David has written a remarkable Psalm (23) about his confidence in what the Lord is going to do for him. He’s got his ‘sails’ up in higher winds than his circumstances. And it’s invigorating to see how life can be when he, and we, trust the Lord.
Continuing with the Psalm, David tells us he will be led in ‘paths of righteousness’. He’s talking about us doing what we are created for—righteousness (Ecclesiastes 7:29). And David says the Lord is up to the job.
Our life is about more than just being comfortable. It’s about belonging to God and being about his purpose.
Part of the Lord leading us in righteousness is what he has already put in his word, the Bible. For example, one prophet says, ‘…what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God’ (Micah 6:8).
And Paul says, ‘Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law’ (Romans 13:10). In most cases, it’s not really hard to know what God wants us to do.
But how does the Lord lead us in these paths? And why does he do it for his name’s sake? David is talking about what God is going to do, and what he will do for the sake of his own reputation.
‘Paths of righteousness’ is not just about how to behave. It encompasses the whole pathway God has prepared for us to travel on.
This is the way God has led Israel up to this point. Moses says, ‘In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling’ (Exodus 15:13).
If God is going to have people doing his will, he needs to set up a way where it becomes possible. He shows them his love. He saves them. He guides them with his strength. He doesn’t just give directions.
So, David asks God to ‘Send me your light and your faithful care, let them lead me’ (Psalm 43:3). He’s not just looking for orders. He needs to know God. He needs to know the certainty of God’s presence.
If the Lord—and in our case, the Lord Jesus—is going to lead us in paths of righteousness, this is how it works. He doesn’t start with us! That’s a lost cause. He starts with his own faithful love, his own light and truth—just as he did with Israel.
Jesus creates a ‘Christian life’ with his own life, death and resurrection. Our sins are all answered for. Christ is our peace with God. And then he says, ‘Walk in that!’
Have a look at some places (in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians) where Christians are told how to live.
We are God’s workmanship, ‘created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do’ (2:8-10). We are to put off our old corrupted life and to get dressed in the new life God has created for us (4:22-24). We are to imitate the one who is loving us—our Father (5:1).
We shouldn’t just read the Bible to find out what to do. Read it to see how God has set you up to live differently—and then, live differently!
In addition to this, the Lord is a lot more practical than us when it comes to being righteous. He knows our weak spots. Just ask David. He thanked God for the intervention of a sensible woman when he was about to attack some people who had peeved him (2 Samuel 25:32-34).
God regulates our temptations so that we never get something too hard for us to handle (1 Corinthians 10:13). As Paul says, ‘the Lord is faithful’. He is our Shepherd.
This is what it is like to be led in paths of righteousness. And this is why—when we let our ‘light shine’ before others—that they give glory to our Father (Matthew 5:16). It’s not just us who knows that our good deeds are coming from above. Other people can see it.
If you want to walk in ‘paths of righteousness’, Christ is going to have to be your Shepherd—all the way.