Thy word is a lamp undo my feet, and a light unto my path.
A lamp unto my feet!
And a light upon my path is thy Word!
Such, emphatically, is the meaning of this part of the Word of God in the one hundred and nineteenth psalm.
Not upon the Word as such, which, in fact, is the theme of the entire psalm, but upon its function and blessedness as a guiding light, as a light that shines in the darkness upon my pathway, as I have to travel it through the midst of the world, falls all the emphasis.
That is the theme of this entire section.
The world in the midst of which the psalmist walks is dark. He is very much afflicted, and suffering is his lot. His soul is continually in his hand. The enemies of the cause of the Son of God encompass him, are constantly on the alert to lay snares for him, that they may entrap him, and seduce him from the way of righteousness, or destroy him in the way. But in this darkness, the Word of God is the light that guides him, a lamp unto his feet, a light upon his path. He has sworn to keep it. His desire is to be instructed in its wisdom ever more fully. Whatever may betide, he does not forget it. Though the wicked laid snares for him, he did not err from the path of its directing light. It is his heritage forever, precious to him more than fine gold. And to that Word he has inclined his heart, that he perform the statutes of his God always.
And that is the subject of this particular passage, as the original Hebrew brings out with emphasis.
And let us note that the preciousness and indispensableness of the Word of God is here expressed as a personal testimony.
It is not a dogmatic statement. It does not declare the objective fact that the Word of God is always a light in darkness.
On the contrary, it is the confession of the poet concerning his own, personal experience.
He knows that Word, and it is precious to him. He walks in its way, and unconditionally he puts his confidence in it. Nor did it ever fail him. Always it proved to him to be a lamp unto his feet, and a light upon his path.
Unto my feet, upon my path!
Thy Word is a light!
Always that Word is the Word of God!
Never is it the Word of man, even, though it assumes the form of man’s word.
Whether it is the Word God: eternally speaks in and unto Himself, the Word that is eternally with Him and is God; or whether it is the Word He speaks in time through the works of His hands, so that the heavens declare His glory, and the firmament telleth His handiwork, day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge; or whether it is the Word which from the beginning He spoke to us through the prophets, and which he realized when He spoke through the Son in the fullness of time, exalting Him, through the cross, at His right hand; or whether it is that same Word, but now as it is preserved for us, for His people in the new dispensation, in the Holy Scriptures,—always it is emphatically the Word of God, and in no wise the word of man.
It is the Word of which God is both subject and predicate, the Word which He speaks, and which He speaks concerning Himself.
God’s Word is always the revelation of the living God Himself.
And through the Word which He speaks to us, by which He descends to our own level in order to address us in language we can grasp, He reveals to us who and what He is, and makes known unto us the mystery of His works, the secret of His counsel, the wonders of His way, the fellowship of His covenant, the glory of His ever blessed name, the knowledge which is eternal life.
Of that Word, which the Most High speaks through Jesus Christ our Lord as the God of our salvation, the poet speaks.
It is His Word to His people, to the heirs of the promise, by which He calls them: “Behold, I your God!”
And that Word is ever the same.
Whether it is spoken through Moses, emphasizing to the people of Israel that the Word is nigh unto them, or through Paul, teaching us that faith cometh by the thing heard, and the thing heard by the Word of God; whether it is the psalmist through whom it is spoken, and! who relates of his experience of that Word, tasting it and finding it sweeter than honey and the honeycomb, or Peter, presenting it as the power through which we are regenerated out of uncorruptible seed; whether Isaiah complains that hardly anyone believed his report, or John speaks of the Word that is become flesh and dwelled among us; always that Word is the same. O, to be sure, as the Word is repeatedly spoken in various forms and diverse manners, it gains in fullness, in riches of grace, in brightness of its light, in clarity of revelation. From the time the Protevangel was spoken in the ears of our fallen first parents, to the fullness of time there was, as it were, an ever continuing divine exegesis of that first Word of God in Paradise, through patriarchs and prophets, through shadows and ceremonies, through symbols and types; and when God, in these latter days, spoke to us through His Son the light of the Word broke through in all its glory and splendor of salvation; yet, essentially that Word never changes. It is ever the same
And always it is the gospel!
And the gospel is the promise!
And the promise is Jesus Christ, the Light of the world!
And the heart of that gospel is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead! And the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the center around which all things revolve, and unto which all things must and do tend! For he is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things, consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.”
Always the resurrected Lord is the heart of the Word of God!
That is why the preacher of that Word may never hesitate to speak of the risen Lord, whether he ministers unto that Word as he finds it in Genesis or Revelation, in Isaiah or in Paul, in the Psalms or in the gospel according to John.
And always that Word, as Word of God, is “quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
This is the reason why the psalmist, centuries before the dawn of the fullness of time, could simply speak of “thy Word”, without fear of being misunderstood.
The Word may express itself in many commandments and statutes, but it still is one and the same Word of God. For God is one, and Christ is one, and the Word of God is one.
It is the resurrection of the crucified Son of God!
Jesus Christ, the Lord!
