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He Restores My Soul
by David A. DePra
He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul. (Ps. 23:2-3)
In the desert areas where the sheep graze in Israel, there are often flash floods. They can happen suddenly and without warning. The limestone terrain is rocky and the ground cannot absorb the rain. So it just runs off and digs deep gullies called "wadis." If you are down in one of these "wadis" leading your sheep, you can lose your life. And obviously, your sheep can likewise be swept away by the strong and sudden currents. Amazingly, the most common cause for loss of life in these deserts is drowning.
Those who know about sheep tell me that they are terrified of running water. They refuse to cross even a small stream of water. Therefore, not only is there a very real danger to the sheep down in one of these "wadis," but they are likewise ill-equipped, both physically and temperamentally, to deal with the possible threat of a flood. So if you are a smart shepherd, you will stay out of such places altogether. There is everything to lose, and nothing to gain, by being down in a "wadi."
After a flood, a wadi will retain a certain amount of water for a time. This will make a wadi tempting as a source of water. But this is a temptation which is best avoided. David speaks of the Lord as his Shepherd – as One who will lead him beside STILL WATERS – but not to those of a wadi. The Lord will not lead His sheep into any dangerous place – that is – He will not lead us into any place that will result in our spiritual destruction.
The picture of God David is painting is that of a Redemptive Shepherd. God is a Redemptive God. Everything He does is Redemptive. God will not lead His sheep into places that serve only to tear down and endanger. There will ALWAYS be a redemptive purpose behind God’s purposes for His sheep. Even in trials, the purpose of God is redemptive in nature. He leads us beside STILL WATERS – waters that will RESTORE our soul. He does not lead us to those waters – like those in a "wadi" -- which would sweep us away with a current too strong for us.
The STILL WATERS in this Psalm stand for the Person of Jesus Christ. God will always lead us to Him – yes, for salvation – but in an on-going progressive fashion. Jesus Christ is the only solution for our thirst in this life. And the more we "drink" of Him, the more our thirst for Him will increase.
Most Christians have no problem with the STILL WATERS of life. Why would we? Jesus always restores our soul. But we do have a problem with the LEADING which gets us there. Because the fact is, God will lead us TO the still waters by taking us a way that makes us quite thirsty. Thus, we see that the thirst is not merely coincidental. The thirst is the whole point. It gets us to the point where we desire God, and only God.
We don’t usually think that thirst is good. Of course, I’m speak of this "thirst" as the TOLL which trials and life take upon us. The Good Shepherd IS leading us to the only waters which can quench this thirst. But because most of us don’t realize how much we NEED those waters, He must take us down a path designed to make us thirsty for the very waters to which He is leading us.
Some of us, when God begins to bring us to a condition of need – so that we will realize we need to be restored – think that something is WRONG. We may think that God is punishing us, or that we are out of His will. But this is not necessarily what is happening. God may, in response to our obedience and faith, be taking us a way intended to expose our great NEED. Only then will we see the value in the "still waters" intended to restore us.
Others of us, despite the fact that God is continually trying to show us our need for Him, continue to short-circuit His purposes. God shows us our need for HIM, and we seek to satisfy that need with the things of this world. One wonders what it will take for some people to finally surrender to what God has for them.
A "wadi" stands for a substitute for the still waters. A wadi can be tempting. After all, if a sheep is thirsty, and the shepherd is leading to the still and safe waters, it would be tempting to satisfy one’s thirst in a wadi – rather than wait until the herd gets to the place picked by the shepherd.
The "thirst" of God’s spiritual sheep can likewise be pretty intense. And as God leads us past these dangerous waters to those "still waters" found in Christ, we may allow our thirst to get the best of us. Rather than temporarily go thirsty IN THE WILL OF GOD, we stop off and try to satisfy that need another way – in a way that is OUT of the will of God. In a way that is spiritually dangerous.
Some of us actually go down into one of these wadis. We don’t go down, mind you, when there is water running in it. No. In that case, we would see the danger and be afraid. What we do is go down in the wadi because we know it promises water. But we never see the danger coming. Then before we know it, it is upon us and it is too late.
None of us ever know the full ramifications of unbelief. We cannot know them, because they have yet to happen. When you sow the seeds of unbelief and sin, those seeds don’t look very harmful. They are just seeds. But what comes from them, over the course of time, is a whole crop which you will reap to your hurt. We always get more than we bargained for when we refuse to follow the Shepherd.
