The Song of Recovery

Bible Book: Psalms  23 : 3
Subject: Repentance; Recovery; Forgiveness; Cleansing
Series: A Song for all Seasons
Introduction

We come now to the second message in our series on the 23rd Psalm. Today we are considering Psalm 23:3 and the message is entitled, The Song of Recovery.

Robert Robinson authored the hymn, "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing," but as time passed he lost the joy of the Lord and the happy fellowship he had once enjoyed with Christ. He wandered away from the Lord and sin became his habit in life. As a result, he was deeply troubled in his spirit, heart and mind. Seeking to find peace, he decided to travel. In the course of his journeys, he met a young woman who was a faithful Christian. As they talked, she soon realized that he was well-informed on spiritual and biblical matters. She asked him what he thought of a hymn she had recently read. To his surprise, it was the very hymn he had written a number of years before. He tried to evade her question, but she continued to press him for a response. He began to weep in her presence. With tears streaming down his face, he said, "I am the man who wrote that hymn many years ago. I'd give anything to experience again the joy I knew then." It was her turn to be surprised, but she encouraged him by saying that the “streams of mercy" he had written about in the hymn still flowed for those who turned to the Lord. These are the words of the second verse in that hymn that she was referring to:

“Oh to grace how great a debtor

Daily I'm constrained to be

Let your goodness like a fetter

Bind my wandering heart to thee

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it

Prone to leave the God I love

Here's my heart Lord,

Take and seal it

Seal it for thy courts above.”

That very day the author of the hymn was restored to fellowship through the reminder of the very words he had written. Tears of joy, rather than tears of regret, filled his eyes!

Even the very best of God’s servants are prone to wander. It is the nature of the sheep to get out of fellowship with the shepherd. Certainly that is true of us. What is true of sheep is true of Christians. “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it.” If we are not right with God, we need to get right with Him; and, if we are right with Him, we need stay right.

A Backslider is a saved person who was slidden away from the Lord. For the Christian, the relationship with God cannot be lost, but fellowship can be damaged. Every Christian goes through some periods of backsliding during a lifetime. What are we to do when our hearts are not as close to the Lord as they should be? That is what this message is about today. It is important for us to remain in full fellowship with the Lord.

Two theological students were walking along a street in the Whitechapel district of London, a section where old and used clothing is sold. "What a fitting illustration all this makes!" said one of the students as he pointed to a suit of clothes hanging on a rack by a window. A sign there read: SLIGHTLY SOILED--GREATLY REDUCED IN PRICE. When we wander away from the Lord, we become soiled and greatly reduced in our worth in the Kingdom. Let us now look at the sheep that wanders away and how it is restored.

I. The Categories of the Sheep

Sheep can be divided into three categories. As we look at these divisions or types of sheep, we can see ourselves. If we have slipped away from the Lord, it will be in one of these three ways.

A. Defiant Sheep Restored with the Rod

These are those who go their own way. They can be stubborn and rebellious. “All we like sheep have gone astray, we’ve turned everyone to our own way.”

A shepherd used a rod to correct his sheep. He created the rod by digging up a sapling, cutting away the roots but leaving a knob on the end. Many shepherd added pieces of rock or metal in the end of the knob. He then practiced throwing the rod till he became proficient in accuracy. He used the rod in this way to protect the sheep. However, there are times when the shepherd must use the rod to correct a wayward sheep. It is not a pleasant thing for the sheep but it is occasionally a necessity in order to protect and train the sheep.

Somewhere I read about a lady who visited Switzerland and observed a sheepfold located high on a mountainside. She noticed an individual sheep by the side of the road bleating in pain, but looking more closely she discovered that its leg was injured. She asked the shepherd how it happened. "I had to break it myself," he answered sadly. "It was the only way I could keep that wayward creature from straying into unsafe places. From past experience I have found that a sheep will follow me once I have nursed it back to health. Because of the loving relationship that will be established as I care for her, in the future she will come instantly at my beck and call."

Sometimes the shepherd has to use the rod on the sheep. This occasionally required the shepherd to wound or even break a sheep’s leg. Then the shepherd tended the wound and helped the sheep to heal. It is said that after such an experience a sheep was more prone to follow faithfully all the directions of the shepherd. Sometimes those who had gone through this experience would become a leader among the other sheep.

Look at Hosea 6:1, “Come and let us return to the Lord, for He hath torn and He will heal us; He hath smitten and He will bind us up.” The same God that breaks us is the God who will bind us up. David said, “Before I was afflicted I went astray. It is good for me when I was afflicted.” Jacob got away from God. Jacob wrestled with God. God wounded Jacob. He crippled his hip. When he came to the end of his life, “Jacob worshipped leaning on his staff.” Broken that he might be blessed!

Hebrews 12:5….”Despise not the chastisement of the Lord.” He restoreth my soul and leads me the paths of righteousness. Note in Hebrews that righteousness is always the goal of God following His chastisement.

You can do one of three things when you are chastised.

