Righteous Journey

Righteous Journey

The 23rd Psalm is largely a journey where we discover who God is. God is Lord and under His reign we gladly serve. He is also a shepherd who leads us to a place of rest in lush fields and by quiet waters. It is during those times of rest He gives us are not only to prepare us for the mission He has for us, but they are for us to discover God Himself.

This brings us to Psalm 23:3, which says, “He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (NKJV). Last time, we dealt with God as our leader, but we now examine the crux of this passage: the path of righteousness.

God’s Righteousness

We are asked to trek down the path of righteousness, so what exactly is this righteousness?

Wayne Grudem, in his book, Systematic Theology, gave the following definition: “God’s righteousness means that God always acts in accordance with what is right and is himself the final standard of what is right.”[1] When we read the word righteousness in Scripture, it basically means the same as His faithfulness or truthfulness.

God is always perfectly right and acts accordingly, which means He can be trusted. There is no dichotomy within Him, so we can wholly rely on Him. We never have to guess regarding His character because He can always be trusted even when we do not understand the specifics of why He is doing certain things in our lives.

Part of this righteousness, though, is what God expects of His people. God is righteous and expects righteousness of us. Now, we cannot live up to His perfect standards, which is why He sent His Son to die for us. Even as Christians under the righteousness of Christ, there are still expectations of us as children of God.

We are asked to be righteous in the sense that we attempt to align our character and actions with God’s. Grudem rightly said, “Whatever conforms to God’s moral character is righteousness.”[2]

Keeping on the Path

When I think of the path of righteousness I envision a smooth, paved road with two differing obstacles on either shoulder.

Off the road to the left is ground that is extremely rocky. You can still move in the direction of sanctification but the travel is much slower than God desires for us. This would include the smaller hindrances we allow into our lives that slow our spiritual walk.

The larger, halting sins are seen to the road’s right, where there is a dangerous drop off. Roaming off the path in that direction would certainly cause injury and at least temporarily stop our movement altogether.

How can we make certain we are remaining on the path? How can we tell if we are allowing sin to creep in?

Proverbs 20:27 says, “The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly.” God has installed in each of us a conscience so we know in our hearts what is right and what is wrong. This verse tells us that it illuminates our path, so we can see clearly.

Unfortunately, our consciences are not perfect, because they are part of imperfect creatures, so we also have the Word of God to aid us. Psalm 119:105 says, “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” So, the Bible also acts as a light to guide us in our walk.

Think of them as our GPS on our journey.

Remain Thirsty

We know that the Lord leads us to streams so that we can be nourished. However there is a sense in which a part of our thirst remains. Jesus declared, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness." We are to thirst for the righteousness exhibited by God.

Calvin said that believers are called ‘righteous’ more because they “exert themselves in the study of righteousness than fulfill righteousness itself…”[3] The “Study” of righteousness is another way to say we are to hunger for righteousness. It is to always remain in our thoughts, where we constantly ourselves, “How can I better live for and serve the Lord?”

It boils down to obedience. Romans 6:16 says, “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” Notice that last statement where it tells us clearly that obedience leads to righteousness.

We are to remain thirsty for God and the things of God, not for the temporal things offered by this world. Jesus summarizes this idea in Matthew when we said, “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. … But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (vss. 25, 33).

We are to seek God and His righteousness above things of the world. Doing so will keep us on the path of righteousness, traveling forward toward the One who paved the road with His own perfect righteousness.

*Previous article in this series can be accessed at http://www.eyesonthekingdom.com/index.php?p=1_3

[1] Grudem, Wayne, Systematic Theology, 1994, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, page 203.

[2] Ibid., page 204.

[3] Calvin, John (trans. Beveridge, Henry), Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1995, Wm. G. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI, ii113.