This sermon is from the series WHAT FAITH KNOWS ABOUT GOD and was preached at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Cherry Log, Georgia by Pastor Paul Mims on January 26, 2014. You can hear this sermon at www.csbccl.org
Psalm 23:3 “He restores my soul. He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”
Our son, Joe, gave us a video course in Great Art Masterpieces and it has helped me to understand and appreciate more in depth the world of art and sculpture. I found an article by Mary Kassian on the restoration of a great art masterpiece. “In November of 2008, one of the greatest masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance was restored to its original splendor and returned to its home at the world renowned gallery in Florence. The Madonna del Cardellino was painted by Raphael in 1505 for the wedding of his friend, a wealthy Florence merchant. It portrays Jesus Christ’s mother, Mary, with two children who are playing with a bird. The children symbolized John the Baptist and his young cousin Jesus. The gold finch bird that feeds among thorns is interpreted as representing Christ’s future suffering.
But something happened to this painting. It was painted in 1505. Forty years after it was created, there was an earthquake in the house in which this painting was kept, and the painting was shattered into 17 different pieces. The wood was all smashed up into bits. So another artist took long iron nails and tried to patch the pieces together. And then he tried to paint over it to conceal the breaks and make it look whole again. But over the years, there were so many layers of paint added and so much dust and grime over this painting that the original colors, the original art, was completely obscured.
The contemporary restoration project fixed the shattered areas and removed layers of paint and dirt to get the colors back. It was a team effort. It took fifty people ten years of working on this painting, and the result is stunning. The cracks are gone. Centuries of brown film and grime are gone. The dulling veneers and patches have been stripped away, and the finished product glows with all of the deep colors: the reds, and blues, and gold of the original work of art. Given how badly it was damaged, the restoration of Raphael’s painting is arguably even more amazing than the painting itself. The original was splendid, but the miracle of restoration compounds the beauty. Knowing the drama of the whole story, you can only gawk at it in wonder.
The spiritual parallels are profound. They speak to a far greater masterpiece of restoration, the one that the Lord wants to do in your life and in mine. Tragically, the beautiful design of who God created us to be has been marred by sin; and layers of grime and dirt have collected. Maybe you’ve felt them and sensed them in your life. You thought you could paint over the damage, but it didn’t work, and the patches, the veneers that you applied just made things worse, and the cracks are showing. Maybe you’ve experienced earthquakes that have shattered you, but the good news of the gospel is that Jesus has the power to make all things new.”
David would agree with this. When he wrote, “He restores my soul” he was speaking volumes. You can almost detect a sob as he says it. You can imagine a tear on the page as he writes it. You can tell that he is a man that wandered far away from God and has gotten his song back. “Restored” – What a beautiful word!
There are three pictures in this verse.
I. BEING LOST
It is the picture of a lost sheep who wandered away from the shepherd’s care and is alone out on the hillsides where there is danger. In this state of spiritual awayness the wolves of the world come with their snarling powers. The sheep did not mean to wander. It did not set out to go astray. As it followed its own direction and grazed mindlessly time passed and when it came to its senses, the flock and the shepherd were nowhere in sight.
There is a line in the hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” which says, “Prone to wander Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.” This is so descriptive of our wandering lives. The Christian does not become lost in terms of eternity, but he does become lost in fellowship with the Father and usefulness in the Kingdom.
Perhaps David was thinking of the time when he was the young King of Israel. He loved the Lord and sang praises unto him. He had been chosen by God for the specific task of leading Israel after the death of Saul.
What a foolish and fleshly thing he did! From his balcony he saw Bathsheba taking a bath and he allowed himself to dwell on the scene as his mind stirred up his lust for her. He sent for her and used her for his gratification. The scripture says, “But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin when it is finished, brings forth death.” (James 1:14-15)
Bathsheba conceived a child. The problem was complicated by the fact that she was married to a soldier named Uriah. In order to hide his sin, David had Uriah sent to the front lines of the battle where he could be killed. And he was. Then God sent the prophet Nathan to David to point out his sin. The child was born and became ill. David pleaded for his life, but he died. And there he was – the apple of God’s eye, the writer of songs of worship to God, an adulterer, a murderer, and a man in the despondency of grief. He was presently lost to the fellowship and usefulness to God. Like a wandering sheep, he was far away.
