I had the privilege of visiting Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day. The place was buzzing that day and security checkpoints occupied every entrance. There was a special ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where the president laid a wreath. The president being there caused quite a spectacle. The streets were lined with armored guards and military personnel. After the president’s motorcade drove by us, the soldiers began to disassemble in a unified march. They were perfectly in sync, step by step.
The steps of the soldiers, in perfect unity, makes me think of the things we walk in step with in our lives. When we walk in step with something, we are becoming like those soldiers – a unified troop. We become one with it. In the book of Psalms, we see some great advice in regards to the things we walk in step with.
Psalm 1:1-3 1 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, 2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. 3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.
Blessed is the one who does NOT walk in step with the wicked, but who walks in step with the ways of the Lord. In order to walk in step with what is right, we have to stop walking in step with what is not. We can love the Lord and believe that His ways are good, but still walk in step with the wicked. When we do that, we don’t see the blessing of God in our lives. When our hearts are in step with what is wrong, we don’t live in a way that is right.
When we are intentional about walking in step with the ways of the Lord, we flourish. We are like a tree planted by streams of living water, and we see the fruit of that in our lives. We don’t wear out and dry up. No! We do not wither; we prosper. If you find yourself in step with the wicked, get out of that rhythm today. Start walking in step with the ways of Lord and discover the blessings that follow.
Genesis 3: 7-8, 21
7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. 8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
21 And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
I don’t know how to sew. If I lose a button off of a shirt, this guy won’t be fixing it. Oh, I’ve tried and can get the job done, but it will likely fall off again soon. My 11 year old niece, on the other hand is amazing! She can sew all kinds of stuff. Seriously, I’m not above asking an 11 year old girl to fix my clothes. She’s got talent! She certainly makes better clothes than I do.
We find here in Genesis 3 that Adam and Eve tried to make some clothes, too. It all started with their sin. They were doing just fine there in the garden sans clothes until sin opened their eyes. They realized they were naked and assembled some fig leaves together. Fig leaves don’t make very good clothes. They are probably itchy and provide zero warmth. No, Adam and Eve’s fig leaves weren’t the best clothing choice. So God made them some better ones out of animal skins. These ones provided much better coverage, protection, and warmth.
When it comes to sin, we are all naked. We are like Adam and Eve in the garden trying to wear a fig leaf in hopes that God won’t notice. We strive to clean ourselves up so that God won’t be mad at us. We work really hard to read our Bible a few days before asking Him for anything. We try being really nice to people and hope He notices. We try to measure up to God with our works, yet our works are nothing more than fig leaves.
God makes better clothes than you do. He comes walking through the garden of your soul calling out for you as you hide among the bushes. And He reaches out, handing you a garment, beckoning you to relationship. “Wear this,” He says. Through Jesus, He gave you a garment of righteousness that you can wear with confidence. You are at peace with God because you wear the better clothes that were given through His Son.
*What clothes are you trying to wear today?
Hosea 14:9 Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the LORD are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.
Imagine for a moment driving down an old country road. You are on your way to a quaint little country diner for what is rumored to have the breakfast in a 50 mile radius. The view is incredible as the road keeps going and going. You wonder if you are still going the right way because this road seems to last forever. Then it happens: up ahead is a fork in the road. You approach the Y, uncertain if you are to go left or right. There is only one right way. Choosing it will lead to a satisfied stomach. But if you pick the wrong road, you will end up lost and hungry. What to do? As you approach the fork in the road, you see a small sign posted with the name of the restaurant and an arrow pointing to the right. Proud of your keen observation skills, you follow the road to the right and pull up to the parking lot within 5 minutes. You have chosen wisely; you picked the right path. It wasn’t really all that difficult, though. After all, there was a sign pointing the way. It didn’t take a lot of wisdom, you just had to pay attention.
Now a few minutes behind you is another driver looking for the same restaurant. He is a little cranky having not had breakfast or morning coffee yet. In his frustration of not finding the diner yet, he grabs his phone to see if he can call someone who knows where it is. As he approaches the fork, he is talking on the phone with a very unhelpful friend while adjusting the heater on the dash. Speeding about 15 miles an hour over the speed limit, he veers left at the fork and mutters his frustration about this long road. He is about to be really lost, really hungry, and really grumpy.
