Nun (Part 13)
Ps 119.105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
106 I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,
to keep your righteous rules.
107 I am severely afflicted;
give me life, O LORD, according to your word!
108 Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O LORD,
and teach me your rules.
109 I hold my life in my hand continually,
but I do not forget your law.
110 The wicked have laid a snare for me,
but I do not stray from your precepts.
111 Your testimonies are my heritage forever,
for they are the joy of my heart.
112 I incline my heart to perform your statutes
forever, to the end.
Sometimes life feels like driving down a dark road. We don’t know the right turn or whether we’ve missed it. If we had a roadmap or a flowchart or a GPS or something (!), life might be easier. But, we don’t have any of those things. That’s the case for all kinds of decisions. Should I marry this person? Should I go to that college? When should I retire? What should I do with this free time?
I want to focus on just the first verse of this passage: Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (v. 105). It’s a familiar verse for many of us, but there’s more to it than, perhaps, we’ve seen. When the people of Israel were traveling towards the promised land, their nightly journeys were guided by a pillar of fire (e.g., Exod 13:21–22). The shekinah glory-cloud was a clear leader. Not only did it show the end of the journey, but it guided every movement and every step (Num 9:15–17). Imagine how comforting it would be to wake in the night and see the pillar of fire, Israel’s lamp shining with otherworldly light. It was a sure sign that God was there, guiding and protecting. It showed you where you were going and you knew that it was the right way.
The psalmist is saying that God’s word is our Shekinah. It is our lamp. It illumines our path just as the pillar of fire did for Israel. But, how can that be true? We’ve all experienced what it’s like to read the Bible or hear it taught and not get any light. The words may as well be the thickest darkness because no path gets revealed. What are we supposed to do with God’s word then? It’s not exactly the sure guide that Israel had, is it?
Well, God’s word is a lamp. But, it is not always a lighted one. We depend upon the Spirit accompanying the word for our light. It was no different for Israel. The pillar of fire was God’s presence. He was in the flame giving light and direction. For us, unless the Spirit is present and gives light, we will not receive any direction. But, when he does open our eyes for the truth that is there. That is when we can pray with the psalmist “Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the JOY of my heart” (v. 111).
Charles Bridges emphasizes the need for both lamp and light. It’s easy to assign ourselves a chapter or a section of Scripture and just do that reading. But, we get little light; we haven’t really even looked for it. Bridges writes, “Did we more habitually wait to receive, and watch to improve the light, we should not so often complaint of the perplexity of our path. It would generally determine our steps under infallible guidance: while in the presumptuous neglect of it––like Israel of old (Num 14:44–4)––we are sure to come into trouble.”*
Dear Christian, in your journey today, will you look commit to lamp and light?
* Charles Bridges, Psalm 119: An Exposition, Banner of Truth, 1987, 262.