Stay on the Path
He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” (Numbers 20:10-12)
A few years ago my wife and I traveled to Zion National Park. One of the hiking options was a climb up to Angel’s Landing, a tiny rock outcropping that soars above the canyon below, providing a breathtaking and terrifying view. Getting there is no picnic. After a long and winding trail the last few hundred feet place you on a narrow path that has a chain rail on both sides. And for good reason. As you grasp the chains and work your way along the path you realize that on each side of you there is a 1500-foot sheer drop. I realized that if I were to stop and look in either direction, vertigo would likely overtake me. So I fixed my eyes straight ahead on my destination and tried to ignore the gaping chasm that seem to call to me in both directions.
On this trek we have been focusing on what it means to find our sole identity in Jesus Christ. One way to picture it is as though you were standing in the middle of a path with both feet firmly on the ground, facing straight ahead and fixing your eyes on your destination. As you keep to the center of the path and don’t become distracted, you can work your way through obstacles, round rocks, through streams and up steep grades, all without losing your focus on your destination. When our eyes are focused on Jesus Christ as our sole identity, then all that the world can offer us will not cause us to veer from the path.
Yet we do veer. We must recognize that the enemy wants us anywhere but walking the center of this path. So he continually places before us enticements to move off the path in one of two directions. If he can get our eyes off of Jesus he can woo us to the left where, in our pride, we believe we can really negotiate this path by ourselves. (We will consider the other option in the next meditation). Pride will always cause us to take our eyes off our goal and place it in some other desired location. Confident in ourselves, we will wander from the path and find ourselves soon out in the weeds (or, to return to my story above, over the cliff).
This desire to do it ourselves motivated Moses to strike the rock out of frustration with his people. He took the matter into his own hands and provided for them what they wanted rather than trusting in God and seeking his will. Moses became the provider for his people; a role that belongs to God and God alone. Moses was hailed the savior and deliverer as the children of Israel drank fully from the water that flowed from the rock. But that was not Moses’s calling or work.
Moses found himself off the path, having fixed his gaze some other place than in his trust in God alone. And it cost Moses and the nation of Israel greatly. When we grab control of the situations in our life, or become too great in our own eyes seeking to provide for our own needs and chart our own path, we deny our identity in Christ and Christ alone. Like Moses, we may produce short-term results, but we cannot please God and live our lives according to his purpose.
Are you living your life squarely in the center of the path to which God has called you? Are your eyes fixed on him every day? Or have you strayed off the path in your own pride, wandered away from God’s way due to your desire for control? Does your identity today rely on what you will do in your own power, or on who you are as a child of God?
Take a moment and think about your day yesterday. What was it that most controlled your decisions, your actions, your attitudes, your words, and your emotions? Was yesterday a day that you can say was lived with your eyes fully fixed on Jesus Christ and your feet walking a path directly to him? If not, write down three things that you did yesterday that were symbolic of an over-dependence on yourself. Where did you grab control and seek to go your own way? Once you have identified three things (decisions, actions, attitudes, words, emotions, etc.) then acknowledge them before God and pray for the power to overcome the same temptations tomorrow. For they will be there.
Holy and almighty God, I confess that when I look back on my life I see so many places where I have strayed off the path to which you've called me. I don’t know why, but sometimes I want to just grab control of my life and go the direction I think is right. I take my eyes off of you and focus on other things. Sometimes I just get fearful and out of my stress or anxiety I wander off the path and try to go it alone. Even now, Lord, I don’t find myself squarely in the middle of the road that leads to you. So bring me back, set my feet firmly on the right path, and fix my gaze on you. Help me to walk to you today, step-by-step, moment by moment, the decision by decision. Help me to live this day as a child of God whose identity is in you alone. In Christ my Savior and Redeemer, Amen.