Reflections of Psalm 23, Day 6

He Leads Me in Paths of Righteousness for His Name’s Sake

Eleven little words packed with so much intention. For His name’s sake… He leads me, He saves me, He restores me, He preserves me. In Joshua 2, the Israelite spies had entered Jericho to see what they were up against, and Rahab the harlot helped them. Why? Why would she help these foreigners instead of showing loyalty to her city?

 “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.” (Joshua 2:9-11, ESV)

“See,” she said. “We see and we hear and we know that your god is God because he deals so extravagantly with you. You, Israel, are His namesake, and we fear him so we fear you.”

A shepherd’s reputation is judged by the care and condition of his sheep. Without the guidance of a shepherd, sheep will graze the same land until all of the grass has been eaten and even the roots of grass have been pawed out of the ground. They wear paths into ravines, and pastures turn into wastelands infested with parasites, unable to grow much of anything.

Goats will meander around, nibbling only on what they prefer most; however, when confined to one area they do exactly as sheep. One has to move these grazers from place to place to give them plenty of fresh food to eat, but also to prevent them from destroying the land. They truly will eat it down to nothing, and when all that is left is dirt, there is a whole lot of excrement. No wonder parasites thrive in such places. A shepherd who does not plan and prepare to faithfully lead his sheep to fresh pasture on a regular basis will have a flock that becomes thin, deficient, and beggarly. The land is ruined. The health of the sheep is ruined. The shepherd’s reputation will also be ruined.

For the love of his flock, and for the preservation of his reputation, a good shepherd carefully watches the health of his sheep and the condition of the land they are grazing. When the presence of the sheep is no longer a benefit to the field and the field is no longer a benefit to the sheep, he leads them to better pasture. The sheep continue to prosper and the shorn field has time to replenish.

People are also creatures of habit… left to ourselves we will use those bad habits until our own physical, emotional and spiritual health displays signs of undernourishment and abuse. We need to “go to the goads” for some correction, and allow the Lord to prod us free of ourselves so that we can see the greener grass awaiting us. Jesus said He came for us to have life to the full. (John 10:10)

Other times, we are in a good place, but when we get too comfortable with the familiar we just do not continue to grow. When people lose momentum, we slow down and chance backsliding in our course. God sees that. He reminds us to keep moving (don’t roll over and end up cast down). “You think this is good,” he says… this relationship we have, this maturity you’ve gained, these gifts you’ve learned to use, this revelation you have been given…

“I always have more,” He promises. There is always more. Come live in the more.

God’s care is abundant. He plans, prepares, and diligently provides for us.

W. Philip Keller says, God leads us to go deeper in:

  • 1- loving ourselves less, and loving God and others more,
  • 2- a willingness to be set apart, and stand out from the world,
  • 3- a willingness to give up my rights in favor of others,
  • 4- a willingness to be last instead of first,
  • 5- having a heart of gratitude instead of finding fault and questioning my circumstances,
  • 6- a willingness to lay down my will in favor of God’s plans each day,
  • 7- a willingness to do what Jesus asks me to do.

It seems like all of these are different ways of describing the same thing… dying to self.

Several times recently, God has highlighted an old idea in a new way, and that is just this:

Surrender is Freedom.

There is good. There is better. And there is BEST.

Good: My way seems good, but God says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Proverbs 14:12 Many people choose their own way, but they will never have the abundant life that the Shepherd offers.

Better: I can follow the Lord, but still reserve a part of my heart, keeping it hidden. That is better, but I will never fully realize the potential God has planned for me. I will never experience all of the peace and joy that is available because I’ll be like the sheep who are stubborn and linger too long in places that have already been stripped of what is beneficial. Life will be lean, not full.

BEST: Best is always available for those who are willing to pursue the shepherd with abandon, following Him wherever He leads. When we completely surrender self to chase the shepherd, we will not feel regret or dissatisfaction. We will only ever have life to the Full.

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.

(Luke 6:38, emphasis mine)

Surrender is is our gift to God, and freedom is His gift back to us, pressed down, shaken together and running over… more abundant than we even know what to do with.

And people will say, “We see and we hear and we know that your god is God because he deals so extravagantly with you. Like Israel, you are His namesake.”

He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. I’m so thankful this is true.

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

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