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.