If there is one deception of the enemy which seems to work with most Christians, it is the same one which deceived Abraham. We know we have a need, and we know God has promised to satisfy it. Therefore, we run ahead of God and satisfy that need according to our own will. Of course, we CALL it, "God’s will." And before we are finished, we have an Ishmael on our hands.
The Truth is, however, God has His time and His way to satisfy our hunger and thirst. And we can be sure if we will just trust Him, we will see it come to pass. But it will ALWAYS come to pass in a way that will never compromise with the Truth, the Word of God, or the holiness of God. Usually, when WE try to bring to pass the will of God, there is a compromise in one of these areas.
The greatest enemy of God’s best is the second best. But even that is not quite accurate. There is no such thing as second "best" with God. There is simple HIS WILL. There is only ONE will of God. Second best is therefore OUT of His will.
God wants to give us living waters. He wants to give us HIMSELF:
For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. (Jer. 2:13)
O LORD, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the LORD, the fountain of living waters. (Jer. 17:13)
God both creates the thirst for the still waters, and then God will always lead us to the "still waters." He will lead us into a deeper relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ. The result will be restoration of everything I am. Not only will I be in the purposes and design of God for my life, but I will – myself – experience a progressive restoration back to the spiritual and mental health which comes only from Jesus Christ. God will truly RESTORE MY SOUL.
O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsts for thee, my flesh longs for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is. (Psalm 63:1)
As the hart pants after the water brooks, so pants my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? (Ps. 42:1)
Until I see my desperate need for Christ, I may talk about Him, or even have Him as the "centerpiece" of my religion. But I won’t embrace His Cross. I won’t come to Him as a sinner. I won’t be "thirsty" enough to come. Instead, I’ll just be comfortable, or seek to satisfy my thirst in other ways – maybe even through some religious ways. But the only way to the RESTORATION found in the resurrection is through the Cross of Calvary.
Man is Lost
"Redemption" means "to buy back." Jesus Christ came to REDEEM us back to God with the price of His own Blood. Herein we see once again that redemption and restoration is only necessary because it is predicated upon the fact that something was LOST. There would be no need for RESTORATION unless there had been an original design ruined.
So what WAS lost? Man’s relationship with God. Man’s identity in God. Both were ruined. But there was something else ruined which was even more important: Man himself. Man himself – as a creature – was ruined. We find the story of this in Genesis 1-5.
Do you think that all that is wrong with us is that we do wrong things? That we merely violate God’s law and holiness? We ARE guilty of that. But the REASON we do wrong things is that we are "wrong creatures." All of the wrong things we do – the sins we commit – are the result of a moral and spiritual corruption which entered the human race through Adam. Thus, by birth, we now acquire a ruined nature – a nature which "naturally" does wrong things.
In this day and age of liberal religion, we read the account in Genesis of the sin of Adam, and cannot imagine that this is a factual account of what happened. But it is. God does not give us a lot of the details of those beginnings. But it is factual history. And built within this historical account are many spiritual lessons. If we would just read it and understand that it is the inspired Word of God, we would discover that it contains some of the very foundations upon which the Christian faith is built.
We find in the story of the "fall of man" a revelation of what sin IS. We find out, not only what sin is, but how it functions. We find out what is wrong with us and why. And of course, we find the promise of God of a Savior who will deliver us from it all, and restore us back to God.
For instance, take the account of the temptation:
Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. (Gen. 3:1-5)
Here we find out what sin is. Sin is NOT merely "knowing good and evil." It can’t be, because God wants us to be able to discern good FROM evil! Rather, sin is taking it upon myself to DECIDE what good is, and what evil is. THAT is what it would mean to "be like God." It is equivalent to me declaring my independence from God, and establishing SELF-RULE.
The essence of sin is self-rule; self-ownership. It is to sever accountability to God, and to declare that I will not be governed by any rule or ownership except my own. The actions and deeds which follow are merely the outcome of the inner disposition. And we see Eve, and then Adam, exhibiting that inner choice through actions. They ate the fruit. But the real sin was the inner choice to declare independence from God. Eating the fruit against God’s direct command then came perfectly natural to them.
