Monday, May 3, 2021

Welcome

May 2021 is now posted.


We will be posting the Glorious Gospel articles individually below. A PDF file (large print) can be downloaded under the Archives tab and printed if desired, as well as past editions.

There is audio from Grace Assembly Church services.

“PREPARATIONS”

Part 2 of 2


Jack Davis


“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s House are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto my self; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14:1-3.


Jesus tried to make it clear to His disciples that He was on His way to suffering and the death of the cross, the tomb, and then arise, ascend unto heaven as part of His preparation for all those who believe on Him. He faithfully carried out the plan to have His people with Him. Praise the Lord!


In the mean time let us keep the feast, commemorating His death in preparation for His return, “with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” I Cor. 5:7-8. 


We read in Exodus 12:1-15, that the Israelite was to eat of that Passover lamb in haste being prepared for quick travel, with their “loins girded.” They were going to need supernatural strength on their way. The Lord has provided that we be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man, and tells us to have our lions girt about with truth. Eph. 3:16; 6:14. We also may have the loins of our mind girt about with a living hope of Jesus return.


“Shoes on our feet” – we do well to have our feet shod with the “preparation of the Gospel of peace.” Our dear Lord has provided that we finish our course on the right road with the right attitude. For He will have guided our feet in the way of peace everlasting.


“Our staff in our hand” – we may also be able to say, “thy rod and thy staff they comfort me,” when we have used this walking stick, guide book and ruler and kept it handy. We will be glad that we held fast and held forth the Word of life.


A wonderful preparation took place in the fourth time it is recorded that the nation kept the Passover. In II Chron. 3:1 we read of the house of the Lord that Solomon began to build, for which David had prepared, but in king Hezekiah’s reign the temple had to be restored, and cleaned. We read that Hezekiah called the priests and Levites to sanctify themselves and the house of the Lord, and to carry the filthiness out of the holy place. He said that they had forsaken the Lord, and the habitation of the Lord.


The Lord mightily used Hezekiah to stir those priests and Levites to prepare themselves and the temple for the service and worship of the Lord. They cleansed the altar, the table of shewbread, prepared and sanctified the vessels. The king called the congregation together to consecrate themselves, and come near and bring sacrifices and thank offerings. The response was so great and sudden that the priests that had prepared themselves were over whelmed for this renewal and the Levites had to help them prepare the offerings.


We read in II Chron. 29:36 that Hezekiah rejoiced, “that God had prepared the people.” But then we read in II Chron. 30:17-21, that, “there were many in the congregation that were not sanctified: therefore the Levites had the charge of killing the passovers for every one that was not clean, to sanctity them unto the Lord. For a multitude of the people…had not cleansed themselves, yet they did eat the Passover otherwise than it was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, The good Lord pardon every one that prepareth his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary. And the Lord harkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people. And the children of Israel that were present at Jerusalem kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with great gladness: and the Levites and the priests praised the Lord day by day, singing with loud instruments unto the Lord.” PRAISE THE LORD!!!


We often marvel to find such manifestations of our Father’s grace, His loving-kindness even under the dispensation of the Law. As we are receptive today to the Word, and responsive to the working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, the will of God is being performed in our lives, that is purification, and preparation  for a glorious presentation. Read II Cor. 11:1-2; Eph. 5:25-27; Col. 1:27-29; Jude 24; Rev. 19:6-8; 21:1-2; AND REJOICE.


When we read of the vessels being prepared and sanctified II Chron. 29:19, I am reminded of the preparation spoken of by our Apostle Paul in II Cor. 6 & 7. In II Cor. 6:1-3 Paul beseeches us to appropriate God’s grace for our day of salvation, and not be a hindrance to its ministry. In verses 14-17, he speaks of an important separation, in relation to the yoke, fellowship, communion, concord, and agreement for the express enjoyment of our God’s Fatherhood, V. 18. He then opens Chapter 7 with these important words: “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”


Paul teaches of some essential preparation for spiritual service when He wrote: “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” II Tim. 2:20-21.


