God’s Ministry of Soul Restoration
“He restoreth my soul” (Ps. 23:3).
By Fred O. Blakely
The soul restoration of reference here pertains not ould fail within him, and he would faint under the demands of the rugged course which he must pursue.
The experience of ancient Israel is spiritually repeated in the life of every person who has passed from death to life in Christ and is living and walking in Him. “They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way,” says the psalmist; “they found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses” (Ps. 107:4-6).
Life in the earthly body, for those who have spiritually moved out of it into the Spirit to company with the exalted Christ (Rom. 7:4- 6; 8:5-10), occasions depletive wear upon the soul. Its fibers are worn away by constant opposition from the seen and the fleshly realm. They simply must be rebuilt, by the same necessity that requires the rebuilding of bodily tissue, if physical life is to be maintained. That essentiality is consistently recognized by Scripture.
“Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer!” exclaimed David. “From the end of the earth will I cry unto Thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Ps. 61:1-2). “When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then Thou knewest my path,” was his acknowledgement to God (Ps. 142:3).
So may we appeal to the Father of mercies in our times of soul-faintness. The same Jesus, who, from His mountain vantage point, saw the disciples “toiling in rowing” against the “contrary” wind “in the midst of the sea” (Mk. 6:47-48), beholds us in the straits of this life, from His throne on Mount Zion. That is, indeed, a heartening reality — one that encourages us to cry to Him for help, as the saints have done to God since the world began.
That such calling upon God will bring assistance is the emphasized representation of Scripture. “He delivered them out of their distresses,” it is declared. “Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain, whereby Thou didst confirm Thine inheritance when it was weary,” witnesses David (Ps. 68:9). Thus, he prayed, “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me by Thy free Spirit” (Ps. 51:12).
As our text of Psalm 23:3 asserts, God is in the soul-restoring business, so to speak. “He restoreth my soul.” Indeed, the very “law of Jehovah is perfect, restoring the soul,” as David proclaims in another place (Ps. 19:7, ASV). One of the outstanding portrayals of that blessed fact is Isaiah 40:29-30. Out of His divine plenitude, “the everlasting God” stands ready and anxious to minister of His infinite sufficiency to all who call upon Him in truth (v. 25).
“He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might He increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength: they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary: and they shall walk, and not faint.”
Let us, by all means, continually avail ourselves of this Divine source for the renewal of our souls, lest we become weary under the stress of our earthly course, and faint in our minds (Heb. 12:3). God is faithful, and will supply all our need, “according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).
The Day Will Be Beautiful
July 20, 2017 By Jesse Stoner
Today should have been beautiful. It was 72 degrees and sunny, and there was a cool breeze that was too perfect for a day in the normally muggy month of July. …But today was the day we buried our babies.
Our babies had not been birthed, in fact, we had just gotten to the point of telling people… and then we lost them. While we never got to hold them in our arms we did witness their heart beats; and from there we began to form dreams for them, we began to plan out how we would handle two bundles of joy. So there we were on this otherwise beautiful day, with other would-be parents, mourning over what might have been.
We broke the bad news a few weeks ago, primarily because we did not want to have to pretend that everything was okay and we needed our church to pray for us. Since then people have asked us how we are doing and I have not known how to answer… until today.
The whole ride to the cemetery, at the graveside, and on our way home, I have had a song stuck in my head. It’s a song (or, more appropriately, a Bible verse) I sang with my church when I was a kid.
“He gave me beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness. I am a tree of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, and His name is glorified.”
The song comes from Isaiah 61:3. Remember that moment when Jesus opens a scroll in the synagogue (Luke 4) and reads about the Messiah from Isaiah, sits down and says “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing?” That’s the start of Isaiah 61, Jesus is the “he” in that song, “he” is the beauty, the joy, the garment. I confess that I had always sung that song with the mindset of “now”(He saved me, forgave me, took my brokenness and is making me whole), completely forgetting that God’s economy also has a “not yet.”
That song was in my head today because we had placed our babies and our broken dreams into a box and laid it in the ground; but we did it with the fullest expectation that one day they will be beauty, they will be joy.
*I have been sitting on this blog post for a couple weeks now. I wasn’t really sure if I should post it to the website because I thought it more personal than pastoral. I confess I also felt like I was just buried in grief and I didn’t want more attention brought to that grief. But I decided today to post this because we all mourn, but for those who have Jesus, we do not mourn without hope. Someday, my friends, someday there will be beauty for our ashes, there will be joy for mourning, and a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness. That someday is seen now in Christ our Savior, and it will be revealed completely in His glorious return.
“Because He Hath Poured Out His Soul Unto Death”
“Therefore will I divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong; because He hath poured out His soul unto death: and He was numbered with the transgressors; and He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isa. 53:12).
The Perspective of Divine Accomplishment. He hath Poured out His Soul unto Death. In the sufferings of Christ there was to be no holding back on His part. He offered up His body to God as a sacrifice for sins, and He poured out His soul unto Him as well. The offering up of His body is the part with which men, generally, are the most familiar, if there is any familiarity at all.
