Posted by: duncandrews | January 30, 2014

Guidance for life

ImageA couple of months ago I spent a bit of time reading Psalm 25. It’s been rumbling around ever since, and something that has particularly stuck with me is the way the Psalm talks about guidance.

Basic to Christian faith is the claim that God is involved in his creation – so involved he crashed into it in the person of Jesus, whose power and presence is active today in his Word and through his Spirit. This isn’t an aloof and disinterested involvement, but a profoundly personal and loving one. In this context the question of guidance can bear a significant weight – how this personal God, who has poured his love out for me in Christ and is at work in me by his Spirit, leads and guides me through life. Should I wait for a bolt from the blue when making important decisions? Will God nudge me one way or the other? Should I to long for a direct experience of God speaking to me?

What struck me in Psalm 25, a psalm that talks a lot about guidance, is that David is almost entirely preoccupied not with being guided in his own ways, but with being guided in God’s ways:

Show me your ways, LORD
teach me your paths
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Saviour,
and my hope is in you all day long. (v4-5)

 

Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way. (v8-9)

 

The LORD confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them. (v14)

There is a good, willing, powerful guide who guides the humble. But where does he guide them? What’s the nature of the guidance? The strong emphasis in the psalm is that God guides us in his ways. He teaches his ways. He shares the knowledge of his covenant, his great plan and promise to renew his sin-scarred world to make it a place of life and peace, to bring forgiveness and freedom from sin, to turn rebels into worshipers. He opens eyes to see just how beautiful and cosmic and life-giving his ways are.

There is a more direct, immediate guidance – v12 claims that God will instruct those who fear him in the ways they should choose – but the overwhelming preoccupation here is with God’s ways. David doesn’t even ask for that more specific guidance, he just states that it is true, that God will instruct in that way. What he asks for, longs for, is to know, not primarily his own ways, but God’s ways – his covenant, his work in the world, what he has done and has promised to do. And David’s confident that as that happens, as he immerses himself in the ebbs and flows of God’s ways, as he has his desires and thoughts trained by God’s desires and thoughts enacted in the gospel, as that happens God will guide him through the specifics of his own life.

I thank God for stories I hear of God’s particular guidance, and I don’t doubt He can and does do it. But, at least from Psalm 25, it seems to me that the challenge for us is to like David long first and foremost to know, be immersed in, be shaped and trained by the good, eternal, liberating ways of God.

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