Day 2: When Paths are Unclear, Emmanuel

Oh, come, our Wisdom from on high,
Who ordered all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

(You can read Day 1 of the series here.)

You’re in the desert, wandering, thirsty, nothing but desert…and more desert ahead of you. You’ve been climbing that mountain for a long time and have run out of food. The only way is down. But how?

“I will lead them beside streams of water on a level path where they will not stumble…” Jeremiah 31:9

The safest path down a mountain to where the grass is? It’s not straight down. It’s not linear. It’s not Point A to Point B, straight up, no questions asked. You can’t graph it. You can’t really even map it. You can’t stand at the top of the mountain, look down into the valley, and see the whole path down.

The safest path is a circular one that winds around the mountain. And the Shepherd alone knows the way.

“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me…” (Psalm 23:1-4)

The Scripture talks of these paths of righteousness, and we tend to think of them figuratively, but shepherds know better. These are literal paths. And the only way to go safely down the mountain is to use one of those paths. Yes, they’re narrow. Yes, they’re long. But the mountain won’t nourish. The mountain won’t feed. The mountain won’t heal. The mountain is a stop on the way, a place of perspective, but the valley is where the food is. The valley is where the streams run to.

I think of the Israelites and all their centuries of waiting. All their centuries of pleading for deliverance. They could have made a break for it. They could have packed up and run. But they didn’t know the way. Had they tried to strike out on their own and find their own way, they would have tried going straight down the mountain. They would have fallen over the precipice and met their demise. They’d have missed out on His best.

I’ve learned that when it comes to climbing mountains, the best thing to do is to stay close to the rock, only looking for the next step and the step after that, trusting His light to guide us. Because we may be walking narrow paths. That light may only guide our very next step and nothing more. We may feel like we’re winding around and around and around a mountain, never reaching the end of the path. But we aren’t the first ones to walk the path, and we won’t be the last. And His light will never grow dim.

(Psssst! You absolutely must check out the amazing photographs and video about the paths of righteousness here. It may be the best five minutes you spend all day.)

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