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.
(Psalm 119:1-4 The Message)
A few days ago, we looked at the meaning of the word "blessed". Many might have been surprised to know that "blessed" carried meaning such as consecrated, set apart, sanctified, and supremely favored. Words are rich in meaning - we just need to explore them to see what is "hidden" within. The psalmist sought to set out a series of "life-instructions" within the 119th Psalm. He begins with the lesson of learning to "walk". He will end with the idea of where learning to walk actually gets us! Today, we begin a venture into Psalm 119 - finding highlights from this rather long psalm by looking into the "words" behind the words. Oh, don't worry, I won't add to scripture! Just trying to "unpack" it a little for us.
I often struggle with the concept of living a "sanctified" life. That is just a big word meaning "holy" or "set apart". When I think of a "holy" life, I think of one that is set apart from sin. So, now you probably understand why I struggle with the concept! Living "apart from sin" is more of a challenge than we realize when we first make the "leap of faith" by telling God we want to follow in his path! David realized that "staying the course" begins with taking the first step. You don't move forward in neutral! In fact, you don't move at all! So many times we wonder why we aren't making any progress in our "fight" over sin when we really just need to look at what "gear" we are in! We are in "neutral" - we haven't fully aligned ourselves with God's way of seeing and doing things, and we aren't too sure that we want to align ourselves with our old way of seeing and doing things any longer.
The walk of faith begins with the first step. The victory over sin in our lives begins with the fist step toward obedience. A challenge is only overcome when we obtain a vantage point over our challenger! It isn't in the "speed" of the race we run that we see the victory - it is in the consistency of the forward progress that we make along the path! Do you know what it means to walk "straight" along the road God sets? Well, here are a few things to ponder:
- To go directly to the source. A straight course is a direct course. When we want answers - we should go directly to the source of all wisdom. When we hope to have our fear replaced with boldness - we need direct access to the all-powerful One. We often don't make forward progress because we are not on the direct course!
- To move exactly parallel to the object of our attention. God expects us to walk on a "vertical" plane with him as the object of our attention. We often find ourselves walking on a "horizontal" plane - with all kinds of other sinners as the object of our attention. Then we wonder why we are not walking so straight!
- To conduct oneself in an honest, upright, and honorable manner. Our Lord desires honesty - let me call it transparency. His desire in us being transparent is not so he can find out stuff about us that he doesn't already know - it is in us realizing what our real condition is! In the acknowledgement of our condition, we learn to lean on him. It is kind of silly, but we only walk "upright" when we are "leaning"!
- To make progress that is continuous and unbroken. The hardest part of our walk is in the continual progress toward being holy. I take heart in knowing God has "declared" us holy already. In the steps between what we act like everyday and what he "declares" us as being, there are a whole lot of stops and starts. God's desire is that we learn to make continual progress - uninterrupted progress.
God prescribes the path - we take the steps. Don't lose heart! We never walk alone - our path is exactly parallel to the object of our attention (and dare I say, our affection). Try walking an exactly parallel path to someone. Don't take your eyes off of that person. Try it! It is hard work! Why? Simply because we have to learn to trust the individual of our focus and not look down at the path at hand! That's hard! We want to focus on the path - God wants us to focus on him!
So, as we begin to explore this Psalm over the next several weeks, let's begin with the change of heart that aligns ourselves in parallel movement with the object of our affection - Jesus. We can be honest with him that we'd rather be looking at the path! He knows that already! In learning to redirect our focus, we often do a better job avoiding the pitfalls along the way! Learning the lesson of walking "straight" begins with a change in our focus.