God’s Word – My Light
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my pathPsalm 119:105
Psalm 119 in its entirety is devoted to extolling the glory of God's Word. As Bible readers know, it's the longest in the whole collection. Especially in our youth we are inclined to see it as monotonous. We find this Old Testament poet, whoever he was, to be rather verbose.
Yet such an assessment betrays either a superficial reading of this psalm or a lack of love for God's law. From a literary viewpoint there is meticulous attention given to structure. The poet has lovingly followed an intricate pattern. It's an acrostic psalm which means that the author has composed it around the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, each letter introducing eight successive verses about the beauty and blessings of God's Word. Every section praises the wisdom, truth, and moral perfection of God as embodied in his law. Just as we have many synonyms to describe something we love and enjoy, so too this author. He has all kinds of words to describe his theme: law, testimonies, precepts, statutes, commandments, ordinances, promises, and word. That last one is in verse 105, "Your word is a lamp to my feet."
Your Word. That shows he does not have a narrow preoccupation with the Ten Commandments. His focus is the entire revelation of God that Israel had at that time – everything God had promised, demanded, threatened, or stated. His heart is ravished by God's revelation, filled with it, therefore it spills forth from his mouth. If you love God's Word as much as he did, then you can identify with him when he says things like, "To study God's statutes is like finding treasures."
To grasp the imagery of the Word as a lamp to his feet, and a light to his path, we have to think of the time in which the author lived. For us there's relatively little danger when we go for a walk. We enjoy the benefit of wide, level sidewalks with street lamps, and clear signs telling us where we are. We can't imagine what an Israelite traveller had to endure. Travel was difficult; it was never a pleasure. For the most part there were small dirt paths that wound through mountains and along deep ravines. In some places the roadways were so overgrown that it was difficult to determine what was road and what was not. Psalm 107 tells of a group that lost its way, prayed to God for help, and were led by him to a city. There were wild animals and highwaymen lurking behind rocks – think of the parable of the Good Samaritan.
In our text, life is being compared to a path. We still have the expression "walk of life." Without God's Word we would stumble over rocks, fall into holes, stray from the path, and plunge headlong into ravines. That light is necessary implies that a condition of darkness exists. Not merely in a physical sense, but the psalmist understands it in a spiritual and ethical sense. Darkness in Scripture is the image of deep misery and of life under the dominion of sin. Where there is darkness there is ultimately death. Does not Scripture describe hell as the place of "outer darkness?" Darkness isn't just a negative term denoting the absence of light, it's a hostile force, full of resistance to the light of God's Word.
By nature we are inclined to blaze our own path and follow the flickering lights of this world –"candles in the wind," to borrow from Elton John's meaningless hit. There is the light of science which claims to have all the answers to the mysteries of life. Yet how many times have scientists been embarrassed by their discoveries and divided over their data? There is the light of wealth and affluence, the notion that money buys happiness. Yet what misery in the lives of the rich and famous! It is God's Word alone which not only explains all mysteries, revives the soul, and offers true happiness, it's also the light by which we test the spirits, discerning the "false lights" and steering clear of the dangers in a fallen world.
Notice the author calls God's Word a lamp "to his feet." It is not merely a light to bask in, but a light to walk by. The Bible is not only a source of knowledge, it is a rule of obedience. So how necessary it is to pore over the Scriptures, to read them diligently and systematically from beginning to end. Think about every line you read. God himself is speaking to you: "Your Word," says the psalmist, "is a lamp."
For that we depend on God. We need our eyes and hearts opened by the Spirit of Truth. Therefore we need to pray for his illuminating power and renewing grace. The author of this psalm shows us the way. He petitions God, "Open my eyes, that I may see wonderful things in your law ...Turn my heart toward your statutes" (vv. 18, 36).
The light of God's Word: we come to the heart of the matter when we understand that the light is the Christ of God. Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. He is the true light that enlightens every man. Zechariah the priest foretold that the holy child to be born of Mary would "give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death." Jesus himself stood up and proclaimed, "I am the Light of the World."
God's Word is a light because every book testifies of Christ in whom alone there is life and light. How is it that the Word-made-flesh is our light? Through his redemptive work. He perfectly fulfilled God's law, and bore its severe penalty. On Golgotha, God the Father plunged "the Light of the World" into the bottomless Pit. The physical darkness that covered the land in those three hours was frighteningly symbolic of God's ultimate punishment. But our Saviour was victorious. He endured the curse. He stilled God's wrath. The light shone in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. So let our life be guided by the Word! Whoever does that "will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."