My two year old twins are prone to wander. Especially when they find themselves in wide open spaces like our yard. If you’re not carefully watching them, they’ll be there one minute and gone the next, chasing after whatever catches their eye or draws their curiosity. They constantly need someone to watch them and help them to stay within the appropriate boundaries. And when they do stray, they need someone to go after them and bring them back to where they are meant to be. If left to wander, they can be a danger to themselves or come upon a threatening situation. They carelessly will delight in whatever meets their fancy at the moment. Little do they know that these delights pose hidden dangers. Putting a rock in ones mouth can lead to choking. Walking beyond the safe zone will lead them to a dangerous street or to a thorny blackberry batch. They may even find themselves lost and unable to find mommy or daddy.
Though we may be more mature and have a better understanding of certain dangers (or have gained common sense), our hearts are very much like the wandering nature of a child. We may be able to navigate ourselves away from a few dangers, but if our hearts are left to be monitored by our own limited understanding we will, without fail, fall into trouble. While the world certainly poses threats and contains many pitfalls, the greatest peril to our lives will always remain the sinful desires found in our own hearts.
Everyone Did What Seemed Right To Him
Over the past month, I’ve spent time reading through the book of Judges. While the book is riddled with devastating consequences and may even seem pretty bleak, the Lord remained faithful to the nation of Israel. He did not abandon them or give them up to the entirety of their sin. Rather, time and again his heart was moved to compassion by their cries for Him, even if those cries only came when they needed His help. To show His faithfulness, the Lord raised up judges to help lead Israel and rescue them from trouble. However, He also allowed His beloved people to suffer the consequences of their heart’s rebellion against Him. Repeatedly, the author of Judges reminds us that everyone did what seemed right to him. They would follow the Lord’s ways for a little while, but once their leader died they strayed from His commands. Their delight wasn’t in the law of the Lord, but in their own sinful desires. And the judges God raised up, however good and helpful, were not able to transform the people’s hearts.
In the same manner, we have hearts that deem to do whatever is right in our own eyes. If left to ourselves, we will wander. We will stray. We will fall away and seek after things that will only destroy us. Yes, we must guard against the deceitful wiles of this world, but even more so we must first have a new heart that desires to find its joy in Jesus and His word.
All We Like Sheep
Even before the time of Judges, the Lord knew man needed a new heart. And He knew that the judges He raised up would be unable to turn a heart of stone into a heart of flesh. The book ends, with the oft repeated phrase, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25, ESV). Yet, despite its somewhat dismal ending, the Lord would send a KING. Yes, David would come to sit on the throne– but a greater King, a perfect King, a King who held the only power to make a sinful heart righteous would finally come.
The only hope we have from straying from our good Lord is through Jesus. The only hope we have to walk in righteousness is through Jesus. The only hope we have to not do what is right in our own eyes is through Jesus. Like, Israel we need a shepherd. We need someone to guide us, to keep us on the right path, to lead us beside still waters and green pastures, to protect us from evil, and to eventually guide us to our final home. And that is exactly what God did for us through Jesus. He sacrificed THE Lamb so that we, pitiful, straying sheep would no longer be subject to our wandering hearts.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned- every one- to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the inquiry of us all.
In Christ, we have all we need to walk this earth in paths of righteousness for His namesake. If only we submit to His lordship and ask Him to help us resist the temptation of our sinful desires. We need not wander as if sheep with no shepherd. We need not turn our own way, like the Israelites, rejecting the goodness of our Lord. May we be reminded that we do not carry the staff. We do not hold the status of the shepherd. We are mere sheep. And in that manner, may our hearts desire to flock towards He who delights in caring for us and is continually working to make us more like Himself. But also be reminded, that if you have strayed – however far – the merciful, gracious Lord is always waiting with open arms.