Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.
Reflection: Light for the Next Step
By John Tillman
I’ve found the promises of light bulb companies to be some of the most blatant marketing falsehoods I’ve ever experienced.
In the past nine years living in the same house, I’ve replaced multiple CFL bulbs that claimed they would last over 10 years. Then I replaced those with LEDs claiming to last 13. Recently, I’ve replaced those with, slightly more honest LED bulbs that only claim to last 9 years. The truth will come out—or burn out, in this case.
The ease with which we access artificial light in our modern world makes it difficult for us to understand the world in which this Psalm was written. A lamp for our feet seems redundant when every space is illuminated. We will feel cheated by this verse if we mistake the light it promises for a prophetic career map.
According to the psalmist, God’s word isn’t a spotlight for our ego-centric quest. It isn’t automobile high beams enabling us to speed through the dark toward the future. God’s word, most of the time, provides one-step-at-a-time light. A lamp for our feet forces us to engage with where we are, not look only at distant destinations.
Serving in India, Amy Carmichael wrote about her experience of learning about this popular verse in a very practical way.
“Once when I was climbing at night in the forest before there was a made path, I learned what the word meant, Psalm 119.105: ‘They word is a lantern to my path’. I had a lantern and had to hold it very low or I should certainly have slipped on those rough rocks. We don’t walk spiritually by electric light but by a hand lantern. And a lantern only shows the next step—not several ahead.
All the lights we trust in other than God’s Word, will one day fail.
The brightest lights we know and can design can’t show us what God’s Word can.
God’s Word is the light we need for everyday living.
Walking daily in this Word, meditating on it, breathing it in and out, making it a part of our thoughts and our prayers, charges an inner light of the Holy Spirit that we can trust to give us the next step. Carmichael explains:
“If the next step is clear, then the one thing to do is to take it. Don’t pledge your Lord or yourself about the steps beyond. You don’t see them yet.”
Daily spiritual disciplines keep oil in your lamp so that you may follow the steps of the bridegroom when he calls.
Prayer: The Morning Psalm
Let your hand be upon the man of your right hand, the son of man you have made so strong for yourself.
And so will we never turn away from you; give us life, that we may call upon your name.
Restore us, O Lord God of Hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved. — Psalm 80.16-19
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.
Deuteronomy 31 (Listen – 4:57)
Psalm 119:97-120 (Listen – 15:14)
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Remember the parable of the foolish virgins: they were not harlots or profane, but “virgins.” They were not persecutors, blasphemers, or malicious, but “foolish”—supine, careless, negligent: they had lamps in their hands, but no oil in their hearts.
Read more about In the Wealth of a Dying World
The ineffable source from which this lamp borrows its light is the Light which shines in darkness, but the darkness cannot comprehend it.