You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God. You’re blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him. That’s right – you don’t go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set. You, God, prescribed the right way to live; now you expect us to live it. Oh, that my steps might be steady, keeping to the course you set; then I’d never have any regrets in comparing my life with your counsel. I thank you for speaking straight from your heart; I learn the pattern of your righteous ways. I’m going to do what you tell me to do; don’t ever walk off and leave me. (Psalm 119:1-8)
In examining this passage, I am challenged by the meaning of the word “follow”. To follow implies many things that I have come to appreciate:
- To accept the authority of the one we make a matter of our focus or attention – it implies a condition of obedience to the authority and counsel of our righteous God.
- To come to a specified place in a specified time, sequence, or order – we are brought into a place well-planned for us in the exact timing, by the exact method, and in the specific purposes of our unchanging God.
- To imitate – it is our greatest glory to imitate, or take on the image, of our God.
- To watch steadily, observe keenly, or to keep the mind on – it is not an inattentive, haphazard pursuit that the writer is focusing on here, but one of purposeful, directed steps with a fixed focus and an enlarged perspective.
- To chase or pursue – passionately engaged in truly catching or laying hold of the one we pursue – overcoming him with our passionate pursuit.
We don’t go off on our own – we remain consistent in the path he designs, even in the midst of our own battle of will that pulls us to take an easier path or one promising us more tantalizing reward. We walk straight – not veering in our course. It is a blessed thing to remain – to not be used up by the path we pursue, to not be destroyed along the way. This ability to “remain” is provided by the God of divine compassion – the one who makes our ways straight and gives us the endurance to stand strong.
He prescribes the way – outlines the plan. Our part is to walk in what he prescribes. In the end, the promise is a life free of regrets. Oh, I am sure that sounds like “pie in the sky” for many of us – we’ve already endured more regrets that we care to admit. It is never too late to “begin again” in the course God has prepared for us – to lay aside past regrets and to pursue the path he outlines in the pursuit of all he plans for us.
Regret is an outcome of disappointment – hopes dashed, dreams unfulfilled, and losses deeply felt. This is not the outcome of pursuing the one that is unchangeable in all his ways – it more definitely the result of our pursuit of our own selfish desires, focusing our attention on imperfect people, or embracing empty relationships. We protect ourselves from regret by embracing his wise counsel – by comparing our every movement with what he has outlined in his Word. In it, God outlines “safe paths” and speaks to us “straight from the heart” so that we can avoid the pitfalls of disappointment that await us down the paths he has not designed.
We learn to walk in his paths one step at a time – it is not a dash, nor is it a relay. It is a consistent, forward movement toward a goal. It is a patterned pursuit – marked out by the Master of our souls. As we daily seek his paths, we learn to step out in a growing assurance that the way is ordered, well-marked, and free of all that brings harm. At first, we may step out in the path God outlines, then quickly veer to the direction that appeals more to our natural reasoning, only to find ourselves knee deep in hazards we did not anticipate. At these times, we even are so vain as to blame God for the hazards – we question why we face the things that seem to have brought harm into our lives. Thank God, he is a merciful guide – he points out the hazards, heals our wounds, righting our stand – then he places us on course once again.
Even in the midst of our accusing and questioning ways, he tenderly guides.
It is a good thing to walk in such a way that we never veer off course, but is an even more comforting thing to know that when we do wander or drift, he is there to restore and renew. He has even planned for our “changeableness” – knowing full well that we may purpose to do what he has revealed for us to do, but that our self-man is weak in its commitment to that path. We are like David – we yearn for the path he prepares – yet we struggle to resist the appeal of the path that offers the immediate reward, the passing enjoyment. David purposed to walk straight – let that be our purpose, as well.