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Day 255

How to Stay on God's Paths

Wisdom Psalm 107:1-9
New Testament 2 Corinthians 12:11-21
Old Testament Isaiah 29:1-30:18

Introduction

I remember reading, years ago, about an incident that occurred on the Italian Riviera. A young man was driving his sports car along a road near the sea. It was a beautiful and scenic route. But the road was not what it seemed.

All along the way were warning signs. Yet, to the young man, the road seemed perfectly good. Disaster awaited him. A landslide had recently created a precipice. No one should have been on that road. He continued at great speed. He ignored all the warning signs. He went straight over the cliff.

Sometimes we are not sure where a path will lead. At other times, we are well aware of where it leads but choose to follow it nevertheless.

Jesus said that there is a path that leads to life. There is also a path that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13–14). Warning signs are not put up as a threat, but out of love. The signs on the Italian Riviera were erected to keep people safe. The words of Jesus, the New Testament and the Bible as a whole, are designed to keep us on the path that leads to life.

How do you make sure that you are on the right path? Once you are on that path, how do you stay on it?

Wisdom

Psalm 107:1-9

Psalm 107

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.

2 Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story—
    those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
3 those he gathered from the lands,
    from east and west, from north and south.

4 Some wandered in desert wastelands,
    finding no way to a city where they could settle.
5 They were hungry and thirsty,
    and their lives ebbed away.
6 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
7 He led them by a straight way
    to a city where they could settle.
8 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love
    and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
9 for he satisfies the thirsty
    and fills the hungry with good things.

Commentary

Get on the ‘wonderful road’

‘Oh, thank God – he’s so good! His love never runs out’ (v.1, MSG). You cannot improve on God’s purpose for you. God is good. He loves you. He wants the very best for your life. He has a ‘wonderful road’ for your life.

He wants you to walk on his paths: ‘He put your feet on a wonderful road that took you straight to a good place to live’ (v.7, MSG). He doesn’t want you wandering for ‘years in the desert, looking but not finding a good place to live, half starved and parched with thirst, staggering and stumbling, on the brink of exhaustion’ (v.4–5, MSG).

The good news is that, wherever you are, you can ‘cry out to the Lord’ (v.6a). When you do so, he pours ‘great draughts of water down parched throats; the starved and hungry’ get ‘plenty to eat’ (v.9, MSG).

This is a psalm of thanksgiving for God’s many occasions of deliverance of his people. Four times the psalmist says, ‘Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble’ (vv.6,13,19,28). Each time, God rescues them.

Furthermore, nothing that you have done in the past disqualifies you from being part of God’s people. The only qualification is that you should call out to God and be redeemed (v.2). Redemption means to be ‘set free by God’. Jesus came to make this redemption possible.

The ‘redeemed of the Lord’ are to ‘tell their story’ (v.2). Speak out and tell others your story of how the Lord has rescued you.

Prayer

Lord, thank you so much for the many times in my life when I have cried out to you in my trouble and you have brought me out of my distress. Lead me, I pray, on a straight path.

New Testament

2 Corinthians 12:11-21

Paul’s Concern for the Corinthians

11 I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the “super-apostles,” even though I am nothing. 12 I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles. 13 How were you inferior to the other churches, except that I was never a burden to you? Forgive me this wrong!

14 Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. 15 So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well. If I love you more, will you love me less? 16 Be that as it may, I have not been a burden to you. Yet, crafty fellow that I am, I caught you by trickery! 17 Did I exploit you through any of the men I sent to you? 18 I urged Titus to go to you and I sent our brother with him. Titus did not exploit you, did he? Did we not walk in the same footsteps by the same Spirit?

19 Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? We have been speaking in the sight of God as those in Christ; and everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening. 20 For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. 21 I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged.

Commentary

Live on the path of love

The apostle Paul was absolutely determined to do the right thing. He wanted to follow the right path (v.18).

He had been falsely accused. The ‘super-apostles’ (v.11) had tried to undermine him. As a result, he had been misunderstood and attacked by those who ought to have known better. Absurdly, he had been accused of not wanting to take money from the Corinthians because he didn’t love them (v.13).

Paul points out that the reason he didn’t take money from them was because he did not want to be a burden to them. He says, ‘What I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children’ (v.14b).

It was because of his love for them that he would have gladly spent everything for them and indeed expended himself as well (v.15). Always act in a way that is ‘aboveboard’ and ‘honest’ (v.18, MSG). Everything Paul did was for their benefit (v.19). He was not interested in their money or possessions. He was interested in their souls.

