Summary: God guides us along right paths for the His name's sake
A young Ensign, after nearly completing his first overseas cruise, was given an opportunity to display his capabilities at getting the ship underway. With a stream of commands he had the decks buzzing with men, and soon he ship was steaming out of the channel en route to the states. His efficiency, in fact, established a new record for getting a destroyer underway so he was not surprised when a seaman approached with a message from the captain. He was a bit surprised, however, to find it was a radio message and even more surprised to read, “My personal congratulations upon completing your underway preparation exercise according to the book and with amazing speed. In your haste, however, you have overlooked one of the unwritten rules – make sure the captain is aboard before getting underway.” I wonder how often we hurry up and take off on some portion of our journey through life without making sure Jesus is on board!
That thought is appropriate since the 23rd Psalm depicts a life-long journey. And we, just like sheep, sometimes do not know where we are going, or how to get where we want to go, So WE NEED A GUIDE all along the way. “He guides me....” Too often we think we know the way; we travel where we want to; we live the way we desire. But remember that Scripture points out (Prov14:12 & 16:25) that THERE IS A WAY WHICH SEEMS RIGHT TO A PERSON, BUT ITS END IS DEATH. Sheep, left alone, meandering their own way, end up dead. Is it any wonder that Isaiah wrote (53: 6) “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” We, too, are stiff necked, stubborn, creatures of habit; we easily lose our direction and purpose. We follow the same trails and paths until they are rutted out; we graze the same hills until they become desert wastes; we pollute our own ground until it’s corrupt with disease. What am I talking about? Just look at all the broken homes and hearts, the twisted personalities and sick, tragic, and even sometimes evil events all around us. We need a guide.
So while there may be a way which seems right it is not; its end is death. That’s why THE SHEPHERD CAREFULLY GUIDES HIS SHEEP ALONG THE PATHS OF LIFE. In the words of Phillip Keller, “There must be a pre-determined plan of action, a deliberate, planned rotation from one grazing ground to another in line with right and proper principles of sound management....no other aspect of the ranch operations commended more of my careful attention than the moving of the sheep.” The shepherd knows the way; he has been that way before; he has scoped it out. His path is is part of a plan and a purpose.
Thankfully we know that JESUS IS THE WAY. He even said, “I am the way...” Back in the mid 80’s Barb and I decided to travel to the Holy Land. We’d never been there, so we wanted to go with someone who had been. We wanted to follow someone who had checked out the hotels, the tour groups, the transportation, the restaurants - someone who had scoped out where we were headed. We wound up going on a tour with the Rev. Dr. Paul Maier, who had been there many times previously because of his position as a professor and archeologist. It was a fabulous trip. So when it comes to our life journey, Jesus Christ has scoped out the way where we’re going. He has been this way before; he has an intimate knowledge of the paths we must travel. He knows what arrangements to make. And He invites us simply to follow him on a fabulous trip.
Missionary Elizabeth Elliot wrote: “Look back over the way the Lord has brought you. Sometimes it seemed that there weren’t any rivers, wells, pools, or springs. Nothing but sand. No lovely acacias or wild olives, only barrenness. The trouble was I hadn’t learned to find them. I was trying to travel alone. I made the same mistake when I first went to live as a missionary in the South American jungle. After one bad experience of getting lost, I learned to follow an Indian guide. He knew the trails. He could find water to drink (inside a bamboo, for example, if there wasn’t a river handy), honey in a hollow tree, fruit where there seemed to be no fruit. I couldn’t see them. I didn’t know where to look. The Indian did. He could make a cup out of a palm leaf, build a fire in the rain, construct a shelter for the night in an hour or so. I was helpless. He was my helper.” Jesus is our guide and our way.