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"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 paths of righteousness for his name's sake." (Psalm 23:1-3)
This lesson explains the biblical meaning of Psalm 23:3, "He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake."
Consider. In your relationship with your shepherd, what does it mean to you that he restores your soul?
David writes Psalm 23 from the perspective of a sheep who is in a close relationship with and is under the protective care of his shepherd. In Psalm 23:1 David confidently writes, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." As followers of Jesus Christ our shepherd, we are his sheep, and we have a close relationship with him. We trust our shepherd, and he protects us and cares for us. He calls our name, and we follow him. Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd" and "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:11, John 10:27).
1. "He restores my soul"
The Lord our shepherd restores and refreshes our soul -- our life, our emotions, and our vitality -- all that comprises our inner living being (Ref.1). In Psalm 23:3, the form of the Hebrew verb translated as restore has a dual meaning. In Psalm 23:3 restore literally means to bring back and figuratively means to refresh (Brown-Driver-Briggs -- Ref. 2). The Lord our shepherd restores our soul by bringing us back from our wanderings when we go astray from him (Ref. 2, Ref. 3, Isaiah 53:6).
The Lord our shepherd refreshes our soul when we are wearied, exhausted, troubled, anxious, and worn down with care and toil (Ref. 4, Matthew 11:28-29). The Lord our shepherd brings back our vigor, encourages us, excites us to new effort, and fills us with new joy (Ref. 4, Psalm 16:11, Psalm 51:12, Acts 13:52).
2. "He leads me in paths of righteousness"
The Lord our shepherd leads us in paths of righteousness. The Hebrew verb translated as lead means to guide and implies movement (Ref. 5). The Lord our shepherd leads us by calling our name and going before us for the purpose of our following him (John 10:1-4).
The Lord our shepherd leads us in paths of righteousness -- in ways that are right and just, moral and ethical, ways that are in accordance with his word (Ref. 6).
The paths of righteousness lead to life, not to death. Solomon wrote, "In the path of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death" (Proverbs 12:28).
3. "For his name's sake"
The Lord our shepherd leads us in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. The phrase, for his name's sake, means to maintain his reputation or character (Brown-Driver-Briggs -- Ref. 7). As followers of our shepherd, Jesus Christ, the way we live should bring honor, not dishonor, to his name. David wrote, "For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name's sake you lead me and guide me" (Psalm 31:3). David also wrote, "Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground! For your name's sake, O Lord, preserve my life! In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!" (Psalm 143:10-11).
Prayer. Thank you, Lord, for bringing us back when we have wandered away from you. Thank you, Lord, for refreshing our vitality when we are weary, and for giving us new direction and new joy. Thank you, Lord, for leading us in righteous paths for living that bring honor and glory to your name. All this we pray in your name, Jesus, our shepherd. Amen.
Benson Commentary on Psalm 23:3
Barnes' Notes on Psalm 23:3
"I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken." (Psalm 16:8 ESV)
"David said about him: 'I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.'" (Acts 2:25 NIV)
This lesson examines the meaning of the three phrases in Psalm 16:8 -- "I have set the Lord always before me," "Because he is at my right hand," and "I shall not be shaken."
Consider. Do you feel that God is always near you?
When David said, "I have set the Lord always before me," what did he mean?
When David said "I have set the Lord always before me," he felt that he was always in the presence of God -- that God was present with him, always near him, and always before his face (Psalm 16:8, Ref. 1, Ref. 2, Ref.3). David felt God's presence continually -- night and day, in public professions and in private meditations (Ref. 1). God was with him alike in happiness and in trouble (Ref. 4).
The apostle Peter quoted Psalm 16:8 during his Pentecost sermon (Acts 2:14-36). The first sentence of Acts 2:25 states, "David said about him: 'I saw the Lord always before me.'" The Greek word for saw in Acts 2:25 means to keep before one's eyes, metaphorically, to be mindful of one always (Ref. 5 Thayer's Greek Lexicon). When we see the Lord always before us, he is our focus, and he is preeminent in our thoughts, words, and deeds -- always.
When Peter quoted Psalm 16:8 in Acts 2:25, Peter was clear that "the Lord" he was referring to was Jesus of Nazareth who God raised from the dead (Acts 2:22-25).
"Because He Is At My Right Hand" Meaning
"At the right hand" is a place of protection and defense. "For he [the Lord] stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save him from those who condemn his soul to death" (Psalm 109:31, brackets added). "The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand" (Psalm 121:5).
Think of the image of a warrior standing at your right side, who in the conflict of battle extends his shield over his comrade on the left hand (you) to guard him (you) from attack (Ref. 6). The Lord's shield is big enough to protect you. David wrote, "But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head" (Psalm 3:3).
Throughout the Bible, "at the right hand" also means the place of honor (Psalm 110:1, Mark 16:19).
"I Shall Not be Shaken" Meaning ("I Will Not be Shaken" Meaning)
David said, "Because he [the Lord] is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken" (Psalm 16:8 ESV, brackets added). The King James Version translates this last phrase of Psalm 16:8 as "I shall not be moved." The New American Standard Bible translates this phrase as "I will not be shaken" (Psalm 16:8 NASB).
The Hebrew word for shaken or moved in Psalm 16:8 is mot (phonetically pronounced as mote). Mot means to totter, shake, or slip (Ref. 7). In Acts 2:25 (Peter's quotation of Psalm 16:8), the Greek word for shaken is saleuó. Saleuó means to agitate, shake, disturb, or to cast down from one's (secure and happy) state (Ref. 8).
David felt the Lord's presence with him continually. Because the Lord was at his right hand, the Lord was close, ready to protect and save. Therefore, David was not shaken or moved (Ref. 4). For David, because the Lord was at his right hand, nothing could cast him down from his trust and confidence in the Lord.
Summary - the Main Principles in this Lesson
As believers in Christ:
1. We should set the Lord always before us -- before our eyes, always preeminent in our thoughts, words, and deeds.
2. The Lord is at our right hand always to protect us and defend us. His shield is big enough to protect us.
3. Because the Lord is at our right hand, we will not totter, slip, be disturbed, or become cast down. In the Lord we trust, and in him we are confident and secure.
Apply. Lord Jesus, show me ways that I can better know your presence with me today and every day. Thank you for being at my right hand to protect me and help me. Thank you that in you I am secure.
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