Finding Our Way

In 1929 the U. S. Naval Academy unveiled a monument to Matthew Maury with the engraving “Pathfinder of the Seas.”  While others had established ocean currents prior to Maury’s birth, Maury himself invested his life in helping mariners navigate the oceans’ unseen streams.  It is the phrase in Psalm 8:8 “All that swim in the paths of the seas” which may have led to Maury’s being noted as the founder of modern oceanography.

For ages, explorers such as Columbus or Magellan sought to give humanity a way to traverse the oceans.  The circumnavigation of the globe by Ferdinand Magellan sets the standard for such discoveries.  The Straits of Magellan, given for his accomplishments, south of Chile expanded human knowledge by a means unknown in the 16th C.  Whether over water or seeking overland routes, such as those of Lewis and Clark, people seem intent on finding their way.

Continuing down the road of human discovery is an ongoing, never ending process (Job 28:1-11).  What we understand about the world may grow but we have only scratched the surface (Job 26:1-14).  Indeed, The Creator alone knows the way to wisdom (Job 28:12-28).  Military triumph, unseen by the enemy, was had because He “made a way through the sea” (Isaiah 43:16).  And while we enjoy the benefits of light and darkness, humans do not know their “places” or the “paths to their dwellings” (Job 38:20).

But what happens when The Almighty Himself blocks “my way so I cannot pass . . .  shroud[ing] my paths in darkness” (Job 19:8)?  Why does God permit my enemies to “break up my road” allowing them to destroy me? (Job 30:13).  Even when He “knows my way” it seems it is still to take me intentionally down “the path I walk” where “men have hidden a snare for me” (Psalm 142:3).  At times, it is my own sin for which He “drives me away, making me walk in darkness . . . making my paths crooked” (Lamentations 3:2, 9).  Still, when I “have kept my feet from every evil path” (Psalm 119:101) even my so-called friends “turn aside from their routes” to see me (Job 6:14-23).

Let’s face it: we don’t like The Way of God—“my ways are not your ways” (Isaiah 55:7-9).  In all honesty, I struggle with “not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42) in my Christ-unlike-ness.  Outside of forgiving my enemies in The Lord’s Prayer, the hardest phrase for me to repeat (and mean!) is “your will be done on earth” (Matthew 6:10).  I want the “level path” (Psalm 27:11; see 18:33; 143:10).

Leveling and straightening the road in preparation for a highway is exactly the prophecy of what John the Baptist would do for Jesus (Isaiah 40:3-4; Malachi 3:1; 4:5; Mark 1:2-3; Luke 1:76; John 1:22-23).  But this was no Easy Street!  Temptation to crucifixion was a difficult traverse for The Son of Man: and it would be no different for His followers.  Matthew 7:13-14 tell that the path is narrow and only a few find it.  Victor Hamilton’s work on the Hebrew word for “way” reminds us “Our Lord’s reference to himself as ‘the way, the truth, the life’ means that Jesus is the way to the truth about life.  He is not the answer.  That would be an oversimplification.  He is the way that leads to the answer.[1]

At times we are left so far off the beaten track of life that we do not even know what the question is; and now we are told there is no answer yet.  We are expected to be on The Way, blind, walking unfamiliar paths, yet where the rough places are made smooth (Isaiah 42:16).  It is no mistake that early Christians called their belief “The Way” (Acts 9:2; 19:8, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22).  There is a clear road (Jesus), a clear path to follow (Scripture), and a clear destination (Heaven).  What is quite unclear is the broken pavement, detours, and lane closures that make our way quite uncomfortable.  To The One who placed “paths in the seas” that humans trust for trade and travel, all I can do is trust, “YOU (emphatic in Hebrew) who know my way” (Psalm 142:3).

Dr. Mark Eckel has been finding his way by His Path since 1966; presently on the path of Crossroads Bible College, Indianapolis, IN.

[1] “Harak” in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 1, p 71.

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