The needed purging takes place as we are receptive by faith to the washing of the water of the Word, and responsive to the Holy Spirit as He brings the truth close and searching to our hearts. “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory…”. Rom. 9:21-22.


Oh, thank God that He has dealt with us in mercy, being so long suffering with us. We are blessed that He would go to such length to make us vessels unto His eternal honour and glory. Purged, purified, and prepared unto glory, we will be adorned to grace the throne of glory. I say again, the value of the vessel may be determined by what it contains or for which it is used. We have the Christ life treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us. Alleluia! It is Christ in us the hope of glory.


COMFORT FROM GOD


Anita Clark – Pastor, Carbondale, Kansas



“Come unto Me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30


These words of Jesus Christ show us that we must come to Him and lay our heavy burden down.  Each of us are going through trials, often very deep and troubling.  In order to have peace in our hearts and minds, we must lay our burden down at the feet of our Mighty Conqueror, Jesus our Redeemer. We cannot bear our burdens and expect to live in victory. We must give them to Jesus, Who has promised in these verses which He spoke when He was here on earth, “I will give you rest.” As the old song says, “Peace, peace wonderful peace coming down from the Father above.”


Psalms 103:13 says, “Like a father piteth his children, so the Lord piteth them that fear Him.” The word “piteth” in the Hebrew means, “to have compassion and mercy.”  In Psalm 23:4, “The Shepherd Psalm,” says, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want...Thy rod and staff, they comfort me.” The word “comfort” here in this text in the Hebrew means “to console, pity, be sorry.”  The word “rod” the Shepherd uses means “defense.”  The “staff” is a crook or walking stick.  Our Shepherd Lord Jesus uses both of these in helping and often rescuing us. He said to rest.  Can you imagine resting in the Shepherd’s arms, so safe and secure?


Psalms 119:50 says, “This is my comfort in affliction for Thy Word hath quickened me.”  How many times when we are in trail, when we go to the word and begin to read it, that we are comforted.  The word “affliction” used here actually means, “depression, misery or trouble.” The word “quickened” means “to revive, repair, or restore.”  We can often experience this blessed comfort from God by going to His Word, and reading the passages as the Holy Spirit leads. Our hearts are flooded with comfort.  Let us go to the source of comfort, God’s Word. There is an old saying, “Get under the spout where the blesses come out.”


Jesus spoke to the woman who had an issue of blood (Matthew 9:22) after she had touched the hem of His garment.  Vs. 21, “For she said within herself, If I may but touch the hem of His garment, I shall be whole.”  Jesus turned to her and said, “Daughter, be of good comfort, thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour.”  When Jesus said “Be of good comfort” He meant “Have courage, Keep going.” This is such a precious event.  We too can believe and experience the Lord meeting our needs.


There is power in the word to comfort!  In II Cor. 1:3,4,7, Apostle Paul states, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort. Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we might be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. And our hope in you is steadfast, knowing that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation.”  Isn’t it wonderful how God uses us to comfort others.  When we are victors in our trials, and we come through suffering, rejoicing, we learn so deeply the comfort of God.  Then, we are able to be a  blessing to others who are suffering. Notice it is “in all our tribulations.”  In every trial we go through God’s grace is sufficient to meet our need for comfort.


Apostle Paul suffered so many very hard trials, and yet he was a victor. In  II Corinthians 7:4, he again speaks of the comfort he experienced in his trial. “Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my glorying of you; I am filled with comfort, I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.” In verse 5, he tells of his very hard experiences in Macedonia, but then speaks of the comfort he has received from the Lord, “Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus.” 


Some of us have experienced this.  Sometimes God uses another Christian to be such a blessing to us, raising us up out of our despair and giving us a renewed victory, coming along side to help by giving us courage through the Word of God.  Paul also says in V. 7, “And not by his coming only, but the consolation ... when he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me (Paul), so that I rejoiced the more.” Let us be one of those, who comes to comfort, not discourage another believer.


