The 23rd Psalm is a well-known passage in Scripture. It has provided comfort and conviction to many as we realize what it means to have the Lord as our Shepherd – as the one who guides, protects, disciplines and pursues after us. Yet, because it is a familiar passage, I am prone to overlook the riches of what it says. In its familiarity it becomes common to me, but the truth it contains (as the truth of any Scripture) is anything but ordinary.
For instance, recently, as I listened to the 23rd Psalm being read, I was struck by the phrase in verse 3, “He leads me in paths of righteousness.” Like any good shepherd, one of the primary purposes of The Good Shepherd is to lead those who follow after Him. He is purposeful in choosing the paths that will lead to our protection and that will enable us to get to the place He has prepared. He is intent on choosing the roads that are in keeping with His Word, guiding us in the way of living more like Him. If I follow Him, I will increasingly live a life that is “righteous” – a life that better reflects Him.
Yet the very next phrase tells us the purpose of this leading; it isn’t for our own glory and esteem. We are led down these path of righteousness for His name’s sake. In other words, He doesn’t call us to go in a certain way primarily because it will be for our good (althoughHe does promisethat He is working all things together for that). Instead, His primary purpose is to bring glory to His name. The paths that He calls us to walk is not primarily about us; it’s about Him. And when we are called to go a certain way, we need to remember that choosing to go in a different direction, isn’t a “neutral” choice. We are choosing to deny Him the glory that He so richly deserves.
As a college professor, I get the opportunity to talk with a lot of students who are getting ready to enter “the real world.” Doing so is scary because all of their lives, they have had known what the next step was. They would finish elementary school, then go to junior high and so on and so forth until they are brought to graduation day. As they look to an unknown future, I always try to encourage them to look for the path that God has prepared. In doing so and in walking that path, they can be assured that He will accomplish something good from it. However, they can also be assured that if they walk the paths of righteousness that He has prepared, they will be used to make His name great. And there’s no better future to anticipate than that. For a college student or for the rest of us.