I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. But those who trust in idols, who say to images, ‘You are our gods,’ will be turned back in utter shame. – Isaiah 42: 16-17 (NIV) Sometimes in this life we are blind. We simply lose sight and do not know which way to go. The world is a very unforgiving place, filled with treachery and deceit; disappointments and heartache. Throughout it all however, God always remains God. He never changes and His Word transcends all times, cultures and generations. Yet while we remain in faith we still must walk in this world. We still must navigate through the dangerous landscape as we seek to try and be within the will of God. One day we think we know all the answers and the next day the world changes all the questions. Everything we thought we were sure of changes in the blink of an eye. People we thought we could trust become untrustworthy. People we held in high regard prove themselves not worthy of the respect we gave them. People we never would have thought to sell us out do so and we are left blinded. Maybe it is at work and we have been outsourced after years of dedicated and loyal service. Maybe it is even within our own family units where someone’s greed or selfishness gets the better of them. Possibly even in the church, where ministries lose sight of who they are supposed to be serving and we can become casualties in the very place we should feel the most secure. One way or the other, we stand at a crossroads in life and do not know the way to go. We stand blind, grasping at the air for direction. Let us turn as we always should, to Scripture, and see what God is saying to us today for these dark times. The first thing we notice from the key Scriptures is God assuring us He will lead us! I know this sounds obvious but it leads us to the question we must ask ourselves today and that is – who are we allowing to lead us? Especially in the darker times. Especially in the times when we cannot see. Who are we allowing to lead us? Are we allowing our spouse or our family to make the decisions God wants to make? Are we deferring to our friends? Therapists and counselors? Clergy and pastors? Are we leaning to our own sense of direction? Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.– Proverbs 3: 5-6 (NIV) Are we leaning upon our own understanding even though we are completely in the dark? Are there some ways we have not fully submitted to Him that contribute to our blindness? Realize here that “make your paths straight” actually means to make them known. To know which way we are supposed to go. I am sure we all know people, or are people, who had to live with the consequences of poor decisions for years to come. Beloved, only God has the map! Only God knows what way is the best way for us to go. We have to drop our stubborn pride and be willing to be LED. Secondly, God promises to guide us along unfamiliar paths and ways that are not known to us. The application here appears simple enough. Sometimes the way through is the unknown way. The road less travelled. The fact of the matter is we are creatures of habit and comfort. Too often when faced with huge decisions or forks in the road, we stay with what we know. What feels comfortable. I asked someone one time why they stayed in a relationship they knew was never going to end in marriage and she answered – “it’s what I know.” What a horrible way to live. We only get so many years in this whisper of a life. God does not want us wasting decades paying for poor decisions because we stuck with what we knew. Sometimes the answer is down the path we know nothing about. God always has a better plan. Consider the call of Abram: The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. – Genesis 12: 1-4 (NIV) Seventy five years old and God tells him to pack everything he owns and leave behind everything he knows to move to a land he has never heard of. What is Abram’s reaction? He does not ponder the request. He does not confer with his neighbors and friends. He does not seek the counsel of the wisest people he knows. He simply obeys. He went as the Lord had told him. How many of us would do the same? Really. If God told us today to pack up our family and leave to move to…Utah, how many of us would simply pack and go? Or would we instead look for reasons to discount the message. Look for counter confirmations and as much Christianese as we can find to avoid going where God said to go. Sometimes the unknown way is the way. Sometimes God has things for us to learn that we cannot learn in our comfortable surroundings. We have to be willing to be led and then we have to be willing to take the unknown road if that be His will. Thirdly, God promises us certain benefits if we truly follow Him down the darker paths. If we place our faith in Him and let Him guide us He specifically promises us two things. The first is that He will turn the darkness into light before us. Nothing makes the unknown known faster than experience. The unknown ways are dark and foreboding because we have not travelled them. Their air of mystery and uncertainty become familiar as we step out in faith and follow God down the paths. I remember 13 years ago when I took the secular job I now hold. I did not know anything about the area I was getting into. As the years wore on, I learned. What was unfamiliar became familiar. What was mysterious became known. Were the first steps foreboding? Yes. Were they covered in darkness and uncertainty? Yes. But God turned that darkness into light with each passing day. With each step of faith. The second promise God makes in the key verses here is that He will make the rough places smooth. Beloved, there are no paths that are totally smooth on this earth. We battle against our flesh, the world and the enemy. Jesus Himself said we would have tribulation in this world. It is unavoidable. But we take heart in Jesus who overcame the world and God here is promising that if we follow Him down the paths He has set forth for us that He will make those rougher patches smoother. It does not mean we avoid them – it means our faith in who we serve gets us through them much easier than if we were trying to go it alone. Too often we ignore God, go down the path we want and then when the rough places arise we cry out to God who never told us to go down that path to begin with! When we find ourselves at those places, the best thing we can do is ask for mercy, turn around and go back to where God wanted us to go to begin with. The world has a saying that says insanity is defined by doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. The same can be said for rebellion to God. If we are on the right path, no matter how unknown or uncertain, God will make our rough places smooth and turn the darkness into light as we place more and more of our faith in Him. Lastly, God makes it a point to clearly state that this does not work for the idolatrous. Sometimes we get too Old Testament in our thinking. Idolatry is not just about statues of other make believe gods. An idol is anything we place ahead of God in our lives. That includes our money, our career, or even our relationship – including our spouse. Here is the deep theology for today beloved – what we bow down to is what we allow to lead us. Plain and simple. The Bible is very clear. We cannot serve two masters. You can go to church every week, twice a week, it doesn’t matter. It all goes back to the original question – who are we allowing to lead us? Or what are we allowing to lead us. If we allow money to lead us we will only listen to the monetary concerns of every decision and not to God. If we allow our career to be our god it will gladly lead us but it may not be the way God wants us to go. How many lives have ended sadly because the career god has led someone to fame and fortune thinly disguising despair and eventual death? If we want God to truly lead us then He must have the preeminence in our lives. He must be sovereign. He must be Lord. We all face times in our lives when the darkness seems to close in. when the way to go seems uncertain. When we are blind. God has promised that He will lead us and guide us if we are willing to be led; even down the unknown paths of life. He will make the darkness to be light before us and smooth out the rougher spaces that arise against us. He will do this for us if we remove the idols we tend to follow in our lives and make Him Lord. It sounds easy. We sing about it every Sunday. But in those quiet moments when we are alone with the Lord and we have our church mask off, what does the Holy Spirit say to us? It is time to listen, grab the hand of the Master, and let Him lead us whatever direction He knows already, is best for us. Rev. Anthony.