At the beginning of a new year, many may take time to stop and seek God concerning “a new word”: Specific direction from Him concerning the year that lies ahead. We want to know what course to steer, what promise to hold on to, and if possible, what the year may bring. And indeed, the Bible does tell us in Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.”
However, in order to correctly understand any passage of Scripture, we need to consider the context in which it was written. What did a “lamp for feet” and a “light on the path” mean at the time that the psalmist wrote these words? In those days, electric light and flashlights were unknown – so what the writer and readers understood these terms to mean, differs greatly from the way we perceive them in the twenty-first century!
There were two ways of lighting one’s path in the dark in ancient times: Firstly, you could carry a torch to light your way. Bearing in mind that in the absence of street lights, the night would be darker than us city and suburban dwellers can imagine! One way of coming close to this experience, may be to take a middle of the night walk out in the fields on a farm, carrying nothing but a torch to see by. The torch provides just a small circle of light in your immediate vicinity – enough to keep you from stumbling, but not enough to enable you to see for any distance ahead.
Another way of providing a “lamp for the feet” in ancient times, was to tie a small oil lamp to each ankle. The advantage of this was that you did not have to carry a torch – thus leaving the hands free. However, here again, these lamps for the feet provided just enough light to see the next step and to keep you from stumbling or straying off the path – but not enough to see what may lie ahead.
Our assurance and confidence in 2012 is that God provides us with just enough light for the next step. He may not throw light on what lies ahead for us in this year. But He will light our path for every step that we take in 2012, so that we need have no anxiety over potentially stumbling, or inadvertantly departing from the path He sets before us.
There may well be times when we long to know what lies further ahead, and may wonder why God does not reveal more. Our instinct is to want to avoid being surprised by obstacles or threatened by potential dangers. But here’s the reason God does not enable us to see far ahead: He is the One lighting our path, and He wants us to follow closely after Him and place our dependence in Him, knowing that we need have no fear because He goes before us. He places Himself between us and any danger that may lie ahead.
My dear friend and gifted artist, Libby Goehner, painted a picture some time ago, that wonderfully illustrates this. I call this painting “just enough light for the next step” and post it here with Libby's permission:
Where is my place and yours in this picture? It is tucked in, right behind Jesus, the Living Word, closely following step-by-step as He leads us into the future over which He is completely sovereign. For every step that we take, the darkness is driven back and the light shines!
I close with the words that I wrote to accompany Libby’s painting:
By spotless spear of appointed Light
Sweeping a swathe
Through my shadows;
By startling grace of bright footfall
Back my darkness;
Fears wither, falling
Insubstantial by the wayside
As faith arises for
One… step… more…
And I follow.
My word to myself and you for 2012 is this: set yourself to follow Jesus, the Living Word, more closely than you ever have before! He is the Light of the World!
© Painting and poem: Libby Goehner. Prints of this painting may be ordered by contacting me through this blog, Repairer of Broken Walls Ministry facebook page, or at firstname.lastname@example.org