“He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:3
My father tells me stories of when he was a teenager. They are amusing stories as well as insightful. He told me that part of his childhood was spent restoring an old car. His eyes would light up when he told me that story. Many people restore old things. Those who are really serious about it spend a lot of time with the restoration process. They make sure that the smallest details are taken care of. In the restoration of cars, I’m told; this process can be quite the undertaking. Taking an old, beat-up, rusted-out jalopy and restoring it to mint condition takes time and effort. But it also takes love. Desire. Commitment.
This is what our Shepherd has for us. When it says, “He restores my soul,” there is immense and unconditional love behind this statement. Our souls, indeed everything we are, need restoring. In our original sinful condition we are dead spiritually. We are enemies of God in all that we say and do. But then the Shepherd comes and restores us to our pristine state. He removes the rust, the blemishes, and everything that made us enemies of God – that is, all our sin and evil desires. He restores us with His shed blood. This restoration is a life-changing event.
That is why the psalm continues as it does. Restoration is everything. There is no need for us to try to win or buy or work our salvation. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ salvation is now ours as a free gift. But it is something that changes our whole lives all our lives. The shepherd, as He restores us, is leading us in the paths of righteousness.
When I lived in St. Louis, I worked for a local radio station. My wife and I lived in an apartment about a mile away from the station. Very often, I would walk to work. My walk took me through several neighborhoods. It was a very nice walk. In the middle of the busyness of the city, I would walk down tree-framed lanes and nice houses. At one point in my walk, the sidewalk left the side of the road and went between two houses and over a bridge to the next road that ran parallel. I would often stop in the middle of this footbridge and just breathe and think. It’s a narrow path but a beautiful one. On either side of the path is a house and then over the bridge a drop of about 15 feet into a water-filled creek. Straying off the path is not a good idea. But while on the path, all is quiet and serene.
When the Shepherd guides us in the paths of righteousness, much the same is taking place. The path is narrow and straying from the path is not a good idea. The path leads us to heaven and we’re put on it by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit keeps us on it as He feeds and strengthens us with the Word and Sacraments. And we’re on this path “for His name’s sake.” Because of God we’re there. He is the one who loves us and saves us and puts us on the path. For His name’s sake – and His name is Savior, God Almighty, Lord and Christ.
Staying on the path is important. But the Psalmist reveals what is most important when he says “He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”