I’ve been reading through the psalms recently, and, when I got to Psalm 23, I must admit I thought it a bit too familiar to hold anything very new. After all, it is the psalm (and probably the only psalm) that I can recite from memory.
I got as far as the second part of verse 3, and the phrase ‘for His name’s sake’ caused me to stop and think. Why does it say ‘He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake’?
I began to wonder what that phrase really means. Remembering that a very wise person once told me that the best explanation of Scripture comes through Scripture, I decided to look up other scriptures that use the same phrase. John says in his second letters ‘I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake’ (1 John 2:12) And Psalm 106 verse 8 uses exactly the same phrase ‘Nevertheless He saved them for His name's sake, that He might make His mighty power to be known’.
Clearly the phrase means ‘for the sake of showing His abilities and His character’. So, returning to Psalm 23, it means that, when I am being led in ‘paths of righteousness’, it’s for the sake of demonstrating His character. But what do I demonstrate in my life? What if I don’t walk in a lifestyle of righteousness? Then it won’t be His true character that’s demonstrated, but a warped view of who He is, and what He’s like. He’s trusting each of us with an amazing opportunity to show His character through our own walk of righteousness.
What a challenge this verse is. We all have an awesome responsibility, because the way we do life reflects well, or badly, on the Shepherd’s name and character. Sadly, those who’re not believers often comment that Christians are no different in their lifestyle from non-Christians. They certainly notice how often believers exhibit unrighteous behaviour. What a terrible failure in making the name of Father God known to all the world.
Suddenly this comforting Psalm, which has always been a favourite of mine, as it speaks of God’s generous loving provision, His protection and immeasurable care over our lives, had issued a hidden and rather unexpected challenge. It’s not a new idea, of course, but it was a strong reminder, that how I live my life is the way I demonstrate the character of my Shepherd.
I’ll be pondering this truth more in the days ahead, as we celebrate the coming of Jesus, Emmanuel. In particular, as I spend time with non-believing family members, I need to remember that demonstrating I’m walking in paths of righteousness is essential, ‘for His name’s sake’.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for this timely reminder that the way I live my life is the best sort of evangelism, and it often speaks louder than words. Help me to demonstrate Your character in all my relationships and all I do in these coming days. I pray this in Jesus’ mighty name. Amen.
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