In I Thessalonians 4:13-18 we read a portion of Paul’s teaching that is very familiar to many of us. He speaks of the imminent coming of Christ to catch away His believers, the Bride of Christ, who are ready and watching for Him to return.  He ends this portion by stating in verse 18, “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”  Oh, how these words comfort us!  We are looking for Christ to return at any time. Let each of us stand fast and trust God, and press on, and  look for the soon appearing of our Beloved, Jesus Christ.

 

 PATIENCE 


By - Virgil Crook


Part  2 of 2


THE WAY TO OBTAIN

I’m sure you are all familiar with the way that we obtain patience. There is only one formula, one way to obtain patience, and that is by way of trials and tribulations. You are probably like I am, you have looked for other ways. Haven’t we all? We all want to be patient. I think I can make that statement truthfully. I’m sure we all down deep want to be patient, but we look for some short-cut to do it, some way. Nowadays, we can boil water in lust a little bit by putting it in the microwave and, zip, its hot. We don’t have to wait for the water to come to a boil. And I guess that is also the way we think it should be in the spiritual sense. Still there just seems to be no shortcut. No doubt, you have tried to take shortcuts and they just do not end up with patience. They end up somewhere else. 

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” James 1:2-3. Just look at what James says. Now remember that we said that patience is really an attitude of faith. Notice the third verse especially, what it is that is tried. When we are going through a trial or a temptation (hard place) we always say that ‘God is trying me,’ and that is true. Just what is it that He is trying? Our faith! You see, if He was trying only us there would be failure, constant failure. But God is not trying us so much as He is trying our faith. I think that you know it as well as I do that faith will never fail. When Peter was being so sorely tried, he said that he would never forsake the Lord, never deny Him; but Jesus knew what was going to happen and He told Peter, Satan wants you, Peter, He wants to sift you like wheat, but He said, “I have prayed for you (what?) that your faith fail not.” To me that is a great comfort to know that God is trying the faith which He Himself has given, “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” - Romans 10:17. We receive faith by the Word of God, but that faith must be tried, that we might know that it is genuine and true faith. “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” Again, I say, that this is the only way that patience comes.

KNOWING

“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: KNOWING that tribulation worketh patience.” Romans 5:3. There is a word here that to me is a key word: ‘knowing’. Do we really know? Because the word here means to be acquainted with. Not simply some input that we have in the mind, but a real, honest acquaintance with this fact. Do we really know? Are we really acquainted with this fact? That it is only tribulation that brings patience. Or is it just simply a head knowledge we have? If we really KNOW, and it is a reality in our life, then we are not going to complain when trials and tribulation come our way. Because we know what is happening: God is working patience in our life. I repeat what the Apostle Paul told the Hebrews, we all have NEED of Patience.


PATIENCE IS NEEDED

This need is a subject I can touch on and know that I am not going to offend anybody, because I know what your need is. You NEED patience! No matter who you are or what the condition might be, I know that you need patience because the Scripture tells us that. I may not know your particular situation as of this moment, but regardless WE NEED PATIENCE! Nobody is so patient that you need no more patience. God knows exactly where we need patience and He also knows just exactly how to do it. That is the wonderful thing about trusting our lives into the hands of the Lord. You see, He knows just exactly how to bring about that which is needful in our lives. He knows that we have need of patience. 

“Strengthened With all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness.” Colossians 1:11. Think of what he is saying here. He is talking about his desire for these particular saints and for us, that we might be strengthened with all might according to His glorious power. He could be talking here about going out and doing great deeds, maybe healing the sick or maybe doing something great. We need that, don’t we? Strengthened with ALL might according to His glorious power, but what is it for? “Unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness.” Where you find the word trial or tribulation, almost always you read about joy. No wonder people thought that Paul was just a little bit ‘off’. That is the way we are in the natural way, yet that is God’s way. It seems unbelievable, but it is incredible real, that a person can be sorely tried and yet be joyful. So Paul gives here his desire that these saints, as well as we, be strengthened with all might and with all His glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering, and that with joyfulness.


