“He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me; you rod and your staff, they comfort me.
We will continue with the 23d Psalm and looking at El Roi, our Good Shepherd. Yesterday we noted that the shepherd leads the sheep to food, water and rest and that when the sheep have all of those things that they experience safety, security and restoration. Today we will talk about the ways the shepherd guides the sheep. I used the NIV here because I like the way it states “He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.” Other translations say “He leads me in paths of righteousness” which is also correct, but I think sometimes we have a hard time with looking at ourselves or our paths as righteous, when righteous only means right living. But the world skews our thinking so much that to us that may sound haughty. When the shepherd is out in the wilderness with their sheep, the shepherd has learned the right paths and the wrong paths to take. He is going to guide his sheep along the path that is right for them. One path may look right at the beginning, but the shepherd may know that right around the corner is a big drop off and it would be dangerous for the sheep. When we look to our shepherd, our El Roi, He also will lead us down the right paths. Some job, some school, some path in life may look good to us, but our Shepherd has the benefit of knowing all and if we will allow it, He will guide us down the right path, if for no other reason “for his name’s sake.” When we allow our lives to give God the glory then He will guide us down those right paths simply because it’s His name on the line. I can remember a time when our family was looking to make a move. Things were falling into place so perfectly, we were praying all the while though that the LORD would only allow it if it is what was best for our family. Soon after we prayed those prayers, the job went off the table. We were at first very confused, the job was perfect, there was talk that the company would buy our house and that they would provide us a place to live until we found another. How quickly we forgot our prayer LORD only allow it if it is good for us. Six months later the company had to pull out of the location they were taking us to and many people lost their jobs. How grateful we were then that the LORD had not allowed us to go. I truly feel that the LORD led us down the right path by not allowing it.
That brings us to “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil.” The time that the job didn’t go through was a dark valley. I wish I could tell you I held on and had no fear at all. I have walked through some other dark valleys. Other translations of this verse say “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” A few years ago when I lost my Daddy and my sister within 6 months of each other and a few weeks later learned that one of my best friends had an illness that was terminal, I felt like I was walking through the valley of the shadow of death. I have said it before, grief is hard, grief upon grief is almost unbearable. Looking back though at that time, I found myself in a position that I was having to walk so closely to the shepherd. And in that I found comfort by His leading and His guiding me. I knew that my walking with Him was not going to bring my people back. I knew I may not get answers as to why this was happening to them but I needed His comfort and His grace on my heart. It was one of the darkest times of my life, because of the loss my heart experienced as well as some other life experiences that happened soon after that, but as long as I stayed close to the shepherd, He was seeing me through. I wish I could tell you I never feared, I can’t. But I can tell you there is a direct relationship to the time I spent with the Shepherd and if there was fear in my heart. If I drifted away from the path, my heart would get anxious and fearful, if I stayed the course and spent time with Him daily, He sustained me, He would guide me and He comforted me. I felt seen by Him, even in the hard valleys of life.
I’ve known this Psalm for years. I am sure many of you can say the same. But there is a difference in knowing the Psalm and knowing the main character of the Psalm. The LORD is MY Shepherd, I lack nothing, because I know Him and He knows me! I hope you feel seen by Him today too, you can, just spend some time sitting at His feet. Let Him lead you along the right paths. He will surely do it for His name’s sake!