Did you ever lie back and watch the stars on a summer evening? As the earth rotates, the starry hosts of heaven march grandly across the sky in perfect formation. But wait—there’s a star out of formation! It’s not in the same place as before! What is this wandering star?
The Greeks had a name for such a thing: planetes (plah NAY tace), from which we get our word “planet.” (See Jude 13.) This Greek word came from a simple verb meaning “to wander off course, to go astray.”
Jesus told about a sheep which “went astray” (Matt 18:12) and Peter said that we were all “like sheep wandering away” (1 Pet 2:25).
But why do people wander off course?
If we track down the uses of “go astray” in the New Testament, we get these answers:
- People “get off the path” or “wander astray” when they do not know the scriptures (Matt 22:29).
- People are “caused to go astray” or “led off course” (which is also translated “deceived”) by Satan (Rev 12:9). He is the spirit of “error” or “wandering astray” (1 John 4:6).
- People are sometimes “misled” or “deceived” or “caused to go astray” by false teachers (Matt 24:4; 2 Tim 3:13).
- But it is also possible for men to “deceive” themselves (1 John 1:8)! They abandon the way of truth and “go astray” (2 Pet 2:15). They go from bad to worse, “deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim 3:13).
God’s Word does two things about the danger of deception, or being led astray.
First, it repeatedly warns us, “Be not deceived,” giving us the Word of truth by which we may expose deception. Second, it provides a way of rescue: “If anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error (“wandering astray”) of his way will save his soul from death” (James 5:19-20).