In Psalm 23:3 we hear the words, “…he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” David’s image is one of a shepherd caring for the sheep and leading them as well.
Implied in this verse is the concern that sheep may wander from the path and become lost. In a dark world it can be difficult to see the path. Listening for our Lord’s voice is how we can receive God’s guidance and keep from losing our way. In Psalm 119:105 we hear the words, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” Since we’re on life’s road every day, we need to hear God’s word every day. Reading the scriptures is important, but it is also important to meditate and pray when we read. It gives us the opportunity for new insights to come as we dwell on God’s truth. It may keep us from saying or doing something today that we will regret later on in our lives. It gives us the light we need to recognize the right path and to remain on it. When God speaks we know we can trust Him above all others. As Corrie ten Boom once said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”
This is intentional effort. In Psalm 119:11 we read, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Internalizing and memorizing scripture keeps us on the right path. When I come to a fork in the road my recollection of God’s word enables me to choose the proper direction immediately. No questions are raised. This was the key to Jesus refuting the advances of Satan. When asked to turn stones into bread, to throw himself down from a high place, and to bow down to the evil one, Jesus only had to say, “It is written.” No further discussion was necessary. Jesus remained on the righteous path and eventually received all the authority that Satan was offering him to depart from that path. After the crucifixion and the resurrection, the path laid out for Jesus to travel, He spoke these words, “‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me’” (Matthew 28:18).
God’s word leads us into character growth as well. The scripture encourages us, “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love” (II Peter 1:5-7). Peter tells us that the increase of these qualities keeps us from being ineffective and unproductive in our faith. He then adds, “But if anyone does not have them he is nearsighted and blind…” (II Peter 5:9). We know that nearsighted sheep wander off the path. Our growth helps us maintain our vision.
But it’s not just for my sake that I stay on the path. It’s for the sake of God and His entire flock. If we’re following him, those who follow us will follow Him as well. That’s God’s intention. All the sheep are to be on the path of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Pastor Ken Atchison
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com.