Holy Scripture: (1) A Light unto our Path

August 3, 2003 / No. 3161

Dear Radio Friends,

     We all know that life confronts us with many decisions.  Decisions about marriage or career, perhaps.  Even more, decisions about issues of faith and morality.  What guides you in making your decisions?  Is it your feelings, or the popular opinion of the day, or what your parents taught you?  Feelings and popular opinions are no reliable guide for us in making our decisions.  They change.  They have no substance and no basis for forming a mature opinion.  Even parents could mislead us.  We need something sure and dependable, something that will guide us infallibly.  That something is holy Scripture, the Word of God.

     When our parents, friends, or teachers use Scripture as their guide and then give us advice on the basis of Scripture, we know that we can follow their advice.

     There was a young man who, by the inspiration of God, wrote Psalm 119 .   He makes it his personal confession that the Scriptures were his guide.  We want to make this our confession, too.  That young man says in Psalm 119:105 , “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

     What does it mean that the Scriptures are a light unto our path?  Even more, first of all, why is it necessary to have such a light?  It is the idea of a pathway that helps us understand the necessity.  Then, think of a dark pathway.  If you walk through the forest at night, you realize your need for a light that will guide you.  For, in a forest at night, walking down a pathway, you face dangers.  First of all, there is the danger of being disoriented, losing your sense of direction.  Especially if a path is not familiar, that is a danger.  Without a landmark or a light to keep us orientated, we will get lost.

     Another danger in walking down a path is that there might be an object in that path over which we stumble.  A log may lie in the way.  In the dark of night, without a light to guide us, we cannot see the dangers ahead.  So we use lights to guide us in actual earthly life.

     Now the psalmist uses that reality and applies it to his spiritual walk, for it is his spiritual pathway that he refers to when he says, “My feet … my path.”  Of course, no earthly flashlight will help us down a spiritual pathway.  Nor is Scripture going to help us know what way to go on a physical, earthly pathway.  When the psalmist speaks of his path in our text he is referring to his life from the viewpoint of its being a spiritual pathway.

     Life is like a pathway.  It is like a pathway because it is laid out very carefully and determined for us.  All of the events of life that we face are trials.  And our decisions are like walking down a pathway and encountering difficulties — coming to crossroads at which we must make a decision whether to turn right or left or go straight ahead.

     Life is like a pathway, especially our spiritual life, because it has also a destination.  The destination of our spiritual life is the glory of God in all that we do, and then that, in the way of glorifying Him, and by His grace, we be brought to heaven.  That is the desire of the child of God — that he go to heaven, and that he glorify God in all his life.

     But there is much darkness in our life, and dangers lurk.  There is spiritual darkness because we walk this pathway in the midst of an evil, sinful world.  All around us are threats to our faith and morality.  All around us the world, and Satan using the world, tempts us to depart from the path of righteousness and to put off the glory of God and to serve our own lusts.  So the danger is that we become disoriented spiritually as we walk throughout our life.  Adam did that when he fell into sin.  He knew, in the state of perfection, how to glorify God.  But having fallen into sin, he became spiritually disoriented in this sense:  he lost the ability to serve and glorify God.  A danger would be, as we walk the spiritual pathway, that we stumble, that is, that we fall into the pit of sin, that what God tells us not to do we do.

     These dangers that we face are not merely hypothetical dangers, and not even potential dangers, but they are real dangers.  As the child of God goes through life trying to determine how he can best glorify God, he will face the dangers of which we have spoken.  Therefore it is important that we have a light to guide us.

     That light, which the psalmist claims to use for his guidance, is the Word of God.  “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

     Thy word!  The Word of God is the speech or the revelation of God.  The psalmist has in mind, however, that Word, not as he heard it spoken, but even more as he had it written.  He has in mind the law of God.  Psalm 119 is a psalm in which the idea of God’s law is central.  Different words are used throughout the psalm to refer to God’s law:  Thy word, thy testimonies, thy ways, thy commandments, thy judgments, thy precepts, thy statutes.  But regardless of the word the psalmist uses, he has in mind the law of God.  And he speaks of that Word of God (the law of God) as being the revelation of God to him regarding truth.  “Thy word is truth.”  It was Jesus who said that in John 17 .   But the psalmist had an understanding of that concept.  The Word of God was true and dependable.