NEEDED FOR SOMETHING

Let’s look at some things that the Apostle mentions for which we reed patience. The patience we need is for some thing, not just to put in your pocket and carry around. It is for some purpose. There is the necessity for patience in service. When we are going to serve the Lord in any capacity whatever it might be we need patience. “Let us not be weary in well doing…” Galatians 6:9a. We need patience to do well, to do that which is pleasing unto the Lord. The Scriptures give us a line of conduct and that we must follow. We are told not to be weary, not to lose patience in doing well. There is One who is always watching, observing all these things and all that we do. Let us not be weary (don’t lose patience) in well doing, “For in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” Galatians 6:9b.

 Prophecy


Earlene Davis


Vision of the ram and he goat
Daniel 8


While still in the Babylon empire, Daniel was given another vision two years after the vision of chapter 7. In spirit he was taken to Shushan the palace in the province of Elam (v.2) which is Iran today. This vision overlaps the vision of chapter 7, but it is viewing the happening from another angle. Chapter 7 with the ferrous beasts is the political scene, chapter 8  pertains to the religious scene by the symbolic domestic animals (goats & rams). 


There is no doubt who the ram & goat represent. Daniel  sees a ram with 2 horns at the first (two powers within the one power), then one horn came up higher (v.3). The ram is the same as the bear of chapter 7. The Medes took power in the beginning, but the Persians became stronger and took over the empire. The ram pushed westward, northward, and southward; and no beast could stand before him nor could any deliver out of his hand. He did according to his will and became great (v.4). 


Then a goat came from the west that touched not the ground (moving with great speed, coming from the west). It had a notable horn (Alexander the great) and it ran into the ram with 2 horns in fury and power. He moved with choler and smote the ram breaking his two horns. The ram had no power to stand before him, and was cast to the ground and stamped upon. None could deliver the ram out of his hand. (vs.5-7). The goat is the same as the leopard of chapter 7. 


In time “the great horn was broken speaking of the death of Alexander the great. The kingdom was divided into 4 nations and “Out of one of them came forth a little horn. This time it is not Rome as we had in chapter 7 that pictured the Antichrist; here this little horn comes out of Syria and represents the false prophet, a religious leader. He waxed exceedingly great toward the south, the east and toward the pleasant land which is Israel. (vs.8-9). 


Often in prophecy there is a local or earlier fulfillment which speaks of a later fulfillment to come. These happenings came to pass, but were future to Daniel for he was still in the Babylon empire. Those succeeding empires are history to us, but they tell us of a future fulfillment.


The false prophet will magnified himself, which is the attitude of Satan. How different from our Lord Jesus Christ who “Made Himself of no reputation.” Satan will empower the false prophet and he will be able to counterfeit God’s things to a certain extent.  He will lift himself up, even to the prince of the host (the Antichrist). He will point to him as the great one and say this is the one, for he was raised from the dead (vs.10-12). 


The false prophet is also pictured in Rev. chapter 13. Where 2 beasts come up, the Antichrist out of the sea (the nations); the other comes out of the earth, the false prophet. In Daniel the first one come out of Rome (Ch. 7) and this one of chapter 8 comes out of Syria. They are pictured as the hireling shepherd and the wolf in John Chapter 10. The hireling answers to the false prophet. He doesn’t care for the sheep, the people of Israel. He could even be a Jew, one of their own leaders. He will convince them to make a covenant with the nations and with the Antichrist. The wolf speaks of the  Antichrist that cometh to steal and to kill. 


In Job these two men are connected again figured by 2 great beasts, the “behemoth, a land animal and the Liviathan, a beast of the sea – ch. 40 & 41. David speaks of them in Ps. 140:1,4,11; “the violent man” the king and the evil man, the wicked evil speaker, the false prophet. It is possible that these two men are alive today and are ready to come to the forefront.


Next issue we will continue Daniel 8 where Daniel is given the understanding of the vision and that it will be fulfilled in the end time.


