“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Psa. 23).
Today, we will take a look at “He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” In the first part of the verse, the author stresses how we should walk if we are to be considered one of his sheep. Back in the day, the shepherd would have to move his flock from one area to another, but that did not mean it would be an easy path. Difficult as it may have been with dangers like predators and rocky trails, following him would lead to safety and better grazing opportunities. Those sheep who did not listen and strayed from that path were at risk of being hurt by the geography or another animal.
Today, many choose to go their own way. They take the Bible, skim through the pages and then, without deliberate study, choose the path they think is best – the easiest one for them. The problem is that the path that looks easiest is not always the best. Mat. 7:13-14, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Those who choose their own path, the one that is widest and looks easiest, unwittingly lead themselves to ruin. The directions may seem uncomfortable, and the way may seem small and hard, but following our Creator Shepherd will ultimately lead us to the best destination.
Unfortunately, those entrusted with leading the flock for God, like ministers, elders, and teachers, often are the cause of the problem. Instead of directing the sheep in the way of the Lord, they choose a path of their own making – often intentionally. Those leaders should read and understand Gal. 1:8-9 because the fate of the flock, and especially their own, is at stake. “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” They should also read “Jam. 3:1,“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”
The second part of the verse reads, “for his name’s sake.” The shepherd did not exist for the benefit of the sheep, but rather, they existed for his benefit. They were expected to provide a profit for him. We live for God’s profit and not our own. Like the shepherds of old, God provides safety and security and leads us to the best grazing for His benefit, which in turn benefits us. The sheep who stray are doing so for their profit, which changes the fundamental relationship with God from one of dependence to one of idolatry. Our actions reflect His kingdom, so we are expected to be obedient and follow Him so His name will be glorified. We need to stop making Christianity about us – it isn’t.
Mat. 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” When we walk in the paths of righteousness, we shine our light before others, beckoning to them like a lighthouse to a ship in a storm. When they see our light, they have a way to escape the perils of the darkness of sin they find themselves in. When you follow the path of righteousness, you will be following the steps of good people before you and providing an opportunity for another to reach the best destination as well. Prov 2:20, “So you will walk in the way of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous.” Be that light today by following the “paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”