Have you ever gotten lost? You had a good idea where you were going at first, but as time went on things started to look unfamiliar. Soon you were second- guessing everything and mentally retracing your steps to figure out where you went wrong. A silent, but growing sense of panic started to creep up your spine, and you pulled over to get your bearings, survey your map again, and inspect the batteries in your GPS.
Of course, that may also have been the moment when you realized your map was written in the 1960’s, your GPS had in fact run out of batteries, and your cell phone carrier has limited reception in this area. It is in that moment when all you have with you is the last moment you knew where you were. You have to go back to the point where you knew where you were going. If you can no longer read the landmarks around you, you must go back to what you know.
Over and over again the Israelites played this out in their relationship with God. God worked through Moses and led the Israelites out of their centuries-long captivity in Egypt (Ex. 13:17 -14:31), but very soon after seeing His miraculous delivery the people began to worship a golden calf, a god of their own making (Ex. 32). With Joshua, God parted the Jordan River so they could walk across into the Promised Land on dry ground. He defeated the walled city of Jericho with a spectacular show of His power, and He enabled Israel to conquer many of the Kings that were in possession of their Promised Land at the time (Josh. 3, 5:13-6:27, 12:7-24). But again, it was not long after Joshua’s death that “there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that He had done for Israel” (Judges. 2:10b). The people had lost their bearings; they didn’t know where they were going. They were lost.
These are merely a few of the many stories woven throughout the Bible where God’s people are walking with Him one minute and falling away from Him the next (Mal. 3:7). From Adam to the final battle in Revelation 20:7, God’s people constantly lose their way. Their faithlessness is shown to be even darker beside the faithfulness of God (2 Tim. 2:13).
As the Lord spoke in Isaiah, “all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way” (Isa. 53:6a). Today the stories have not changed, but the people’s faces have. We may look at the Israelites and wonder how anyone could forget such a God after seeing His mighty power displayed in the Egyptian plagues (Ex. 7:14-11:10), or when He provided manna from heaven, (Ex. 15), sweet water in the desert (Ex. 17:5-7), or when He made His presence known to the entire assembly of Israel when at Mount Sinai He descended upon the mountain in fire (Ex. 19: 16-20). We are no different, and unless we make a habit of constantly returning to Him from our waywardness, we too will find ourselves far from where we need to be.
Staying on the right path does take effort. We must constantly abide in Christ (John 15:4), and unceasingly surrender our fleshly desires to follow the gods of our own making (Matt. 18:24-25). The gods of pleasure, comfort, possessions, power, control, the opinion of man, and entitlement are just a few of the idols we must constantly dismantle, for no sooner have we taken one down, than another is built up in its place. “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). The heart of man–our heart, is by its very nature wired to go off track (Ps 52:3). Unless our spiritual eyes remain open, and are trained by the constant renewal of our minds by His Word, through His Holy Spirit, and with unceasing prayer, (Rom. 12:2, Eph. 4:23 -24, Isa. 55:1-3) we will stray, and find ourselves in increasingly dark places.
So like the person lost on a journey, and the Israelites of old, we need to constantly go back to what we know…Who we know. Like 2 Peter tells us we must “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (3:18). We must pray for ourselves and others, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give us the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of our hearts enlightened, that we may know what is the hope to which He has called us, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe” (Eph.1:17-19a). He is our compass. He is our bearing. We must seek to know Him, so that when the path around us suddenly seems unfamiliar, we can run back to what we know.
Let us this day heed the call of Hosea, “to return to our God, observe kindness and justice, and wait for our God continually “(12:6). “ Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55:7).
Today let us return to God in full surrender, admitting that our wanderlust has too often led us away from Him. Let us celebrate the words of Isaiah when the Lord says, “I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.”(42:16)
And then let us praise Him as we sing afresh the words of a familiar hymn by John Newton, “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.”
Just come back, come back to Who you know. Come back to Jesus.