“Let whoever is wise understand these things, and whoever is insightful recognize them. For the ways of the Lord are right, and the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Have you ever tripped over nothing? You were just walking along a totally flat and smooth path and suddenly you were on the ground. I suspect that’s something we’ve all done at least once. For some folks it’s more like a daily affair. I had an old pair of shoes that were tripping hazards. Everywhere I went I tripped. Over nothing. For some reason the toes of those shoes were more attracted to the ground than any other pair I’ve ever owned. I actually adjusted my walking while I wore them to account for the tripping. I wasn’t sad when I wore them out sufficiently to justify getting a new pair.
Have you ever tripped over life? That can feel kind of like tripping over nothing. You’re just going along, living your life, and suddenly you’re flat on your face, metaphorically speaking anyway. Why does that happen? I mean, physically speaking, nobody trips over nothing. When I wore my tripping shoes it was the toes that hung down just a little more than my normal gait accounted for. When we trip up in life, there’s always something to cause it. Most often it’s because we’ve got something hanging down just a little lower than the normal path will allow for.
Of course, that idea just begs a controversial question: Exactly what defines a “normal” path through life? The quick answer you’ll get in most places today is that there is no normal path. Your “normal” path is whatever path you happen to choose. If it works for you and your heart desires it, then it’s normal for you. Better yet, we’ll just go with there is no normal. There’s just you.
And that sounds really liberating…until you start trying to actually live it. Television and movies aside, when it comes to real life, living however you want, choosing your own path, doesn’t often work out very smoothly. In fact, the more we try it, the more we find ourselves tripping over life. It may not always be big and obvious stumbles. It may be just subtle little oopses that we learn to incorporate into our normal gait so smoothly that an outside observer might not even notice like I did with my old shoes. But we do.
The prophet Hosea was sent by God to a people who were tripping over life. The Israelites had been given a clear path by God that He promised would get them smoothly through life if they would stick to it. And He was good to His word…as long as they stuck to it. The problem was, they didn’t stick to it very well. So they tripped. A lot.
They started tripping so much and so often that God began adding some bumps in the path. These were bumps designed to get their attention to pay more attention to sticking to the path He had cleared for them. If they were paying attention and giving even a modicum of effort toward walking well, the extra bumps weren’t going to be any trouble for them at all. Instead, they just started tripping harder over those. It was getting embarrassing.
Worse, it was getting painful. They were hurting themselves and breaking God’s heart as they kept trying to drift off the path. Sometimes they would be walking along straight and suddenly veer sharply to the left. And fall. Hard. It eventually became clear that the only chance they were ever going to get straightened out for good was if they were slowed down to a near stop so that they could refocus on the path God had cleared for them once again. That wasn’t going to be fun and God desperately didn’t want to go that route with them. You can see that in His back and forth agonizing over bringing them the judgment they deserved versus showing them the mercy and compassion He felt for them running throughout the book.
In the end, compassion and restoration were going to define His activity toward them. If they would slow down and think for even a moment, He was going to be right there to help them get straightened out.
When He had finally given them all the warnings and promises He could, He had just one more thing to say. He left them with one more note about the path. Anyone who was really paying attention to life already knew it. It is His ways that define that path of life. His ways are right. They define what is normal. If we’re committed to walking in what’s right, we’ll have a smooth easy path before us. If, however, we are intent on blazing our own trail, we’ll find the going much harder. God’s right path will be a stumbling block for us that will keep on being a stumbling block until we are willing to stick to it.
If you find yourself tripping over life very often, it may be that you’re clumsy, but it may be that you’re trying to walk a path other than God’s and His right ways are getting in your way. His normal path is a hazard to your personal path. The harder you try to stick to your own path, the more you’ll keep tripping your way through life. Can we agree that it’s time to swallow your pride and make the adjustment to God’s path? Tripping your way through life is no way to live. So stop it.
Incidentally, my tripping shoes were a different brand than I’ve been wearing for nearly 20 years. When I finally bought a new pair the other day I went back to my old brand. I haven’t tripped since. Just saying…