The steep trail took me deep into the hardwood canopy, and then I rounded a corner to catch a glimpse of how far up I had climbed. The valley below rolled out before me, displaying every possible shade of green, brown, gold, orange, and red. October in the Blue Ridge Mountains did not disappoint. So grateful for the opportunity to spend a few days in North Carolina after a recent church planting conference.
I’m not entirely sure which is ultimately harder, the going up or the coming down those mountain trails? While going up takes excellent effort, going down tested my knees and not pitch pell-mell headfirst forward. The success of a hike really lies not in the miles covered but in each step along the way. A missed step could lead to a spectacular descent, Perhaps of the kind that the Psalmist speaks of in Psalm 37: 24?
Psalm 37:23-28 features some amazing promises from God. The first two verses in this section speak about our travels here on earth.
23 The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way;
24 though he falls, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.
What stops me from being cast headlong? My careful steps or fantastic hiking boots? In this case, it is God’s hand upholding me when I delight in His ways. What does it mean for me to delight in God’s ways? I believe these two things work together. When I am holding onto God’s hand and spending time with Him by reading His word and praying, I begin to want/delight/desire God’s priorities, people, and pleasure. He transforms my heart into genuinely being engaged with His work.
How can I set aside time this week to be in God’s word and pray to find out what God’s priorities, people, and pleasures are?
To get aligned with God’s heart, I must intentionally set aside this time with Him. The world is loud and brash and never stops telling me what I should love. However, the still small voice of the Holy Spirit calls me away to engage with what my Father has for me.
Does this promise mean that I will never fall, fail or stumble? No, it says “though he falls.” So, falling is inevitable here on earth. I will stumble, and I may even fall on the trails or in my life. God will, however, grab me by the hand and pull me back up again, over and over until He takes me up to Heaven.
The following verses feature promises for my children and family members.
25 I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.
26 He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing.
Does verse 25 promise my loved ones will never end up lacking their basic needs?
Sadly, no. However, as members of God’s family, my children become part of an extended Kingdom building network. Many others will look out for them and provide for their needs. It is no longer all on my shoulders. Even when my children go through seasons of want and lack, I know that God will ultimately provide for their needs.
Many years ago, a wise friend told me, “Don’t deprive your children of an opportunity to be deprived.” Children who never have to wait to receive something seldom genuinely appreciate what they get. Likewise, a child who earns something will see how valuable it is.
When my children were little, sometimes seeing them not have what they want was more painful for me than experiencing a lack myself. Often children who grow up not having everything they wanted, may have a particular desire to provide for others. A lack of immediate gratification may give a margin for appreciation and gratitude.
Finally, these three verses in today’s passage point to eternity.
27 Turn away from evil and do good; so shall you dwell forever.
28 For the Lord loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
29 The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever.
God directs me to turn away from evil because He knows I need that reminder. As I live my life on earth, I will always hear evil call my name and try to get my attention. Sometimes it is cleverly disguised as doing whatever I want or doing what satisfies me in the short term. The Evil One knows what my weaknesses are. He prowls around, waiting for a chance to hijack my day and land me in a state of feeling I have a right to follow my own rules.
God loves justice. Not only does He love justice, but He is the only one who can provide it. God has an accurate 360-degree view, and He knows the whole story even when I don’t. Sometimes I have to remind myself of this fact. I can rest, therefore, in knowing God’s justice will prevail. I may never see the wrongs balanced out here on earth, but He is always working behind the scenes.
In this final promise from today’s section of Psalm 37, I catch an encouraging glimpse of a forever dwelling place.
"The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever."
I have become a member of the righteous ones, the Psalmist refers to because I am reconciled with God by Jesus’ saving work on the cross. This is not by my own efforts. My right before God status entitles me to a hopeful inheritance from the Lord that is eternal. This land, I believe, is heavenly real estate where each of us will someday reside with God forever.
During a recent drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, my husband and I pulled over into a scenic overlook and parked the car. Once we hopped out, we could see a panoramic view of Wilson Creek Valley. At that moment, clouds were rolling in, the morning sun was still climbing in the sky. For a moment, it seemed as if Heaven and earth were coming together. The clouds floated low, the mountains rose through the mist, and the sun streamed down in golden and pink hues mixed in with all shades of blue sky and clouds. A glimpse of the heavens shone forth for just a moment.
Lord, please share a glimpse of forever with me today. I need to see the place I will dwell in someday. Please align my heart with your priorities and people. Remind me to turn from the evil of this world. Help me cling to your hand as I walk on life’s trails on this side of Heaven. In Jesus’ name, Amen.