One of my favorite pastimes is listening to praise music as I walk with my dog through the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park trails that are near my home. It is awe-inspiring to behold the majesty of God’s creation as revealed in the wildlife, the dense woods, the open fields, and the picturesque streams that run through the park. As a history buff, I relish knowing that I‘m walking on the very grounds where civil war soldiers once trod; seeing earthworks they dug; and likely viewing ground where some even shed their blood in battle. One day as I was walking I noticed a sign in the park that reads, “Remain on designated trails only. Opening new paths will lead to the destruction and historic features of the park.” The need for such a sign implied that there had been a problem with people leaving the trails and the likelihood that destruction had already occurred because people had chosen to leave the trails.
I imagine it’d be very tempting for Civil War enthusiasts to go off the trail to explore and perhaps do some digging in an attempt to find things like bullets, canon balls, and other Civil War relics that have been known to be found in the area. I assume it’d be tempting for others to leave the trail in an effort to get a closer look at the myriad of wildlife: turkeys, foxes and white-tailed deer abound; beavers, herons, and snakes can be spotted at the ponds and creeks in the park; and it’s a virtual bird-watcher’s paradise.
It occurred to me that God in His Word has given us warnings to remain on the path of righteousness that He has set before us. He knows that we too can be easily tempted by our desires and by what we see to leave the path He has laid down for us to follow. He desires for us to remain on His path because He loves us and knows that straying from the path He has set before us will always lead to our destruction, as well as to the destruction of others.
He wants to give us life and to protect us from harm, especially eternal death: "In the path of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death." Proverbs 12:28
He longs for us to experience the greatest joy possible—His Presence! “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11
Those who are wise will listen to God’s Word of instruction and they will avoid the temptation to go off of His path: “Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on.” Proverbs 4:13-15
God longs for us to have the heart that cries: “Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.” (Psalm 119:35) That is because God’s Word guides us, and if we follow it, ensures that we will keep walking on the right path so that we do not stumble or go astray to our destruction. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119: 105
Sadly, just like there are those at the National Park where I walk who do not heed the warnings to remain on those trails, there are those who rebel against God’s command to remain in His Word and in Him. “There are those who rebel against the light, who are not acquainted with its ways, and do not stay in its paths.” Job 24:13
When I’m walking at the park if I remain on the trail it is highly likely that those behind me will remain on the trail as well. However, if I choose to go off the trail others behind me may well think it’s acceptable to follow me off the path. Similarly, if we choose to walk according to God’s Word we will remain on the path to life, but our rebellion against God’s word will lead others astray too and to their destruction as well as our own. “Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.” Proverbs 10:17-18
Jesus—the ‘Living Word’—is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is ‘the path’ on which we should remain. Following Him and remaining in Him will keep you from destruction and will assure you of abundant and eternal life.
Are you feeling as if you have lost your way? Do you need to get back on the ‘path of life’ that is only found in following and remaining in Jesus?
“Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16