In aisle 3 of the supermarket I saw the exasperated Mom, attempting to get her toddler to cooperate. She had allowed him to leave the seat in the cart, probably to deal with his restlessness. Now, he was determined to go the other direction and she was doing her best to coax him to follow her. First she walked away, hoping he would come along. He didn’t. Then, she offered a reward, he ignored her. I moved on, though fascinated with her situation, realizing she did not need nor want an audience! In aisle 5, a few moments later, I saw her with her hand gripping the strap on his outfit, dragging him along as he made noisy protest. I felt her frustration and but smiled inwardly as I thought of my own relationship with the Heavenly Father. Does He ever want to grab me by the straps and drag me along in the way He would have me go?
God promises to be our Shepherd, to lead us ‘by peaceful streams!’ Most of the time I discern His leading and walk with Him obediently. Sometimes I know where He wants me to go but in my best Jonah attitude, I resist Him. And, then there are seasons when I ‘walk by faith.’ I do not or cannot discern His hand nor hear the Voice of the Spirit. In those moments we must go steady on in the general will of God, obeying what we know, while we listen for further orders. More than one Psalm records the prayers of godly people who wait for God to speak. “O God, do not keep silent; be not quiet, O God, be not still.” (Psalm 83:1, NIV) “How long, O LORD? Will you hide yourself forever?” (Psalm 89:46, NIV)
Let’s not make a common mistake, clearly shown in a dramatic story from the history of Israel. When God has not spoken we must not assume we know what is best and take matters into our own hands. Some of the worst mistakes in my life were decisions made without prayer, in haste, or without listening carefully for the counsel of the Spirit. Here is that story. “The people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai and cooked up a ruse. They posed as travelers: their donkeys loaded with patched sacks and mended wineskins, threadbare sandals on their feet, tattered clothes on their bodies, nothing but dry crusts and crumbs for food. They came to Joshua at Gilgal and spoke to the men of Israel, “We’ve come from a far-off country; make a covenant with us.” … The men of Israel looked them over and accepted the evidence. But they didn’t ask God about it. So Joshua made peace with them and formalized it with a covenant to guarantee their lives. The leaders of the congregation swore to it.” (Joshua 9: 3-6; 14-15, The Message) The choices before Joshua and the leaders of Israel appeared to be obvious. Why not make a peace treaty with these people who had traveled so far? But, in fact, Gibeon was just miles away, in the heart of the land God had promised to Israel. Because of an uninformed decision, made without God’s leading, Israel would have to live with less than His best. The Gibeonites brought their false gods with them and became a source of spiritual corruption a generation later!
We are God’s children not His puppets. He invites us to let Him lead. Each new day we will intentionally and prayerfully listen for the Spirit’s song and, hearing it, we will follow His lead. When His voice fades because we are tired, distracted, or living disobediently – there is just one thing to do – renew our worship, waiting on Him. When times of silence come that are without explanation, we must never give in to panic or willfulness. His Word remains and we are kept safe by remembering what He has said. The Word teaches us to, “Pray continually.” (1 Thess. 5.17) We keep an open heart and mind, going nowhere, doing nothing that would cause the Spirit grief. A humble heart, simple prayers, breathed praises – will allow the Father to keep us right where He wants us.
So, should we live fearfully, wondering if we’re going to make some terrible mistake? Not at all. If we desire Him, He will lead us, even when we are unaware of what He’s doing or where He’s taking us. However, He will let us walk willfully out of His perfect will if we become headstrong or full of ourselves. The Word reminds us, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25, NIV)
Here’s a word from the Word to take with you through this day.
“I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.
I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:7-11, NIV)
Take My Hand, Precious Lord
Precious Lord, take my hand,
Lead me on, let me stand;
I’m tired, I’m weak, I’m lone.
Through the storm, through the night
Lead me on to the light,
Take my hand,
lead me home