He guides in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Psalm 23:3b
Funny how no one has to train even a young toddler on the fine art of disobedience! No matter what modern pundits would have us believe, sin and the propensity to commit sin is part of our very nature. And any honest parent can see this very early on in their precious baby’s life.
“Please do not hit Rover with that, Amelia.”
Amelia lowers her arm and sits up from her crawl, plastic hammer in hand. She glances sweetly at Mother and then glances back at the dog sleeping quietly next to the cozy fireplace unaware of the danger inching toward him. Amelia returns to her crawling position and with careless ease crawls the few feet to close in on Rover. She’s mastered the ability to crawl and still carry her “weapon” in one hand. She is focused and determined. Rover is funny when wakened from his sleep.
“Amelia.” Mother’s voice is low but firm. “I said, No!”
Amelia thinks for just a moment about that word, “No.” She’s heard it many times already in her short life of just 12 months. It all started when she mastered the art of crawling. That word, “No” has really been a nuisance to her new found freedom , though, and she’s learned she can ignore it for a little while before there are any real consequences. She realizes that Mother will be displeased if she continues on this short path to their dog. But, Rover is so funny!
There is no pause now. There is no glance back at Mother this time. There is only the innate desire to watch Rover jump up and run around the living room once bonked on the head. Rover is a big fury thing and the hammer is so small in comparison. He won’t be really hurt. No harm will really be done.
In a flash and before Mother can reach her, Amelia comes to her wobbly stance and her arm is raised. The hammer is lowered with all her toddler strength right on Rover’s nose!
You know how the rest of this story ends. Rover indeed jumps up and runs all over the living room. For an instant Amelia is entertained, but just for an instant. Her disobedience has a quick consequence of being knocked over by Rover and an unceremonious tumble to her backside. She is not hurt but cries out from the sheer force of Rover’s weight forcing her to the floor.
Mother finally arrives (Amelia cannot believe how slow parents can be sometimes) and scoops her up in soft yet strong arms. Amelia hears the familiar assurances from Mother that she will be alright, but she does not expect the admonitions of “Never do that again!” and “Why don’t you listen to Mommy” mingled in with the words of comfort. This toddler is confused. Mommy says it is wrong to hurt others. But Rover is such an easy target and can be so hilarious. She didn’t like the tumble, but that instant of fun…well…maybe it was worth it.
We do not naturally stay on the path of righteousness. Goodness! Sometimes we cannot even find the path let alone stay on it! We want our way and we want it now and any and all means of getting our way are acceptable. (Hmm…kind of sounds like the Year 2020.) Usually when we get this way a righteous path is the farthest thing from our mind, just like our toddler, Amelia.
David knew this about himself and humbly acknowledges that it is only by The Shepherd guiding him that he can find the path of righteousness and then stay on it. And David also acknowledges that God does all this for His own name’s sake.
Does it help us when God guides us on the righteous path? Yes, of course! Does it often keep us out of trouble? Indeed, it does! Is God showing His love to us as He walks with us on the righteous path? Absolutely!
But, The Shepherd guides His sheep in righteousness for HIs own glory and honor. It is Who He Is to guide His children in righteousness; not forced; not robots, but loving guidance. This brings God glory. There is no glory for a robot to do what it is programed to do. There is much glory when a stubborn, willful and stupid sheep willingly stays with The Shepherd on the path of righteousness.
We cannot do this on our own and it is an affront to the Creator when we try and take credit for any righteousness we may exhibit or keep in our minds and hearts once in awhile. And if we think it about, it is quite silly to harbor any pride in this. But we do! And so did David. That is why he wrote down the reminder that the truest restoration of our souls is when God leads us back to the path of righteousness.
Psalm 16:11 You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.
Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.