Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss telling us about the author of one of the most popular passages of Scripture, Psalm 23.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: David, the shepherd David, the king David, the poet David, the man of God, David the adulterer knew what it was to desperately need the Shepherd to restore him when he was wayward and failing.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, August 5.

What words best describe your life: Hurried? Stressful? Restful? Peaceful?

I’m not talking about your circumstances, which probably include some challenges. I’m talking about your heart. Here’s Nancy with some perspective, continuing the series The Lord is My Shepherd.

Nancy: As we’re studying the 23rd Psalm, it’s important for us to remember that the man who wrote it, the shepherd-king David, and the Jews who read that psalm in those days lived in the land of Palestine.

Palestine was a barren desert land. It wasn’t easy to find green pastures and streams of water. The shepherd had to know how to find them and where to find them for his sheep. That’s why it’s significant when David says, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside waters of rest—or still waters” (23:1-2).

He said the Lord is the kind of shepherd who knows how to find what his sheep need, even in a place where it’s hard to find those green pastures and those waters of rest.

As you read the 23rd Psalm and meditate on it, you may think, “Well, I don’t live in Palestine, but that kind of describes my life.” You may have five kids and think, “It’s hard to find waters of rest at this season of my life.” Or this circumstance and situation in your life may be such now . . . Maybe you’re part of that sandwich generation that is carrying for elderly parents at the same time you have teenagers, and you’re just feeling like every waking moment someone needs something from you. How do you find green pastures? How do you find waters of rest?

Let me just say: First, follow the Shepherd. He knows how to find them for you. You’ve got to trust your Shepherd. He will find them for you. He knows they’re important. If you’ll follow Him, He will lead you to those places.

Remember that when Jesus chose His twelve disciples, Mark 3 tells us "He chose them that they might be with Him and then that He might send them out to minister to others” (Mark 3:14, paraphrased). We have to be with the Lord. We have to have communion, fellowship, intimacy with Him before we can be useful at going out and ministering to others—even if those others are the preschoolers in your home. You need to be with the Lord before you can be effective at serving Him.

Then when the disciples went out, Mark 6 tells us they returned to Jesus. After doing all their ministry, they

Told him all that they had done and taught. And He said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest awhile. For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in a boat to a desolate place by themselves (verses 30-32).

Now, in that case, it didn’t last real long. The crowds followed them, and Jesus graciously received the crowds and had compassion on them. But He knew they needed even that short period of time to get away, to be with Him, to get recalibrated, to get replenished, to get refueled to be able to go back out and face those needy crowds. That’s why we need those quiet times, those quiet moments, those quiet places to get replenished.

You have to feed from Jesus. You have to drink of Him before you can pour out into others’ lives.

Psalm chapter 1 tells us the one who "delights in the law of the Lord, who meditates on it day and night"—those aren’t speed words; those are reflective words. Those are words that are foreign to our 21st-century mindset. But the one who meditates on God’s law, who delights in it, will be "like a tree planted by streams of water.” There’s that water again. He will be like "a tree that yields its fruit in its season. Its leaf does not wither. In all he does, he prospers” (verses 1-4).

You say, “I’m withering. I’m dried up. I can’t produce fruit. I’m exhausted.” Then it may be that you’ve not been planted by those rivers of water; you’ve not been by those still waters of rest; you’ve not been mediating on God’s Word, delighting in it.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures.” Sometimes you just have to be still, to stop moving.

In his book Overload Syndrome, Richard Swenson says,

Even the best crew can’t fix a race car when it’s going 200 miles per hour. Neither can our bodies perform needed repairs in the midst of a hyperliving lifestyle.

You can’t get the rest you need, the refreshing you need for your soul, for your spirit, or even for your body on an occasional few minutes snatched here and there. If you’re just going to get a little bit of sleep, a few snatches here and there, or a little bit of rest in the presence of God, snatches here and there, you can’t sustain spiritual or physical life long-term that way.

You can’t sustain your spiritual life by just turning on Christian radio for a few minutes on your way to work. That’s eating on the run. That’s trying to keep that car fueled up while it’s going 200 miles per hour.

“Be still and know that I am God.” We need down time.

