Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Path can have potholes.

Psalm 23:3                                                           Where He Leads.

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The Shepherd, Jesus, is up front of the flock. He leads. He calls. The sheep follow. How many of us in the flock wonder about some of the ways He takes us. For, there are times when we see ourselves in strange and unexpected places. This is where the flock and the individual sheep must trust the Shepherd. In this psalm two paths are mentioned. We will look at one of them today.
He leads me in right paths. This brings to the fore the fact that there are wrong paths we can wander onto. Being human and being responsible to keep the unseen Shepherd in ‘view’ is an interesting struggle. We have a stubborn, self-interested nature which sometimes fights against walking the ‘right paths. The mind is inclined to delude us into thinking ‘if we cannot see the Shepherd, He can’t see us.’ In the Old Testament a whole book has stories summed up by ‘They did what was right in their own eyes.’ Judges is a depressing book, yet at the same time most illuminating and with a strong warning embedded in it. Proverbs 16:25 ‘Sometimes there is a way that seems to be right, but in the end it is the way to death.’

How then do we keep the unseen Shepherd in our focus? ‘Set your minds on things that are above, and not on things that are on the earth.’ (Colossians 3:2) Easy words but we live in the visual how can we discern the way we should go? We have been given the equivalent of a GPS. Let’s call the Bible our ‘Godly Pathway Service.’ While it isn’t audio controlled God does cause it to ‘talk to us’ when we open it and want to know His will.

We like the idea of being led by still waters and even in right paths if they’re comfortable. Unfortunately sometimes they lead through some tough territory. We will look at verse 4 later. From that verse David understands the fact, the right path can take him and us through valleys. It is those times which play on our mind and test the depths of our trust in the Shepherd of my soul. Psalm 25 was also written by David. Was it at a much later date? In it he talks about his Shepherd helping him in his life’s experience. What David wrote here could be inserted in various parts of Psalm 23. Many of us can identify with him in this Psalm.

What is very apparent is the road (in Psalm 25) he was walking had enemies, foes, affliction, distress and trouble. Such can be the case when a person wants to do the right things in life. In this psalm David wants to know truth, to fear the Lord and know the wonder of God’s covenant of love. Such desire can be opposed by others whose ways are shrouded in unrighteous darkness and hostility to the God of Israel. In psalm 23 is the grace of the Shepherd anointing the sheep with oil. In psalm 25 we gain a picture of why this healing, refreshing act was needed. David had transgressed, had a sense of guilt, was troubled in heart, and was caught up in some messy net. His cry “O guard my life, and deliver me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.’ How many of us have cried words of a similar vein?

Little understood by ‘the flock’ are the words of Psalm 23 which finish verse 3, ‘for his name’s sake.’ The honour of our Shepherd is bound up in the way the sheep follow. When we walk according to the path of righteousness it is our testimony of trust and obedience. Onlookers don’t see our Shepherd. This may cause them to wonder about our lifestyle, priorities, endurance and relationships. It is this principle of the honour of His Name’ which Ezekiel especially stresses. The Lord made a covenant with Israel and will keep it, regardless of their waywardness. The Shepherd will discipline them. He will deliver them from their enemies. He will not only restore them to their land (which has happened) He will return to them at the proper time. Why does He bother? ‘For His name’s sake!’ For in that Name we are baptised. In that Name we pray. In that Name we have a refuge. In that Name we approach the Father. It is that reason which places us under a lifestyle responsibility of walking in the right path.

Proverbs has a saying to remind us, the sheep in His flock, about the heart matter we need to be led.  Proverbs 3:5-6. ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely upon your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.’
 To be continued

Ray Hawkins 21 Feb 2016

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