Help Me On By Thy Light

A brief study of Psalm 119:105-112, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 15 Nov 2013


105 NUN. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. 106 I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments. 107 I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O LORD, according unto thy word. 108 Accept, I beseech thee, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O LORD, and teach me thy judgments. 109 My soul is continually in my hand: yet do I not forget thy law. 110 The wicked have laid a snare for me: yet I erred not from thy precepts. 111 Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart. 112 I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes alway, even unto the end” (Psalm 119:105-112)

The first verse of the 14th stanza of Psalm 119 is perhaps one of the most well-known verses in this long psalm. Many of us would probably be able to quote it from memory: “ Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

But I suspect that most of us will have difficulty if I ask what is the next verse or even the context of the verse. We often take this verse of context you see. And indeed, it can be used by itself because it expresses a general truth that is applicable in all circumstances. But the context does enrich our understanding and application of the verse.

What is the context? The context is actually affliction and persecution. This is another psalm which is inspired by the Spirit of Christ that believers may sing in union and sympathy with Christ. Christ our Saviour was afflicted and persecuted for our sakes. This song would have been a comfort to Him. So when we are afflicted and persecuted for His sakes, we may use the same song both as a prayer and to encourage one another that our compassionate Great High Priest was tempted at all points like as we are and yet emerged victorious without sin.

We may entitle this 14th song with the words “Help Me On by Thy Light.” The darkest paths we have to walk through in our pilgrimage are those that are over-shadowed by dark clouds of affliction and thorny bushes of persecution. At such times, our help and encouragement can only come not through the light at the end of the tunnel, but through the light of God shining upon our path and our feet.

But how exactly does the Word helps us? Well, the rest of this song actually explains how. To be sure, it is not a intended to be a treatise on the usefulness of the Word of God. It is really a prayer. But it is a prayer from which we may glean seven ways by which the word of God helps us when our paths are darken by oppressing difficulties.

1. The Word is My Avowed
Road Map

106 I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments.

That is: Because the Word of God is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path, I have solemnly vowed to follow God’s directions as given in His Word. The judgements of God speaks of His declaration of what is right and what is wrong, what pleases Him and what He hates. His judgements are righteous because they are always right. God is the alone absolute standard of right and wrong. In this way, the Word of God becomes a heavenly road map for our life’s journey as we head towards our eternal home.

Our Saviour, who is surely, the primary singer of this song, vowed in the Covenant of Grace to keep God’s Word and follow his judgement on our behalf. When we confess faith in Him and are united to him in baptism, we too vowed obedience and reliance on this heavenly roadmap for our pilgrim journey. By the grace of God we will keep that which we promise as the Spirit brings it to bear upon our conscience through every changing scene of life. It will show us where we should head, where we should turn regardless of whether it is day or night in our journey.

2. The Word Promises
Deliverance

107 I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O LORD, according unto thy word.

Under affliction, we are weighed down in our soul. This is why we speak of being depressed. At such times, we need every encouragement we can get. The Word of God provides the encouragement we need for it promises deliverance everywhere. We think of:

·         Job 22:27—Thou shalt make thy prayer unto him, and he shall hear thee, and thou shalt pay thy vows.

·         Psalm 20:1—The LORD hear thee in the day of trouble; the name of the God of Jacob defend thee…

·         Isaiah 40:31—But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

·         Jeremiah 33:3—Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.

These promises of God brings light to the dark circumstances we are in. They show us that God is in control and that God will hear the cries of His children. They encourage us to pray with expectation. The Lord has promised. The Lord will revive and deliver us.

3. The Word Guides Decisions

108 Accept, I beseech thee, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O LORD, and teach me thy judgments.

Once again, the Word of God is referred to as God’s judgments. God’s judgements is God’s rule book for judgement or decisions.

Making the right decision is surely one of the things that every conscientious child of God desires. So it is a matter of prayers. The freewill offerings of our mouth is essentially our prayers and thanksgiving. Hosea calls it “the calves of the lips” (Hos 14:2).

Here, we are given to plead with the Lord to accept our praise and thanksgiving and also to answer our petition to be taught God’s judgement. Perhaps the picture here is that of a traveller navigating through difficult terrain. He has come through some dangerous obstacle. His heart is filled with thanksgiving. But he knows that his journey is not over. So he cries unto the Lord to continue to guide him.

