Living Under the Light of His Word
Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)
In my childrens’ earlier years, camping was what we usually did on our vacations. It was cheap, and the kids liked having a campfire, roasting marshmallows and making s’mores. Inevitably, in the middle of the night, the girls and I would get up and head to the camp bathroom. If we were wise, we would put the flashlight where we could find it while half asleep, because the forest can be pretty black at night.
Experienced campers want to find a camping spot that isn’t too close to the camp bathroom, so you’re not hearing the slamming of the bathroom door off and on through the night, and the voices and the giggles. However, you don’t want to camp too far away, because nothing prepares you for that cold blast of air when you crawl out of your sleeping bag and have to head, shivering, down a long dirt path to the bathroom.
Most of those paths were wide enough for just one person, and it usually ended up that the one with the flashlight was the only one who could see where they were going. The other two of us would be walking behind, completely in the dark, following the beam of light several feet ahead of us, while tripping on rocks and sticks right at our feet. A flashlight, much like God’s lamp, is designed for individual use.
Through His word, the lamp that God gives us will shine His light at our feet, right where our next step needs to be. Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path. Not only is our next step illuminated, but the path ahead has light as well. The illumination may not go very far; there may be a bend in the path and we can’t see beyond it, but we know that when we get there, we will be able to see a little further. When we go with God, every step we take is illuminated, and we don’t have to fear the shifting shadow, the unseen rocks or even losing the path entirely.
We never know what life will throw at us. But we can know this: if we make a daily habit of reading God’s word, we know that we are prepared, and that God will take care of us. He will give us stability; we will not be shaken.
O send out Thy light and Thy truth, let them lead me;
Let them bring me to Thy holy hill,
And to Thy dwelling places. (Psalm 43:3)
The word “truth” in the verse above is translated from the Hebrew word, “Emeth,” and it means “firmness, stability, continuance, faithfulness.” The Psalmist is asking for God’s light, and subsequently, His stability and faithfulness. Although the authorship of this Psalm is not certain, it is believed that King David wrote it. In earlier verses, he is asking God to “plead his case against an ungodly nation.” He is actually mourning over the oppression of an enemy. Although it’s unclear who the enemy is, it’s interesting to note what David isn’t asking for: military strength or victory in battle. What David wants far more is God’s light and truth. He knows that if he has these two things, God will lead him.
David knew where his help came from—God. He already had an ongoing love relationship with God and spent time in His word. We can’t wait until we’re in the midst of a battle before we put our armor on. Likewise, we can’t wait for the darkness to fall before we seek God’s light. We need to already have the light of His lamp, because when those dark times in our lives come, as most assuredly they will, we don’t want to be groping for the light in the darkness. Without the comfort of God’s light shining over us, we can feel very alone and very vulnerable.
Many years ago, before my husband and I had kids, we went on an overnight backpacking trip with another couple. We spent the better part of the day hiking, and when we reached a fork in the trail, we stopped and conferred with our hiking partners. They decided they wanted to take a longer loop that would get them to the same destination. They told us they’d meet us there, and if they didn’t make it by nightfall, they’d meet us in the morning. It never occurred to us that they really wouldn’t make it to the campsite, since we had planned to camp together. What we didn’t figure out until later was that their decision to part ways must have been planned ahead of time. They apparently wanted a little romance.
My husband and I and our two dogs headed down to our camping spot, and reached it in late afternoon. We set up our small camp which didn’t consist of much. We had no tent and no fire to cook dinner on, because fires were banned in that national forest area. Although I can’t recall what we ate, we must have brought a picnic of sorts, and dog food.
We were camped in a valley, so the sun went down early. By 6:00 p.m. it was dusk, and by 6:30 or 7:00 p.m., it was nearly dark. Our friends did not arrive and we began to realize that we were spending the night alone with the two dogs, and only our sleeping bags for shelter and protection. We had no light except the flashlight we brought, and unfortunately, we brought the kind of flashlight you plug into the wall. We didn’t know that its battery back-up was very short-lived, and after about half an hour, the flashlight dimmed and went out. We had been counting on our friends to be with us, keep us company, give us safety in numbers, and provide other forms of illumination. They were by far the more experienced hikers.
Left in the dark, we hunkered down knowing we had a long night ahead of us. It wasn’t even time to go to bed, but we had nothing else to do. Then the night sounds began to pierce the darkness, things like limbs breaking, coyotes howling, and little animals skittering about. Our dogs began to growl that low, guttural growl that sends the hairs up on the back of your neck. I was so scared I came close to climbing a tree, just so I would feel safer. Sleep eluded us for most of the night, and only when we finally saw the thin line of dawn at the top of the mountain, did we fall into a deep sleep.
Had we been better prepared, perhaps with a bright, propane camp lantern that could shine for us through the night and give us a sense of comfort, we would have fallen asleep much sooner. So it is for people who don’t prepare for those dark times in their lives.
(More of Chapter 2 in the next installment.)