How many of us memorized Psalm 119:105 as children?
Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.
I can hear the lessons that go along with it, too. “Remember children, if you follow God’s Word, your path will always be lit.”
Yet, as with many verses we snag and cling to, it’s so easy to miss the bigger context. Even though context has been drilled into my head, I still make that mistake. I jump on the familiar and miss the fullness of what’s being said.
It’s especially easy to do that with Psalm 119 because it’s a long chapter with so many great nuggets. But this psalm – actually one of my all-time favorites – is more than just a long chapter full of one-liners. In reality, Psalm 119 is a Hebrew acrostic celebrating Scripture.
Have you ever noticed the little heading above each section? Headings like “aleph” and “beth” – all the way through to “tav” at the end. Those are the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Each of the eight-verse sections, when read in Hebrew, starts with a different letter of the alphabet. Each line in that section starts with the same letter. So, Psalm 119 is a poem celebrating God’s word – a beautiful poem with twenty-two stanzas.
Recently, I read back through this psalm again, two or three section a day. This slow reading forced me, once again, to ponder the relationship between the lines – the connection and flow of the poem. Psalm 119:105, for instance, is the first verse of the “nun” stanza. This verse ties in with the next seven verses to create a single train of thought regarding Scripture.
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.
106 I have sworn and I will confirm it,
That I will keep Your righteous ordinances.
107 I am exceedingly afflicted;
Revive me, O Lord, according to Your word.
108 O accept the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord,
And teach me Your ordinances.
109 My life is continually in my hand,
Yet I do not forget Your law.
110 The wicked have laid a snare for me,
Yet I have not gone astray from Your precepts.
111 I have inherited Your testimonies forever,
For they are the joy of my heart.
112 I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes
Forever, even to the end.
Can you see the image of a heavily burdened child of God as you read these verses? He’s attacked and overwhelmed by enemies. But, God’s word alone keeps him on the path. God’s word strengthens his heart. God’s word prevents him from allowing his troubles to derail him.
When I consider verse 105 in this context, I realize that it does not say that God’s word is a lamp to our feet on a well-trodden, familiar path that just looks a little strange in the half-light of dusk.
No, this is a completely strange path. Our feet have never been here before. They have no idea what to anticipate with the very next step. Will they land in safety? Or is there a trap? Will we trip on something? Or will be continue on with solid footing?
Oh, and it’s dark all around us. So very dark. The only true light we have is from God’s word. Period.
But here’s the best part: God’s word is enough. More than enough, in fact. His word is the only light we need to keep us from going astray from His precepts.
May we never stop with our childhood memories of well-known Scripture. May we instead dig ever deeper, discovering the power of gems like Psalm 119:105.
Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.