II. BEING CAST
When a sheep falls down and can’t get back up because of the weight of its fleece, it is called “being cast.” This was the spiritual state of David. He was sinfully cast. In all ages people have wrestled with the problem of sin. In all ages, people have wrestled with the problem of personal sin. Although David was a king, the bite of the serpent had produced a condition that defied all human help. The weight of his sin upon him would not allow him to get up. For a sheep this was a very dangerous situation. A sheep would be defenseless from an attack from wolves. Unless the shepherd were to come and find the sheep, there would be no hope.
Our present generation doesn’t really believe that we are sinners. “As long as nobody gets hurt,” we say. “To err is human, to forgive is divine.”
In her book, SCANDALOUS RISKS, Susan Howatch tells the story of Venetia Flaxon, a young woman who falls in love with a friend of the family who happens to be a priest – in fact, the dean of the cathedral. They develop a secret love affair. Naturally, they rationalize their behavior. Doubts, however, begin to paralyze the mind of the young woman. She goes one day to seek the counsel from an elderly priest. Venetia justifies this violation of ethical and moral rules by arguing that the metaphorical language of past generations no longer adequately describes God. Love is all the explanation that one needs in today’s world. In an attempt to help Venetia understand the implications of her actions, the priest turns to a contemporary analogy. He says that when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, many people were killed outright. There were others who appeared to be unscathed by outward appearance. Yet they had been radiated and would die slowly through the years to come. The priest spelled out the way that everything is contaminated by sin. Near the end of the novel, Venetia finally admits the damage of the sin she so easily rationalized is so serious that she can no longer find God.
David was also emotionally cast. Joy was gone. For a year he struggled with his sin. Then God sent Nathan who defined the problem between him and God was his sin. That is when he prayed the prayer of repentance which is Psalm 51.
“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to your loving kindness: according to the multitude of your tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” (Psalm 51:1-2)
In this prayer he uses three different words for his sin: transgressions – which means that he had been a rebellious soul; iniquity – which meant a compromising of character until he was out of touch with God and out of tune with himself; sin- which meant that the whole direction of his life was wrong. He longs for the cleansing that would fit him for the Divine Presence again. It is not for the pardon alone, but for the purity that would admit him to the old place in God’s plan for his life. He wants God to start his song again.
In his book, PEOPLE OF THE LIE, Scott Peck writes about one of his most difficult counseling situations – a woman he calls Charlene. At a crucial point in her counselling, right after she explained that everything in life seemed meaningless, Dr. Peck asked her what the meaning of was. When she refused to answer, he asked her what is the purpose of life for Christians.
“We exist for the glory of God,” Charlene said in a flat, low monotone as if she was sullenly repeating an alien catechism, learned by rote and extracted from her at gunpoint. “The purpose of life is to glorify God.”
“Well,” Dr. Peck responded. There was a short silence. For a brief moment he thought that she might cry. “I cannot do it,” she said. “There is no room in me for that. That would be my death.” Then with a suddenness that frightened Peck, what seemed to be her choked-back sobs turned into a roar. “I don’t want to live for God,” she cried out. “I will not. I want to live for me, for my own sake.” Charlene is like a lot of people today. They are cast down and they cannot get up. They don’t mind a little religion, but they would never dream of turning everything over to God.
III. BEING RESTORED
David wanted to be restored. The Shepherd had come to him through Nathan, the prophet. David repented with bitter remorse.
“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.” (Psalm 51:12) Psalm 130 is an expression of intensity of repentance. “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.”
Psalm 32 is David’s Psalm of forgiveness. “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.”
The shepherd lifts the sheep up on its feet, talks to it softly and encourages it to follow him back to the flock. “He restored my Soul!” There is cleansing and hope again. He is back in fellowship with the lover of his soul.
Bill Gaither was an unknown twenty-seven year old high school teacher in Indiana when evangelist Dale Oldham invited him to play the piano at a revival fifty miles away.
The service was memorable. Dale’s son, Doug Oldham, provided the special music. Many people responded to the invitation. After the service, Bill, Dale, and Doug talked about how the Holy Spirit had blessed that service and had touched them. Dale said to Bill, “You should write a song that says, ‘He touched me, O he touched me.’” The next morning Bill wrote the song. Within a week Doug Oldham was singing it in concerts. Others recorded it and Elvis Presley won a Grammy for his recording of it. That song launched Bill Gaither’s music career.
“Shackled by a heavy burden, ‘neath a load of guilt and shame; Then the hand of Jesus touched me, and now I am no longer the same.
He touched me, O He touched me, and O the joy that floods my soul; something happened, and now I know, He touched me and made me whole.
Since I met this blessed Savior, since He cleansed and made me whole; I will never cease to praise Him, I’ll shout it while eternity rolls.”
PRAISE BE TO HIS NAME!