“He restores my soul…” (Psalm 23:3 ESV).
The Hebrew word being used for “restore” is shûb, meaning “turn” or “return.”
Then, there’s “soul.” It’s a translation of the Hebrew word nephesh. The definition? Well, in Psalm 23, it’s defined as “the life of the individual.” But it also relates to a variety of other English words—for example, “mind.” According to my dictionary, a single word in our language doesn’t give it justice.
Your life is so valuable—so deep, amazing, and beautiful—that it’s nearly impossible to define the deepest part of who you are with a single word.
Therefore, let’s go back to the four words quoted from Psalm 23:3. After studying some Hebrew, it means something like this: “God turns, or returns, my life.”
Whew! Maybe that’s a column within itself. You see, I typically shy away from sharing much on the original Bible languages. However, I feel as if this week’s topic benefits from the research. Remember, God turns, or returns, my life.
Do you need God to give you life again?
Alright, sure. Maybe you’ve never lost your breath. Your heart still beats. You’re still alive. Just because you’ve never died physically doesn’t mean you’ve never died spiritually. And if you’re anything like me, I need God to “turn” or “return” my spiritual life.
Another translation of the Hebrew word shûb is “repent.” In 1 Kings 8, Solomon is praying to God. The Ark of the Covenant has just been placed within the new Temple, and he uses shûb as he pleads, “If they [God’s people] sin against you—and who has never sinned?—you might become angry with them and let their enemies conquer them and take them captive to their land far away or near. But in that land of exile, they might turn to you in repentance and pray, ‘We have sinned, done evil, and acted wickedly.’ If they turn to you with their whole heart and soul in the land of their enemies and pray toward the land you gave to their ancestors—toward this city you have chosen, and toward this Temple I have built to honor your name—then hear their prayers and their petition from heaven where you live, and uphold their cause” (1 Kings 8:46-49).
Notice that Solomon speaks of turning—shûb—toward the presence of God. At this point in history, it’s the Temple. But Jesus has made a new way for us to approach the Father.
“By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place” (Hebrews 10:20).
God does the work. He turns, or returns, my life.
But I’m learning that you and I have a part to play in this beautiful picture called restoration.
In the 1 Kings 8 story, Solomon desires God to forgive His people. But here’s the catch—only if they shûb to God. Only if they “turn” from their sins. Their patterns. Things that sidetrack them from the bigger picture. Any concept, activity, or thought that’s displeasing to God.
So let’s tie it all together. Don’t miss this!
If you shûb to God, God will shûb your life. If you turn to God, God will turn, or return, your life. If you choose to repent of your sins, God will restore your soul.
I find myself thinking about the mind when I consider the first part of Psalm 23:3. Thoughts become actions, so I believe you can relate to what I’m about to say.
My mind needs turned toward God. Why? Because of the patterns I often find within my brain.
You see, we all have patterns. Work patterns. Eating patterns. Clothing patterns. But thought patterns have recently been predominant in my life. And there’s a problem with my patterns. Indeed, they have a tendency of bypassing God. How? Because I focus on x. Then y. Then x. Then y. And in the process, I often lose sight of God.
That’s why we must become kingdom minded. We must forget any pattern keeping us from seeing Jesus. We need to focus—to turn—toward Him.
After all, “We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus…” (Hebrews 12:2). Just Jesus.
It’s your turn—shûb to God. Then, it’s His turn. He will certainly do as the Psalmist writes—turn, or return, your life.