He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake. Psalm 23.3
The work of shepherds
How confident are we that the sheep God has entrusted to our care are treading the paths of righteousness in all their ways?
They will follow where we lead them, if we lead them well by the Word of God and by prayer and personal example. But we can only lead them in the paths of righteousness if we are sure (a) that we know where those paths are, (b) that we ourselves are walking in them, and (c) that we know how to make those paths appealing to the Lord’s flock.
The paths of righteousness are clearly marked. Paul says the Law of God is holy and righteous and good (Rom. 7.12). In other words, the Law of God is the starting point for the paths of righteousness, and it serves as the twin rails to guide us along the way of love for God and our neighbors (Matt. 22.34-40). If we love and delight in God’s Law, we will (a) walk that righteous path and (b) know how to lead others in it.
But we must (c) make the paths of righteousness appealing to the people of God. If we present the Law as burdensome, outdated, overgrown with vines of traditionalism and legalism, dark and foreboding, and thus no longer useful for our walk with the Lord, the sheep are not likely to enter there. But if we teach the Law as it truly is in all its holiness, beauty, promise of bounty and blessing, and safety against the distractions of sin, we may find those we lead ready and willing to walk with us in it.
We do not lead the sheep in the paths of righteousness so that they might be saved. Rather, because they are saved, we know this to be the path God has marked out for them from of old for good works of love (Eph. 2.10). Thus we seek that old path ourselves, and call the Lord’s sheep to follow us there, for we know this to be the good way, the way that leads to rest and flourishing (Jer. 6.16).
Resources for Shepherds
If you need convincing of the ongoing validity and importance of God’s Law, order a free copy of our book, The Ground for Christian Ethics by clicking here.
If you have not yet ordered your free copy of Fan into Flame, you can do so by clicking here. In this book we provide an overview of the work of shepherding and a variety of assessment tools to help you discover areas for growth in your walk with and work for the Lord.
Beginning Monday in our weekly podcast, The InVerse Theology Project, we present a blended harmony of the gospels telling the greatest story ever told. Part 1: Introduction will be available at the website on Monday. Simply scroll down below the fold until you find The InVerse Theology Project.
From the Celtic Revival
“If only you shape your own path and build up peace, you shall see no end to mercy.”
- The Advice of Addaon, Early Welsh
“The pulpit therefore – and I name it, filled
With solemn awe, that bids me well beware
With what intent I touch that holy thing –
The pulpit, when the satirist has at last,
Strutting and vapouring in an empty school,
Spent all his force, and made no proselyte –
I say the pulpit, in the sober use
Of its legitimate peculiar powers,
Must stand acknowledged, while the world shall stand,
The most important and effectual guard,
Support, and ornament of virtue’s cause.”
- William Cowper, The Task (19th century)
Listen to all the installments of “An Essay on Preaching”, as we follow William Cowper’s assessment of late-18th century British preaching. The series (four installments to date) begins here.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.