“His word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
In our world of high-intensity flashlights, of smooth sidewalks, of street lights casting opaque filters against the darkness, this verse is far less meaningful to most people than the Psalmist intended.
Reading it reminds me of Uganda. In late 1994, shortly after moving into the home where Dave and I lived a few miles outside of Kampala, I needed to see a friend on another hillside about half a mile away from the compound – after dark.
I couldn’t go alone and asked our houseboy/ gardener, Sam, to take me over there. [Sam had “come with the house.” Shortly thereafter, he became our “son.”] A narrow, winding path led across the way, with palm trees, banana groves and small garden plots edging it.
I very rarely went outside after dark in Uganda – my “white” eyes weren’t as adept at seeing in the dark and the various shapes and shadows were more mysterious than familiar and my knee-jerk responses kept me constantly on edge – I mean, who could guarantee a python [or similar relative] wasn’t spread across the path?
Sam carried the flashlight, and as we walked single file, he shined it on the path in front of us. Other than lamplight -- some electrical, some oil -- filtered from an occasional house, and a few stars, the flashlight was the only source of light.
I could only vaguely see the light on the path as Sam led the way. I held onto the back of his shirt and kept my eyes aimed at my feet. When dogs growled or barked, when grass or bushes rustled and my imagination immediately “saw” snakes, because I was on unfamiliar ground, I held on tighter – cutting and running would have been a useless, and possibly quite dangerous, exercise in futility. Poor Sam. He could have made much better time without me holding on, tensing up and dragging him back. In the long run, I was forced to trust him and his light.
When this psalm points out that His Word is the light to a path, the Psalmist’s audience understood the principle that without an oil lamp the options were a very slow and mincing step forward – hoping there would not be a cliff to tumble over or a hole to stumble into -- or forced immobility until a light came from another source, such as the dawn.
I need to remember this right now. I am a socially/politically attentive and normally intense person, as most folks know. I recognize that, in the natural, locally, nationally and internationally, it feels dark; it looks dark. Without the Lord flooding my heart with hope, I could hardly hold the "flash"light in my hand, it would be trembling so with anxiety and fear. But, as I walk in the Light ... the Word of my God ... or "see" Jesus walking before me on the path with the light, me clinging to His shirt, confident in HIM, because He knows the path, knows where it is leading, I can be certain He will not abandon me on the path and leave me trembling in total darkness.
His Word, the Truth, is so True: “His word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”