Do you ever feel like you’re just going in circles? Do you sometimes fear you might be headed nowhere? Something comes at you from out of the blue and you cannot make rhyme nor reason of it. Sadly, the secular post-Christian culture leaves many people feeling like Shakespeare’s Macbeth: that life “is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
When I fear that I might be wandering aimlessly in circles I often turn in my Bible to these encouraging words: “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:1-3). Here are the words of David looking back on his life and its many ups and downs. They are the words of a man who has lived much and done much, a man who has sinned greatly and been greatly forgiven.
As David thinks back over the years, his mind goes to the times he was a youth caring for his family’s flock of sheep. He knows that the Lord is his shepherd who “leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.” After facing down giants, routing armies, hiding in caves and straying from God, David can assuredly say that the Lord leads in right paths.
David had once led his sheep in the hot, arid Judean wilderness where it took a shrewd and savvy shepherd to know just the right paths to watering holes and green pastures. David knew there were sheep rustlers marking out wrong paths that would deceive an inexperienced shepherd to lead his sheep into danger.
As David looks at his life of victory and defeat, joy and agony, he can say that the Lord leads His people in right paths. The Good Shepherd does not lead down dead ends or blind alleys. In fact, David can say with assurance that the Lord’s “goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6). And the Lord’s goodness and mercy will lead David all the way home where he will forever dwell with the Lord.
Notice David says that the Lord leads in right paths “for his name’s sake.” David knows by experience that a shepherd’s name and reputation are at stake in knowing how to lead. Any shepherd who leads his sheep into the wilderness and loses them would be the laughingstock of the community.
Read the Bible and see that the Lord is jealous for His name and that He wants His name to be holy and honored. Jesus even commands in the prayer, “Hallowed be thy name”. Thus, we can be assured that as God leads us, it will be “in right paths for his name’s sake.”
There must have been times David wondered about the Lord’s leading in his life. He must have wondered, even doubted, during the long years he spent warring against the Philistine invasion, running from King Saul, or fleeing his son Absalom and the rebellion against him. But because the Lord does lead His people in right paths, Scripture commemorates David as having “served the purpose of God in his own generation…” (Acts 13:36). And so God does for us as we serve His purpose for us.
Know that God is leading us in right paths, even if it does not “feel like it”. There is no going in circles with God. No dead ends. For His very name’s sake, God leads you and me today!
Name and reflect on the thoughts and feelings today’s reading stirs in you. Take a few moments to talk with God about them.