     It is that Word of God, now, which is his guide along his dark pathway.  The question is:  Why is it the Word of God, as opposed to anything else, that will help us in these issues of faith and morality and any other decision we have to make?  It is because God knows best.  This is God’s word.  God, the all-knowing and wise and perfect; God, the God who has determined what is sin and what is righteousness; God, the God who is sovereign over the enemy and, therefore, knows what lies ahead on our pathway and knows the tactics that the enemy will use — God is best equipped to guide us.  The Word of God, therefore, is a dependable and trustworthy guide because God is a dependable and trustworthy God.  He does not lie, but He speaks the truth.  When He gives us direction on how to live, we receive that direction with gratitude and live in accordance with it because we know He alone can see ahead in the darkness of our spiritual life.

     But then, if the Word of God is to be our guiding light, we must say that nothing else will guide us and we will not turn to anything else.  How quickly, though, we turn to the world’s ideas, to the advice columnists in the newspapers, to the world’s wisdom, and try from them to learn how to succeed in life and how to make the right decisions.

     If we would take to heart that the world itself is sinful, that the world is an essential aspect of the darkness of the pathway on which we walk, then we would realize that the world and men, of themselves, cannot provide us with our leadership.  Men are, of themselves, liars and more vain than vanity itself.  The Belgic Confession says, in Article 7, underscoring that very fact, that we cannot depend on men to give us guidance.  The Word of God is sufficient.  The Word of God will surely guide us in all of our life.  And it will do so in a way that we can rely on.  As I said earlier, and I repeat again, this does not rule out that we might have to turn to other human beings for advice.  The psalmist may have had to turn to his father or mother or to other members of the Christian faith and community for advice.  But what he realized was this, that only when others brought him advice based on the Word of God was that advice reliable and worthy of being followed.

     Do you have troubles in your marriage?  Do you want to make your marriage better?  Do you have troubles raising your children?  Do you want to know how to be the best parent that you can be?  The Word of God is a reliable guide there.  Do you have troubles fighting a certain sin in your life?  Do you find that so often you fail to stand up to temptation?  It is the Word of God which will serve you as a reliable and trustworthy light to fight the temptations you face.  Are there questions you have about what career to go into or whom to date?  The Word of God will not tell you specifically what career to go into or whom to date.  It does not make our decisions for us.  But it will set down principles to guide us.

     How does the Word of God function, then, as a guide in our life?  In two different ways it does so.  First of all, it functions as a guide in our life because, in certain areas, it does give pointed and specific direction regarding how we must live.  The law and the commands of God are specific.  When we think of the law of God, we have in mind the Ten Commandments, first of all — Thou shalt have no other gods before Me; Thou shalt not bow down thyself to any graven image; Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy; Honor thy father and thy mother; Thou shalt not kill; Thou shalt not commit adultery; Thou shalt not steal; Thou shalt not bear false witness; Thou shalt not covet.  Now, what makes that direction so pointed and specific is the words “Thou shalt not!”  God, in His law, shows us very clearly what way we are not to go, what kind of decisions we may not make in life.  This is light and guidance.  For what the law forbids us to do is what we want to do by nature.  The world advises us to commit fornication.  Advice columnists in the newspapers will not tell us to “abstain from fornication.”  But God says, “No!”  The wise man, Solomon, by inspiration of God, makes the same point.  Having spoken in Proverbs 6 of an adulterous woman who desires to seduce a man and to lead him astray from the path of godliness and who will surely have her way unless that man seeks the law of God for direction, Solomon reminds us in verses 23 and 24:  “For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:  to keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman.”

