You are probably familiar with the term of sowing one's wild oats, but do we just do this in our youth? Although this term has some differing meanings, in the most literal sense this idiom carries the idea of doing something wild and foolish - so I guess we could all probably answer this question with a resounding "NO"! We find ourselves doing a good many foolish things in our older age, don't we? What about the last time you said something you regretted, or acted a little too hasty, making bad decisions along the way? Wasn't this acting foolishly? What is the one thing we hope will happen whenever we have done something so foolish and silly? Isn't it that God will forget all about it? Or perhaps that the consequences of our actions will not find us out! Either way, we know what we have done has been both misdirected and silly - all we want is to be "square" again with God, the others in our lives, and our own conscience!
God is fair and just; he corrects the misdirected, sends them in the right direction. He gives the rejects his hand, and leads them step-by-step. From now on every road you travel will take you to God. Follow the Covenant signs; read the charted directions. (Psalm 25:8-10 MSG)
At the moment we "throw our lot in" with God, we can hold our heads high. There is no need to be skulking around, shame-filled and head low. In fact, God tells us to lift our heads - to be unafraid to enter his courts and to come boldly into his presence. When we become "schooled" in God's ways, we begin to understand the completeness of God's grace - it goes beyond our surface need to the very core of our most intimate need - to no longer feel the shame over our foolish deeds. To be schooled in God's ways is to come into a place of understanding how he works - the consistency of his actions, reliability of his presence, and unyielding attentiveness to our needs.
Wild oats are simply seeds which when planted will bring forth a crop we don't want to really find in our fields. It really doesn't have much usefulness - in fact, it kind of messes up the purity of what should be harvested from the field in the first place. Wild oats are really a form of "grass" which springs up in the fields of cereal grains and referred to as "nuisance grains" by those who plant the cereal grains. Probably the most aggravating issue with wild oats is the length of time their seeds can actually lie dormant in the ground. Did you know wild oats (these nuisance grasses) can lay around for about ten years and still have the ability to spring up when the conditions are right? Sound a little like some of the troublesome areas in our own lives? We think we don't see evidence of any "nuisance" crops, but then all of a sudden, up it springs!
No wonder we sometimes feel like we cannot break free of things which we thought we let go of a long time ago - things we label as foolish! We probably have a few of those dormant seeds just hanging around looking for the right opportunity to spring up! Farmers who deal with these "nuisance" grasses know the only way to get rid of them is with a very strong chemical herbicide. The issue with the chemical is the destruction it causes to the good stuff growing in the fields. So, most farmers don't specifically attack the wild oats, but just filter them out when they begin to harvest the crop. I think God has a different means of getting rid of the wild oats in our lives, though. He knows how to find those seeds, ridding our "soil" of their potential destructive influence, and plucking up the odd one which might spring forth.
The psalmist reminds us to mark the milestones of God's mercies and his grace - why? I think it may have something to do with God's ability to find these seeds and to ensure they don't take over the good stuff he is growing within us. As our passage points out, he is able to redirect the misdirected, making sure their path is one which will bring forth the best crop possible. How does he accomplish this? By taking each of us by the hand and ensuring our steps are ordered. God knows the difference between the good "oat" seed and the wild "seed". He knows how to ferret out the two, allowing only the good to take root and the wild to be exposed, dealt with, and no longer in contact with the soil of our hearts.
We may have a few "errant" seeds left around in our lives - those we might call "wild". God knows exactly where each of these are and he knows exactly how each of these "errant" seeds might just produce something we'd probably rather not like to deal with. So, he works to remove them before they have the ability to grow into fully formed "nuisances" in our lives! Just sayin!