I just made a few notes here of some things that have been helpful to me and that I want to encourage you with, and I want to say I’m a pilgrim in process here. I’m a sheep who lives on the run a lot and a sheep who needs this verse, needs to lie down in green pastures, needs to let my Shepherd lead me beside waters of rest. There’s some things I’m discovering that are helping me in that process as I’m following my Shepherd.

One is the importance of Sabbath—rest—one day a week. That’s something I’ve known was important in God’s Word and to varying degrees have tried to practice over the years. My father and mother, as we grew up, that was a very important part in our home life.

Maybe some day we’ll do a whole series on how to take a Sabbath, but let me just say that I had gotten to a place, even as I was studying this passage, where I wasn’t really taking Sabbaths and not really taking one day a week to shut down, to turn off my computer, to stop the engines from revving so high, and just to let the Lord replenish me.

God said to the Israelites, “If you don’t do it with the land, if you don’t let the land lie fallow one year out of seven, the time will come when your land won’t produce crops anymore.” You’ll give that time one way or another. It may be with a breakdown—physical or emotional or mental or spiritual—but one way or another, you will take the Sabbath. How much better to take it regularly as God gives it to us.

I’ve been thinking about those Sundays. This is a gift from God to my soul. Receive it as a gift.

Let me say something really radical about down time: We need time when we disconnect from technology. When we turn off the radio, we turn off the television, we turn off the computer, we turn off the CD player, we turn off the iPod. Some of your kids will grow up never having had ten minutes without some kind of sound connected to their ears. That’s not safe. That’s not healthy for the soul. You need times when you turn off all of that, when you disconnect from it, so you can hear the Lord speak.

We need short breaks during the course of our day. It may be while you’re waiting somewhere in a waiting room. Take some good reading material with you. I keep a small version of the New Testament and Psalms and Proverbs in my purse so I can always have something I can meditate on when I have a few extra moments—times when you just re-center, you focus, you get replenished.

I’m not talking about being lazy. I’m not talking about shirking responsibility, trying to have an easy life. I’m talking about ordering your life and your days and your hours around the Lord, putting first things first, getting your soul nourished and fit so you can be ready for the battle.

Here’s another thing: Don’t cram every waking moment with activity or conversation. You need time for reflection, and that requires that you examine your schedule—periodically. You have to do this because things fill up quickly.

You need to examine your family’s schedule insofar as you have any control over that. It means some tough choices. It means your kids will not be able to be involved in every activity they’d like to be involved in. It means your children probably won’t be involved in as many sports and other activities as many of their friends are. But your children need to learn how to walk by green pastures and by waters of rest. You may need to cut some things out of your family’s schedule—some of your commitments, some of your activities—to say, “I have to have time to get filled with God if I’m going to be able to give Him out to others.”

We’ve been quoting George Mueller during these series. He talked about the importance of nourishing our souls with the Word of God. He said,

In what way shall we attain to this settled happiness of soul? How shall we learn to enjoy God? I answer: This happiness is to be obtained through the study of the Holy Scriptures. It is absolutely needful in order that happiness in the Lord may continue, that the Scriptures be regularly read. These are God’s appointed means for the nourishment of the inner man . . . not the simple reading of the word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts.1

So as you clear out some of your schedule, clear out some of the noise, clear out some of the clutter, clear out some of the unnecessary things so that you can have space and time and quietness of mind and heart to meet with the Lord, let your soul be nourished in His Word, and as you get in the Word, then feast on Christ who is the Living Word.

Jesus said, “Come to Me all you who labor [you’re stressed out] you who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

He knows what you need and when you need it. He knows how much sleep you need. He knows what your soul needs. If you will give Him your days and your hours and your moments, I believe He will multiply to you what you need. It’s just supernatural. He can make a few moments spent quietly in His presence enough to carry you through several hours of a very hectic day with your responsibilities.

Now, don’t take that as an excuse to take shortcuts, but there are seasons of life when it’s much, much harder. God knows that. Trust Him, and trust that He will lead you. He knows how to take you to those green pastures. He knows how to find them for you, and He knows how to lead you beside waters of rest.

Then verse 3, our Shepherd “restores my soul.” As David the shepherd-king was thinking about what it had been like for him to be a shepherd and how he cared for his sheep, I’m sure he was thinking, “When my sheep needed food, when they needed water, when they needed rest, when they were hungry, when they were tired, I took care of their needs. I found what they needed. I led them to the places they needed. I provided for them. I restored their souls.”

