I remember years ago going camping with my family. This particular campground has an issue with little snakes. I am not terribly afraid of snakes but the idea of accidently stepping on one was unnerving to say the least. When my four-year-old had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, I was less than excited about it. But, we grabbed a flashlight and headed out. It was a long trek to the porta-potty because I kept the light of the flashlight fixed on our feet rather than on the path ahead of us so we could be sure of where we were stepping.
Years later when I was going through a difficult season in my life, I remember recalling this incident as I pondered the words of Psalm 119:105: “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” In the darkness of this season God ever so gently reminded my heart that it is just as important to know where I am stepping as it is to know where I am going. I knew that I needed to let His Word guide my steps through this dark season. I settled my heart in His presence in order that I could focus on each step through the darkness, undistracted by the necessity to see the final destination revealed by His light shining on the path ahead. Have you ever been there? Sometimes we can get so preoccupied with God’s will for our lives that we lose sight of where we are stepping. Looking too far down the path of life can leave us susceptible to stepping on a snake or two, perhaps even getting bitten.
The grace of God’s Word being a “lamp to our feet” means that we can see the spiritual potholes before falling into them. In verse 107 of Psalm 119, our psalmist tells God: “I am severely afflicted; give me life, O LORD, according to your Word!” Physical ailments, emotional turmoil, or financial burdens can all be afflictions that create potholes on our spiritual path. The reason that these potholes are threatening is because our focus is usually on the quickest path out of our uncomfortable situation. It is in times like these -when our body hurts too much to serve God, when it is hard to forgive that person that wronged us and when sacrificing what little we have seems too much to ask that God’s Word illuminates our next step. If only we will ask Him to give us life according to His Word. Our first step can be found in Isaiah 58:7-9 shines with this response: “Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.”
God’s grace in being a “lamp to our feet” also helps when we depart from His path and wander onto a path of our own making. In verse 109 of Psalm 119, our psalmist says: “I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget Your Law.” How often do we “hold our lives in our hands?” Do you ever think that God is too busy to be concerned with every little detail of your life? We can step onto the path of truth that Palm 17:6 gives us: “I call on You, my God, for You will answer me; turn Your ear to me and hear my prayer.” Yet, sometimes we convince ourselves that we don’t have time to pray. Have you made big decisions based on justifying your own desires instead of seeking God’s desire first? Matthew 6:33 invites us to step deeper in submissive, not selfishness: “But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” I know I have stepped off God’s path a time or two and the results were less than appealing. Whether on the path of selfishness for a short time or a long season, in restless wandering I deceive myself, living as if I have forgotten God’s Law while holding my life in my own hands. Step by step, however, when we finally come to our senses, when we finally ask God to show us the way back, God’s Word is there to be our lamp. Jeremiah 6:16 assures us of this: “This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”
It is important to know where we are going, but to get there we also need to focus on where we are stepping. While God’s Word gives us grace to be that lamp in front of our feet so we can recognize spiritual potholes or get us back on His path after we have strayed, it also helps us to avoid being bitten by the enemy. Verse 110 of Psalm 119 tells us: “The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts.” Just like those snakes in the campground, the enemy lies in wait to slither across our spiritual path when we least expect it. God’s grace enables us to let His Word be a lamp on our feet so that we do not stray, no matter how many snares are in our way. When the snake of despair slithers across, we can step over it with the light of John 14:1: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me.” When we’ve been knocked down by mistakes, we need not let defeat slither over us because we can get back on our feet with Isaiah 1:18: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” And when our circumstances in life just seem to overwhelm and overtake us, we need not let loneliness slither into our hearts because God’s Word promises in Isaiah 43:2: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
Years ago when I led my daughter to the outhouse, we were fortunate not to step on one of those campground snakes. When we arrived at our destination, however, one of those creepy reptiles slithered across my sandaled feet. It was all I could do not to jump up and get caught in the spider webs and sticky fly tape hanging from the ceiling of the cramped quarters. Thankfully, the destination God is leading each of us to is much more glorious than an outhouse and it is a place where snakes are banished! We merely have to watch our step along the way.
What amazing grace God gives in that He not only lights our path but more importantly He illuminates our steps. We will all get to where we are going one day. The testimonies of God’s grace just makes each and every step more joyful. Verse 111-112 of Psalm 119 remind us: “Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart. I incline my heart to perform Your statutes forever, to the end.” Incline your heart to His grace, beloved, and let the joy of His Word illuminate your steps.