Did you ever in descending a dark flight of stairs suddenly reach the bottom before you expected to do so? If you did, you may possibly recollect with what an unpleasant jerk your descent terminated on account of the last false step you took. If there had been a lamp for your feet, the shock would have been avoided.
Now in a spiritual way the word of God is said to be a lamp unto the feet (Psalm 119:105), and if you neglect to make use of its light you will stumble woefully. But there is no reason why a Christian should take a single step in the dark. The Lord Jesus said, "I am the light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12). And it is by His word that the Lord affords you direction how and when to take the next step.
We have an instance of this guidance by the word of God in the case of the Jewish exiles who returned to Jerusalem from Babylon in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. The people desired Ezra the scribe to read aloud to them from the book of the law that they might learn what the will of God was (Neh. 8:1). They found therein that they were commanded to keep the feast of tabernacles just at that time of the year (Neh. 8:14). The commandment of the Lord shone as a lamp for their feet (Prov. 6:23); and the people at once obeyed His word.
Later on, they read in the book of Moses that the Ammonites and the Moabites must not come into the congregation for ever (Neh. 13:1-3). Their next step was then made visible, and they immediately separated themselves from the mixed multitude or foreigners among them.
Thus these Jews sought the lamp of God's word, and they were led on, step by step, "line upon line, precept upon precept." And such will be the experience of all those who really desire to be guided of God every moment and in everything.
Let us take a practical illustration from what may occur to you. You may meet an agreeable person to whom you are attracted and whom you think would form a desirable companion for you. Now do not act hastily in the matter. Do not take a step in the dark, which may cause you many regrets. Allow the light of the divine lamp to fall upon the question. Consider what the consequences of the companionship may be. Is the person such a one as the word of God commends? If you wait patiently on the Lord in this sincere manner, you are sure not to be led astray.
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But you will remember that in the same verse from which I have already quoted, the word of God is compared to a light as well as to a lamp. The verse reads, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path" (Ps. 119:105). You will observe that the lamp is useful for the feet, while the light shines upon the path. For the word of God not only supplies direction for your next step, but also the principles which should govern your conduct generally. The light shines on the way ahead of you.
When you have been guided in the matter referred to above — whether such and such a person is a suitable companion or not — you will have proved for yourself the value of the word as a lamp to your feet. But when you also gather from its pages that unbelievers and even worldly-minded Christians are unsuitable associates for a child of God, you have the word shedding its light on your path. It gives you a general rule for your conduct, since this truth applies not to that one case only but to every such case that may arise in the future.
The word of God gives you a sort of bird'seye-view of the path before you. Its light shows you what to do, as well as what not to do; what to follow as well as what to shun. This is helpful for it tells you what is expected of you daily.
Take, for instance, the fact that believers should be continually looking for the personal return of the Lord Jesus, according to His own promise (John 14:2, 3), and according to what is taught in the Epistles of the New Testament. These passages tell you of what is your constant duty, lest when the Lord comes He may not find you ready and watching. This is light for our actions not on one day alone, but on every day and all the days.
Then, again, there is another cardinal truth which illuminates the path of every Christian, and will preserve from many a misunderstanding those who heed its light. The believer is instructed in the word of God that his journey through this world will, of necessity, involve a course of self-denial and of endurance of many hardships. As you look along the shining pathway, you see a stiff bit of climbing ahead, and that it is uphill all the way. But then it is sunshine all the time, and that makes all the difference. Who would walk in the darkness?
The word of God makes it clear that directly you become a disciple of Christ, a cross is laid upon your shoulder. Indeed, the Lord expects you to take up the cross. He said to His disciples, "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Matt. 16:24). Note the Lord said, "his cross," not My cross. There is a cross, which is your cross. The light of the word shows you that there is a cross for you, lying in your path. Do not be surprised nor stumbled; but take it up.
The scriptures show us very plainly two great features of the Lord's pathway (Luke 24:25, 26; 1 Peter 1:11), and they throw a broad beam of light upon the path of Christians also. These features are: —
(1) sufferings in this world;
(2) glories afterwards on high.
You recollect what the Lord said to His followers, "It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord" (Matt. 10:25). Therefore you may be sure that if you are faithful to the Lord Jesus, your path is where the light shines:
(1) suffering in this world for Christ's sake;
(2) glory to come with Christ on high.
If you grasp this line of truth at once, you will have an explanation in readiness for a great many things that are likely to befall you; and you will not count it anything strange if a great many trials of one kind and another overtake you just because you belong to the Lord Jesus. It will help you to read the life of Christ in the four Gospels, and to "consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds" (Heb 12:3). He has left you an example that you should. follow His steps, and in the track of His footsteps you will have "the light of life."
I earnestly trust that you will assiduously cultivate the habit of consulting the word of God: —
(1) as a lamp to guide you in every circumstance of difficulty and distress;
(2) as a light to counsel you in the plans and purposes you make for your general conduct.