I think he was probably also thinking of times when those sheep would become wayward, and they would stray from the flock. He was thinking of how he would leave the rest of the sheep and would go out and find that one little lamb that had strayed—maybe caught down in a ravine, maybe caught in a thicket, maybe on a dark night, scared and off by itself—and he was thinking, “I would restore my sheep then.”

Maybe he was thinking of some times those sheep when they were expecting, they would fall tipsy over on their back, and they would get stuck—they couldn’t roll over; they were too fat. The sheep was what they would call cast—it couldn’t get itself up. “Why are you so cast down, oh my soul?” (Psalm 42:5). Sheep got that way, and the shepherd would come and pick the sheep up and put it right on its feet. He would restore the sheep.

So I’m sure he was thinking of different times and seasons in the sheep’s life when as a shepherd he would restore those sheep.

And he thought, “My Shepherd God restores my soul in those different seasons and needs and times of my life.”

Now the word restore, the word in the original language that’s translated restore in Psalm 23, is a word that means "to turn back, to turn around, to return." Often in the Old Testament it’s used to speak of a spiritual return to the Lord. God says, “Return to Me, and I will return to you.”

It means "to refresh, to revive." “Revive our hearts. Restore our hearts, Oh Lord.”

The basic meaning of the word has to do with going back to the point of departure. Somehow you got off the track, somehow you fell over, somehow you got topsy-turvy, somehow your needs aren’t being met. You’ve lost the place of fullness and abundance and provision. There’s been a leaving, and it’s God restoring us to that point of departure.

In fact, sometimes this word in the Old Testament is translated convert or repent. God brings my soul to repentance. He converts me. He changes me. He brings me back to where I need to be.

Now the promise that God restores our souls suggests that there are times when our souls need to be restored. You say, “Well, that’s pretty obvious.” But think about what some of those times are:

  • We need to be restored spiritually and in our soul when we are weak or fainting.
  • We need to be restored when we are wayward or failing.

Let’s look at some of those seasons and see how we need to be restored:

First, when we are weak or fainting. I think there are a couple different things that can cause us to be weak and fainting spiritually. One is when we have been serving others. All of you who are moms, those of you who are wives, those of you who serve in your church, those of you who serve in your work place, you know what it is to give out so much to minister to the needs of others.

There are times when you feel like you’re just kind of drooping, wilting—drooping hands and hearts. We need to be revived; we need to be quickened. We get depleted from giving out, and we need to get our reserves replenished. We need to get refueled. We need that.

In those times, the major thing God uses to restore our souls is His Word. His Word restores our soul. Psalm 19 says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul” (verse 7). That’s this word restore. He restores our soul; He restores our mind, our emotions, our spirit through His Word.

So when we have served, we get to where we are weak and fainting, and we need God to restore us.

There’s another thing that can make us weak and fainting, and that’s when we have suffered, when we’ve been through affliction. Psalm 71, verse 20 says,

You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive [restore] me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again.

I love that verse in 1 Peter chapter 5:10. At the end of a whole book on the subject of suffering, Peter says,

After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Isn’t that great? He restores my soul when I have served and when I have suffered. When I’m weak and fainting, I’m depleted, He fills me back up. He ministers grace. The God of all grace is the Shepherd who restores my soul.

There’s some times when we need to be restored, not because we’re weak and fainting, but because we’re wayward and failing. That’s when we have sinned; we have strayed; we have stumbled.

It’s the tendency of sheep to wander away from the flock, to get lost. So when darkness falls, they can be in great danger. They can be easy prey for wild animals. They may fall off a cliff. So when the shepherd discovers that one of his sheep is missing, it’s important to him to go out and retrieve that sheep, to find it, and then to place it on his shoulders—you’ve seen the pictures—and then to carry it back to the sheep fold.

Of course, David knew what he was talking about, not just from having been a shepherd, but from having been a sinner. He knew what it was like to stray from the Shepherd. He knew what it was like, when he was an anointed, appointed king of God, to leave the fold and go after his neighbor’s wife. David, the shepherd David, the king David, the poet David, the man of God, David the adulterer knew what it was to desperately need the Shepherd to restore him when he was wayward and failing.

