The LORD makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the LORD upholds him with his hand.
The most prayed prayer in the Bible is that the Lord guide. People are anxious about taking the right road, about making the right choice, so they ask God to guide. We can be thankful that our heavenly Father is eager to guide and lead us down right paths. In the beautiful Shepherd Psalm David finds assurance in knowing that the Shepherd “guides me along right paths for his name’s sake.” Having been a shepherd David understands how a shepherd’s good name is at stake in knowing how to guide his sheep. A shepherd that takes his sheep into the wilderness and loses them would be the laughing stock of the village and countryside. God’s good name, His honor, is at stake in knowing how to lead His people. So nothing is more pleasing to God than when we ask Him to guide us and go with us.
The great missionary doctor and explorer David Livingstone often quoted today’s psalm text; he said that it had helped guide him in his journeys across Africa. In this text David again takes up his theme of journey and taking the right path. These are the words of a man who has done much and lived much, sinned greatly and been greatly forgiven. We know from the psalm that these are David’s words as an old man looking back on life: “I was young and now I am old” (v. 25). From the perspective of seasoned old age David concludes in our text: “The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him.” David knows this from his own life, and the Spirit who guides Him.
David’s Hebrew words translated “make firm the steps” put forth the idea of “firmly established, stable, secure, and enduring.” (James Strong, Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary of the Bible) More than most people David has experienced how slippery and dangerous life’s pathways can be. He knows that even a good person, “the one who delights” in God, will “stumble”. Yet David has seen time and again that if that man stumbles, “he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.” The Message renders this phrase: “If he stumbles, he’s not down for long; God has a grip on his hand.” More important than our holding on to God is the fact that God is holding on to us.
Significantly, David writes, “though he may stumble,” rather than, “if he stumble.” “If” states the possibility of our stumbling, “though” states the certainty. We do fall; we take wrong paths. The Bible is filled with stories of stumbling saints – Abraham, Moses, Jonah, Peter, and yes, David! But God has them in his grip:
He shall not be utterly cast down. He shall not be altogether prostrate. He shall be brought on his knees, but not on his face; or if laid prone for a moment, he shall be up again ere long. No saint shall fall finally and fatally…Even in our falls the Lord gives a measure of sustaining. Where grace does not keep from going down it shall save from keeping down. (Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David)
We often stand at life’s many crossroads paralyzed by fear: fear of a wrong decision, fear of falling, fear of exhaustion, fear of danger along the way. But the Shepherd guides and goes with us all the way, upholding us with His hand.
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