 JONAH


Debra Isenbletter, Pastor


Springfield, Missouri


Jonah 2:2: “And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.” This verse begins with a Cry of Need and ends with a Cry of Faith. It is a Cry of Supplication. 


It is a Personal Cry: “I cried,” “to call out to, to address by name.” This is the cry of every man. It is the Sinner’s cry.  It is the Saint’s cry.  There are times in our lives when we come to this place of need and this place of faith and we cry out because of our need and because of our faith.  This is the cry of the suffering man. In the Psalms from which Jonah quotes, and which he knows so well, we have so many examples of different cries.  An overwhelmed cry: “From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed…” (Psa.61:2).  A constant cry: “I have cried day and night before thee.” (Psa.88:1). A distressed cry: “In my distress I cried unto the Lord…” (Psa.120:1). A supplicating cry: “…I cried unto thee…be attentive to the voice of my supplications.” (Psa.130:1-2). A specific cry: “I cried unto the Lord…I poured out my complaint before him; I showed before him my trouble.” (Psa.142:1-2). There are such a wide range of emotions, and the Lord hears every single cry. I can see Jonah and the saints and the remnant of Israel in this suffering man.  


This is also the cry of the suffering servant, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Psalm 22 pictures that time of suffering on Calvary. “O my God I cried in the daytime … and in the night season and am not silent.” (Psa.22:2). This verse shows two distinct cries that are one continuous cry. There was a cry “in the daytime” (in the Garden) and there was a cry “in the night season” (Golgotha).  When Jesus cried in the Garden, God was silent but He heard that cry and we see the surrender of the Savior when He said, “Not my will but thine be done.” At Golgotha God is still silent while Jesus fulfills His will. He is silent until His justice is satisfied and when it is, He speaks and when He speaks the Suffering Servant is raised from the dead! In the Gospels we see that it is a suffering cry, it is an agonizing cry. “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:44). That suffering came from obedience, (Heb.5:7-8). The obedience of Jesus was tested right up to the moment of His death. Through it all, He prayed and He never stopped praying!


It was a Pitiful Cry: “by reason of mine affliction.” The affliction is intense, it is both inward and outward, emotional and physical. It gives us a glimpse of what Jesus felt and yet we can never understand the depth of that suffering. The word “affliction” means “anguish or distress” and pictures the suffering of the mind. It also means  “trouble and tribulation” and pictures the suffering of the body. Others have cried out in “anguish” and “distress” and cried out because of it.  Joseph felt this “anguish” which we do not realize until his brothers acknowledged they had seen “the anguish of his soul. (Gen.42:41). Hannah felt this “anguish” when she prayed and said, “I am a woman of sorrowful spirit.” She “poured out her soul before the Lord.” (1Sa.1:15-16).  David felt both emotional anguish and physical distress and he made the amazing statement, saying, “thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress” (Psa.4:1).


It was a Powerful Cry:  “unto the Lord.” Jonah knew Who to cry out to and he cried out. It did not matter that he had disobeyed. It only mattered that he believed. The name of the Lord is a strong tower (Psa.18:10). It is a fortress, a place of strength (Psa.18:2; Psa.27:1). It is a place of security, a secret place (Psa.91:1-2). Jonah was not ashamed to cry, he was not afraid to cry, he was willing to cry. When he did he was preserved and then delivered.  


Following Jonah’s Cry of Need, we have Jonah’s Cry of Faith: “he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.”  The need is critical, it brings Jonah to a turning point. He comes to a place where he is not ashamed, not afraid to cry and he is willing to cry.  Jonah makes a declaration in the midst of his desperation. He declares: “and he heard me.” How does he know this? He remembers the scriptures. He remembers the promises. He remembers his faith. The word “heard” means “to answer, to respond.” Faith believes that God not only hears but answers. When we look back to the Psalms, we see the condition of those who cried out believing that their cry was heard. What is amazing is that no matter how desperate or pitiful the condition, each one believed. Jonah looked to the Psalms and found the poor man who gave this cry (Psa.34:6). He found the promise that all men who give this cry will be heard (Psa.65:2). Faith sees the impossible as possible. Faith sees and believes.


