Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection of reality as in a riddle, but then when perfection comes, we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part, imperfectly, but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood by God.”
1 Corinthians 13: 12
“I sometimes think that God must surely smile,
While looking on His world so tenderly;
And whisper softly to His angels there:
‘Could they but see?
His fretted world perplexed and worn and sad,
Distrustful of His watching thought the while;
Unmindful of the strength of love which shines
Behind God’s smile –
The kindest smile a weary world could know –
A smile that pities, loves, forgives and plans;
That knows earth’s strivings, failings, hopes and fears,
Could we but see how near His angels are,
And know the grandeur of the ways they tread,
Or glimpse the land of happiness untold
Which lies ahead.
I sometimes think that God must surely smile,
When looking on His troubled world below,
And whisper softly, tenderly, His thought:
‘Could they but know.’”
Today’s Study Text:
“He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
Psalm 23: 3
Psalm 23 Part 11
“It’s His Name That’s at Stake!”
“Let us form right conceptions of God – gracious and merciful – causing grace and mercy to find their way between the banks of truth and righteousness.”
Andrew A. Bonar
“As for me, I will continue beholding Your face in righteousness (rightness), justice, and right standing with You.”
Psalm 17: 15
What do I think David meant when he said God would help us to walk in “right” places for God’s name sake?
How has following God in “paths of righteousness” affected my life?
“God leads God’s people to the good things in life because that is who God is and what God does.”
David M. Burns
Feasting on the Word
“When Jesus had spoken these things, He lifted up His eyes to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify and exact and honor and magnify Your Son, so that Your Son may glorify and extol and honor and magnify You.”
John 17: 1
Over thirty years ago, when Jim and I opened our advertising business, on one of my evening phone calls with my dad, he made an observation which I have not forgotten – even to this day. As I was rehearsing with him how I was going to “pitch” a potential new client whose business I really wanted, my dad offered this keen perspective, “You know “Dorothy-Girl,” as he called me, up to this point in your young life, you have always worked for someone. But now you will be working for yourself. Every project you take on will bear your name. Every client you serve will be looking to you as the one whose recommendations they will be following. Always remember, your work will reflect who you are at the core of your being.”
Wise words. Truthful words. And as the years have passed, I’ve come to realize that not just in our work, but in all we do, there is an impression, call it a visible imprint if you will, of who we are, which is left behind on what we have done and said.
Possibly, as David reflected on the way he tried to lead his father’s flocks on the right path, he began to think about what his own actions told others about the “House of Jesse” This is why David paid attention to detail and offered wise leadership that made certain the route he chose for his flock of sheep reminded those he met on his journey that indeed, he was a man of honor and truth.
And so without hesitation, as David contemplated the way his own leadership of his sheep bore his imprint, he also stated that our heavenly Shepherd leads us in “paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” God’s imprint is on His guidance.
The idea that under the attentive care of my heavenly Shepherd, I am going to be led on a path which is absolutely right for me is not only comforting, but assuring. However, this is not where David stopped. He continued by adding the phrase that our heavenly Father’s guiding hand leads us gently along for “His name’s sake.” This is as if God has taken His eternal seal and stamped these words, for He backs up His promise to take care of us with His own unchanging word.
Several days ago, I happened to turn on the television and to my surprise one of my all-time favorite movies was playing. Ben-Hur, which is a story of love, revenge, forgiveness, and redemption helps me understand more clearly what it means when there is someone powerful that stands behind a seal. In one particularly moving scene, Judah Ben-Hur, played by Charlton Heston, walks into the home of his former friend and now bitter enemy Messala who had imprisoned Judah’s mother and sister and sent Judah into bondage as a galley slave. After strange events came about which found Judah saving the life of a Roman, Quintus Arrius, Judah was adopted by this powerful man and now wore the family ring on his finger.
In this particular scene, Messala found himself speechless, as well as shocked, when the “son of Arrius” grabbed a pad and with his ring, displayed the fact to Messala that no longer was he just a Jewish slave, he had now come for revenge, with the power of the house of Quintus Arrius and the force of Rome against his enemy.
As I thought about this movie portrayal, it reminded me of the fact that as children of our heavenly Father, we are not only provided with a design which has been laid out for each of our lives by our Father but then our Shepherd tells us, “I am backing up My word with My honor and with My glory.” Kent M. French, in his commentary on the phrase, “He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake,” focuses on the Hebrew word, “tsedeq,” which means “normal, right and just,” to describe the right path our Shepherd chooses. But Kent French doesn’t stop by looking at what one word means, he continues with this astute observation, “These are not just any paths, but the ‘right’ paths, all for the sake of God’s name. The Lord leads the faithful (you and me) down these paths not only for their benefit, but so that we may glorify the name of God in all the earth.” When we walk with our Shepherd on the right path, we are telling a story to those around us. We are living, by our example, by our words and actions, a life which is a personal reflection of the traits that are present in the God we serve and in the Shepherd who is our guide and leader.
Tucked away in what some might consider a rather obscure book in the Old Testament, Numbers, there’s an exchange between God and His friend Moses. Having spent 40 years in Midian herding sheep, we might have the idea that Moses was more than qualified to lead the Israelites across the Sinai desert. To jump to this conclusion too fast would be unwise because it would show a lack of understanding of all that Moses had to put up with as over a million people repeatedly rebelled against Moses’ leadership as well as the guidance of Jehovah.
