Strangers and Sojourners – Guided

This editorial continues the description of the Christian life under the general theme of our lives as strangers and sojourners in the world. A few words of review will be beneficial.

We have noticed that there are two possible paths of life ending in two possible gates that lead to two ends or goals.

There is the broad way that leads to the wide gate that opens into eternal destruction. Those who walk this way are the citizens of this world. They are not pilgrims in it, but fit comfortably in it. They ride the smooth, wide freeway of the life of this world, and pass through the wide gate into everlasting condemnation. With these we are not much concerned.

There is also the narrow way that leads to the strait gate that opens into eternal life. This way is not a road easily traveled, but a trail, often steep and rocky, always difficult to navigate. This is why this trail needs signposts at frequent intervals. Without signs to mark the way clearly, those who walk it would not be able to follow it. Quickly they would deviate from it and become totally lost. It is with those who walk this way that we are concerned.

This earthly figure has a spiritual equivalent. We are those who spiritually walk the narrow way to the strait gate. We are those who struggle to remain on the path of righteousness. We are those who, without signs to mark the way, would quickly stray from the good way and become spiritually lost.

This is the first reason that we need God’s guidance. God is pleased to use means to keep us on the right way, and those means are described in scripture as his leading or guiding. We are therefore “guided” strangers and sojourners.

The second reason is that you, young people, are the next generation of the church. As such, you must know what the narrow path of the truth is, and you must know how to walk in it. You need guidance so as to be able to do this. We therefore examine what this guidance is.

The idea of guidance in scripture is not difficult to understand (I note in passing that the word occurs most frequently in the book of Psalms). It means to lead, to tend, to take someone down a path. The word makes us think immediately of herding sheep, and rightfully so. We find this analogy in Psalm 78, which recounts the history of Israel. After reading in verse 51 about the smiting of Egypt’s firstborn, in verse 52 we read, “But made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.”

A different idea is found in Psalm 32:8, where guiding is associated with instructing and teaching. God through David says to Israel, “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way thou shalt go.” Then we read, “I will guide thee with mine eye.” The idea is that God will keep an eye on Israel, that is, he will watch to see that his people do not forsake the way in which he has taught them to go.

A similar idea is found in Psalm 25:9, where God’s people are described as being meek: “The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.”Guiding in this verse is  equated with teaching. The meaning is that God guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. That way is the path that we must and do follow as strangers and sojourners. God teaches us what that right way is and then leads us in that way.

Guiding is also mentioned in the context of strength and power. In Exodus 15 we find the song of Moses that he composed and sang following Israel’s crossing of the Red Sea and Egypt’s destruction. We all know the story of how God delivered his people against apparently overwhelming odds, thus showing his almighty power and might. Thus in verse 13 Moses praises the Lord for guiding his people safely through the sea: “Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation.”

What is the source of God’s guidance of us? The answer to this question is found in Psalm 73:24: “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.” God’s counsel is his eternal plan for all things, with his own glory as its object or goal. God’s counsel, however, is not a dead plan. It is not a blueprint for a house or a script that he wrote and now follows. Rather, his counsel is his active purpose. By the very fact that God wills something, it happens. According to this verse it is his will to receive us to glory. That God guides us by his counsel means that because he wills to receive us to glory, he keeps us on the narrow way that leads to eternal life. As Hebrews 12:2 says, God is the author and finisher of our faith.

How does God guide us?

First and primarily, God guides us by means of scripture, which is the only rule of faith and life. Scripture leads us in the right way. It tells us where to walk and where not to walk. Its many commandments, admonitions, and teachings (doctrines) are so many signposts along our path of life. They say, as it were, “Walk here,” and “Don’t go there.”

God also guides us by the Holy Spirit, as Jesus teaches us in John 16:13: “ Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak.” Through the Spirit we know and understand the guidance of the scriptures, and by the grace he gives us we walk in the way that we should go.

God also guides us by means of prayer. He does not lead us apart from or against our will. Rather, he gives us his guidance in the way of our asking for it. This is evident from David’s words in Psalm 31, which is clearly a prayer. In verse 3 David acknowledges God as his rock and fortress, that is, he who by his almighty power is able to guide him. David then asks, “Therefore for thy name’s sake lead me and guide me.”

One more aspect of god’s guidance demands our attention. This is his faithfulness, of which we read in Psalm 48:14: “For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.” Never does he withdraw his leadership from us. Never does he forsake us when we stumble and fall on our journey as strangers and sojourners.

What a comfort!