The consequences FOR the sin of Adam corresponded exactly to the sin itself. Adam chose to be independent from God. THAT is precisely what he got: Independence and separation from God. And what IS "separation from God?" Well, it’s death, isn’t it? Yep. That is why Adam died. He walked away from Life Himself.
Here we see that death is NOT a "punishment" from God. It is not something which God put upon Adam for eating fruit. No. Adam chose independence from God and that resulted in death.
This doesn’t mean that God was sort of a "casual observer" to what Adam did to himself. No. Adam’s sin resulted in death BECAUSE it was sin against God – BECAUSE it was the rejection of God. The wages of sin is always death because sin is always against God. God is the Source of ALL life, and man was made to live in communion with Him. If there is no life outside of communion with God, the result of rejecting God will always be – what? Death. It HAS to be. It is as sure as God Himself.
Adam wanted to own himself. He wanted to rule himself. In effect, Adam wanted to establish his own identity – independent of God. But the problem is, man HAS NO IDENTITY
apart from God. None. Thus, Adam got more than he bargained for. Instead of finding a new identity, he lost the only one he had – which existed only through his relationship with God.
Now, we must get something straight here. It wasn’t that God said, "I will not allow you to have any identity outside of the one you have through Me." No. There was nothing arbitrary about this. Rather, there IS NO IDENTITY outside of God for any human being. None. Man was MADE FOR GOD. We can find life and identity NO WHERE ELSE. The very fabric of our nature is such that only in God can we find our true identity and find true fulfillment. In Him we are complete. Outside of Him we are lost.
In the aftermath of Adam’s sin, we see the terrible consequences of independence from God. We see the result of Adam deciding to own himself – of trying to establish his own identity and self-rule.
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. (Genesis 3:6-10)
Adam was naked, both before and after the sin. Nakedness certainly denotes "having nothing of oneself." It denotes a complete emptiness and bankruptcy. When you are naked everything about you is exposed. All that exists is YOU. There is nothing added.
As long as Adam had communion with God, it did not matter that he was naked. Why? Because he was COMPLETED by his communion with GOD. In other words, without God, Adam had nothing. He was a creature stripped naked of life, light, and resources. But IN GOD, Adam was fulfilled. He was complete. He was ALIVE. Therefore, Adam was "naked" but NOT ASHAMED. He was so conscious of God, and of his identity IN GOD, that his "eyes were not opened" to anything else. His "eyes" were not focused on his deficiencies, because he HAD NONE.
Here we had a creature who had never known anything but God – complete and total fulfillment in his Creator. Before the sin, he had never experienced death. He had never experienced what it meant to be lost, independent, or in fear. Thus, to him, nakedness was NORMAL. And there were no negative aspects of it, because he was in total communion with God.
After the sin, however, we see a much different Adam. Adam had deliberately chosen independence from God. He got it. His communion with God was severed. He lost his life and he lost his identity. Thus, after the sin, he is afraid. He hides "among the trees of the garden." Now conscious of his "nakedness" – he tries to "fix it" by creating for himself a covering of fig leaves.
Adam did not know what to do with himself. He was naked – but now incomplete. The result was a terrible self-consciousness and insecurity. Fear. Adam had sinned against God and had no way back. He had died spiritually because he had rejected Life Himself.
His attempt to use fig leaves to cover himself is Adam’s way of trying to complete himself – independent of God. It is his way of trying to fix the damage his sin had done. Adam had walked away from God. Now he was trying to FIX SIN. He was trying to compensate for losing his communion with God by using a man-made device.
Man has been doing the same ever since. From the time we are born, until the time we die, we are all trying to sew together "fig leaves" to try to cover our complete nakedness.
If you want to know what is wrong with people – what is wrong with YOU – look at Adam after his sin. That is US. WE are in exactly that same condition through natural birth. We are afraid, huddled among the trees of the garden. And we spend our lives trying to cover our nakedness with "fig leaves."
Some people’s fig leaves are ugly. They try to use hate, bitterness, and self-destruction, to compensate for their nakedness. Some use physical things, like drugs, alcohol, and any number of other things. Again, we are dependent creatures by nature. There is NOTHING that will ever change that. The only question is, what are we going to be dependent upon? What are we going to use to compensate for our nakedness?
