Use this devo as you are able, in whole or in part. Don’t feel compelled to read it all. Simply read and meditate upon whatever catches your attention. The goal is enjoying time with God through His Word and in prayer. Questions about the devotional elements?
Call to Prayer
“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:14)
Prayer of Confession
Shepherding God, if left to me, my faith would flounder and I would undoubtedly be lost and wandering.
Thank you that my salvation rests on your undeserved mercy and unfailing promises.
I am kept and protected because you have laid down your life for me. Amen.
*Prayer borrowed from Philip Reinders’ Seeking God’s Face: Praying with the Bible through the Year
This reading plan will help you to develop the habit of being in God’s Word each morning and evening. Come to this time with expectation. Expect God to reveal himself to you. Expect that he delights in you being there, even when you’ve wandered away. Growing a spiritual habit is a slow, patient process. So be kind to yourself as you grow!
Readings are hyperlinked. Simply hover over the passage or click Morning/Evening Reading (email version).
Praying the Psalms: Read slowly. Take note of words and phrases. Bring them before the Lord in prayer and personalize the passage as you pray.
NT Context: “In his letters to two young associates—Timothy in Ephesus and Titus in Crete—we see Paul encouraging and guiding the development of just such leadership. What he had learned so thoroughly himself, he was now passing on, and showing them, in turn, how to develop a similar leadership in local congregations. This is essential reading because ill-directed and badly formed spiritual leadership causes much damage in souls. Paul in both his life and his letters shows us how to do it right.” Meditate on the passage, noting a few words or a phrase that stood out. Take them to God in prayer.
OT Context: “People who want God as an escape from reality, from the often hard conditions of this life, don’t find this much to their liking. But to the man or woman wanting more reality, not less—this continuation of the salvation story—Joshua’s fierce and devout determination to win land for his people and his extraordinary attention to getting all the tribes and their families name by name assigned to their own place, is good news indeed. Joshua lays a firm foundation for a life that is grounded.” Reflect on the passage. Who was the original audience, and what was their situation? How is that relevant to you today?
Read: Psalm 23 + Ezekiel 34:11-16
Psalm 23 is familiar to many. It is restorative. Its purpose is to lead us into the health, healing, and wholeness that we need and can receive from God alone.We read it during times of distress when fear or hurt threaten to bowl us over. But it’s not magic. Reading the words aloud will not produce a sudden shift in our emotions. It is meant to be chewed on, turned over in our minds until we see how God’s restorative shepherding fits in our life right at thisparticular moment.
But what does Psalm 23 mean when it says that God is a Good Shepherd who restores our soul? Ezekiel 34 gives us some insight. Those familiar with Jesus words about being the Good Shepherd (John 10) will see that Ezekiel’s words form the basis of what Jesus says about himself. So, as you read, it is appropriate to ask: How does Jesus bring this sort of restoration to us as God’s people, and to me individually? It’s also good to ask: How do I seek this restoration from other people and things?
Only the Good Shepherd can truly restore us, heal us, and give us the strength our souls crave. Speaking of souls. Our culture has many funny conceptions of the soul (think 80s flicks like Ghostbusters, Ghost, and many others since then). We need to replace those images with how Psalm 23 and the rest of Scripture talks about our souls and what they really need in order to be restored. Hint: it’s more than Patrick Swayze coming back to “love haunt” (?) his beloved played by Demi Moore. A more biblical understanding is along the lines of what Benjamin Shaw notes,
“Our nephesh (Hebrew for soul) is not just our life, but the seat of our appetites. In restoring our souls, [God] makes us hunger and thirst for righteousness. He feeds that hunger. He quenches that thirst.
Our nephesh is also the seat of our emotions. In restoring our souls, [God] gives us joy in the morning after the night of weeping. He turns our mourning into dancing. He removes our sackcloth of lamentation and distress, giving us the new clothing of gladness.
The nephesh also occasionally refers to our mental acts, our thinking and our knowing. In restoring our souls, the Good Shepherd restores our thinking and our knowing. We begin to understand things in a new way.
The Word that was once no more than words on a page begins to have meaning. We begin to hear and understand and know the voice of our Shepherd. We hear His call, and we respond, following His leading, even if it takes us through the valley of the shadow of death.”
This is the path of restoration, and may we experience God’s mercy (hesed) and goodness following us, keeping us on the path like two sheepdogs all the days of our life.
Reflect: Our souls need restoration and refreshment. There’s no doubt about that. It’s why we seek out beauty and goodness when we go on vacation. Here’s what I’m wondering today: Are we being intentional in our pursuit of restoration? Or are we lagging behind like a sheep prone to wander? How might God’s mercy and goodness want to surprise and keep you and me on his path toward wholeness today?
Evening Prayer of Examen
Where did you move with or feel close to Jesus today?
Where did you resist or feel far from Jesus today?
Where is Jesus leading you tomorrow? Ask for joy as you follow him.
“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)