I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.
A shepherd knows that his sheep have a tendency to wander. He knows that despite his best efforts to lead them safely and provide for them and protect them from danger that in their stubbornness or foolishness, they go astray, seeking something, out of lust or ignorance, outside the pasture. And after we’ve expended all our energy wandering around the wrong paths and find ourselves far from home, do we think we’d have to find our way back on our own? Does a sheep simply retrace its steps and come happily bounding back to the correct field? How easy it is sometimes to get lost in the wilderness of sin, but when we’re spent and broken at the end of some dead-end street, our gracious Lord will come seeking us there to bring us back.
The psalmist’s careful study and knowledge of God’s Word and God’s law would have revealed this deep truth to him. We all like sheep have gone astray. We haven’t kept the law perfectly. We have been unable to do right every time. Even as Christians we’ve failed God, chosen wrongly, were enticed to sin. But when our hearts are for God, when we are in His Word and striving to please Him, He will seek out His wandering ones wherever they may roam. He will remind us of His commands and how we have broken them, but He does so to gently restore us, not to punish us, for we are free from condemnation when we are Christ’s own.
We cannot underestimate the convicting power of the Word of God. Spending time in Scripture will reveal to us those areas of our lives that do not align with God’s ways or His will for us. His Word can challenge ideas we have or plans we make or misunderstandings we hold in our hearts. But then His Word is also like a map that shows us how to get to where we need to be. He shows us both our brokenness and how to be restored. He shows us the false path we’ve chosen and how to take the right one. He shows us our sin and reveals our Savior.
Jesus came to Earth to seek and to save. And once we’ve become part of His fold, He continues to seek us whenever we stray too far from Him. Let’s seek to be sensitive to the Spirit of God and the Word of God and recognize when we are going astray and allow our Lord to restore us when we’ve wandered away from Him. Let’s study our Bibles to gain understanding that will help us live our day-to-day lives in a way that is pleasing to Him. Let’s not underestimate our tendency to wander, but recognize our need to walk closely with our Shepherd.