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In the beautiful 23rd Psalm, David looks to the Great Shepherd and he says, “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (v. 3). During the days of David, the king-shepherd, the main mode of transportation was to walk, and so to accommodate all of the walkers across the countryside, there were paths that would lead from one town to another, one house to another, one country to another. We may be the most non-walking society that has ever existed. Our pathways have become roads and streets and super highways where we can travel fast to get where we are going, but we rarely walk. In fact, wherever we drive, we want to be able to park so close to the door of the facility that we can just open the door and fall out into the seat or pew, or have a cart come by and pick us up and take us to where we want to be. You no longer have to walk even to buy your groceries or shop in a mega store or even to exercise. You can ride a cart to chase your golf ball or to get to your deer stand, but there is something wonderful about walking. For it allows you a measure of time to process what you are seeing and where you are going that our fast paced world doesn’t allow. It also gives you time to adjust to what you may be running into on the pathway.
It was before sunrise that I headed out to walk on one of the first warm mornings of spring. I knew that it was getting about time for Mr. No Shoulders to start making his way out of hibernation and get active, but I didn’t think that he would be out so early or be on any of the paths that I would be traveling. I hate snakes, creepy, slithering snakes. I know some of you are snake lovers and you may think that I need some therapy or some form of treatment, but if you love them, speaking to those of us who hate them, you have a problem. On this particular morning, I was thrilled that winter was moving off the scene and the days and the nights were warming up. I was walking along at a good pace enjoying the moderate temperatures on a beautiful new day. I did not notice what was in the path right in front of me until my right foot was suspended over it. At that moment, there was no jumping power or help to leap. I had one leg over a snake and the other one not wanting to come in that direction. My body just continued forward and awkwardly I took another step and another, faster, faster, and got ten or fifteen yards away and looked back. In the darkness of the morning, there he was, about three feet long and stretched out in the path. I wondered if he was dead but in the dark I could not see well enough to tell if he was even moving or sticking his tongue out. I sure didn’t want to get closer to him to find out. My blood pressure had risen, my heart rate was somewhere around 500 it seemed, and I thought again about how much I hate snakes.
I realized that I would have probably saved myself a whole lot of anxiety and uncertainty if I had simply been watching the path more closely, but I was not. In fact, what I was doing was listening to and watching for some of the neighborhood birds that were beginning their songs early in the morning. I was simply looking around at the neighborhood and the activities that were going on as people were beginning to get up, get their newspapers and move about, but I was not watching the path. If I had been, I could have backed away and gone a little bit different route. And so not wanting to disturb the snake and not wanting to get any closer, I just turned and kept on walking away from him. In about fifteen minutes I came back the same direction and all the time my mind had been on that snake in the path. Now I was coming to check on him again, this time, with every bit of eye power I could muster. I was looking for him, and sure enough, there he was. I walked to where he was about ten or fifteen feet from him and I realized he had not moved from the time I saw him before. I assumed that he was dead, but I would not take a chance even on a dead snake. So I moved closer and closer, cautiously, to what was in the path. I finally got close enough and with a stick in my hand I punched him. I realized he had been dead for some time and that all of my trouble and anxiety was not necessary. I probably could have settled that some time ago if I had just had my eyes on the path.
Our wonderful Shepherd leads us day by day whether we are traveling fast or slow, walking or driving fast down an interstate. The paths of life are still before us. What is amazing is that very little has changed. For whether we are slowly striding along down a pathway or driving fast on the highway, we sometimes get distracted and do not realize that Satan himself or maybe someone representing him will throw obstacles in our pathway. Sometimes they will be dead things, maybe dragged up from your past, and there they are right before you in the darkness of the day striking fear in your heart. At other times they may be those kinds of tests and temptations that hide in the bushes along the pathways of your life and seek to ambush you. Sometimes they are beautiful things that are attractive but not appropriate and you face a decision of whether you will bypass it, step over it, back away from it, or just simply turn and go another way. There are so many of those kinds of things that come as obstacles that can trip you and make you fall or temptations that will hurt you and rob you of the steps ahead. Sometimes personal desire and ambition outside of the plan of God will take you off the path. Get back to the word that David gives us, “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness” (Ps. 23:3). You can rest assured He will. Trust Him, lean on Him, walk with Him and you can indeed enjoy the blessings of the Great Shepherd, but you will be wise to keep your eyes on the path wherever it may lead.