Just as Paul has done the right thing and stayed on the right course, he wants the Corinthians to do the same. He is afraid that some of them may be going off course: ‘Quarrels, jealousy, flaring tempers, taking sides, angry words, vicious rumours, swelled heads, and general bedlam’ (v.20, MSG).

He is afraid that when he comes to them he will find that crowd ‘that keeps sinning over and over in the same old ways, who refuse to turn away from the pigsty of evil, sexual disorder and indecency in which they wallow’ (v.21, MSG).

Turn away from these things to be sure that you are on the path that leads to life. The path that leads to life is a path of love – the kind of love that Paul has for the Corinthians.

Prayer

Lord, help me always to act in love and out of concern for those to whom I am ministering. May I never seek my own personal gain. Rather, may my only motivation be love. Keep me, Lord, on your paths.

Old Testament

Isaiah 29:1-30:18

Woe to David’s City

29Woe to you, Ariel, Ariel,
    the city where David settled!
Add year to year
    and let your cycle of festivals go on.
2 Yet I will besiege Ariel;
    she will mourn and lament,
    she will be to me like an altar hearth.
3 I will encamp against you on all sides;
    I will encircle you with towers
    and set up my siege works against you.
4 Brought low, you will speak from the ground;
    your speech will mumble out of the dust.
Your voice will come ghostlike from the earth;
    out of the dust your speech will whisper.

5 But your many enemies will become like fine dust,
    the ruthless hordes like blown chaff.
Suddenly, in an instant,
    6 the Lord Almighty will come
with thunder and earthquake and great noise,
    with windstorm and tempest and flames of a devouring fire.
7 Then the hordes of all the nations that fight against Ariel,
    that attack her and her fortress and besiege her,
will be as it is with a dream,
    with a vision in the night—
8 as when a hungry person dreams of eating,
    but awakens hungry still;
as when a thirsty person dreams of drinking,
    but awakens faint and thirsty still.
So will it be with the hordes of all the nations
    that fight against Mount Zion.

9 Be stunned and amazed,
    blind yourselves and be sightless;
be drunk, but not from wine,
    stagger, but not from beer.
10 The Lord has brought over you a deep sleep:
    He has sealed your eyes (the prophets);
    he has covered your heads (the seers).

11 For you this whole vision is nothing but words sealed in a scroll. And if you give the scroll to someone who can read, and say, “Read this, please,” they will answer, “I can’t; it is sealed.” 12 Or if you give the scroll to someone who cannot read, and say, “Read this, please,” they will answer, “I don’t know how to read.”

13 The Lord says:

“These people come near to me with their mouth
    and honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
    is based on merely human rules they have been taught.
14 Therefore once more I will astound these people
    with wonder upon wonder;
the wisdom of the wise will perish,
    the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish. ”
15 Woe to those who go to great depths
    to hide their plans from the Lord,
who do their work in darkness and think,
    “Who sees us? Who will know?”
16 You turn things upside down,
    as if the potter were thought to be like the clay!
Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it,
    “You did not make me”?
Can the pot say to the potter,
    “You know nothing”?

17 In a very short time, will not Lebanon be turned into a fertile field
    and the fertile field seem like a forest?
18 In that day the deaf will hear the words of the scroll,
    and out of gloom and darkness
    the eyes of the blind will see.
19 Once more the humble will rejoice in the Lord;
    the needy will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
20 The ruthless will vanish,
    the mockers will disappear,
    and all who have an eye for evil will be cut down—
21 those who with a word make someone out to be guilty,
    who ensnare the defender in court
    and with false testimony deprive the innocent of justice.

22 Therefore this is what the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, says to the descendants of Jacob:

“No longer will Jacob be ashamed;
    no longer will their faces grow pale.
23 When they see among them their children,
    the work of my hands,
they will keep my name holy;
    they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob,
    and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.
24 Those who are wayward in spirit will gain understanding;
    those who complain will accept instruction.”

Woe to the Obstinate Nation

30“Woe to the obstinate children,”
    declares the Lord,
“to those who carry out plans that are not mine,
    forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit,
    heaping sin upon sin;
2 who go down to Egypt
    without consulting me;
who look for help to Pharaoh’s protection,
    to Egypt’s shade for refuge.
3 But Pharaoh’s protection will be to your shame,
    Egypt’s shade will bring you disgrace.
4 Though they have officials in Zoan
    and their envoys have arrived in Hanes,
5 everyone will be put to shame
    because of a people useless to them,
who bring neither help nor advantage,
    but only shame and disgrace. ”

6 A prophecy concerning the animals of the Negev:

Through a land of hardship and distress,
    of lions and lionesses,
    of adders and darting snakes,
the envoys carry their riches on donkeys’ backs,
    their treasures on the humps of camels,
to that unprofitable nation,
    7 to Egypt, whose help is utterly useless.
Therefore I call her
    Rahab the Do-Nothing.