What’s the point, you ask? Hosea 14:9 says that there is really only one right road and that the righteous take that road. It’s not that they are perfect or have all the answers, they just pay attention to the signs. They watch out for where the Lord is leading and do their best to follow. The rebellious, however, stumble. They aren’t trying to follow the Lord’s lead, they are just following their stomachs. They go their own way and find themselves lost and empty.
I am determined to go the right way. So I will be alert, attentive, and ready to turn when the Lord leads me. Stumbling about life is no fun. Tripping over our circumstances isn’t necessary. The righteous can walk with assurance in the Lord’s ways. My prayer today is this: “Lord guide my steps and lead me to walk in all Your ways. Let my heart be pleasing to you and may I not stumble. I choose the right path today, Lord. Lead me into righteousness.”
Hosea 10:12 Sow righteousness for yourselves and reap faithful love; break up your unplowed ground. It is time to seek the LORD until He comes and sends righteousness on you like the rain.
I’m not a very good gardener. I never know what to do with a plant. I can, however, grow weeds pretty well. Regardless of the amount of effort I put into it, they just grow. I water them, they grow. I abandon them, they grow. I pull them, they still grow. But the tomato plants won’t. Neither will the corn or the beans. Maybe it’s because I don’t pay enough attention to the good plants. Maybe I don’t spend time nurturing them so they can grow and produce. If I sow corn seeds, I should reap corn, right?
In Hosea 10, the Lord tells Israel to focus on sowing righteousness. You see, if you want to reap something good, it requires some sowing. If you just sit by and expect something to happen on it’s own; you’ll get weeds. And it is those weeds that choke out the good stuff. They grow like crazy and overtake the things you want to reap in your life. They eat up all the good nutrients in the soil so nothing else can grow. So they need to be removed. They need to be pulled so good things can grow.
Righteousness requires our attention, friends. It requires that we strive for all that is good – that we desire not just to be saved, but sanctified. If we don’t, we won’t reap the good God has for us. Instead, we will reap weeds that overtake the gardens of our life.
Daniel 9:18-19 18 Listen, my God, and hear. Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city called by Your name. For we are not presenting our petitions before You based on our righteous acts, but based on Your abundant compassion. 19 Lord, hear! Lord, forgive! Lord, listen and act! My God, for Your own sake, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name.
This prayer in Daniel chapter 9 cut straight to my heart today. If you would go back and read it, starting with verse 1, you will see the power of it. Daniel is coming before the Lord and confessing both his sin and the sin of Israel. He recognizes that if he is going to see God move in his land, he must get right with God. And amidst his confessions and petitions, a statement of New Testament proportions comes from his mouth: “For we are not presenting our petitions before You based on our righteous acts, but based on Your abundant compassion.”
Oh, how thankful I am for the Lord’s abundant compassion! He sent His Son, Jesus to die for my sins so that I could be saved. It is on the basis of His mercy and grace that I find life, not based on my righteous acts. It’s a good thing, too. Because I don’t always feel like I have many righteous acts to present to Him. But He is the one who makes me righteous. It was because of His sacrifice that I can stand before Him and be right with Him. Have you ever been eating out and when you ask for the check, the waiter says, “it’s covered?” It’s happened to me and I wonder what saint has paid for my meal. Guess what? Your life is covered. Jesus has paid for your life! He has covered you with grace and mercy and brings you into relationship with God.
And that mercy has been a part of His character for eternity. Long before Jesus walked this earth, Daniel recognized the compassion of the Lord. He recognized that although God had given them a bunch of rules to live by, he couldn’t possibly get it right. He realized that his own righteousness would never save him. So he cried out confessing his sin and asked the Lord to move in his land. He called out to God, “these are your people – they are called by your name!” You have been called by His name too, if you have received Jesus as Lord of your life. So stop trying to be your own savior and lean into his mercy today. When you begin to live covered in His righteousness, it will change everything.