Verse 3. He restoreth my soul. When the soul grows sorrowful he revives it; when it is sinful he sanctifies it; when it is weak he strengthens it. "He" does it. His ministers could not do it if he did not. His Word would not avail by itself. "He restoreth my soul." Are any of us low in grace? Do we feel that our spirituality is at its lowest ebb? He who turns the ebb into the flood can soon restore our soul. Pray to him, then, for the blessing -- "Restore thou me, thou Shepherd of my soul!"
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. The Christian delights to be obedient, but it is the obedience of love, to which he is constrained by the example of his Master. "He leadeth me." The Christian is not obedient to some commandments and neglectful of others; he does not pick and choose, but yields to all. Observe, that the plural is used -- "the paths of righteousness." Whatever God may give us to do we would do it, led by his love. Some Christians overlook the blessing of sanctification, and yet to a thoroughly renewed heart this is one of the sweetest gifts of the covenant. If we could be saved from wrath, and yet remain unregenerate, impenitent sinners, we should not be saved as we desire, for we mainly and chiefly pant to be saved from sin and led in the way of holiness. All this is done out of pure free grace; "for his name's sake." It is to the honour of our great Shepherd that we should be a holy people, walking in the narrow way of righteousness. If we be so led and guided we must not fail to adore our heavenly Shepherd's care.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 3. He restoreth my soul, etc. The subjects experimentally treated in this verse are, first, the believer's liability to fall, or deviate even within the fold of the church, else wherefore should he need to be "restored?" Next, the promptitude of the Good Shepherd to interpose for his rescue. "He restoreth my soul." Then Christ's subsequent care to lead him in the paths of righteousness; and lastly, the reason assigned wherefore he will do this -- resolving all into the spontaneousness, the supremacy, the omnipotence of grace. He will do all for his own name's sake. Thomas Dale.
Verse 3. He restoreth my soul. The same hand which first rescued us from ruin, reclaims us from all our subsequent aberrations. Chastisement itself is blended with tenderness; and the voice which speaks reproof, saying, "They have perverted their way, and they have forsaken the Lord their God," utters the kindest invitation, "Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings." Nor is the voice unheard, and the call unanswered or unfelt. "Behold, we come unto thee; for thou art the Lord our God." Jer 3:22. "When thou saidst, Seek my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek." J. Thornton's "Shepherd of Israel", 1826.
Verse 3. He restoreth my soul. He restores it to its original purity, that was now grown foul and black with sin; for also, what good were it to have "green" pastures and a black soul! He "restores" it to its natural temper in affections, that was grown distempered with violence of passions; for alas! what good were it to have "still" waters and turbulent spirits! He "restores" it indeed to life, that was grown before in a manner quite dead; and who could "restore my soul" to life, but he only that is the Good Shepherd and gave his life for his sheep? Sir Richard Baker.
Verse 3. He shall convert my soul; turn me not only from sin and ignorance, but from every false confidence, and every deceitful refuge. He shall bring me forth in paths of righteousness; in those paths of imputed righteousness which are always adorned with the trees of holiness, are always watered with the fountains of consolation, and always terminate in everlasting rest. Some, perhaps, may ask, why I give this sense to the passage? Why may it not signify the paths of duty, and the way of our own obedience? Because such effects are here mentioned as never have resulted, and never can result, from any duties of our own. These are not green pastures, but a parched and blasted heath. These are not still waters, but a troubled and disorderly stream. Neither can these speak peace or administer comfort when we pass through the valley and shadow of death. To yield these blessings, is the exalted office of Christ, and the sole prerogative of his obedience. James Hervey.
Verse 3. He restoreth my soul: Hebrew. "He bringeth it back;" either,
- From its errors or wandering; or,
- Into the body, out of which it was even departing and fainting away. He revives or comforts me. Matthew Poole.
Verse 3. Paths of righteousness. Alas! O Lord, these "paths of righteousness", have a long time so little been frequented, that the prints of a path are almost clean worn out; that it is a hard matter now, but to find where the paths lie, and if we can find them, yet they are so narrow and so full of ruts, that without special assistance it is an impossible thing not to fall or go astray. Even so angels, and those no mean ones, were not able to go right in these "paths of righteousness", but for want of leading, went away and perished. O, therefore, thou the Great Shepherd of my soul, as thou art pleased of thy grace to lead me into them, so vouchsafe with thy grace to lead me in them; for though in themselves they be "paths of righteousness", yet to me they will be but paths of error if thou vouchsafe not, as well to lead me in them, as into them. Sir Richard Baker.
Verse 3. Paths. In the wilderness and in the desert there are no raised paths, the paths being merely tracks; and sometimes there are six or eight paths running unevenly along side each other. No doubt this is what is figuratively referred to in Psalms 23:3 , "He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness", all leading to one point. John Gadsby.
Verse 3. For his name's sake. Seeing he hath taken upon him the name of a "Good Shepherd", he will discharge his part, whatever his sheep be. It is not their being bad sheep that can make him leave being a "Good Shepherd", but he will be "good", and maintain the credit of "his name" in spite of all their badness; and though no benefit come to them of it, yet there shall glory accrue to him by it, and "his name" shall nevertheless be magnified and extolled. Sir Richard Baker.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 3. Gracious restoration, holy guidance, and divine motives.