RESTORED: THE WHOLE LIFE
“He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
I think these sermons on the 23rd Psalm may be sinking in with some folks. We have had our minds on the Shepherd and the sheep. I heard that someone saw a license plate that had the letters BAA. We come today to verse three of this wonderful Psalm. I would like to speak to you on the subject, “The Restored Life.” You can almost detect a sob in what the Psalmist says – almost a teardrop on the page as he writes it. He is a man that has gotten his song back. There is something within him that is shouting, “He restored me!” Writing this says an old man, David looks back across his life to the time when he was young and remembers how he related to his sheep and says, “That is how God relates to me.” He compares his life to a sheep that wandered and got lost. There are four pictures from the life of David that are contained in this verse.
David was a strong believer in God. In fact, God said of him, “He is a man after my own heart.” He was not lost in terms of salvation but wandered away from God like a sheep aimlessly grazing and walking until he was far away from the flock. Today the world is full of believers who have wandered away. Perhaps there are some who are viewing the service on the Internet or sitting here in the sanctuary who have wandered away from God and are trying to find their way back to Him. Your sin is the cause of your wandering. It may not be the same as David’s sin, but it has the same effect. The way God deals with us is the same. So do not think that because your sin is different from his that this Psalm has no message for you, for it does speak to all who have lost their way spiritually.
Being lost, David remembered how that he, as a shepherd, would go searching for a sheep. And then he remembers, “I had a time in my life like that. It began when I was King of Israel. God had placed His blessings on my life – but it happened.” Late one evening, he went out on his balcony and saw the house of Uriah next door. His wife, Bathsheba, was bathing herself. David saw her and lust filled his mind. He sent his servant to bring her to him. He misused his authority as King and indulged his lustful desires. A little while later, Bathsheba sends him a note saying, “I am with child!” He knows that her husband Uriah is that the front in a battle commanded by Joab. He sends an order that Uriah be brought home so that perhaps in the months to come he could claim the child as his. But you see, Uriah was an upright man, and because there were soldiers living in uncomfortable situations and because there was a war going on, Uriah would not go home. And David was caught. There was going to be a child of which he was the father and soon the whole nation would know it. He then devises another plan to cover his sin. He sends an order to Joab telling him to put Uriah on the front line of battle hoping he would be killed. He had wandered far away from the fold, over the hills and into a deep valley. And that is the picture behind this verse - the picture that he sees of a sheep – but it is a man! Him! The second picture is that of
He remembered that there was a time when he is a shepherd and had to go after a sheep that had wandered far away, and because the sheep’s wool was heavy and wet from a rainstorm, the sheep was cast down and could not get up. He remembered how the sheep would lie there in the ravine with its feet up in the air and was helpless. David saw himself cast down in sin.
The bite of the serpent was so strong that there was no human answer to his malady. He was cast down emotionally for he was out of fellowship with the Shepherd. All the joy drained out of his life. All the songs were gone from his heart. And he was that way for about a year.
Then God sends Nathan, the prophet to confront him. Nathan comes with a story, a parable. There was a rich man and a poor man. A visitor comes. The rich man takes one of the lambs of the poor man to feed his visitor. “What should we do in such a situation?” Nathan asked the king. “That man should be put to death after he restores the poor man’s lamb.” And then Nathan looks at David, points his finger at him and says, “You are the man!” God knows what you have done. The prophet knows. Soon the whole kingdom will know. He was like a sheep burdened down with his own weight.
What do you do in a situation like that? Let’s look at what he did. He tries to find his way back. It may be that you are in a situation where you’re trying to find your way back to God. You have wandered and in the course of time, you feel that you just can’t find Him. But God was reaching out to him as he is reaching out to you. God takes the initiative. The shepherd goes after the lost sheep. Notice David’s response to God’s message to him through Nathan. Turn to Psalm 51. This is his prayer of repentance.
“Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your loving kindness; according to the greatness of your compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” In these two verses, David uses three words in the Hebrew language for sin. “Lord I have been rebellious against you.” He uses a second word that means a twisting of character. He says, “My character has been twisted, I have become out of touch and out of tune with God.” The harmonies of his life were not there anymore. He then uses a third word which meant that the whole direction of his life was wrong.
Can you identify with any of that in the wanderings of your life? The soul is rebellious, the character is warped, and the whole direction of life is wrong. The third picture of David’s life is that of
“For I know my transgressions and my sin is ever before me, against You, You only, have I sinned, and done what is evil in Your sight.” (v. 3).
In a true confession he assumed responsibility for his sin. He did not blame it on the times… Everybody’s doing it. He did not blame it on a set of circumstances. He did not blame it on another person. “I did it! I was wrong! I have sinned!” Now, he comes to the point where he is saying, “Make me clean. O God, make me clean! Cleanse me! Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow!” Perhaps our wandering is just a wandering of pursuing other things, or could it be just a state of confusion in our lives, or could it be because we are holding on to some sin that is so deep and dirty and powerful in our lives that it, like David’s life, is spoiling the whole of life.
Notice, he does not want to be clean just to be clean. He wants to be clean so that he will be able to come back into the presence of the Almighty. He wants to be clean so that he can take up again God’s plan for his life! Sometimes we feel that when we have sinned it messes up God’s plan for us and He can’t use us anymore. But that is what David is asking. “Oh God, let me come back into Your presence. Allow me to take up Your plan for me. Allow me to live out my life according to Your will. Use me, again, O God! I just can’t stand my life being void of the harmonies of the Spirit. I’ve got to sing again! I’ve got to find a way to express the exultation of my soul to You, O God, make me sing again!”
Have you lost your song? Can you hear the divine melodies and can’t sing them? Are you “cast?” But this he did when he was a shepherd, he went out and picked up the sheep that was so heavy with wool, put it on his shoulders, and brought it back to the flock. “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation.” And that is what God did.
Can you imagine sin more hideous than adultery and murder that this King of Israel committed, and yet the divine power from on high came and lifted him up, because he truly and deeply repented. The fourth picture is that of
David addresses the subject of restoration in two or three other Psalms. First, look at Psalm 130.
“Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If you, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, that you may be feared.” (1-4).
The hymn writer has put it like this:
“Plenteous grace with the is found,
Grace to cover all my sin,
Let the healing streams abound
Make me, keep me pure within.
Thou the fountain art,
Freely let me take of Thee,
Spring Thou up within my heart,
Rise to all eternity.”
He spoke of it again in Psalm 40:
“I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction out of the miry clay; and He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. And He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.” (1-3).
Psalm 32 is his prayer of thanksgiving for his restoration.
“How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity and in whose spirit there is no deceit… You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble. You surround me with songs of deliverance.” (vv. 1-2, 7).
The hymn, “Come, Thou Fount” expresses it: “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” It may be a leaving without any hideous sin. You can wander away from Bible reading, daily prayer, church attendance, witnessing for Christ. You can leave God in more ways than one. You can leave God’s will to live in your own will.
Harry Emerson Fosdick had a classic sermon called, “Preventative Religion.” And he said, “We must not look upon religion as a rescue party at the bottom of the mountain, to rescue those who have merely fallen down. We must also see it as a fence at the top of the mountain to keep one from falling.” That is what David is saying in the latter part of verse three:
“He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
David has once again become a seeker after righteousness. It is often true that some of the greatest champions of righteousness we have today are those who have fallen into the valley of sin and been restored. St. Augustine was one like that. He was a man whose life at one time was very vile. He took the 51st Psalm, the confession of David, and had it painted in a portrait upon his wall so that in his latter years, he could look at it and know that he was restored.
Some people don’t really believe that they can come back to wholeness, but let me tell you, you can. After this God use David to write almost one half of the Psalms. These are those precious jewels of holy Scripture that we take up and read and they bless us. The Psalms portray every human emotion. The Shepherd restores His sheep and love. You can be whole again no matter what you have done. You can come back. You can be restored. That is the glory of the gospel.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!