Walking Wisely

Blessed is the man who walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.Walking
-Psalms 1: 1-2

What we listen to has a lot to do with where we are. We’re sheep, after all, and that’s what sheep do: they listen, then they follow. You and I don’t have much to say about our “sheep status” as listeners and followers. Even those of us who lead are in turn being led by something, because that’s our nature. But we can and do choose which voices we’ll tune into, and that choice will largely determine what becomes of us.

So David, a former shepherd who knew the power of influence, sketches an interesting picture in the First Psalm: a man walking, then standing, then sitting. His actions correspond to the voices he’s paying attention to, and there’s a lesson for all of us.

He starts by walking. Generally when you walk you’re in route, because walking implies a goal to be reached by following signs and guideposts. You decide which sign to read and believe, then you proceed. That’s how you get where you’re going.

Interesting, isn’t it, how many Bible verses describe us as walkers? In both Testaments there are plenty of references to people walking in truth or error, darkness or light, in the ways of God or the ways of their fathers.

The Walk

So we walk, directed by voices acting as signs or guideposts, and there’s a pretty big menu to choose from as we do. I can listen to The Rolling Stones, Oprah, Alistair Begg, President Obama, the Holy Spirit, Bill O’Reilly, J Vernon McGee, the Bible, or Jon Stewart. All of their voices are available for me to tune into, and perhaps there and only there are we unlike sheep. They follow whoever they’ve been trained to follow, whereas we choose which voices will “shepherd” us.

And that’s where it gets critical. I may know which of these voices speaks truth, but I don’t always feel like listening to what’s true. (Especially when truth is inconvenient, as it often is.) So Scripture and the Holy Spirit may tell me one thing (which is usually backed up by Begg or McGee) but other voices on the menu might be saying something else, something I’d rather hear. So I say to myself, “Why not?”, and I tune into them.

I come to like what I’m hearing from them; I come back for more. Soon I’m giving them more of my attention, and the “mean ones” less, because these new voices cater to parts of me the olds ones told me to crucify.

The Stand

My flesh likes new, nicer voices. I reason with myself that nice is good; God wants me happy; these voices make me happy; therefore they must be from God.
Case closed.

Soon I’m listening to them regularly, walking in the counsel of the ungodly.

It won’t be long before I’m slowing down when I approach the “way of sinners” David describes. Normally I’d charge right past them, but the counsel of the ungodly has made me comfortable with self-indulgence, so if a quick stop at the way of sinners gives me a boost, then hey, I’m entitled! Soon I find myself parking here, standing in a place I used to rush by without a glance. The voices gave me permission to indulge, and the gratification I get while standing in the way of sinners is inviting.

So inviting, in fact, that I think I’ll take a seat, and is anyone surprised?

The Seat

But it’s never enough to simply dwell with the ungodly, because I still have my conscience to reckon with. It’s testifying against me, ruining my indulgence, so a seat with sinners isn’t enough. I need a place among the scornful, because they mock what I used to hold dear, and what I used to hold dear is now an annoyance. The voices of the Scornful – strident, aggressive, even blasphemous – help me drown out that pesky Still Small One, so I raise my own and join them.

I walked, I stood, I sat. And now I’m conquered.

Scripture and church history are chock full of men who veered a little off track and wound up shipwrecked. And the day I forget that I could join them is the day I launch in their direction.

So as a sheep who’ll never be cured of his sheepishness, I’ve no choice but to follow. But my ability to choose of who I follow is clear. I choose today to hear and follow Him, first through His word, then through the gentle but clear guidance of His Spirit. Then, having heard, I choose to walk in the right direction, stand where it’s solid, and sit in the green pastures rather than the junkyards.

That’s where David said a man is blessed, so that, by God’s grace, is where I’ll be found. Hope to see you there.

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