The Narrow and Straight

Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.(Psalm 5:8 ESV)

There is a spiritual pathway that leads to God’s Kingdom. It is narrow, sometimes meandering, straight in other places, steep in some, and impossible to traverse without the leading and direction of the Holy Spirit. People start their journey along this route carrying everything they deem valuable. As they walk, they lose stuff that has no eternal value. At the end of the path is a gate, small and narrow which allows only the traveller called by God to enter. They may carry nothing through that gate which belongs in the world. Their old self cannot enter, either. 

“Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:23-24 ESV; see Mark 10:24-25, Luke 18:24-25)

In the world is a highway leading away from God. It is fast and wide, and accommodating to all. As people move along this freeway they pickup stuff, adding to their burden, refusing to abandon anything they deem valuable and necessary to their life. Surrounded by many, who jostle and fight for position, they move en mass toward anything that is not God. At the end of the road is a gate, wide and inviting, going to a place where God cannot be known by any who enter. 

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”(Matthew 7:13-14 ESV)

Jesus cleared the Temple at the beginning of His ministry and then again just before His crucifixion and resurrection. He made Himself known, angering the Jewish religious leaders because of His brazen actions and outrageous claims. They were His enemies, foes and rivals, opponents and antagonists. They were against Him in everything He did. It was common knowledge among the people of Jerusalem that the religious leaders wanted to murder Jesus. “Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, ‘Is not this the man whom they seek to kill?’”  (John 7:25 ESV). Everything Jesus did rankled and irritated those who hated Him. Even when Jesus healed sick and maimed people, they became enraged.

Surrounded by such malevolence, Jesus sought God’s will. He prayed for God’s righteousness. This Psalm speaks to Jesus’ desire to know God under the harshest circumstance. “Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me” (Psalm 5:8 ESV). To lead, or to be led, means to be guided, to bring to a place with purposeful intent. Righteousness is the rule of law of the King and Sovereign, God’s decrees founded on God’s eternally pure character. Straight means level and smooth, to be perfectly right according to law, directed without mistake or purposeful deceit. Before me means face, presence, person, in front of, as in leading by the hand someone who cannot lead themselves. Jesus is praying that God prepare the way, clear the obstacles which would trip or hinder, and direct His words, actions and motivations, to ultimately bring Him before God, the destination of every spiritual journey.

One of the major themes of the Psalms is the confrontation of those who are righteous against those who are unrighteous. God blesses the man, Jesus Christ, and all who take refuge in Him, because He, and they, do not walk “in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers”   (Psalm 1:1 ESV). His enemies conspire against Him, teaching and training those under their authority to actively rebel against God. They surround Him. But He is not afraid, even when the intent of His enemies is His murder. “I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around” (Psalm 3:6 ESV). He challenges them in the thinking of their hearts. “O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?” (Psalm 4:2 ESV). His resurrection is the ultimate victory over their rebellion. “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled” (Psalm 2:11-12 ESV).

Jesus does not just pray this for Himself but for all who are identified with Him. “Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:12 ESV). Those who trust Him, that He will deliver what He has promised, are hidden in Him. What happens to Him happens to them. Where He goes they are. God’s house is in eternity. As Jesus walks toward God’s house, a spiritual path, those who are in Him go with Him into God’s presence. God gave Jesus the purpose and task of drawing those who love Him into His life-giving presence. We carry nothing with us but, for a short time, His cross, which is our cross.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?  (Luke 9:23-25 ESV)

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