Lover of My soul
In this month of April, we still remain fixated on our pursuit of God and more specifically pursuit of God as discovered via “His Plans”. Our text is from Psalm 23, perhaps the greatest and most famous of all psalms authored by David. It states; “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake...”. Psalm 23:1-3 (KJV)
In this month of April, we still remain fixated on our pursit of God and more specifically pursuit of God as discovered via “His Plans”. Our text is from Psalm 23, perhaps the greatest and most famous of all psalms authored by David. It states; “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake...”. Psalm 23:1-3 (KJV)
The psalm affirms for David, a progressive revelation and understanding of God. His foundational knowledge was that God rules Israel but further discovers that beyond being the nation’s God, he must personalize the relationship and make this God, his Lord. In the awe and depth of his relationship with his Lord; he wades deeper into the love of God and gains further revelation of an even greater depth to God. He discovers that his Lord can also be his shepherd. A shepherd is responsible for the protection, provision, health, nurturing and guidance etc. of the sheep under his watch- not all sheep or just any sheep he encounters. In the sheer awe and wonder of his discovery he concludes authoritatively; “I shall not want”- in other words, my shepherd will not suffer me to lack any good thing. Thus, when God becomes David’s shepherd he has him completely covered. He explores in verse 2 the continued guidance of the shepherd as he leads him, directing, prodding and prompting him only in the places where the sheep’s best interests are served as only the shepherd knows; these are “the still waters”. Then comes the third verse where he stresses that his shepherd “restores his soul” and then brings him by his leading into places of righteousness-maintaining the right relationship with him so he can literally be God-like!
For the purposes of this message, the focus is on the phrase “...He restoreth my soul...”. Themes covered will include restoration, the soul of man, prosperity (especially of the soul), thinking right, kingdom priorities and having the right mindset as believers in this new age.
God is the lover of our souls. The word “soul” is often used interchangeably with the word “heart”. Heart does not refer to the ball of muscle in our chest cavity that pumps and circulates that vital life containing fluid i.e. blood in our bodies. It refers to a part of us men that is responsible for controlling our thinking, behavior etc. It is important to remember that God is triune. He is Father, Son(word) and Spirit. Bible says that these three are one; the Trinity. Man per Genesis 1:26-29 is made in God’s image and likeness. Hence man is also made of three parts and remains tripartite too. In defining the soul therefore we must appreciate man being body, soul and spirit. In John 4:24, Jesus explains that God is spirit and that we must worship him in spirit and truth. There is no place in worship for the flesh because the spirit and truth-which represents Jesus must guide us. John 14:6 tells us that Jesus is the truth and in John 17:17 we must be sanctified by the truth. The truth is that we are spirits for we existed before this earthly body was formed. Man is a spirit - Man Has a soul - and Man lives in a body, it is important to us that we understand exactly what the soul is. The original text (written in ancient Greek) uses the word "psuche" that is translated into Modern English as "soul". In Psalm 51:10 David begs God to create in him a clean heart i.e. soul and renew a right spirit in him. Thus, we understand that the soul is our mind. Vine's Dictionary of Greek words defines the soul as "the seat of Intellect": the seat of the sentient element in man, that by which he perceives, reflects, feels, and desires. Basically, the soul is the place that houses our will, our emotions, and our intellect (the thinking, reasoning part of us: The Mind).
Restoration suggests returning something to the original intended purpose or function for which it was designed or made. Other translations use “refresh”. The word “refresh” means to give new strength or energy to a person but in this technology age the word suggests that function or act of updating what is displayed on a computer screen. In other words, there are times when your computer screen freezes or the system has problems connecting to the source and providing the best information and most updated version of the information and page you seek. The updated information is always there; but sometimes your system does not allow you to see it. Another technological term is apt here; “Buffering” refers to when one cannot connect to the internet i.e. the information super highway. It is that instance in time when your system is preloading data into a reserved area of memory (the buffer). In streaming audio or video from the Internet, buffering refers to downloading a certain amount of data before starting to play the music or movie. Many times we discover that the system issues on our end, do not mean that there are issues on the service providing end. In other words too often “our systems” have issues that disconnect us from God.
