“With all my heart I seek you.
Do not allow me to stray from your commands!”
Psalm 119:10 NET
Straying happens almost by chance. Ignorance, inattention, distraction, drifting.
It’s the straying of the sheep (Ezekiel 34:6), who “simply nibble their way to lostness.”/1
It happens so easily. Those who reject the slippery-slope nature of sin are blind to the way Satan works. To his astuteness. To his patience.
By increments Satan is able to win many who would otherwise resist blatant temptation.
The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament found three causes for “wandering” from God, all which use the Hebrew verb “to stray, err” (shaga).
“The first is wine and strong drink (Isa 28:7; Prov 20:1). The second is the seductive strange woman (Prov 5:20, 23) versus the love of one’s wife, which ought to ‘captivate’ one (Prov 5:19). The third is the inability to reject evil instruction (Prov 19:27).”/2
Surely there are others as well. In the New Testament, the writer of the book of Hebrews warns us against drifting away from the things we have heard, that is, the truth of the gospel. Drifting is a slow process.
As Nida and Louw’s lexicon puts it, it means “to gradually give up one’s belief in the truth.” They say it is possible to render it, “so that we will not gradually give up believing what we have believed in the past.”/3
The psalmist was fearful of straying from God’s commands. (Check the verse above again.) Well should he have been. We see all around us disciples straying from God’s commands today. From the very concept of the necessity of obeying his commands.
It is a gradual process. The instrument of music is played with religious music in the home. Then in twos and threes. From there to small groups, devotional times, camp sessions. Then it makes its entrance somewhere into a church’s building among the youth or young couples. Eventually, it is introduced into the worship of the church.
It starts small. A man listens to off-color jokes at the office, smiles at inappropriate comments. He watches television where immoral scenes are presented as normal. He begins to cultivate lasciviousness in his heart. He visits indecent websites. He flirts with a lady friend of his. Finally, he finds himself violating his vows.
Why does it start? Because a saint has ceased to seek God with all the heart, as per the psalmist again. A heart divided. Invaded by an idol, be it of sensuality, modernity, desire for popularity, the headiness of drink, the rush of drugs, the thrill of the forbidden.
Gods to crowd out the one Lord, there are many.
What is the solution to the straying of the heart, the drifting that carries the soul downstream to perdition? Turning back to God, dumping the self-erected gods, cleansing the life, confessing the sin, pleading for forgiveness.
And, like the psalmist, throwing oneself on the Lord’s mercy, asking him for power to swim against the current, soaking up the word that issues from the mouth of God.
Don’t nibble your way to lostness.
1/ Theological Wordbook of the OT, #2325.
3/ Greek-English Lexicon of the NT Based on Semantic Domains, 31.69.