Psalm 1 describes a blessed man as one who refuses to walk in the way of the wicked, but instead delights in the law of the Lord. In the previous post, we looked at the way of the wicked in contrast to the way everlasting. Today, I want to address the question that this psalm stirred in my own heart . . .
How Can We Actually Walk in this Narrow Way?
Isaiah tells us that “all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). The psalmist confesses, “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments” (Psalm 119:176).
So what is it that makes even those who love His commandments stray from the narrow path of life and into the broad road of destruction?
I believe the answer is unbelief and the remedy is trust.
You could probably reduce unbelief down to pride and replace trust with faith, but I use trust here because of Scripture’s repeated declarations of blessing for those who trust in the Lord (Psalm 40:4 & 84:12, Proverbs 16:20, Jeremiah 17:7).
There are countless examples of men and women who have put their trust in the Lord or been extolled for their great faith, but I want to focus on two men whose successes and failures I believe grant us great insight into walking in this Way.
Walking on Water: Peter’s Baby Steps
In you’ve been in the Church long, you’ve probably heard the story of Jesus and Peter walking on water more than you care to recall, so I’m going to skip the story and just point out a few things I think can help us in our pursuit.
The way of everlasting life is a narrow one because its laws supersede the laws of this world. As evidenced by the miraculous, this is as true in the physical realm as it is in the moral. So in the same way that the blessed man will refuse to put his trust in his own strength or the strength of Egypt to save him, we find Peter zealous to abandon even the laws of physics with his famous cry to Jesus, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (Matthew 14:28).
Peter had captured something in his spirit that affirmed the truth of a way and a law greater than that of this world. He knew that if it was Jesus who stood before him, even the natural laws would give way to the will of the Master to bid him, “Come.”
That should be exciting to all of us! Peter’s first baby steps onto the water witness to us that if we can catch this truth and not doubt as Peter did when he turned his eyes to the wind and the laws of the world, nothing can keep us from answering the Master’s call to follow Him in the way. When doubt does creep in, remember that “wind” is often used in Scripture to denote worthlessness, vanity, and emptiness (Job 8:2, Psalm 78:39, Proverbs 11:29, Ecclesiastes 1:14, Isaiah 41:29) – why would we turn our eyes from the Messiah to regard such frivolity?
Peter’s doubt or unbelief in this example was not of the kind to keep him from the Kingdom, for he certainly believed in Jesus to save him, it was just the kind that causes even lovers of God to stumble in the way. We must be careful not to give liberty to such doubt, however. Just as Peter’s first steps were a witness of the Father’s dominion over the earth, so his stumbling was evidence that Peter was still held under the sway of a lower law – unconvinced of a truth that all disciples of Messiah should be shouting from the rooftops.
Daniel’s Victory Over the Wisdom of this World
While Peter is a great example of a man who “walks in the way” (pun intended), Daniel is an excellent example of a man who forsakes the wisdom of the world to follow that same narrow way – displaying and proclaiming the wisdom of God.
We’re all familiar with Proverbs as a book of wisdom, but I would counsel anyone seeking the wisdom of God to spend just as much time studying the life of Daniel. From his youth, Daniel is lauded by even Gentile kings as a man of spectacular wisdom. We know that his wisdom was a gift of the Father, but how did he live what appears from Scripture to be a blameless life while surrounded by the culture of Babylon and repeatedly subjected to threats on his life?
I believe we are given the answer in the first chapter of Daniel before he ever interprets a dream or prophesies a word.
Recognize that Daniel was one of the youths from Judah taken into captivity when the king of Babylon besieged Jerusalem. His story begins with the judgment of God on Israel for their disobedience – a judgment Daniel bears despite being counted as righteous. Contrast Daniel’s response to this judgment against the outrage of the rest of Israel at Jeremiah’s directive from the Lord to bring their necks under the yoke of the king of the Babylon, to serve him and live (Jeremiah 27:12), and you’ll understand why the wisdom of Daniel was truly of another world.
A Daniel Fast: It’s Not About Vegetables
Though his wisdom afforded him a place in the king’s palace, Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the king’s food or wine. Despite the eunuch’s fear that a diet of vegetables would leave Daniel and his companions looking worse than the other youth, Daniel had faith that the Father would honor his heart to honor Him by keeping and delighting in His law as we read in Psalm 1.
I want to clear this up right away: Daniel’s story is not an advertisement for a 21-day diet of vegetables. I wish the real purpose of Daniel’s fast was as “trendy” as the “Daniel Fast” I’ve seen so many Christians clamoring over in the same way as the world – completely contradicting Daniel’s heart to separate himself from it.
Daniel is refusing to sustain himself on the “food” of a corrupt kingdom both because it violates the law of God and because he is determined not to put his trust in anything but the Lord. He is demonstrating that what this culture would say one must have to be prosperous is actually worse than the food of the poor. It’s the declaration:
What is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
– Luke 16:15
Daniel makes that declaration repeatedly throughout his life by his wisdom as well as his blameless walk and complete trust in the Lord. If we would make it our goal to make our lives such a declaration of the wisdom of God, we must find and cling to His words as food sweeter than honey and riches more precious than gold (Psalm 19:10).
Next Time: A Radical Kind of Trust for Today
…Uhm. I wanted to get into the practicalities of living this out in “modern times,” but I’m convinced it would be a miracle if you’ve read even this far! So expect an “addendum” post between this and the third facet of this principle of blessing from Psalm 1: abiding! If you haven’t read the first part of this series yet, check it out here in the meantime.
***Update! I’ve finally finished that “addendum” post, which I’ve titled “Trust and Believe.” Check it out!