One year while fly-fishing in the Smoky Mountains, I came across a boundary marker that said: “Area Closed.” The park rangers had set up the boundary and closed the trail because bears were unusually active. Crossing the boundary meant putting one’s life in danger, but the fishing was always good on the other side of the boundary. So, the temptation to cross the boundary was high, even though it was dangerous.
Boundaries are markers that set up lines that shouldn’t be crossed. Boundaries are essential to health in our relationships. They help us keep things that will nourish our souls inside and keep things that will starve our souls outside. God has set up boundaries for our lives and relationships to lead us to health and satisfaction, but there are voices that tempt us to ignore the dangers and call us to cross the boundary into places that God has closed.
The Psalms begins with a picture of boundaries and wrong voices:
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;” (Psalm 1:1, ESV)
David presents in powerful images the choices that followers of Jesus make in our relationships. Simply, he suggests that a person who chooses to follow God’s boundaries will experience a blessed life in the same way that a person who refuses God’s boundaries will experience a devastated life.
When we listen to the wrong voices, we make bad choices and end up in sorry places. God establishes boundaries for our relationships so that we can experience a flourishing life. When we walk in the counsel of ungodly, stand in the path of sinners, and sit in the seat of the scornful, we’re ignoring God’s boundaries for our relationships and starving our soul of life and health.
1. What happens when we ignore God’s boundaries.
Our soul withers when our counsel comes from the wicked. The “wicked” (rāšā) are those who do not know God and do not worship Him, and yet, we seek their advice about life. We see the sign God has posted saying, “Area Closed,” but the crowd around us declares: “It’s safe! Go ahead and walk that path.”
When we listen to the “wicked,” we join them in rationalizing sin. We listen to the wrong voices, and we make bad choices. We’ve listened to the people declaring it’s safe to walk past the sign and we jump the rope and walk down the path. We have convinced ourselves that the path we are walking is the best path, so we make our stand in the sin that poisons our soul. Along with the others on this path, we embrace a lifestyle of toxic living, where the toxin is that which is contrary to God and His will.
The scoffer is a person who is fixed on a lifestyle that is contrary to God’s will and poisons others with that same lifestyle. They ridicule those who pursue what God wants and stir up anger and contention.
When one chooses to ignore God’s boundaries, he or she will be fruitless in life and will wither away (Psalm 1:4). We walk past the sign and wander down the pathway that God says is “Closed.” And we are surprised when we encounter a bear that mauls us and devastates our life and relationships.
2. What happens when we follow God’s boundaries.
We are blessed in life and in our relationships when we follow God’s boundaries. To be “blessed” (‘ăšrē) is to experience the full measure of God’s favor. It is the picture of a beautiful life.
“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:2, ESV)
We taste a beautiful life and experience God’s favor in our relationships when we passionately embrace God’s instructions. Our relationships are set on a flourishing path when we embrace His boundaries. We listen to His voice speaking to us night and day, leading us safely and securely to satisfaction (Psalm 1:3).
So, let’s keep it simple today. If we obey God’s boundaries in our relationships, then we will experience blessing. If we listen to the wrong voices in our relationships, then we will experience a withered life.
So stop, take a breath, and pray:
God, by Your Spirit, give me the wisdom and courage to submit to the boundaries that You set in my life and my relationships.