Thursday, August 30, 2012

The 23rd Psalm: Restoration and Salvation

In verse one of Psalms 23, we saw that David had made an astonishing statement: The Creator of all, YHVH, not only provided for him personally; but acting as a Shepherd, did so on an intimate level.  In verse two, he made another massive statement by detailing the level of care the Shepherd went to on his behalf.  Now, we are moving on to verse three, and yet another revelation.  (KVJ here)

he restores my inner person. He guides me in right paths for the sake of his own name. (CJB)

The KJV says "he restoreth my soul."  Most Onlyists point to translations such as this as evidence of foul play in the translation department.  However, David knew full well exactly what the soul was: The inner person.  Some people refer to the soul as the "inner man."  More properly, the soul is comprised of three main areas.  These are the mind, the will and the emotions.  It is this same understanding of "soul" that is also referred to as "the heart" in verses such as Matthew 12:34, when Christ stated that from "the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks."

So what is David actually saying here?  He is stating that YHVH brings his entire soul, his inner person, back into proper alignment with His word and will.  Adonai refreshes his mind, and refocuses him on the things of righteousness.  The Lord adjusts his will, bringing him back into line with His own.  Finally, YHVH takes his emotions and brings calm to them.  This is the refreshment of the soul.

Another thing David states is that he is led along the right paths.  What's the difference between the right and wrong paths?  In shepherding, if one were to lead the sheep down a path of brambles, thorns, and so forth, not only does one risk losing precious wool by having to cut out the offending brambles, but one also risks the sheeps discomfort as well.  If the path is rocky and loose, one risks also their less than certain footing in such conditions.

Let's move on.

He will turn back my soul: he will guide me into the tracks of justice for sake of his name. (JULIA)

Once again, Mrs. Smith uses the future tense, showing the care of the Lord pressing forward beyond just the present.  The phrasing here is also interesting, as "turning back" refers to returning to a point prior to diversion from an appointed path.  This is the same thing that "refreshing" or "restoring" does for David, as it returns him to where he needs to be.  (It should be noted that the original Hebrew does not actually have tense, so any argument over tense sensitive translation is without merit.)

Some may wish to call into question the translation of justice in this verse.  The original Hebrew, however, is able to go either way.  In this case, the Julia version brings about another interesting aspect of this verse.  While most translations prefer the term "righteousness," (meaning a state of right living and purity of heart), justice refers to another aspect, one far more familiar to the shepherd: The seeking of an offending lamb.
A lamb which spurns the rest of the flock and heads off on its own is often in for a very rude wake-up call.  Alone and on its own, it soon winds up in danger of all different variaties, from brambles and thorns to ledges, rivers and predators.  The shepherd keeps count of his sheep, and when one goes missing, leaves the flock in the care of the under shepherds in a safe a protected place, and goes in search of the lost.
This is comparable to the tale of the Good Shepherd told us by Yeshua.  However, simply finding that lost lamb is not the end of the ordeal, for the lamb must learn not to wander again.

In David's time, this was accomplished most often by breaking one of the lamb's legs.  In this modern era of SPCA and PETA, such an action seems cruel- However, it would be far more cruel to allow the lamb to run off again.  Each time, the odds of finding the lamb alive dwindle; the more the lamb runs off, the more headstrong it becomes and the further it wanders.  With each extra length of wandering, the dangers to its life increase.  Breaking its leg is not solely for punishment, but to draw it closer to the shepherd.
Once the leg is broken, the shepherd carries the lamb everywhere.  He tends to the leg and makes certain it heals properly.  He feeds the lamb from his own hands, since the lamb cannot stand to graze.  He snuggles the lamb when it sleeps, so that it maintains the sense of physical contact it needs.  He speaks to it and sings to it, so that it grows used to his voice.  When all is said and done, and the lamb can once more walk on its own, it will never again run off, so dependant has it grown on the shepherd.  It will graze with the flock, of course, and sleep with them; but when moving from field to field, that lamb will be at his side always.

Justice does not simply mean punishment for a wrong deed; it requires corrective action so the deed is not repeated, or it is not justice.  Thus, the use of justice here shows us a great deal about our common Shepherd.

He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. (NLT)
Note the first part of the NLT's translation.  This is yet another aspect of the restoration of the soul.  Of course physical nourishment renews physical strength, but the provision of this has already been addressed.  Now, David references the renewing of his inner strength.
On long walks from one distant field to another, the flock of sheep can grow weary; one might even use the word dejected.  Sheep do not like to move for extended periods of time.  They are meanderers, happy and content to drift slowly with one another across a field.  Long marches, however, can slowly cause them to be depressed, in a manner of speaking.
For this reason, when on long walks, the shepherd will talk and sing to his flock.  The speaking and singing lifts the spirits of the flock, and keeps them strengthened.  David is telling us here that not only does Adonai strengthen him physically by providing sustanence, but that He strengthens him spiritually through encouragement- The same way David himself encouraged his own flock.  David was not a shepherd aspiring to be a musician, carrying around a harp to play in his downtime.  He had the harp to provide music to his flock, and in the process, worship YHVH.

He refreshes and restores my life (my self); He leads me in the paths of righteousness [uprightness and right standing with Him--not for my earning it, but] for His name's sake. (AMP)
The Amplified sums it all up very well.
Adonai refreshes and restores David's strength and his soul- Indeed, He safeguards David's life as a whole.  Adonai leads him, and us, in the paths of righteousness- Right standing and uprightness, of which justice is a part.  However, in all of these verses, we've seen the same basic phrase ending this verse: "To bring honor/glory (for the sake of) His name."  Why?

I said in the last section that it has been a long held belief of mine that David had a revelation of the redemptive work of Christ long before it happened.  I believe firmly that David knew of this gift of salvation; knew of the Gospel; long before it was actually presented.  This section here gives further evidence of that.
The most major of God's gifts to us, which we cannot hope to earn or be worthy of, is salvation.  This is not to say that we are trash- YHVH finds us valuable enough to have died for us!  Nevertheless, we cannot attain salvation through any other means aside from Yeshua and an appeal to His sacrifice.  That is what the Amplified is saying here: We cannot earn this right standing, but He gives it to us anyhow- For His name's sake.  For the honor and glory to His name.

I used to read this and wonder why I could not be prideful, but God seemed to demand people brown-nose Him.  I wasn't being heretical; I was honestly inquisitive.  That question has remained with me for some time, even since finding the answer, because I believe that there are other people out there who wonder the same thing.  Here's the answer:
If you were a doctor who had come up with a cure for cancer, but the general attitude of the world was set against you, how would you get the word out?  The solution is simple, yet most businesses will report to you that word of mouth accounts for the majority of their clientele.

Likewise, YHVH is able to remove the most insideous and lethal disease of them all, one which modern science has not yet been able to even track- But the general attitude of the world is dead set against Him.  So rather than advertise, (a neon sign, no more war, showing up and punching the atheist, take your pick), He chooses word of mouth.
We are given salvation and redemption, restoration and refreshment, not because we have earned it or deserved it but because we will then tell everyone about how good the Shepherd is.  We praise and extoll and lift up His name above all other names; and as a result, more come to Him for the operation they need and the gift they truly desire, and the cycle begins again.

Next time, we'll look at verse four, and the immortal "yea, though I walk" portion.  Until then, may YHVH continue to strengthen, restore and refresh you as you spread the word of His goodness, mercy and the gift that He offers to all.

God bless!

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