Psalm 33: Right
The Hebrew word that is used in this verse has several different uses, but in each one, “right” has some element of straightness in it. Proverbs 3:5-6 famously tells us to trust in the LORD, to lean not on our own understand and to acknowledge Him in all our ways. The outcome that is promised if we choose obedience to these commands is that God will “make our paths straight”. What does that mean? The author of Proverbs uses the exact same Hebrew word here that the psalmist used in Psalm 34. Straightness and rightness are related to each other, sometimes even found in each other. A straight path is not one without obstacles, it’s not the one that gets us to our destination the fastest, it’s not even the one that appears to be safest, with the widest lanes, the least traffic or the fewest accidents. A straight path is the right one, not merely to get us where we are going, but to accomplish what needs to be done along the journey.
The book of Hebrews tells us that the Word of God is living and active that it is sharper than any double-edged sword, that it pierces, divides and judges. None of those last three things sound pleasant to me. Let’s first understand that the purpose of God’s Word is always to reveal God’s character, the object of God’s Word is always our hearts. Who wants their heart pierced? When Joseph and Mary took Jesus to be dedicated at the temple, as Simeon was prophesying over the Messiah, he turned to Mary and told her “a sword will pierce your heart”. This was not an announcement of judgement or a warning to go another way, it was the Word of the LORD revealing that the straight way would require a piercing of the heart. Who wants their heart divided? James told us that being double-minded causes instability, what does it mean that the Word of God divides our hearts? It does what David prayed in Psalm 139, God’s Word searches our hearts and reveals any sin that is hiding, any hurt that is being held onto, any hard places that have become part of our identity. The Word of God calls our hearts to account, it offers healing, but it requires change, it doesn’t accept excuses or even explanations; it understands but it pushes forward, it hears us, but it knows that it is much more important that we hear it.
Who wants their heart judged? This might be the most difficult and most important one for us to talk about. Somewhere along the line being judged became the most negative thing that could ever happen to us. We fear judgment so we hide, we bristle, or we lash out at others before they can lash out at us. The problem is without judgment we are left to be wrong, and in this context, to live in crooked paths. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would come and that He would convict us of righteousness, sin and judgment. That means that the Spirit of God is using the Word of God to teach us the heart of God in every area of our lives and our hearts. We need our hearts judged because we need straight paths. We need God’s Word to inform us not of what’s right but of who God is so that we can learn what God desires. We need God’s Word to inform us not just of what He wants for or from us but who He created us to be. We need God’s Word because we’ve all gone our own way, we’ve all done what was right in our own eyes, we’ve all made our own plans, and in each case, we’ve all ended up where we didn’t want to be.
The encouragement I’d like to give to you today is the same that I’m trying to give to myself, to trust my heart to God’s Word and to trust God’s Word with my heart. The hard part is this, we all need our paths to change, all of us. That doesn’t mean that all the details of our lives will change, but it does mean that our thinking needs to change, our expectations need to change, and our allegiances will need to change. The word of the LORD is right, so speak God’s Word to your heart rather than trying to find a word for your heart. Don’t simply let God’s Word be what informs your thinking, allow God’s Word to renew your mind until your thoughts are from Him and for Him. Don’t just live for Jesus, surrender your heart to His Word until you live like Jesus. The word of the LORD is right, it will make your paths straight, it will judge your heart and it must change your life. The beauty is this, when we walk straight paths we have constant faith that we are in God’s hands, that we are where we belong, that His will is being done and that our hearts, while being pierced, divided and judged, are becoming like His.