Asking for Directions

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GPS has effectively killed a stereotype, virtually overnight. Some — primarily women — had claimed that men have a hard time asking for directions. I can neither confirm nor deny the truth of that accusation. However, with the proliferation of cellular technology, it has become a moot point. Now, every smartphone comes with driving directions. Interestingly, most navigation applications default to using a female voice. And, I might add, that voice never says, “Honey, why don’t you stop and ask for directions?”

In Psalm 5, David is not shy about asking for directions. He prays,

Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness
because of my enemies;
make your way straight before me. (v.8)

In fact, he is quite urgent in his request. He spends the first three verses of his song pleading with God to “give ear,” “consider,” and “give attention” to his prayer. He uses words like groaning and cry to depict its intensity. And he tells us that he begins his day (“in the morning”) with this plea.

All of this is framed in the context of a conflict. It is “because of [his] enemies” that he needs divine direction. There are many who want to lead David astray. So who are they, and do we face a similar enemy today?

To identify his adversaries, we must understand that David’s pursuit of righteousness is not self-directed. That is the whole point of his prayer. God, himself, is the measure of righteousness. Those who pursue righteousness must learn from him. Consequently, his opponents are those who oppose God and God’s instruction concerning what is right and wrong. David gives us descriptions of these enemies of God. They include boastful, evildoers, those who speak lies, the bloodthirsty, and deceitful (vv. 5-6). He then focuses on the element of deceit:

For there is no truth in their mouth;
their inmost self is destruction;
their throat is an open grave;
they flatter with their tongue. (v. 9)

The last time I saw an open grave, someone was lowering a casket into it. David had something much more gruesome and repulsive — imagine no casket and a lot of loathsome creeping things. He is talking about rotten, defiling speech. Lest we are tempted to just lump this in with profanity, he tells us that they flatter and they give counsels (v. 10). They are not just using dirty words, they are seeking to corrupt the righteous with appealing, but deceitful, evil counsel. They are not unique to David’s day; we have authorities, pundits, and celebrities today who arrogantly defy God’s law and slander or belittle those who seek to follow it. Like David, we need to ask God to lead us.

We may be tempted to think that David is becoming vindictive when in verse 10 he prays:

Make them bear their guilt, O God;
let them fall by their own counsels;
because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out,

But then he adds,

for they have rebelled against you.

Those who incite rebellion against God and seek to trip up his followers deserve to fail and to fail miserably. Not only is God deserving of unqualified devotion and obedience, but rebellion against God has devastating consequences, socially and generationally.

The greatest danger David faced was not the subversive attack of his enemies, but the weakness of his own heart that was susceptible to flattery and deceit. He could not trust his instincts. The righteous God was not only his source of direction, but a place of protection from the cunning schemes of deceitful men:

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may exult in you.
For you bless the righteous, O LORD;
you cover him with favor as with a shield. (vv. 11-12)

This should remind us of another of David’s psalms:

The LORD is my shepherd…
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his names sake. (Psalm 23:1,3)

Ultimately, the answer to this prayer for divine leading comes, not in a set of directions, but in the form of the Good Shepherd — Jesus Christ. He faithfully endured the temptations from the greatest enemy and deceiver. The lies and flattery of Satan fell like sparks into the ocean of Christ’s righteousness. Jesus is the perfect leader in righteousness. He not only leads and protects, but also empowers his followers. He is the only one who can say, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27-28). In light of this promise, we can proceed from petition to benediction:

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with every good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (Hebrew 13:20-21)