Psalm 23:3: “He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
Two things that we immediately see in this verse is God’s sovereignty and His incredible grace and mercy toward us, His children.
He restores continually
The word for “He restores” in Hebrew is יְשֹׁובֵב (yĕšôbēb), and it is what is called a Polel verb form, which, like the Piel, emphasizes intensive action. In addition, this Polel verb is also in the imperfect tense, indicating an ongoing, continuous action. The root form of the verb is שׁוּב (šûb), and it means “to turn back, return, bring back, retore, refresh, and take back” – thus, as presented here in this inspired Psalm of David, God is the one, not us, who for His children is intensively “turning us back, bringing us back, restoring, refreshing, and taking us back” to a place of spiritual life and health in which our “soul” (i.e., our deepest, inner most spiritual, mental, and emotional being) is replenished with His eternal and life giving presence and truth.
God causes us to be guided
In addition to that, “He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake,” and this too is a reinforced picture of His sovereign grace and mercy as “He causes me to be guided in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” I put in italics the words “causes to be” because this is the expression of the Hebrew verb that is used here, which is יַֽנְחֵנִי (yanḥēnî) from the root נָחָה (nāḥâ), and it is in the Hiphil form, which, as stated above, emphasizes causative action. Thus, God is the one “causing me to be guided in the paths of righteousness,” not me by my own independent thinking and will, which thinking and will, apart from His sovereign grace and intervention, always lead me into self-destructive paths, versus His “paths of righteousness.” The word used here for “paths” comes from the Hebrew noun מַעְגָּל (ma’gāl), which in actuality is “an entrenchment caused by wagon wheels,” thus, these are wagon tracks.
A narrow path of righteousness
Consequently, these “paths” that God is causing us to walk in are narrow and specific because therein is the way to true life, versus an indulgent, all embracing, and inclusive view of beliefs and lifestyles that places no restrictions on one’s natural desires, narcissism, and self-deifying pride. In fact, we find this verse in harmony with what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. 14 “For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). Jesus is certainly speaking about salvation and a true relationship with God as one’s heavenly Father, but He is also pointing to the walk of “life” that follows one’s salvation. This latter is the way of “holiness” and separation unto the Lord and separation from the very debilitating, deceptive, and self-destructive alternatives of the world’s ‘false life’ that are ever before us. We also see this very same truth enunciated in Hebrews with regard to God’s “discipline” of His children:
You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; 5 and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, Nor faint when you are reproved by Him; 6 For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, And He scourges every son whom He receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
The righteousness of Jesus Christ
The “righteousness” mentioned in verse 11 above is not a righteousness of our own, because we have NONE AT ALL (Isaiah 64:6), but rather it is the righteousness of God residing in us as believers through Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is His righteousness that is producing this “peaceful fruit of righteousness” within us, and it comes as a result of having been “trained” by His loving and corrective “discipline,” which includes learning to surrender to His Lordship and obey His guiding voice in our lives:
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it’” (Luke 9:23-24).
Therefore, as we surrender to the Lordship of Jesus on a daily basis, and having been brought to that place of surrender through God’s loving “discipline,” then we will indeed begin to see His “peaceful fruit of righteousness” budding in our lives.