feebleness and prostration, like Elijah under the juniper tree, or David when he cried out, “My soul cleaveth unto the dust”; and, through the Divine intercourse of prayer, we have come forth strong and gladdened: and, through prayer as a daily habit (growing into a necessity of our being), we have found our life deepening and expanding, and filling with joy from year to year.
Prayer is a spiritual exercise, and its results are spiritual. The men who know its fullest exercise are the men who are in a condition to talk about it. Cuique suâ arte credendum est. Says Bagehot, and with entire truth: “The criterion of true beauty is with those—they are not many—who have a sense of true beauty; the criterion of true morality is with those who have a sense of true morality; and the criterion of true religion is with those who have a sense of true religion.” It is so, emphatically, with prayer.1 [Note: J. Brierley, Life and the Ideal, 74.]
How constantly through my life have I heard testimony of the power that answers prayer. History everywhere confesses its force. The Huguenots took possession of the Carolinas in the name of God. William Penn settled Pennsylvania in the name of God. The Pilgrim Fathers settled in New England in the name of God. Preceding the first gun of Bunker Hill, at the voice of prayer, all heads uncovered. In the war of 1812 an officer came to General Andrew Jackson and said, “There is an unusual noise in the camp; it ought to be stopped.” The General asked what this noise was. He was told it was the voice of prayer. “God forbid that prayer and praise should be an unusual noise in the camp,” said General Jackson. “You had better go and join them.”2 [Note: Autobiography of Dr. Talmage, 156.]
(3) Then there is praise—the praise of the “great congregation”; the praise of the fireside, with the sweet child-voices chiming in; the praise of solitude, ringing through the wood or rising from the lonely fisherman’s boat; the unheard praise of the workshop or street, when we “carry music in our heart.” And its restoring efficacy is not less wonderful. When Israel chanted that lofty song on “the shore of deliverance,” when Paul and Silas sang aloud in the dungeon at midnight, the very singing uplifted their spirits, doubtless, into a higher region.
Song lies nearer the centre of life than we think; and the words were spoken from a true insight, “Give me the making of a nation’s songs, and I care not who makes its laws.” In the great revival of religion in New England last century, Jonathan Edwards mentions, as a sign of the Spirit’s work and an instrumentality He employed, “the great disposition to abound in the Divine exercise of singing praises, not only in appointed solemn meetings, but when Christians occasionally met together at each other’s houses.” He even gives his approval, under certain limitations, to the practice of singing psalms on the way to or from public worship, and says it “would have a great tendency to enliven, animate, and rejoice the souls of God’s saints, and greatly to propagate vital religion.” As a means of revival, the importance of praise is coming to be recognized more and more by all good men.
Praise is devotion fit for mighty minds,
The diffring world’s agreeing sacrifice;
Where Heaven divided faiths united finds:
But Prayer in various discords upward flies.
For Prayer the ocean is, where diversely
Men steer their course, each to a sev’ral coast;
Where all our interests so discordant be
That half beg winds by which the rest are lost.
By Penitence when we ourselves forsake
’Tis but in wise design on piteous Heaven;
In Praise we nobly give what God may take,
And are, without a beggar’s blush, forgiven.
(4) Then there is the communion of saints, in all its breadth, including not only our converse one with another, but our whole intercourse and fellowship in worship and service—communion marked by sympathy, love, joy, and full of spiritual impulse and strength.
“I believe in the Communion of Saints.” That cannot mean a very lukewarm interest in their welfare. If the body of Christ is one, and one of the members suffer, all suffer. Infantile and poorly educated as the Church in Uganda doubtless is, yet not a few children of God here have shown a strength of faith and resistance unto blood which their fellow-believers in Europe, to-day at least, know little or nothing of. I cannot but think that their heroism deserves the commendation of all true men of God throughout the world. It must be remembered, too, what their fellows are still suffering on account of the faith. All the evils of persecution, so vividly pictured in the end of Hebrews 11, are being bravely, yet meekly, endured to-day.