Greetings in the Lovely Name of Jesus
I write today with the absolute certainty that my dear mother is having the time of her life. She entered into the joy of her Lord early Thursday morning (Feb 25). Having honored her request, the Lord graciously called her home to the Father's house. For that we rejoice! The words of the Psalmist "This is the day that the Lord hath made,: we will rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24) were so appropriate for her passing.
A special thanks goes out to all for your prayers,visits, flowers, cards,e-mail, calls and food. The expression of concern has been heart warming and humbling to say the least.
Now, enough about us, let's dig into God's word as we continue our study of the 23rd Psalm.
I) The Path of Righteousness.
As has been discussed there are seven (7) actions of the Good Shepherd on behalf of His sheep found in the Psalm. Last month we dealt with "He restoreth my soul."
There are times when every child of God needs restoration to the Lord's flock. A shepherd restoring a "cast" sheep has one thing in mind. Once found the shepherd makes sure the animal is brought back among the herd and is pointed in the direction he is leading the flock.
The spiritual progression is quite clear here. We are restored in order to be led and guided in the path of righteousness.
I can save you the time and trouble searching the secular dictionaries for a meaning of righteousness. It should come as no surprise that the humanistic definition of the term is quite nebulous. We could say the word has no secular connotations because righteousness is foreign to the mind of fallen men. We must go to the textbook for a proper definition.
Genesis 7:1 is the first mention in scripture of the word righteous. Noah was a righteous man. In Genesis 15:1 we read of Abram who "believed in the Lord; and He (the Lord God) counted it to him for righteousness."
The Hebrew root is tsaw-dak' which means to be made right. Scripture views the word from the standpoint of being right judicially, morally and ethically; depending upon the context. The word is often stated causatively in the original Hebrew. This rule of grammar recognizes that neither man became righteous through their own efforts. They were declared righteous by the Lord God himself. Such with you and I.
There are only two kinds of righteousness. First, there is the righteousness of human achievement. This is the state where a man deems himself in right standing before God based upon his own merit and achievement. The Scribes and Pharisees of the Lord's day are the quintessence of those who believed their human efforts surely satisfied the Lord's standard.
Human achievement has a synonym: It's called RELIGION.
The only other state of righteousness is what we call divine accomplishment. This is what David has in mind here. This is the path that he was being led down. The path of righteousness provided by the God of Glory. We believe, as did David, that unworthy sinners are declared innocent before God based upon the merits of the shed blood of an acceptable sacrifice. We know that sacrifice is the Lord Jesus Christ. He divinely accomplished our righteousness with His death at Calvary. This righteousness is freely given to those who by faith trust Him for their salvation. We are declared judicially innocent by the Judge of Heaven.
So David paints a picture of the shepherd leading his sheep down the path. That path for the Christian is the path of righteousness. But there is much more to this verse. Let's dig a little deeper.
II) The Purpose of Righteousness.
Volumes have been written regarding the purpose of true righteousness. Let's take the words of David and unpack, apply and illustrate them in our hearts. So what is David really getting at? Let me summarize : If you are being led down this path, you will be living up to His name. After all, what is written focuses upon His name and His sake.
The word "sake" in the Hebrew (ma'an) connotes purpose. We could read it; we are being led in the path of righteousness on account of and for the purpose of His name. Obviously, the emphasis is upon His Name.
I conclude that the God of Heaven is very concerned about His name. He is equally concerned that those who name the name of Jesus live up to His name. Would you not agree?
Let's consider three (3) areas of truth that speak to His name. They yield the true purpose of righteousness in our lives. Applied in our lives we can be certain that we are living up to His name's sake.
1. The Character of His Name.
For the daily walk of the Christian, no subject is more vital than our character. I saw a church sign in Chattanooga years ago that read: Have character, don't be one. Your character is the real you when no one is looking but God.
Daily, the formation of character in your soul will manifest itself as we shall see in a moment. It takes the silent and secret work of the Holy Spirit in a yielded heart to produce Christ like character. Let me suggest two simply ways you forge character:
A) Imitate the Lord.
Paul encouraged the churches to be followers of himself and of the Lord. Eight times he uses the word where we get our English word mimic. A mimic imitates another. He wrote "Be ye followers (mimics) of me, even as I also am of Christ." I Cor 11:1
Charles Barclay, former Auburn and NBA star; the round man of rebound, once told the American public that he was not a role model and did not want to be. That's OK Charles; we found a better model anyway. His name is Jesus. Jesus is our supreme example. To imitate Him will form inner Godly character.
B) Mediate on the Word.
What we know of the character of God, we learn from His word. Psalm 86:15 is a favorite of mine where David wrote "But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth."
We also learn from the Word of God of His kindness (Psalm 117:1); His joy when sinners repent (Luke 15) and His love (I John 4:8). All of these speak to His character.
So it is quite logical, in fact vital, that we spend time in His Word.
This Word will change your character. Period! That statement needs practicing more than it needs preaching. Meditate on the Word.
Regardless of the sport, coaches unanimously agree on one key principle. You play as you practice. When the week of practice and preparation has been good, the football team will almost without except, perform well.
If you meditate in the Word of God it will permeate your character. It will change you from the inside out!
2. The Honor of His Name.
David lived in a honor/shame culture. This typical Middle Eastern mind set exists even today. In David's day, a person of real character would do nothing to bring shame and disgrace upon his family name. The objective was to honor the name; not to disparage it.
Hank Jr captured this thought in a song he wrote back in the 80's. A line he penned went like this "I am very proud of my daddy's name, although his kind of music and mine ain't exactly the same." He went on to write "I'm just carrying on an old family tradition."
If the true character of Christ is being formed within you, you will be proud of your Father's name. You will reverence His name and bring no shame on the blessed name of Jesus.
We have seen the inconspicuous, the famous and the prominent within the body of Christ fail miserably to live up to His name . These provide object lessons in character traits, issues and faults that dishonor the name of Jesus. Their failures are isolated; they are not meant to be replicated!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Honor His Name!!!!!!! Stand up for His name when it is being profaned!
3. The Glory of His Name.
Christian character and honor will bring glory to His name. This is the ultimate purpose of being on the path of righteousness. It is the Lord's intent for you from the get go! He leads us for His name's sake. And we always come back to this subject of bringing glory to His name.
You can't put God's glory in a box, nor can you nail down a definition of His glory, but we recognize it when we see it. Is there anything more beautiful or beneficial to mankind than a Christian of character and honor living up to His Lord's name? You can say without hesitation; that person is on the path of righteousness. That person brings GLORY TO THE NAME OF JESUS!!!!!
Jesus' own words of Matthew 5: 16 is the bookend to Psalm 23:3
Our Lord spoke these words "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
Your light shining............that's the character of Christ lighting your soul
Your good works.............that's character producing honor for Christ in your life
In order to do what????????? Glorify your Father.
These two verses are indeed bookends. "He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake (His character; His honor; His glory.)
As we close this month, the words of Joseph Gilmore come to mind:
"He leadeth me, He leadeth me
by His own Hand He leadeth me."
Amen, and see you next month, Lord willing