In the conversation, recorded in Numbers 14, the children of Israel had “grumbled and deplored their situation, accusing Moses and Aaron, to whom the whole congregation said, ‘Would that we had died in Egypt! Or that we had died in this wilderness! Why does the Lord bring us to this land to fall by the sword? Our wives and little ones will be a prey. Is it not better for us to return to Egypt?’ And they said one to another, ‘Let us choose a captain and return to Egypt’ (Numbers 14: 2-4, Amplified Bible). This was a total slap in the face to Moses. But worse yet, it was open rebellion against the guiding hand of God. What we uncover is that God, whose gracious and merciful kindness had led His children through the Red Sea and provided for all their needs through their desert wanderings, came to Moses and asked this question, “How long will this people despise Me? And how long will it be before they trust Me, for all the signs which I have performed among them?” (Numbers 14: 11). And then God made Moses an offer it might have been hard to refuse, especially after putting up with all the complaining Moses had to endure. God said to Moses, “I will smite them (the Israelites) with a pestilence and disinherit them, and will make of you (Moses) a nation greater and mightier than they” (Numbers 14: 12).
I’ve asked myself on more than one occasion if I had been in Moses’ sandals would I have responded the way he did? What we find in Numbers 14: 13-20 is one of the most incredible speeches recorded in Scripture:
“13 But Moses said to the Lord, Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for You brought up this people in Your might from among them.
14 And they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, Lord, are in the midst of this people (of Israel). That You, Lord, are seen face to face, and that Your cloud stands over them, and that You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night.
15 Now if You kill all this people as one man, then the nations that have heard Your name will say.
16 Because the Lord was not able to bring this people into the land which He swore to give to them, therefore He has slain them in the wilderness.
17 And now. I pray You, let the power of my Lord be great, as You have promised, saying.
18 The Lord is long-suffering and slow to anger, and abundant in mercy and loving-kindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression: but He will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, upon the third and fourth generation (Exod. 34: 6,7)
19 Pardon, I pray You, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of Your mercy and loving-kindness, just as You have forgiven (them) from Egypt until now.
20 And the Lord said. I have pardoned according to your word.”
God didn’t have this exchange with Moses so that Moses could convince God to be gracious and long-suffering. When Moses told God that He was “slow to anger, abundant in mercy and loving-kindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression,” these were not characteristics God needed to be reminded make up His being. What I believe happened is that God’s heart of love was broken by the rebellion of His beloved children whose threats against Moses went so far as stoning. Yet despite the horrid and ungrateful treatment Moses received from the people he had protected and cared for during the years of wilderness wanderings, rather than thinking only of himself, Moses said to his Father in heaven, “No matter what I endure, it is Your glory, Your name, Your reputation which matters to me – first and foremost!”
As you walk your own personal pathway, lead by your heavenly Shepherd, there may be times when your journey is tough. Your trials may be overwhelming. You may not be able to explain the “whys” in your life, I know I can’t in mine. One thing I do know, my Shepherd has promised to lead me in the right places. But what’s more, He’s staked His name and His reputation on seeing that I get safely to His home. As one translation so beautifully states: He will take me the right way as “befits His name.”
And what, you may ask, is our Father’s name? As author F. B. Meyer so eloquently conveys: “His name is ‘Wonderful.’ There is a claim on the marvelous working of His power to overrule everything to our highest good. “Counselor.” Then there is a claim upon His unerring wisdom to work out a (plan) which will fill heaven with admiration. “The mighty God.” Then there is a claim upon Him to do nothing inconsistent with divine integrity and glory. “The everlasting Father.” Then there is a claim on Him to deal no less tenderly than a loving father with his beloved child. “The Prince of Peace.” Then there is a claim on Him in accordance with the sweetness and loveliness of His heart, the memories of His cross, and the tenderness of His benediction of peace…Tell us Thy name, O wondrous Shepherd…And as we catch Thine answer, melodious with love, we will trust and not be afraid; we will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest; and we believe that we shall find that no step of the path was inconsistent with the leadings of a love wise and strong and tender as the heart of God!”
“Sing praise to God who reigns above,
The God of all creation,
The God of power, the God of love,
The God of our salvation.
What God’s almighty power hath made
His gracious mercy keepeth;
By morning glow or evening shade,
His watchful eye never sleepeth.
Then all my gladsome way along,
I sing aloud Thy praises,
That all may hear my grateful song
My voice unwearied raises.”
Johann J. Schutz
“Praise the Lord! Hallelujah! I will praise and give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart in the council of the upright. The works of the Lord are great, sought out by all those who have delight in them. His work is honorable and glorious and His righteousness endures forever.”
Psalm 111: 1-3
God of the Unexpected
“God of the unexpected,
You take us by surprise.
For though we’re full of knowledge
And feel so worldly-wise,
We sometimes miss Your pattern-
We’re so set in our ways-
We need Your clear directions
To guide us through our maze.
Direct us, Lord, and help us
To see our way ahead,
That other generations
May trace Your pattern’s thread.
Sometimes when You are calling
We cannot hear Your voice,
For some work that You give us
We would not do by choice.
Yet when we take Your challenge
And cautiously move out,
We find You there before us
To help us through the doubt.
Lord, lead us to the future,
Whatever it may be.
We will trust You completely,
For only You can see.
Lord You have led so many
Who put their trust in You,
Teach us by their example
To welcome what is new.
God of the unexpected,
You break into our time
To help us take our places
In faith’s unending line.
We’re part of Your great pattern
Of witness, love and praise.
Renew us, Lord, and fit us
To serve these coming days.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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