Jonah’s declaration of faith reveals his desperate situation. He says “out of the belly of hell cried I.” What a description this is! It is hard to comprehend. Jonah describes the belly of the great fish as the belly of hell.  It is a terrible, terrifying place. Jonah started out sleeping in the belly of the ship and ended up swallowed up in the belly of the fish. He started out in a place of his choosing.  He ended up in a place not of his choosing. 


Jonah calls this place “hell” which is “Sheol.” The Jews believed this was a place that the dead went. They believed it was a place of waiting, a place of no return. It is often translated as hell, pit or the grave. The Jews believed this place was divided into two parts, Upper and Lower Sheol. Jesus talks about the two in Luke 16:20-25.  There he describes the poor beggar as being in Abraham’s bosom and the rich man in a place of suffering with a great gulf between the two. One is a place of hope and the other a place of hopeless. Jonah is in this place but he is not hopeless. He is able to cry from out of this place and it is a cry of hope. His body is imprisoned but his spirit is not.


There is only one escape from this place, and it is resurrection. A resurrection to “everlasting life” or “everlasting contempt” (Dan.12:2). Martha knew her brother would rise again in “the resurrection of the last day” (Joh.11:24). Jesus declared that He was “the resurrection and the life.” (Joh.11:25). There is only one escape from this place that Jonah finds himself in and it is resurrection and Jesus is that resurrection and Jonah is a type of Jesus in resurrection. When Jesus arose “many of the saints which slept arose” (Mat.27:52-53). When Jesus arose He “led captivity captive” (Eph.4:8).  Jonah is a captive waiting to be set free!  But like others before him and after him, Jonah sees “hell” differently.  He sees “the sorrows of hell” (Psa.18:4-6) and “the pains of hell” (Psa.116:3).


Jonah began this verse with “I cried” and in the middle he says “he heard me” and at the end he says “thou heardest my voice.” In-between he describes his suffering and his fear but we see above all his faith and his voice. His faith: “thou heardest” and he says this before God answers. He does not doubt, he believes absolute. His voice: “my voice” and that voice has many tones to it.  It is the voice of supplication, it is the voice of suffering, it is the voice of submission and it is a voice that will be heard! It does not matter where he is, it does not matter that he is in “hell;” he knows that his God will hear him. David knew this for he said, “For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell” (Psa.86:13).  Jeremiah knew this for he said, “I called upon thy name, O Lord, out of the low dungeon” (Lam.3:55). Jesus knew this for He said, “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Psa.16:10/Acts 2:27).  This is the place Jonah cried out from. This is the place Jesus cried out from. This is the place we have been delivered from.

 Psalm 23 


Part 3 continued

By Vicky Moots


Psalm 23:3b: “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”  He does not drive us; He leads us.  How does He lead us? He doesn’t tie a rope around our necks and drag us along.  He leads us along by the gentle tugging of the Holy Spirit, as He promised in John 16:13: “…when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth…”.  He tugs at our heart strings and shows us the path that is best for us.  He leads us through His Voice, His Word: “…he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice” (John 10:4).  There are many paths in our lives but there are no road signs, so we must keep our eyes on the Shepherd and listen to His voice, His Word will warn us when we begin to stray, Isa. 30:21: “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand and when ye turn to the left.”  We know His voice, but are we really listening?  Sometimes we are talking when we should be listening.  We are busy telling the Lord what we want Him to do in our lives instead of letting His Word guide us.  So how do we listen to His voice? We listen to His voice by reading His Word and letting the Holy Spirit speak to our hearts and teach us, Ps. 32:8: “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go…”.