Our minds too are like computers interlinked to the internet. Just like the antivirus protections of the cyberworld guard against infiltrations, system collapse and virus infestations, it is the word of God that keeps our minds sanitized and safe from the many daily and ceaseless attacks of the world that engulfs us with negativity, filth, discouragement, doom, despair etc. Our minds must be deliberately conditioned to be in tune with God. Paul suggests in Ephesians 3;20 that our thoughts mean as much to God as our prayers. He then urges in Philippians 4:7-8 that we be deliberate, controlled and laser focused in guiding and controlling our thoughts. Thinking right is a priority for God because it can either build or wither our faith. God is a planner and builder- Hebrews 3:4 but builds with and through men only, we cannot be used by God if our minds and thinking are misaligned with God’s.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:23 Paul urges; “...23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ...” God is interested in saving the totality of who we are; body, soul and spirit. We save our souls by keeping the word of God. In Psalm 19:11, David urges that we keep his commands because we love him because “...there is great reward” in that. Paul further teaches that there is a distinction between soul and spirit urging that we watch misconceptions and imported suggestions of our minds not born of His spirit’s influence because these fight soul prosperity. Hebrews 4:1212 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. It is the word of God that reveals what is really of our soul and what is of our spirit or God’s spirit ultimately. James 1:21 (KJV) instructs “...21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls...”. Thus, we need to be engrafted unto the vine that is Christ so we can be fruitful. John 15:5-7 Jesus urges us to remain in him so that we can bear fruit as we have his mind.
If we are going to succeed in our heaven bound journey we ought to recognize that God is concerned about our souls. How we think, how we reckon, our feelings, perspectives and perceptions because these can have a toll on how we react and relate to God. In 3 John 2 :2 (KJV) the bible states God’s mind on our souls; “... 2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth...” God is interested in the prosperity i.e. the progressive development unto greatness, excellence and perfection of our minds so that our flesh is subdued and we dwell more in the spirit because he relates more to our spirit than our flesh- Proverbs 27:20 the spirit of man is the candle of the Lord. How then can our souls prosper? By study of his word, fellowship with his spirit and consistent meditating on his word which indicates his purposes and plans for us. When we understand him then we walk in accord with him and don not struggle to fulfill his desires for us because we and him are off one mind.
Many times the word “prosperity” generates controversy. God does seek our prosperity and wellbeing. He desires all the very best for us. But urges us in Matthew 6:33 to have our priorities right. We must seek first the Kingdom and “all other things” shall be added. Our minds must be kingdom focused and oriented. He assures that if we think right, we shall be blessed in this life and the world to come. Luke 18:18-30 when he tries to teach the rich young ruler how to first love him and then allow him to bless him. Money must be seen as a reward from God for the kingdom pursuit and not an end for which we can sacrifice anything and everything to pursue at the expense of God’s kingdom. God thus seeks us to have rich, kingdom oriented intellects, emotions and minds that are fruitful to “subdue the earth” and make it more like the Garden of Eden which original mandate he gave to Adam.
It is important to examine and put to rest the prosperity myth. Does God want us to prosper? Is the gospel & Jesus anti-wealth? In Luke 18:17-30 Jesus urges his hearers (verse 17) i.e. all who have gathered to trust in his word like children because their souls were contaminated by culture; worldly belief systems, apathy, satanic deceptions, human contrivance for selfish ends etc. In the very next verse a rich young ruler steps up with questions about wealth but these all expose the health of his soul. He was rich, young and a ruler. He had inherited a dimension of dominion devoid of struggle or understanding- he was young (inexperienced & a novice). Tabula rasa suggests that our minds are conditioned by socio economic upbringing and systems. This young man was religious and admired Jesus but had no relationship with him. He loved the idea of what Jesus was about; but his prosperity was skewed and not balanced because he did not really understand what he had. We note that “Cultural religiosity” plagued wannabe believers as much as “cultural Christianity” contemporarily creates religious systems devoid of real relationship with God with attendant problems and flaws. Jesus is interested in this and asked his own close caucus at a certain point, the very pointed question “who do you say that I am?”- Matthew 16:16-30. Do we know him? Have we prospered in him? This question is to be answered by ALL. The import of this discourse was that revelation comes by relationship, when your soul prospers; your spirit prospers but your soul gains when it focuses on God.