We’ve all seen ‘cross-stitch verses.’ At least, that’s my name for verses we see on picture frames and quote to one another because they sound good (i.e. “I know the plans that I have for you,” Jeremiah 29:11). However, we’re so familiar with the verses, we may not take time to consider what they actually mean or how they affect our lives. Psalm 119:105 is a perfect example—
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
Beautiful words. But how is the Bible a light to our path? In Scripture, our Christian life is compared to a journey. For instance, Paul says, “Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise” (Ephesians 5:15). We are walking on a journey home, for we are only “aliens and strangers” here (1 Peter 2:11). This same metaphor is used in Psalm 119. The path we are walking is our life—the choices and decisions we face. In other words, the Psalmist is saying that the Bible guides us on this walk and illumines the choices we ought to make.
Yet the verse—and passage—go deeper. Just because we have the light of God’s Word doesn’t mean we’ll use it. If you had to walk in the woods at night, you’d probably use a flashlight to illumine where you needed to step next. Yet if you kept your gaze fixed on the treetops or on a clump of rocks to the side, there’s no telling what you might trip over or step into. The light was still there—you just weren’t looking at it.
Applying this to Psalm 119:105, the Psalmist is calling us to be intentional with our use of Scripture. The Lord does give insight through the Word as to which choices we ought to make and how we ought to live, but the answers don’t always come to us at a surface reading. The light is there, but we must choose to search for it and walk in its ‘beam.’
That’s why the Psalmist commits Himself to an on-going relationship with the Lord as he seeks to honor God. He vows to “keep Your righteous ordinances;” he was going to practice what God said in the Bible (v. 106). He also sought the Lord through prayer (vv. 107, 108b). His prayer included petitions for God to fulfill His promises, yes, but also the request, “Teach me Your ordinances.” God will give us understanding, but that involves praying through the text and seeking God’s intended meaning, not our own.
The Psalmist didn’t stop there. As part of seeking the Lord through prayer, he chose to offer “praise” (v. 108 ESV). He wasn’t simply looking for a quick answer so he could go on his way. He fellowshipped with the Lord, praising and rejoicing in who God is. And finally, the Psalmist committed to persevere “even to the end” (vv. 109-112). He was going through times of deep distress and persecution, yet he would not forsake the Lord. He pressed on through the valley.
As we look for the light of God’s Word, for His guidance in the decisions we face, there are times we feel like giving up. We don’t feel close to God, and we find ourselves busy, distracted, and even disinterested. But even in those times, we must persevere like the Psalmist. We’re not always going to have the ‘mountain top experience’ sensation, but that’s not the point. We are called to an ever deepening relationship with the Lord, and we can’t lay that aside when times get difficult. The Lord will never forsake us, and we must remain committed to Him.
So is there a specific formula for seeking insight and direction from the Word of God. No, but the Christian life isn’t a formula. We seek the Lord in a relationship (commitment, prayer, praise), and we seek to know His ways. This isn’t a mystical experience either. We can know what God has said, but it may take work. That is why we must commit to study what He has said. His light never changes. We just sometimes look away or give up in the valley.