We took some friends hiking last Monday into the nearby Cabinet Mountain Wilderness. Our path began as an old road and then turned into a hiking trail, which doesn’t get much use so at places was not real well defined. We struggled a bit at times to stay on the right path but did manage to reach our destination at the bottom of a big avalanche slide in a little valley surrounded by majestic mountains of the Cabinets. We walked on the snow which appeared to be at least 20 feet deep yet, so definitely will not melt this season.
As we made our way back, there were a number of moose and deer trails which would lead off the main trail. We ended up taking one of these without realizing it and ended up quite a ways above where we needed to be and had some terribly thick alderbrush, devil’s club, gooseberry bushes, and downed trees to crawl through and over to get back to the right path. We still have some of the scratches as evidence!
I couldn’t help but think of the parallel to our Christian walk and how easy it is at times to get “sidetracked” and end up taking a “game trail” which leads us off the right path. We sure can get in some messes as a result. There are so many distractions and allurements in this world to draw us away from a close walk with God and from the truths of God’s Word. If we are not in the Word and in close fellowship with God and with fellow believers, we can easily stray and it can be very challenging and pretty messy making our way back and we may get some “scratches” (or worse) in doing so.
I’m reminded of a statement made about King Josiah of Judah in the Old Testament. We read in II Chr. 34:1-3: “Josiah was eight years old when he became king (yikes!), and walked in the ways of his father David and did not turn aside to the right or to the left. For in the eighth year of his reign while he was still a youth (16), he began to seek the God of his father David…” Josiah was not distracted by the pressures from those who advocated other paths than following the one true God and His ways. As a result, he helped bring about many reforms in his nation. And during some repairs to the temple the high priest found the book of the law (the books of Moses) which had probably been placed in the cornerstone during the construction of Solomon’s Temple. Since a previous king, Manasseh, the most wicked of Judah’s kings (II Chr. 33:1,9), had likely destroyed all the copies that had not been hidden, the people had been without God’s Word for some time, and as a result had really strayed from the right spiritual path, ending up following false gods and worshiping idols. Now King Josiah gathered everyone together and publicly read God’s Word. “Then the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the LORD to walk after the LORD, and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes with all his heart and with all his soul, to perform the words of the covenant written in this book. Moreover, he made all who were present in Jerusalem and Benjamin to stand with him. So the inhabitants of Jerusalem did according to the covenant of God, the God of their fathers. And Josiah removed all the abominations from all the lands belonging to the sons of Israel, and made all who were present in Israel to serve the LORD their God. Throughout his lifetime they did not turn from following the LORD God of their fathers” (II Chr. 34:30-33).
Solomon, in his book or Proverbs writes in chapter 4 that we should acquire wisdom (vv. 1-9), avoid bad company (vv. 10-19), and watch our step (vv. 20-27). He said: “Watch the path of your feet, and all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your feet from evil” (vv. 26,27).
If we had brought a GPS with us on our hike (I don’t happen to own one), we could most likely have avoided our difficult detour from the path we should have taken. I think of the path as being God’s will for our life as laid out in His Word, and a GPS as the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we read the Word to illuminate it to us and help us apply it to our lives to stay “on the path of godliness.” As we read God’s Word, we need to do so with a mind subject to God (the Holy Spirit), so that we are not “tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4: 14).
There are many sidetrails that would lead us away from following Christ and His Word, so be careful. Get to know His Word well, and be sure to let God the Holy Spirit guide you into all the truth.