On Wednesday night worship during the season of Lent we have been exploring the 23rd Psalm. Last night I spent some with the words “God guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Psalm 23:3b.
A number of Bethelonians (or is it Bethelites) heard me speak on this passage but I feel led to share some more reflections with those who could not attend (or live in Cupertino). For those of you who were there, this is mostly new material. Think of this as a director’s cut with bonus material. Ha!
Let me begin with a bold statement: God wants to lead His people. Not for selfish purposes or to cause detriment. I am reminded of the verse in Jeremiah most of you know, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
God already knows the rest of our lives and God wants to guide us toward the future that He has planned. Can you imagine that? God knows how it ends. Not just the world, but the lives of everyone and wants to lead us toward hope and a future. An eternity with God, in my opinion, is quite a future! However, God is not just talking about the end (which is really a beginning) God is also talking about the journey towards that end. God wants to lead us.
Of course there is something that gets in the way of God leading us, we do. Free will is second greatest gift God gave humanity (Jesus being the first) and we use that freedom to walk our own paths. After all, we know what is best for us or so we think. Yet God never gives up on us. Even when go down our own path that usually leads nowhere or worse, a more dangerous path, God is there guide us back. We just need to stop long enough to listen and reflect and hear the voice of Jesus calling.
Yes, there are times when things happen beyond our control that often lead us to a dead end. Grief and trauma caused by other people and events can cause our lives to careen into a ditch. Even when life will never be the same again, Jesus is in that ditch waiting to help us out when we are ready to move forward.
Not only does God want to lead us but God wants to lead us towards Him. “Paths of righteousness” are paths of right standing with God. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, the “junk” that comes between God and ourselves (better known as sin) is removed. See how good God is? Jesus even eliminates the barriers to growing closer to Him. God wants to lead us closer to Him throughout our lives. Paths of right standing.
Now here is the really cool part of this… the closer we are to Jesus the more he rubs off on us. It works like this in our other relationships too. The more time we spend with people, the more impact they have on us and visa-versa. (Rachel tried to limit my contact with the children growing up for this very reason. I’m kidding!)
Imagine, the more time we spend walking on the path of righteousness the more we will reflect the love, compassion and values of Jesus. I totally need more of Jesus in my life especially when I am driving or backing out of a parking space and other drivers don’t stop. I am sad when I see Christians who say they believe in Jesus but do not reflect His love toward others on a consistent basis. They believe in Jesus as a concept but Jesus has not changed their hearts as they walk their own paths. They prefer to cast God in their own image and have God approve of what they believe in. Often this manifests in God hates what I hate (or fear).
There is a reason God wants to draw us close and transform us so that we look a little more like Jesus and a little less than ourselves. This is that reason: God would love for us to share that right standing with others.
God leads on paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake. God asks us to share His love. The other night at the Lenten service I was wearing my trusty llama socks. I was thinking about (but didn’t talk about) how God enlists us to be sure-footed Jesus loving llamas on the path of right standing, guiding others through the rough terrain toward the greatest Sherpa we have ever known. Jesus has walked these treacherous trails of life and has provided us the path to take. As his llamas, we can guide others on that same path… for His name’s sake.
God bless you,