Psalm 37:23

Introduction: For reasons only God fully knows, part of what I want to be praying about and believing for, then trusting, is God’s order for my life, for your life, for our church!

Psalm 37:23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way. (Psa 37:23 NKJ)

Orderedkuwn {koon} Meaning:  1) to be firm, be stable, be established 1a) (Niphal) 1a1) to be set up, be established, be fixed 1a1a) to be firmly established 1a1b) to be established, be stable, be secure, be enduring 1a1c) to be fixed, be securely determined 1a2) to be directed aright, be fixed aright, be steadfast (moral sense) 1a3) to prepare, be ready 1a4) to be prepared, be arranged, be settled 1b) (Hiphil) 1b1) to establish, set up, accomplish, do, make firm 1b2) to fix, make ready, prepare, provide, provide for, furnish 1b3) to direct toward (moral sense) 1b4) to arrange, order 1c) (Hophal) 1c1) to be established, be fastened 1c2) to be prepared, be ready 1d) (Polel) 1d1) to set up, establish 1d2) to constitute, make 1d3) to fix 1d4) to direct 1e) (Pulal) to be established, be prepared 1f) (Hithpolel) to be established, be restored.

My main thoughts come from two different articles I found: One has to do primarily with the thought of order as opposed to chaos and the other is means by which order is established.

God’s Work of Creating Order

In Genesis 1: 1-2 we read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”  It is hard to miss the abundance of words and phrases that describe an initial condition of chaos.  Empty, darkness, waters.  These are all words that, in the Ancient Near East, carried the connotation of a lack of order and purpose.

Beginning in the third verse, God begins to impose order upon the reality He has created.  He ordains functions for the elements of reality and declares them to have specific purposes.  He declares each of these as “good”.  Let that be a focus that colors your view of scripture and your worldview for a moment.  God declares that order is good.  Purpose is good.  Regularity and objective function are good and, therefore, the abolition of chaos is good.  And this is a continuing theme throughout scripture

The Chaos of Nature

What we have, then, is one means of determining what is good and what is not.  That which is ordered by God is good.  That which is chaotic and defies the designated functions of God is not.  Chaos has within it, a tendency towards evil, in that it is a movement away from Godliness.  This is not a strictly religious or Biblical idea, however.  It is common sense.  For instance, if you cut your finger, you know this to be a bad thing.  Suddenly, there are several things which have lost their function and order.  The flesh has lost some of its continuity.  The blood no longer flows contained in a vessel towards an intended destination.  We we can see how, when the functionality of something has been disrupted and the system become chaotic, we consider it a bad thing which needs correction.
The Nature of Chaos Within

In our personal lives, though, what do we seek?  Certainly, we want an ordered life; don’t we?  We want a steady job and friends who stick around.  We desire our spouses are faithful and our children obedient.  We want the traffic to flow smoothly according to regulations and we want the providers of services to stick to what they promised to deliver.  But what of our internal lives?

Within our own minds, and within our own moral landscape, we tend to be less rigid.  Have you noticed this?  We easily justify a bit of disorder here and a smidgeon of chaos there.  We don’t need to always eat the right foods, be discerning in our entertainment, careful with our words, pious in our thought life, follow the exact speed limit, be perfectly honest on our taxes, etc.  We tend to demand it of others, however.  It is all too easy to point out the faults and shortcomings of the people around us.  We seem to be most bothered by disorder when it is not our own.

The Damage of Chaos

What do we really gain by fighting for our own moral autonomy and the rebellion against God’s intended order?  Is it really better to simply do whatever we want whenever we want?  Like children, we often believe so, but the evidence of the world speaks volumes against this idea.  The more we stray from self-control, the more sorrow and loneliness we discover.  It is not, in the end, beneficial to anyone to be wholly autonomous or without moral restraint.  We are meant to be in community and community thrives on peace.  We cannot have peace if we cannot have order.  We do not have love or give love without relationships and we must compromise our autonomy for that to happen.

Return to Order

Because we already live in a chaotic world which constantly moves toward chaotic states, even striving towards order can create chaos.  One system cannot be removed and replaced without a temporary period of disorder.  We have ordered our lives around the defense of autonomy and personal freedom.  Dismantling these systems will inevitably create unease in our lives.  We often hear the benefits of “shaking things up a bit” and there is a certain truth to that.  We get in ruts and it takes intentionality to get out of the comfort of our disorders.  But let us not simply move from chaos to greater chaos.  Let us seriously consider the benefits of order and stability.

Pathstepswayswalk, and go” can all express our journey?

Psalm 119:105 (KJV)


Strategically Ordered Steps

1. God orders your steps through human plans

Proverbs 16:8-17

It is right to plan. However, we need to do it with the necessary humility, recognising that our plans will only succeed ‘if it is the Lord’s will’ (see James 4:13–15). The writer of Proverbs says, ‘In your heart you may plan your course, but the Lord determines your steps’ (Proverbs 16:9).

Sometimes we align our plans with God’s purposes. At other times – certainly in my experience – God overrules our plans. We should always bear in mind that we may have got it wrong and that, ultimately, thankfully, it is the Lord who determines our steps.

