A note on Psalm 23:3a “He (God) restores my soul.”
For those who follow the Revised Common Lectionary, this Sunday’s Psalm is Psalm 23. Psalm 23 is arguably the most well-known Psalm in the Bible and probably also the most beloved. For me personally, not only have I read it numerous times, I have also preached on it a number of times. So in reading it again this week, I wondered if it were possible for me to do so with fresh eyes.
I am thankful that the answer was a resounding YES. God’s Word is indeed amazing. The phrase this time that caught my eye was verse 3a “He (God) restores my soul.” I suspect it was because at the moment of reading, my soul (nepes) was feeling tired. (“Nepes” basically means “breath, the inner being with its thoughts and emotions”).
The question that came to my mind was: “How Lord? How do you restore my soul?” I was reminded afresh via a word study that word translated “restore” (sub) basically means “to turn, to return, to go back, to change, bring back...” And while I must confess that my understanding of Hebrew grammar is weak, I do know that the “active” voice and “imperfect” aspect of the word “restore” (sub) reminds me of two things. The first is that God is the one who does the restoring. And the second is that the restoring comes not via a one off action but through ongoing progressive actions.
The “open secret” of having our souls restored (refreshed) is simply to allow God to regularly and consistently restore our souls back to the way it is meant to be. (Perhaps back to the basics of my relationship with God and my reason for existence?) While things like holidays, entertainment, recreation and sleep have their place, the primary source of lasting refreshment is God himself. And in the context of Psalm 23, we know God who is the LORD (the God who has made a personal covenant with us) who seeks to care for us as would a Good Shepherd for His sheep.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30: The Message)