[reprinted from February 8, 2008]
— Henry Neufeld
8I will wisely guide you in the way you should go.
I will watch you and advise you.
9Donâ€™t be like a horse or a mule,
They have to be curbed with bit and bridle,
Lest they come at you. â€” Psalm 32:8-9 (HN)
There are several different ways to view Godâ€™s will, but two approaches serve as a contrast. Most people fall between these two points. There are those who expect God to have a specific will for every move of their lives. For them, Godâ€™s will is detailed and specific, and their choice is simply to hear and obey in every detail. At the opposite pole we have those who see Godâ€™s will as a generic set of good principles and bad principles. You are supposed to choose to do what is right, but God doesnâ€™t care what particular profession you choose, and he certainly doesnâ€™t care what you will have for dinner.
Itâ€™s not really my topic for this devotional, but I canâ€™t resist suggesting a way for these two groups, and those between to work together. Perhaps God works with different people in different ways, guiding some step by step and just handing others a general map. I donâ€™t know for sure, but that seems possible to me.
The Psalmist seems to put himself somewhere in the middle. Check your own Bible version for the word I translated â€œadvise.â€ It gets translated quite a number of ways, but generally it refers to giving counsel, and the recipient can decide precisely what to do with it. At the same time, it tells us there is a path that God has for us, and heâ€™s going to guide us wisely.
The question for us is how we will follow this path. When I used to take our dog for a walk I had to have him on a leash. He wouldnâ€™t follow me if I didnâ€™t have that leash. Heâ€™d go where he wanted to, and I couldnâ€™t count on him to come when I called unless he wanted to. If he was better behaved, he might be able to have more freedom on a walk, but for his safety I had to have control of him.
Some people are like that. Youâ€™ve probably encountered them at work. They can do things, but they need to have all the rules and procedures laid out in detail. If you forget to close a loophole, theyâ€™re sure to find a way to create disaster. Others require less direction. Theyâ€™ll follow the spirit of a supervisorâ€™s instructions even when the detailed letter didnâ€™t cover the situation. You can tell this second sort of employee to â€œwork safelyâ€ and they will, even going to the trouble of discovering what is safe.
Godâ€™s children need to learn to be guided by that wise direction, to accept that counsel, and to follow the spirit of Godâ€™s will. God will work with us no matter who we are. If itâ€™s a bit and bridle, God will provide! Remember that Psalm 32, from which I took our passage, is a Psalm of confession, and the confession comes after Godâ€™s hand was heavy on the one who had sinned.
So he has good reason to give this advice. Be easy to move in the right direction. Make a habit of repentance, rather than avoiding it. Donâ€™t wait for Godâ€™s hand to be heavy on you before you correct your course.