May 27, 2014

Kept on the right path

. . . He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:3)

I’m still thinking about those sheep (see yesterday). They were almost mindless, easy to turn and guide, but also quick to go wherever whim led them. I am so like those creatures.

Today’s devotional reading moves to the next phrase of Psalm 23. It describes the path of righteousness as a clearly defined and correct trail. The Bible says it “is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” (Proverbs 4:18)

I want to walk that path, and because my Shepherd guides me, it happens . . . even when I don’t listen to Him. The psalmist felt the same longing, only whoever wrote this seems far more determined to cooperate than I am, less of a mindless sheep and more experienced – because of one thing . . .

Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts. I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word. I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules. (Psalm 119:97–106)

That one thing is obedience. This psalmist kept the command of God, thinking about what God says and doing it. He had learned to hate the false ways and was determined to walk the way of righteousness.

For those who struggle, the Old Testament promises points toward a Savior, the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. This one called Jesus said of Himself, “I am the way . . . no one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Notice how this prophecy says much the same thing, and more . . .

And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray. No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there. And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. (Isaiah 35:8–10)

The sheep who stray become unhappy. Ask me how I know. No matter how appealing any temptation might be, the fruit of going for it is always guilt and pain. But God has provided a way of holiness, and this way is the Shepherd who guides His sheep on His path. Jesus puts us there, even the fools including me, and keeps us there, even the fools including me, until that day when our struggles turn into everlasting joy and all our sorrows flee away.

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