     Because the law of God is so clear, it must be followed.  Think of a sailor in charge of steering a ship, who sees a lighthouse telling him what way to use and guiding him into the harbor, a very dangerous harbor to enter because of rocks all around it.  If that ship were to dash itself on the rocks, there would be sure destruction.  Think, now, of the foolishness of that sailor if, seeing the lighthouse, he decides to ignore it.  He will decide for himself what is the best way to get the ship into the harbor — with the consequence that the ship is dashed into pieces.  So the child of God.  When he has the law and the Word of God to tell him very clearly what not to do and what to do, then he is foolish if he does not rely on it but seeks his own way of finding guidance and seeks to follow his own feelings and his own intuition.  God gives us, in the Word of God, specific direction in certain areas of life.

     But then, the Word of God functions as a guide in our life also by setting forth principles by which to govern our life.  As we said earlier, the Word of God will not tell us what kind of work we should undertake or whom to take for our spouse.  But the Word of God gives principles.  We are to work.  Scripture makes that clear.  It is good to have a spouse.  Scripture tells us that.  In our work we must not work on the Lord’s day.  “Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.  Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God.”  The child of God, then, who wants to please God in his work will not accept that job or position which requires him to work on Sunday, the Lord’s day, in an area that is not one of absolute necessity for life.

     The Scriptures give principles on Christian stewardship:  how should I spend my money in this or that area of my life?  Scripture will not say, “You may buy this; you must not buy that,” in so many words.  But when we know that God has given us our money to use to the glory of His name; when we know that we must not spend that money on anything that is contrary to the law of God; when we know also that the causes of His kingdom require the support that we can give it by money and resources — then we have some principles by which we can govern our life.  Now, because these principles are not spelled out in detail, the child of God must know his Scripture carefully, thoroughly, and accurately to use these principles in his life.  But if we study Scripture regularly, we will become more adept at applying these principles to our life.  The more a person uses a map, the more he knows the various routes on the map and the ones that best serve his purpose.  The more the child of God studies Scripture, the more he knows what Scripture requires of him and how best to serve and glorify God in a way consistent with scriptural principles.

     Therefore, there is in our text an implied command, “Be guided by Scripture.  Use it as your light.  Search it daily and find in it the wisdom you need as a child of God.”

     But our text does not consist of a command so much as it consists of a confession:  “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”  That is a confession of the child of God, and it says something not only about the role Scripture plays in his life (it is his guide), but it says something also about his view of Scripture itself.  He understands Scripture to be very clearly the Word of God:  “Thy word.”  Is that your view of holy Scripture — the Word of God?  Completely the Word of God?  Without error the Word of God?  The psalmist, in speaking of the place Scripture plays in his life, says of Scripture by implication that it is a clear guide.  It is a light.  Light is always clear.  It will not leave him in doubt.  He says, by implication, that it is a trustworthy guide — it will lead him to his destination.  “I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments,” he says in verse 106.  He will keep the law of God because he knows it will bring him to the destination he seeks — the glory of God, and as regards himself, his being brought to heaven.

     Do you make the same confession, then?  Not only that Scripture does guide you, but that Scripture is your only guide?  And do you make that same confession with a very high view of Scripture?  Scripture as the Word of God will surely lead me to my destination.  We cannot make that confession of ourselves.  The old man of sin in every one of us will never say, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet.”  The old man of sin in us will despise the Word of God.  Therefore, to make this confession, we need the grace of the Holy Spirit working in us to understand that what the psalmist confesses is in fact truth.  There is no more reliable guide than the Word of God.

     Dear radio listener, may you find that to be true in your life!

     Let us pray.

     Heavenly Father, we thank Thee for giving us Thy Word, and we pray for the grace of the Spirit to understand it and to use it rightly in our life in this coming week and until Thou dost take us to be with Thee in glory.  Bless us and forgive our sins in Christ’s name, Amen.