God often works out his purposes through good leadership. Good leaders motivate others (v.10). They do not base their decisions simply on what is popular: ‘Sound leadership has a moral foundation’ (v.12b, MSG). They cultivate an environment of transparency: ‘Good leaders cultivate honest speech; they love advisors who tell them the truth’ (v.13, MSG). They ‘invigorate lives; they’re like spring rain and sunshine’ (v.15, MSG).

Thank you, Lord, that although I make plans in my heart, ultimately you determine my steps. In making my plans may I always say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will’.

2. God’s orders your steps in spite of human opposition

Acts 22:22-23:11

Are you worried about your future? Are you facing difficulties and opposition or in a time of crisis? Are there plans against you?

There are a number of competing plans in this story. How do these interact with God’s purposes?

  • The crowd
    The crowd plan to ‘rid the earth’ of Paul (22:22) and it is not without impact. It causes Paul hardship, but ultimately it fails because their plans do not align with God’s purpose.
  • The commander
    The ‘commander’, a man of military power, plans to have Paul flogged (v.24). Paul is taken to the torture chamber. He is stripped and stretched out to be flogged in such a way that might have left him insane, unable to preach or even led to his death (vv.24–25). The plan failed because it was illegal to flog a Roman citizen before being convicted, and the commander had not realised that Paul was a Roman citizen.
  • The court
    The religious authorities, the Sanhedrin, plan to kill Paul (23:12). Paul is taken to court and placed in the dock (22:30). He points out his innocence: ‘Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth’ (23:2). Paul’s response is, ‘God will strike you, you whitewashed wall!’ (v.3).

Then Paul manages to divide the tribunal (vv.7–8), which consisted of Pharisees (who believed in the resurrection of the dead) and Sadducees (who did not). Paul decides ‘to exploit their antagonism’ (v.6, MSG). Paul says, in effect, ‘Look, the reason I am on trial is that I am a Pharisee and believe in the resurrection of the dead’ (v.6).

  • The crises
    In the midst of all this, Paul seeks to align his plans with God’s plans. He was guided by God. He resolved in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem and then to Rome (19:21). However, in spite of this he hit crisis after crisis.

Paul must have wondered whether he had missed out on God’s purposes. But in the middle of this ‘crisis’, the Lord stood near Paul and said, ‘Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome’ (23:11).

God’s purpose for Paul was for him to testify both in Jerusalem (maybe the equivalent of testifying to the church) and Rome (maybe the equivalent of testifying to the state, government and political leaders).

As with Paul, God will strategically order your steps. The sovereignty of God means we don’t have to worry about the ultimate outcome. God is in complete control, even though it may not always be easy to see it at the time.

God’s purpose is that you, like Paul, should be a witness. Everywhere you go, be a witness. When appropriate, give your testimony. Even when you are not speaking, your life is a testimony. Don’t wait until all is going well. In fact, in times of difficulties sometimes your testimony is at its most powerful.

Lord, give me the same courage you gave to the apostle through human agents Paul to testify about you wherever I go.

3. God’s orders your steps through human Agents

2 Kings 6:24-8:15

God works out his purposes through human agency.

The suffering of the people of Samaria was almost unbearable: famine, food prices soaring astronomically and even cannibalism resulted (6:24–31). The king of Israel made a pathetic excuse for not helping the woman who cried to him, ‘Help me, my lord the king!’ (v.26). He replied, ‘If the Lord does not help you, where can I get help for you?’ (v.27). This is the wrong reaction.

The sovereignty of God and his plans is not meant to be an excuse for human inaction. God works through human agents. When you see needs, you are called to be God’s hands responding to those needs. This is what Elisha did. God used Elisha. He prophesied, ‘Listen! God’s word! The famine’s over. This time tomorrow food will be plentiful’ (7:1, MSG).

God used four men with leprosy who discovered where this plentiful food was. As they ate and drank they said to each other, ‘We’re not doing right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves’ (v.9). Food prices dropped over night. Every word Elisha had spoken proved true.

The world produces enough food for everyone, yet one in eight people on this planet are living with the pain of hunger. If we simply feed ourselves ‘we are not doing right’ (v.9). We must do everything we can to bring an end to extreme poverty in our generation.

This is also a wonderful illustration of our motive for telling others the good news about Jesus. These starving men came across a mountain of food. They realised that God had delivered them from their enemies. They could have kept the good news to themselves, but that would have been utterly selfish.

Yet they were tempted to do so. We have far better news than they had – the good news of Jesus and the gospel. Do not keep it to yourself. You are the human agent responsible for carrying out God’s plans.

Similarly the people in the city could have just stayed there in their lost condition refusing to believe the good news. Indeed, at first the king does not respond very positively. He suspects a trap (v.12). Likewise today some people do not respond to the offer of life Jesus makes to every human being because they suspect that there is some trap.

Not only does God work out his purposes through human agents, he sometimes reveals these plans to his prophets. Elisha prophesied at a time of famine that within twenty-four hours food would be in ample supply (v.1). It seemed totally unbelievable at the time (v.2), but God rescued his people (v.6). Elisha’s prophecy came true, ‘As the Lord had said’ (v.16). God also revealed to Elisha what was about to happen to the king (8:8,13,15).

Lord, thank you that you have good plans for my life and your purposes will ultimately prevail. Help us to be a blessing to the world, feeding the hungry and bringing the good news of Jesus to a world that desperately needs physical and spiritual food.