If we get impatient and try to get ahead of the Lord we may get off on the wrong path, as we are warned in Prov. 14:12: “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”  Our ways are not God’s ways even though they may seem to be the right way.  We must heed the wise words of King Solomon Prov. 3:5-6: “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”  We acknowledge Him by listening to His Word and trusting what it says and following our Shepherd’s Voice.  Isn’t it comforting to know that for every step we take as we follow Him, He has already been there and experienced it ahead of us? He has blazed the trail for us with His own life.  The trail may seem to be too rough but He does not expect us to go through anything that He has not already been through Himself, for He is taking the same path ahead of us as He leads us.

Jesus declared in John 14:6 that He, Himself, was that path: “…I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”  So, our Shepherd not only leads the way, but He is the way.  There is only one way that is right, only one way that is righteous, and so He will always lead us in paths of righteousness.  “Righteousness” means “uprightness” or “right standing.”  How can we as sinners walk in the path of righteousness when there is no good in us?  That would be impossible in ourselves, but many religions make people think that they must do that in order to be accepted by God.  “…there is none that doeth good, no, not one,” so we are doomed, no matter how hard we try (Rom. 3:12). 

But there is hope!  When we confess our sins and accept Christ as Savior, we become a new creation and are given a perfect standing before God.  The righteousness that is imparted to us is His righteousness, not ours.  II Cor. 5:21, “For he [God] hath made him [Christ] to be sin for us, who know no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”  But then our Shepherd must lead us in paths of righteousness or “right standing” so that our testimony, our daily walk, will become consistent with our righteous standing.  In other words, it must be made practical in our lives so that others can see it and glorify God.

One of the ways He leads us, in addition to His Word, is by the example of other faithful sheep who have gone on the path ahead of us.  In every flock of sheep there are those older, more mature, sheep who always stay close to the Shepherd.  They have learned by experience, and perhaps by prior chastening, to love the Shepherd dearly and no longer want to stray.  By their actions they can teach the other younger, or less mature, ones that are following farther behind.  This is true spiritually also.  We can learn by their example how to live a life of submission and yieldedness to the Lord, as we observe in them the righteousness of Christ in action.

In the Song of Solomon, we find a love story representing Christ and his bride, as she, the Shulamite woman, pursues the one whom her soul loves.  In Song of Solomon 1:7 she is asking him where he feeds his flock and makes them to lie down to rest, because she desires to be with him more often and to develop a closer relationship.  She is wanting to be as one of his flock of sheep who are loved and tenderly cared for by him.  In v. 8 he responds to her question: “If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock…”.  He is informing her that if she wants to know where he is leading his flock, then simply follow in their footsteps, they are following him. 

The apostle Paul was one of those sheep who had learned to follow close to the Shepherd in spite of the suffering he endured.  We can safely follow in his footsteps if we also are desiring, as the Shulamite woman in Song of Solomon, to have that closer relationship.  Paul advises us to do just that, I Cor. 11:1: “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”  He said in Phil. 3:12, “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after…”.  He was actively pursuing that closer relationship, always keeping his eyes on the Shepherd. Heb. 12:2: “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…”.  As Paul followed Jesus, he left footsteps through his epistles for us to follow.  He, himself, had been encouraged by other believers and followed the example of those who had gone before him, such as the Old Testament overcomers whose footsteps were described in Hebrews 11.  Some of those who were mentioned in that chapter of the faithful followers had strayed at one time, including David, who wrote this Psalm.  He had committed adultery and murder but had responded to the chastening rod and returned to the path of righteousness to follow the Shepherd even more closely.  Perhaps you have been guided by the footsteps of some faithful sheep in your own life that are more personal to you, such as a godly grandparent, a minister or a close friend, even if they were not perfect.  The examples given of the people in Hebrews 11 were not intended to bring glory to them as individuals, but to bring glory to God, for His name’s sake.  David stated in Psalm 31:3, “For thou art my rock and my fortress; therefore for thy name’s sake lead me, and guide me.”  Let us follow our Shepherd as He leads us with His Voice (the Word), through the Holy Spirit and by the example of other faithful followers into the paths of righteousness that will bring glory to His name.