He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
Appreciating the importance of those waking up, blowing away the cobwebs first moments before rising, I like to do something I learned from the late Dallas Willard. When Willard was asked how he liked to begin a typical day, he said that he never had a typical day, adding;
“Each of my days is so different with a different schedule often in a different place. But I do like to begin each day meditating on either on Psalm 23 or The Lord’s Prayer before I climb out of bed. That helps me begin my day in a very good way.”
Before I get out of bed I like to follow Willard’s example by going through Psalm 23 or the Lord’s Prayer, pausing to reflect on and pray each line. It helps program my spirit, mind and body for a typical or atypical day. It can make the whole day different for me.
The other morning I woke feeling anxious about the day. There were some problems I needed to tackle and situations about which I felt uneasy. I would have preferred to pull the sheet over my head and sleep through the day. Instead I began meditating on Psalm 23, the beautiful Shepherd Psalm by David. I was going through the psalm phrase by phrase when I was struck by the words about my Shepherd who “leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.” The words lit up as I felt I was hearing them for the first time. I realized that whatever the problems the day might bring the Shepherd was leading me down “right paths”.
I first memorized Psalm 23 in the King James Version that says, “he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness.” As a boy the phrase “paths of righteousness” was difficult to wrap my mind around. I didn’t understand what paths of righteousness might mean. Then later in my study of Hebrew I learned that “righteousness” translates the Hebrew word tsedeq, referring to something being straight. Franz Delitzch and Carl Friedrich Keil, in their classic commentary on the Psalms, translate “tsedeq paths” as “straight paths leading to the right goal.” Here the right goal towards which God leads us is to the “house of the Lord’ where we will forever live with Him (v. 6). There is no aimless, purposeless meandering with God, rather, He leads us straight to His forever home!
As I meditate on Psalm 23 I understand there will be days God leads me to nourishment in green pastures alongside still water (v. 2). On other days the Lord will shepherd me through dark valleys where death’s shadows threaten, but even there I will know He is with me (v. 4). And yes, there will be days when surrounded on all sides by my enemies the Lord will throw me a party in their presence (v. 5). He will fill to overflowing my cup of blessing (v. 5), while His goodness and mercy pursue me all the way to His eternal Home (v. 6).
That early morning as I meditated on Psalm 23, I thought of how God leads “for his name’s sake,” and all that those words meant. David was writing in an honor-shame culture where a person’s name meant everything. David had been a shepherd and he knew that the name of any shepherd who took his sheep into the wilderness and lost them would be a laughingstock in the village. I realized that God had staked His good name, His reputation, on knowing how to lead me in “right paths”. I felt assured that whatever the day would bring, “God, my shepherd! I don’t need a thing!” (v. 1 The Message)
Like Dallas Willard, you seldom have a typical day, but I think you will find meditating on Psalm 23 or The Lord’s Prayer a great way to start. You can know, come what may, the Lord is leading you down the paths right for you!
Grace and peace,