It’s a hollow, panicky feeling when you are in the back country, hiking along and suddenly realize you are not on the trail. You look around, trying to spot the path, unsure of where you lost it. You start backtracking, bushwhacking and stumbling, until at last you see it. Once you are back on the trail, the hike is so much easier, and it reliably leads to the place you are trying to get to. Lose the path and you are on your own.
David was a shepherd and spent a lot of time in the back country. He knew about paths. As he became more acquainted with God, he realized the truth about paths was also true with God’s paths. He wrote:
Show me your ways, O LORD,
teach me your paths;
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long. – (Ps 25:4–5)
If you follow God’s paths, the journey is easier and reliably gets you where you want to go. Leave the path and you are on your own. It’s true for individuals and it is true for whole nations. The nation of Israel had to learn that lesson repeatedly. They would leave the path, fall into ruin, go back and find the path, recover, and then quickly forget. The cycle would begin again. I am convinced we in the US are in the process of learning this same lesson.