He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Psalm 23:3 (ESV)
Our Good Shepherd leads us along the right paths. If he didn’t we would soon choose another path in which to walk. Let’s face it, we are all prone to wander. But God has promised that we will never perish, that nothing can snatch us out of his hand (John 10:27-30), that he will never cast us out (John 6:37), that he will glorify us (Romans 8:30), that he will sustain us to the end (1 Corinthians 1:7-9), that he is faithful to keep us blameless (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24), that he will establish and guard us against the evil one (2 Thessalonians 3:3 ), that he able to keep us from stumbling and present us blameless (Jude 1:24), and that he will complete the work he began in us (Philippians 1:6).
And should we ever “wander off” we can take comfort that we haven’t wandered off so far as to be removed from the influence of God’s presence. The psalmist wrote, If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. (Psalm 139:9-10 ESV) God will never permit the righteous to be moved (Psalm 55:22).
How does the Good Shepherd keep us on the right paths? He disciplines us. God disciplines all those whom he loves, it is a sure sign that we belong to him (Hebrews 12:6-7). By design, God permits hardships to come into our lives not only to teach us to trust in him, but also to teach us not to sin; that we may share in his holiness (Hebrews 12:10). For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11 ESV)
As Christians we represent the name and character of God. The ultimate reason God leads us in paths of righteousness is so that we will properly represent his name. God is jealous for his holy name (Ezekiel 35:29) and does not want it to be profaned (Ezekiel 20:14). David wrote, For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me. (Psalm 31:3 ESV) God has commanded us not to take his name in vain (Exodus 20:7), which we do when our behavior betrays the character of the God we claim to serve. However, when people around us see the character of God is our lives his name is glorified (Matthew 5:16).
The loving care of our Good Shepherd is aptly represented in the words of Isaiah. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 40:11 ESV)
Are you being led by the Good Shepherd?
Scriptures for meditation:
Psalm 5:8; 25:11
1 John 2:12