That’s why he prayed in Psalm 51, that great penitent prayer, Oh, God, now that I’ve repented, would You "restore to me the joy of Your salvation?” (verse 12). He knew that he had a Shepherd God who was in the restoring business, the restoration business—taking old things, used things, beat-up things, wrecked things, discarded things, things that nobody else wants, things that are washed up and that nobody would have any use for, God takes and He restores. He makes them new. We have a redeeming God who is making all things new.

So, you may have sinned, willfully and overtly, and you may be right now living with just deep regret and pain of how you have wandered from the Lord. You say, “How could I have done this? I’ve wandered. I’m so far from God. I’ve sinned. How could He ever forgive me? How could He ever restore me?”

You may have just left your first love—just wandered off in ways that aren’t so overt. Regardless, you need to be restored.

We have a Shepherd God who says, “I will restore your soul.” You don’t have to stay away.

Aren’t you glad we have a God who pursues sheep who’ve wandered off? He pursues those who are His own. He wants to restore you. He wants to bring you back to full, complete fellowship with Himself. I want to say in God’s economy, He doesn’t just bandage it up and make it like it was before. I’ve seen God do this with marriages, where He restores and makes it better than it ever was, better than anybody ever thought it could be. There is no hopeless situation. It is not too late.

If He is the Shepherd of your soul, He can fully restore. He can restore, Joel says, “the years that the locusts have eaten” (2:25). He can give it back to you and more.

Don’t live in regret over your past. If you’ve repented of it, if you’ve put it behind you, if you’ve confessed and forsaken it, let the Shepherd restore your soul. Let Him give you back hope. Let Him give you fullness and joy that you never thought you could experience.

Does your soul need to be restored? Then get to the Shepherd.

You don’t necessarily find that restoration through vacations, music, entertainment, therapy, medication. You can do all those things and still have your soul be weary and wayward. Those things in and of themselves will never restore your soul.

Restoration is found in a Person—capital “P”—the Lord Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep.

Lord, there is some sheep listening to this message today who needs her soul restored. I want to just pray for her right now and ask that You would minister tailor-made grace; that You’d give hope; that You would let her know that You are seeking after her, You are pursuing her, You want restored fellowship with her, You want to renew her, You want to revive her heart.

Lord, would You restore souls this day? Do it, Lord, for Jesus’ sake, and in His name we pray it, amen.

Leslie: I’m so glad God knows how to restore a soul. Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been walking us through the 23rd Psalm in a series called, The Lord is My Shepherd.

It’s such an incredible privilege to watch as God restores and heals the hearts of women.

Nancy, I’m thankful that Revive Our Hearts can be part of what He’s doing.

Nancy: It really is a joy, Leslie, and I love getting letters and emails from women who tell us how God is transforming their lives.

Just several weeks ago a woman wrote to us from outside the United States. She said, “On July 6, 2009, I made the final decision to divorce my husband.”

Then she said, “About 20 minutes after I made that decision, I received the email to pray for your husband.”

The email she’s referring to is one that Revive Our Hearts sent as part of a 30-day challenge where we encourage women to make a commitment not to say anything critical about their husbands for 30 days. Then we encourage them through that 30-day process with a daily email. When this woman received one of those emails, it changed her plans to divorce her husband.

She went on to write, “My marriage is back on track. God gave me peace. He saved my marriage, and He made my husband calm. God is so great,” she said.

I just love stories like that that demonstrate the greatness of God, and what an amazing thing it is to see the way that God can direct the precise timing of an email.

God can also provide the resources that will allow Revive Our Hearts to continue speaking to this listener and others like her. Would you ask God what He would have you give so this ministry can keep calling women to freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ?

When you make a donation of any amount, we want to say “thanks” by sending a workbook that I’ve co-authored called Seeking Him. This is a 12-week study that will take you through a process of personal revival.

You can donate online at ReviveOurHearts.com, or you can call us at 1-800-569-5959. Ask for Seeking Him when you make your donation.

Leslie: Your choices along the paths of life may take you into some unexpected places. If you’re on the wrong path and don’t feel like you can escape, we’ll give you some hope—tomorrow, on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

1Spiritual Secrets of George Muller—Selected by Roger Steer, Harold Shaw (Wheaton) and OMG Books (PA), 1985, 23.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

Join the Discussion