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Needle to the Pole

Updated: Mar 6, 2022

Psalm 31:3 (NASB) For You are my rock and my fortress; For Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me.

Have you ever watched a kid play with a compass? I recently handed out orienteering compasses to a group of kindergartners through second graders, and it really fascinated them that the little red needle pointed north no matter which way they turned it. I asked “what makes the needle move – is there a little man that lives in the housing that turns it to north”? I got lots of confused looks. The kids all knew that there isn’t a man in there, but had no explanation to replace the silly suggestion. “It just KNOWS!” one boy finally blurted out. Trying to explain magnetism and the earth’s North Pole to young kids is a challenge. I brought out a piece of metal and used it to deflect the compass needle as I explained the concept. Exclamations of “cool” and “wow” filled the air as the group watched the needle turn and follow the metal in my hand.

A compass yields some great object lessons for our lives. One of the (many)“campusology” quotes that freshman in the Corps at Texas A&M have to memorize includes this great quaint line from Governor Richard Coke’s 1876 address to the student body: “be as true to a trust reposed as the needle to the pole”. In other words, the character of our integrity, honesty, and steadfastness should be as unwavering as a compass pointing north. Good moral advice, but what is it founded on? Psalm 31:3, written by the shepherd-warrior David, reveals a deeper spiritual truth in this regard. Just like a compass, we too have a needle in our soul, one that was designed originally to point true to the “north” of a perfect relationship with our Creator. Unfortunately, sin has damaged our compass so that it no longer points properly, but is deflected by all manner of things to ultimately point only and selfishly inward! The good news is that as believers we are not left to rely on our own compass for direction. When David writes “You will lead me and guide me”, he ascribes the act of guidance to the Lord. Note that our compass needles don’t get fixed, instead an external compass is presented to us so that we can follow His leading. “Following” is a daily choice of trust and obedience, especially since our internal compasses can’t be trusted. And although we benefit eternally from His direction, He does that for His Glory (“name’s sake”) so that His mighty power, faithfulness, and love for us are evident to all.

We have a natural tendency to rely on our internal compass needle rather than follow the Lord’s leading. And there is lots of “metal” out there that can deflect and deviate us from the path. How do we place the needle to the pole in our lives? God’s Word serves as the external compass (David says it this way: Psalm 119:105 – “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path”). And just like a compass, it is not at all useful unless we have it out, study it, and then follow its guidance. Let me encourage you to stay the course today and tomorrow by referring frequently to your Bible compass, and then to follow well.

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