Marvelous Word of God!
A lamp unto my feet!
And a light upon my path is thy Word!
The two predicates by which the psalmist describes the Word of God in relation to himself, as he walks in the midst of this world, principally mean the same thing, express one idea: the Word is a light that enables him to walk confidently, hopefully, though beyond the light beam of that Word all is darkness.
A familiar figure the text contains.
What dweller in the country, when in the inky darkness of a moonless night he would visit a neighbor, does not take with him a lantern or flashlight, that he be able to find his way safely through the darkness? All about him it is dark; but he has a “lamp unto his feet, and a light upon his path.” Or, to use a more modern figure, the traveler by auto switches on the headlights of his car when the road grows dim and the darkness of the night descends upon him. Beyond the few hundred feet of light flashed upon the road ahead of him, all is dark; but in that light upon his path he confidently speeds ahead to his destination.
Such is the figure.
And, although but a figure, it expresses a deep spiritual reality.
For the believer, the heir of the promise, is a pilgrim of the night. He travels through the darkness of this world. Night, pitch black night, descended on the world in Paradise the first, and the sun went down when it was still morning. It is the night of sin and death, from the which there is., as far as we are concerned, no way out. There is a debt we can never pay the debt of our guilt. There is the power and dominion of corruption, from which we can never deliver ourselves. There is the grim enemy of death, the fear of whom pursues us all our lifetime, and whom we can never escape. There is no way out into the light. Nor can we invent a way. All the wisdom of men, all the philosophy of the world, is vain, and proved itself powerless to show the way out.
And through that darkness travel the heirs of the promise!
For in that world they are born. And under that darkness they are brought into existence. And through that darkness they must needs travel. The guilt oi the world is their guilt. Through flesh and blood they, too, are under the curse of death, and pine away under the fierce wrath of God. Children of wrath they are, by nature, as also “the others.”
But they have light in the darkness!
Only, this time, it is not a light which they flash upon their way from within: it shines from without. This light is not a lantern which they can light, and which they can carry with them into the night: it flashes on their path from the beyond. It is not the headlight of their traveling vehicle which they have power to switch on: its source rather beckons them from the distance!
It is light upon their pathway from above!
The source of this light is the Word of God, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!
For that resurrection of Jesus, our Lord, nay, better still, the risen Lord Himself, is the way out of our darkness into the everlasting light of glory in God’s heavenly tabernacle! And the Word of God through that resurrected Lord is the light upon our pathway, the lamp unto our feet!
It reveals the way out of guilt into everlasting righteousness, the forgiveness of sin, the adoption unto children and heirs. That Word of the God of our salvation is the light, in which as they travel by it the heirs of the promise have the assurance of the way out of the slavery and dominion of sin into the glorious liberty of the children of God. It shines upon the way out of the lie into the truth of the knowledge of God, out of corruption into everlasting holiness, out of the lust of the flesh into the love of God, out of death into life, out of the depth of hell into the glory of God’s presence; yea, even out of our present earthly imperfection into that heavenly height of eternal life, the essence of which is the highest possible realization of God’s blessed covenant of friendship, so that we shall see Him face to face, and know Him even as we are known!
And all this blessed light streams upon our pathway from the face of the risen Lord!
He died and rose again!
He, the one that was anointed from before the foundation of the world to be the firstborn among many brethren, the head of His Church, He went into the depth of our death, and bore all our sins away!
He was made perfect through sufferings!
He went through the darkness of our death in such a way that the way was forever left open for all His brethren to follow Him!
He obtained everlasting righteousness and life for all whom the Father gave Him, the heirs of the promise.
And He beams His own resurrection-light upon their pathway as they walk through the darkness of the present night!
A lamp unto my feet, a light upon my path!
A sure light, in which I walk confidently, for it is the Word of God that cannot lie!
And a blessed light, that fills me with joy in the midst of sorrow, with peace in the midst of unrest, with righteousness in the midst of sin, with life in the midst of death!
O, glorious light of Thy Word!
God of my salvation!
Unto my feet!
And upon my path!
The confession is strictly personal.
The psalmist does not speak of the light of the Word in a dogmatic way, apart from his own relation to that light: he speaks from actual experience.
He knows and loves that light. He walks, in it. He follows its direction. He puts all his trust in it, so that, rejecting all the would-be light of the word of man, he keeps his feet in the light path of the Word of God only.
And that implies that the light of that Word shone and shines in his heart. O, to be sure, that Word is a light, is the only light that shows the way through and out of the darkness, whether we know and acknowledge it as such or not. But never will we choose the direction of that light by nature. For we are foolish, enemies of God, always choosing the lie rather than the truth, and loving the darkness rather than the light. And, therefore, the light of that Word must shine in our hearts, if ever it is to become a light upon our pathway.
Or, to abandon the figure for a moment, the Word of God, but emphatically as the Word of God, the Word which God speaks quick and powerful, must be spoken to us, to our hearts, before we are translated out of darkness into light!
Thy Word, my light: O, glorious grace!
Blessed be God! The God of my salvation!