8 Go now, write it on a tablet for them,
    inscribe it on a scroll,
that for the days to come
    it may be an everlasting witness.
9 For these are rebellious people, deceitful children,
    children unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction.
10 They say to the seers,
    “See no more visions !”
and to the prophets,
    “Give us no more visions of what is right!
Tell us pleasant things,
    prophesy illusions.
11 Leave this way,
    get off this path,
and stop confronting us
    with the Holy One of Israel!”

12 Therefore this is what the Holy One of Israel says:

“Because you have rejected this message,
    relied on oppression
    and depended on deceit,
13 this sin will become for you
    like a high wall, cracked and bulging,
    that collapses suddenly, in an instant.
14 It will break in pieces like pottery,
    shattered so mercilessly
that among its pieces not a fragment will be found
    for taking coals from a hearth
    or scooping water out of a cistern.”

15 This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says:

“In repentance and rest is your salvation,
    in quietness and trust is your strength,
    but you would have none of it.
16 You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’
    Therefore you will flee!
You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’
    Therefore your pursuers will be swift!
17 A thousand will flee
    at the threat of one;
at the threat of five
    you will all flee away,
till you are left
    like a flagstaff on a mountaintop,
    like a banner on a hill.”

18 Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
    therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
    Blessed are all who wait for him!

Commentary

Ask God about his plans for you

Sometimes we make our own independent plans or run straight to other people for help. We don’t ask God first. As Joyce Meyer says, ‘When you’ve got a problem: don’t go to the phone, go to the throne.’

The prophet Isaiah criticises God’s people for the way in which they made their plans. They failed to consult God (30:1–2). As a result, they had gone off in the wrong direction. They had gone off to Egypt without so much as asking God.

The trouble is, they didn’t really want to know God’s plans. Their worship is a mere formality (29:13): ‘These people make a big show of saying the right thing, but their hearts aren’t in it. Because they act like they’re worshiping me but don’t mean it’ (v.13, MSG).

Jesus says these words were not written simply for the people of Isaiah’s day. He says to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, ‘You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules”’ (Matthew 15:7–9).

Because their hearts are not right with God, they go to great depths to hide their plans from the Lord: ‘You pretend to have the inside track. You shut God out and work behind the scenes, plotting the future as if you knew everything... You treat the potter as a lump of clay. Does a book say to its author, “He didn’t write a word of me”? Does a meal say to the woman who cooked it, “She had nothing to do with this”?’ (Isaiah 29:15–16, MSG).

As a result, ‘You make plans, but not mine. You make deals, but not in my Spirit… Going off to Egypt without so much as asking me’ (30:1b–2a, MSG).

They are ‘unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction. They say to the seers, “See no more visions!” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right... leave this way, get off this path and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel”’ (vv.9a–11).

They did not want the prophets to give them any warnings. They ignored the warning signs. In fact, they wanted to take the warning signs off the road and for the prophets to ‘leave this way, get off this path’ (v.11). They said, ‘We’ll rush off on horseback!’ (v.16, MSG).

Sometimes in my own life I have messed up by not consulting God and charging ahead with my own plans.

But this passage also contains hope that ‘those who got off track will get back on track’ (29:24, MSG). God says, ‘Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves. Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me’ (30:15, MSG).

God is actively looking to bless you: ‘The Lord longs to be gracious to you’ (v.18a) ‘and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who [earnestly] wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him [for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship!]’ (vv.18b–18c, AMP).

Prayer

Lord, I want to know your plans. Help me to hear your voice. Help me to come to you in ‘repentance and rest’, to walk in your paths ‘in quietness and trust’ (v.15).

Pippa adds

Psalm 107:4,6–7

‘Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle… Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle.’

Thousands of refugees are fleeing war-torn areas, desperate to find safety, often with tiny children and so many have lost lives. As they arrive in our country we need compassion and wisdom to know how best to help them integrate into our society and recover from their trauma and help them rebuild their lives.

Verse of the Day

Isaiah 30:18a

‘… the LORD longs to be gracious to you; |therefore he will rise up to show you compassion’
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References

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers used by permission

Joyce Meyer, @JoyceMeyer: https://twitter.com/joycemeyer/status/367322178749857792 [Last accessed: September 2015]

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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