Foreshadowed in Drink Offerings. Drink offerings were commanded to be used along with the other sacrifices offered under the Law. “And the drink offering thereof shall be the fourth part of an hin for the one lamb: in the holy place shalt thou cause the strong wine to be poured unto the LORD for a drink offering” (Num. 28:7). “And he shall offer the ram for a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD, with the basket of unleavened bread: the priest shall offer also his meat offering, and his drink offering” (Num. 6:17). “And the fourth part of an hin of wine for a drink offering shalt thou prepare with the burnt offering or sacrifice, for one lamb” (Num. 15:5). “And for a drink offering thou shalt offer the third part of an hin of wine, for a sweet savour unto the LORD” (Num. 15:7). “And thou shalt bring for a drink offering half an hin of wine, for an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD” (Num. 15:10).
Prefigured in the Burning of the Rump and the Fat Covering the Inward Parts. “Also thou shalt take of the ram the fat and the rump, and the fat that covereth the inwards, and the caul above the liver, and the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them, and the right shoulder; for it is a ram of consecration” (Exo 29:22). In addition, the fat covering “the inwards” (the caul above the liver, and the two kidneys, and the fat that is upon them) of animals offered up unto the LORD were to be burnt upon the altar (Exod. 29:22).
The removal of the fat and the rump. All non-essentials for Christ making a complete and an acceptable sacrifice to God in our behalf were painfully removed from Him. Perhaps, included in these were the sensibility of His filial relation with the Father (Ps. 22:1), and the hallowed memory of “the glory” that He had with the Father “before the world was” (Jn. 17:5).
What Christ Tasted Of. “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me? why art Thou so far from helping Me, and from the words of My roaring?” (Ps. 22:1). “I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint: My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of My bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and My tongue cleaveth to My jaws; and Thou hast brought Me into the dust of death” (Ps. 22:14-15).
Each of the above phrases are expressions of different excruciatingly painful inward sufferings that Jesus tasted of when He offered Himself to God in our behalf.
Psalm 102. At the end of the Hebrews chapter 1 Paul, through the Spirit, tells us that these words are giving expression to the inward sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ. “A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the LORD. Hear my prayer, O LORD, and let my cry come unto thee. Hide not thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble; incline thine ear unto me: in the day when I call answer me speedily. For my days are consumed like smoke, and my bones are burned as an hearth. My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread. By reason of the voice of my groaning my bones cleave to my skin. I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert. I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top. Mine enemies reproach me all the day; and they that are mad against me are sworn against me. For I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping, Because of thine indignation and thy wrath: for thou hast lifted me up, and cast me down. My days are like a shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass. But thou, O LORD, shalt endure for ever; and thy remembrance unto all generations. Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come” (Ps. 102:1-13; see also vv. 23-27; cf. Heb. 1:10-12). In verses 23-27 of this Psalm the Father is addressing the Son, consoling Him, by reminding Him that the very environment that was, in the time of His humiliation almost overwhelming Him, was part of the heavens and the earth which the Son had created and that He also would roll up as a scroll, and discard it when the need for it was fulfilled. Only God can comfort in this manner!
When God seems like He is far away, that constitutes suffering. When one’s inward parts are distressed out of measure, that constitutes suffering. When the heart, the seat of one’s affection to the Lord, momentarily loses its ability to be affected as before, that constitutes suffering. When strength Godward is diminished or dried up, that constitutes suffering. When the tongue is unable to give loving expression to God as at former times, that constitutes suffering. When living seems, for the time, like it is pointless, that constitutes suffering. Coming from any other man besides Jesus Christ, these words would not be worth listening to, but coming from the Son of God they are a stanza of the song of redemption.
In all of these expressions pertaining to the Lord Jesus Christ and His inward sufferings, this did not at all involve a willful distancing of oneself from God, but rather it was a sense and perception, keenly felt by Him, that God had distanced Himself from Him. At this point the sins of the world were being laid upon Him, and so God could not look upon Him with favor as before. Here we are brought face to face with some of the mystery of godliness: God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself (II Cor. 5:18-19), By Himself Christ purged our sins (Heb. 1:3).
Incidentally, Christ’s suffering entailed the removal from a state and condition unto which He had rightfully belonged and had been blessedly acclimated. In the case of the Lord Jesus Christ, the removal was voluntary on His part. “In the volume of the book it is written of Me, Lo, I come to do Thy will, O God.” From one perspective, this voluntary removal was brief and temporary, but from another it seemed to Him, particularly while on the Cross, like the wheels of time were barely rolling forward.
In our case, suffering entails being removed from a state and a condition for which we, in the purpose of God, were originally created. In God’s Presence is fullness of joy, and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore. We were created to dwell in God’s Presence, to be a people near unto Him, and ultimately to be incorporated into the Godhead. “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me. And the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as We are one: I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me” (Jn. 17:20-23).
His Soul Was Poured Out unto Death. Rachel,“when her soul was in departing” (Gen. 35:18). Death is essentially a separation, a separation of the soul from the body. He said, it is finished, and gave up the ghost. “And Jesus cried again with a loud voice, and yielded up his spirit” (Mt. 27:50, ASV). With the Lord Jesus Christ this was done voluntarily. He literally dismissed His Spirit. “Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of My Father” (Jn. 10:17-18).
He Emptied Himself. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross” (Phil. 2:5-8). He “emptied Himself” (ASV). –Al Stoner