“He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Psalm 23:3
The analogy of the Lord as our Shepherd occurs throughout the Bible. Of course, that makes us sheep, which isn’t exactly a flattering comparison. Sheep aren’t smart. They tend to stray from the safety of the shepherd’s path and wander into dangerous territory. Can you identify? At some point, we’ve all wandered onto the wrong path in one way or another. Mercifully, our Good Shepherd seeks us out when we stray. He restores and guides us; not only for our well-being but, “for His name’s sake.”
No one understood this truth better than David. He allowed a momentary, sinful desire to linger. Lust became adultery, which led to manipulation and murder (2 Samuel 11). Although David strayed, the Lord sought him in order to restore him. In David’s prayer of confession, he pleads, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation” (Psalm 51:12). The full chapter reveals the weight of the words, “He restores my soul.”
It’s in our nature to stray, just as it’s the nature of sheep. Isaiah 53:6 tells us, “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” And 1 Peter 2:25 reminds us, “For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.”
Like David, we enter dangerous territory when we follow our own desires rather than the Shepherd. But just as every sheep is valuable to its shepherd, we are valuable to Jesus. He makes that clear in the parable of the shepherd who left his ninety-nine sheep in order to find the one lost sheep. The shepherd didn’t love that wandering sheep more than the others. He simply loved the one just as much as he loved them all.
We also harm the name of the Lord when we stray. The world associates the words and behavior of Christians with Christ – and rightly so! A shepherd’s reputation is built on the health of His sheep. So, while the Lord seeks us out for our own well-being, it’s ultimately, “for His name’s sake.” We best represent and glorify Jesus by following as He guides. Because we have no righteousness of our own, it’s impossible to stay on “the paths of righteousness” without Him.
An old hymn says, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it; prone to leave the God I love.” Is that you today? Are you wandering into dangerous territory? Well, the Good Shepherd seeks and restores stray sheep. So, draw close to Him right now. Make Psalm 119:176 your personal prayer, “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant, for I do not forget Your commandments.”