"He restoreth my soul: He guideth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me." (ASV)
I enjoyed writing about the first two verses of Psalm 23 so much yesterday that I decided to continue with verses three and four today. I feel that these verses often become so familiar to most of us that we pass them by without ever even looking at them. It's a shame because there's so much encouragement to be had here!
"He restoreth my soul" We live in a world that is a constant assault on our souls. Every day we are barraged by images, words and experiences that are harmful to our spiritual wellbeing. Our souls are wearied by it all. This is why it is so important to spend time with God. The only way to recharge your soul and restore its health is to connect to Him. Time spent in God's presence can wash away all the filth and grime this world leaves on us and refresh our souls as well as our minds and bodies.
"He guideth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." Because our God is righteous and just, He desires righteousness for us as well. He knows that we can not achieve righteousness on our own. That's part of the sinful nature that entered the world way back in the garden. God has provided for our justification through the blood of His Son, Jesus. This doesn't mean we're off the hook though -- we are still expected to walk the paths of righteousness, but now we have a guide. God Himself will lead us and aide us in our thirst for righteousness, because the righteousness of His people brings glory to His name. All we need do is to follow where he guides.
"Yea, thou I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me" This world is enshrouded in death. Every living creature, every day, is simply getting one step closer to death. This too is part of the curse. For the Christian though, we are exempt from the laws of mortality. Sure, someday we will exit this world, but we will be going on to a better place. Our death penalty was paid for us 2000 years ago, and in the book of judgment the case against us has been closed. This is why we need fear no evil. Because God has set us apart as His own, evil cannot touch us. One way or another, we will someday stand in God's kingdom. When we look at our lives through a heavenly perspective, anything that can happen to us here on earth is a fleeting moment in a vast eternity.
"Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me." The rod and staff were the shepherd's instruments of correction to the sheep. They were not used to harm the sheep, merely to guide them back to the flock if they had wandered off and to keep them out of trouble. In the same way, God's correction in our lives can be comforting. When He corrects us, we need to remember that He does so out of love, and for our own good.