Other people have nice-looking fig leaves. In fact, some people become so good at sewing together fig leaves that they are actually comfortable with what they have created. They seem to have a healthy emotional state, and are quite happy in life. Of course, much of their comfort is because nothing has come along to threaten one of their fig leaves. They are deceived.
The problem with the human race is that we were made FOR GOD – but because of Adam, are born without Him. The very Person who completes us is not in us. The one who gives us our identity through our communion with Him is missing. We are not born whole. We are born dead spiritually – separated from the One upon whom we were made to depend. So we spend our lives compensating. And until we see the Truth of Redemption BACK TO GOD through Jesus Christ, we are going to keep doing this to our own deception and hurt.
We are not responsible for being born in Adam. But we are responsible for what we do once we see the way OUT of Adam through Jesus Christ. God says, "Come out into the Light. I not only have the solution for you, but I AM the solution." In Christ, there is full restoration – not only for the age to come, but for NOW.
We all sin by affirming, by thought, word, and deed, the sin nature we acquire through birth. But THE SIN of the human race is unbelief – the sin of refusing or neglecting to be delivered. Once we see the Truth and remain in Adam, we ARE fully responsible. If we seal that choice, it will eternally seal us.
Most people think that God hides himself from man. But read Genesis 3. After Adam sinned, who was hiding? And who is it that took the initiative to look for who? We find Adam hiding from God. And we find God taking the initiative to seek out Adam.
God said, "Adam, where are you?" Of course, God knew exactly where Adam was. His question is really a cry to Adam. God wants Adam to stop hiding, and to come out and face Him. God wanted Adam to confess his condition so that He could begin a plan of redemption.
This is, of course, God’s eternal cry to each of us. WE are Adam. God asks us, "Adam, where are YOU? What is your condition without Me?" Only if we are willing to come out from behind the "trees" and admit we are naked, and be stripped of our man-made "fig leaves," can God bring us into the Redemption of Jesus Christ.
But that IS the problem isn’t it? It is so difficult for people to be stripped of those fig leaves! They are what we have manufactured over a lifetime to compensate for our nakedness. They are what we have been hiding behind for years. Some of us LIKE our fig leaves. They give us our identity. To suggest that we actually discard them, and expose ourselves to God – well, that is a terrifying prospect for some. Some of us, in fact, won’t do it.
Liberal religion attempts to put God’s stamp of approval on our "fig leaves." Any suggestion that God wants to dismantle them is dubbed "mean spirited" or "judgmental." God suffers long with those who teach and practice such heresy. But we need to understand something and get it settled: The day is going to come when God is going to allow those who demand their fig leaves to HAVE THEM. May God save us from such an eternal choice.
By FAITH, we can be set free from this kind of deception. We must believe and trust God enough to take the step of abandoning our fig leaves. We must abandon ourselves to Him, and allow Him to strip us naked. But if we do, we will find something amazing – something we cannot understand until we get to that point. We will find that what we were so afraid of – of being naked, barren, and without identity – are actually solved in Christ. We will find that we are COMPLETE IN HIM.
Notice some of the passages in scripture which speak to this point:
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And you are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power. (Col. 2:8-10)
Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. (Phil. 3:8-9)
If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. (Matt. 16:24-25)
God does not offer us a psychological solution for sin. His goal is not to make us feel good about ourselves. God offers ONE SOLUTION for us: His Son, Jesus Christ. In HIM, we will lose our life – the life of the old Adam. He is to be crucified in Christ. But also in Christ, we are raised. We discover our true identity. And then we will "feel good" – not so much about ourselves – but we "feel good" about HIM!
The result of restoration back to God won’t be self-centeredness. The result will be God-centeredness -- people who are "naked but not ashamed." Through Christ we will be totally RESTORED back to the relationship God originally intended.
David wrote, "He leads me to still waters. He restores my soul." Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit we find a pointing to Jesus Christ as Redeemer.
As sheep following The Good Shepherd, we can be sure that God’s will be continually leading us to STILL WATERS. He will lead us past all of the spiritual dangers which might otherwise hurt us. He will allow us to experience thirst, but only to prove our faith. But if we resist the temptation to enter into a wadi, and continue following Him, we will arrive at the waters He has for us. The result is that He will eternally restore our soul.
Whosoever drinks of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:13-14)
If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (John 7:37-38)
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