1. Resent It

(Hebrews 12:5). You should not resent it. Chastising reveals that you are a child of God It also renews your worship (Hebrews 12:9). We give reverence to our fathers who chastised us in the past; sometimes as adults we actually brag about it. We are glad that our parents disciplined us as children. That is what happens when we properly accept the chastisement of God. It restores our fellowship. Look at 12:11. It is not joyous at the time it is taking place.

2. Faint Under It

Some people faint under the chastisement of the Lord. Hebrews 12:5 reminds us that we are not to despise God’s chastening so that we do not faint. When chastised, some Christians throw up their hands and quit.

3. Excercised by it

Read Hebrews 12:11.

B. The Drifting Sheep is Restored through Rescue

Careless sheep often fall into holes or pits. They get entangled up in branches or thorns. In such cases, the shepherd was required to rescue the sheep. This required using the other end of the staff. One end had the knot which formed the protecting or chastening part of the staff. The other end formed a crook. The shepherd created this crook in the staff by soaking the sapling, while it was still green, in water. He could then slowly begin to bend it into a crook. The crook the shepherd formed on the staff was big enough to go around the chest of a lamb or the neck of a fully grown sheep. He used it guide the sheep. It was an instrument in the shepherd’s hand. Importantly, when a sheep fell into miry clay, briers or holes, the shepherd used the crook to pull the sheep out to safety. David said, “He hath lifted me up out of the miry clay and put my feet upon the solid rock.” Indeed, the Good Shepherd often does that for us.

C. The Diseased Sheep is Restored by Responsiveness

Disease or poison can harm the sheep. Each night the shepherd brought his sheep into the sheepfold. There he counted them and called them by name. He examined them to see if any bruise, scratch, or wound was present. When he found anything wrong with the sheep, he poured oil on the wound. He placed oil around the nose of each one to protect them from nose flies. He tenderly cared for them. Our Shepherd, Jesus Christ, cares for us in this way. No wonder Peter told us to cast our cares upon Him, for He truly cares for us.

II. The Companionship of the Shepherd

He restores us that He might lead us! “He leads me in the paths of righteousness.”

A. Fellowship with the Shepherd

The Christian must remain in close fellowship with Christ. The most unhappy person in the world is a Christian out of fellowship with the Shepherd. He is not of the world, but he is not walking with God. He can’t enjoy the world and he can’t enjoy His Christian life either. Dear friend, if you are not in close fellowship with the Great Shepherd, renew that fellowship today. The Shepherd will pour the oil of His Holy Spirit into you with fullness. You will experience joy unspeakable and full of glory!

B. Following of the Shepherd

There must be a willingness go with the Shepherd. The will is the battleground.

In an exciting revival service people began to testify. The meeting had gotten a little out of hand. One man stood and said, "I've been smoking three packages of cigarettes a day, and I'm going to quit." "I've been drinking two cans of beer a day, and I'm going to quit," echoed another man. "I've been cursing an awful lot, and I'm going to quit," confessed another parishioner. Caught up in the excitement of the moment, a little old lady stood up and said, "I haven't been doing anything and I'm going to quit."

We can be guilty of doing things that are wrong, but we can also be guilty of not doing things that are right. One is as bad as the other! Are we following the Shepherd? If we are not doing so, we are on a dangerous path!

C. Faithfulness to the Shepherd

Too we are trying to get out of trouble rather than seeking to get into full faithfulness.

A football coach spoke to his team and asked, “What kind of player do we want on our team? Do we want the guy that gets knocked down and stays down?”

“No,” the players yelled.

“Do we want the kind of player that gets knocked down, gets up, when he gets knocked down again, stay down?”

“No,” the team exclaimed.

“Do we want the kind of guy that gets knocked down and gets up, then he is knocked down and gets up again, and keeps getting knocked down and keeps getting up?”

“Yes, yes,” the team shouted.

“No we don’t,” the coach said, “we want the guy on our team that keeps knocking that other player down! Find me that player and I will be a happy coach!”

Dear people, we need to stop getting knocked down and let’s start knocking down the enemy through the power of the Chief Shepherd – the Lord Jesus Christ! There is only one thing better than getting right with God and that is staying right with God!

Conclusion

We are called to follow Him because he is our Master. We are to serve Him for His name’s sake. What is the name of the Shepherd? Jehovah is my Shepherd. The most holy name for God in Old Testament is Jehovah! God’s honor is at stake through our lives. People judge the shepherd by the condition of the sheep. In the New Testament we do not see the name Jehovah - for in reality Jehovah is Jesus and Jesus is Jehovah! There is something about that Name! 2 Timothy 2:19

Sheep are dumb. Sheep are weak. Sheep are not intelligent. Sheep are defenseless. Tigers have claws, snakes have fangs, and bears can crush a man in their mighty arms, but a sheep is defenseless. They have weak eyesight. They have weak muscles. They have no sense of direction. Dogs will travel hundreds of miles to get home to their masters, but sheep stray and have no idea of how to get home. Ever tried to get rid of a cat? It will find its way back to you. But, the poor sheep has no sense of how to return. Thankfully, the Shepherd of the sheep knows where we are. He loves us. He is stronger than any enemy we have. Greater is He that is in you that he that is in the world. Renew your relationship to Him today. Listen to His voice calling you to closer fellowship.