Summary: God's paths for us may not always be pleasant, but they are always paths of righteousness because they are paths of His choosing.

The Path That Be My Portion

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Psalms 23:3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name' sake.

This week we are going to talk about the paths of righteousness, and I want to combine this text in Psalm 23 with one in Hebrews 12:

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Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

I want to begin discussing the verse in Psalm 23 in context and then we will branch off from there and talk about the path God has laid out for us.

If we connect the paths God leads us in with the restoration of our soul it most likely means God guides us back to proper behavior. Restoration of the soul involves restoration to walking and living the way God wants us to. I think that is the most likely meaning of the passage, but it is not the only way we can consider it.

If we connect He guides us in paths of righteousness with the next verses, and in context it also seems likely, we get an entirely different thought about what the paths of righteousness means:

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Psalms 23:3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name' sake.

Psalms 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil...

We get a path that is of God's choosing that often meanders in difficult and dark places. The paths of righteousness become not about behavior, but are righteous because they are the paths God wants us to walk down, and may involves valleys that are under the cloud of the shadow of death. As I said earlier the first meaning I gave you I think is the most proper, but I can also see the second very clearly.

In fact we get a strong hint of that in the word "paths." You will notice it is a plural. I thinks it refers to the path of behavior, and the path of right doctrine, the path of right thinking, and the path of God's purpose and plan for our life. I want to unpack the path of God's purpose and plan for our life a little more. Let me show you the last part of Hebrews 12:1 in a couple more bible versions, first the NIV and then the Amplified:

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Hebrews 12:1...and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (NIV)

Hebrews 12:1...and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, (AMP)

Notice it is a race marked out for us, and the Amplified calls it an appointed course.

So let's talk about God's appointed paths under a couple of spiritual principles.

1. The principle of uncertainty

PPT 6 path with man holding compass with confusing arrows

Where does the path go? I can't figure out where that compass the man is holding is pointing to. The principle of uncertainty is simply this: As sheep we aren't smart enough to figure out where we are supposed to be going, we don't get to pick our path God does. Sheep don't know the ultimate destination, they simply are to stay close to the shepherd. God's goodness and mercy following us is certain, the direction He takes us is not.

The shepherd has a destination in mind. The Word teaches us clearly that our steps are ordered, we have an appointed course, it was intentionally chosen. Selected. Lined out. An end in mind. The shepherd has both a goal in mind and the appropriate route to get there. While He may tell us parts or certain turns to make in general much of it is a mystery to us.

You may be enjoying the journey or hate every step but as sheep we must continue to walk where we are led and we must trust the heart of our Shepherd! He is trying to get us somewhere! And He often feels no need or purposely hides from us where we are going.

There is a good reason for that, some portions of our path are through enemy territory and often take us very very close to the enemy. David speaks of the possibility of having to walk in the valley of the shadow of death, and of eating at a table in the presence of his enemies. Could you imagine a sheep of it's own accord walking into a valley if it knew it were full of hungry wolves? I think if we could hear the Father and Son talking things over we might hear this said, "for their own good we better not tell them where they are going."

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