The Word of God, you see is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path because it guides us on where to plant our next step, especially when the way is dark and dreary. And we know by experience that it always guides us aright for it has never failed us.

Indeed, fourthly,…

4. The Word Inhibits Rashness

109 My soul is continually in my hand: yet do I not forget thy law.

Life can be tenuous through the dark seasons of our life. For David who was probably the penman of this Psalm, every wrong step could mean death in an instant. For our Saviour, the greater David, every word could lead to a lynching by the hostile Jews. Their soul or life was continually in their hands. Under such circumstances, the temptation to take the easy way out would be very real.

What holds them back, is the Word of God. “Yet do I not forget thy law,” we are given to sing.

Though we may not be constantly in bodily danger like David, is it not true that our soul is continually in our hands? The decisions that we make can bring us much sorry and regret later. If we make decisions mainly upon how we feel at the moment and how much immediate gratification we will get, then oh how much we shall regret later. Our life is truly in our hand.

But thank God for His Word. When the Spirit of Christ brings to remembrance the Word of God, our conscience halts us in our steps so that we do not make rash decisions. Thus the Word of God in hand of the Spirit of Christ inhibits rashness that can lead us to much regret.

Likewise,…

5. The Word Fortifies Against
Temptations

110 The wicked have laid a snare for me: yet I erred not from thy precepts.

This is related to the previous point. Both David and the Greater David had snares or traps set for them. Likewise the devil has laid traps everywhere for us.

Traps usually come with enticements. When my daughters’ mice escaped from their cage and started roaming the house we needed to trap them. We tried all sorts of baits. We tried bread with peanut butter. It worked with hamsters. But the mice did not like it so much. We caught maybe one or two. Then we changed to sweet barbecued pork. Ah, that proved too tasty to resist. We had 100% success!

Now, the devil’s traps usually come with tasty baits too. This is why we call them temptations. The temptations we face day by day are real. The temptations we face when under trials are often even more severe.

These temptations are laid by the wicked one to make us err from the Word of God. But it is the Word of God that will also keep us from falling headlong into temptation. Thus when we say: “yet I erred not from thy precepts,” we are also saying that we fell not into the Devil’s trap because we were enabled to cling on to God’s Word.

Were it that we did not have the Word of God, we would be like silly mice falling into the traps over and over again. Therefore thank God for the Word of God. In the hand of the Holy Spirit, we are fortified against temptation for like a lamp, the Word reveals every trap for what it is. If we err not from God’s precepts in His Word, we would not fall into the snare of the Wicked One.

But now sixthly, the Word of God is an help in times of affliction because it satisfies the soul.

6. The Word Satisfies the Soul

111 Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart.

A heritage is an inheritance to be passed down the generation. A heritage of a rich person can be a house. Most of us do not have a house to pass down. But we have something more precious. We have the Word of God!

Why would I take the Word of God as my inheritance? Because the Word of God is the rejoicing of my heart! Nothing can bring us more joy, eternal joy, than the Word of God.

When darkness floods the soul and sorrow like sea billows row, nothing can bring more joy than Christ speaking to us through the Word. The Word of God is like a lamp unto our path and a light unto our feet. It is also a warm beam of sunshine driving out the cold darkness from our heart.

But finally, we are given to testify that…

7. The Word is a Reliable &
Trustworthy

 112 I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes always, even unto the end.

The Hebrew word translated “inclined” (hf;n:, natah) literally means “stretch out.” It is translated more than 60 times as such in the KJV. But what does it mean to stretch out the heart? It means no doubt to bend or to incline in a certain direction.

Man is flexible enough to incline his heart in any direction. He can incline it in the direction of pleasure. He can incline it in the direction of loyalty to country. He can incline it in the direction of wealth. He can incline it in the direction of ease.

But for the child of God who has experienced the goodness and help of the Word of God, nothing make sense but to incline the heart in the direction of the Word of God—“to perform God’s statutes always, even unto the end.”

Why would we do so? Because we can agree with David and with the Greater David that ultimately nothing in this world satisfies more, and nothing is more reliable and trustworthy than the word of God.

Conclusion

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

He who can sing these words sincerely, can sing the rest of the song sincerely. He readily vows to be obedient to the Word as His roadmap in life. He derives hope from the promises in the Word when everything seems hopeless. He finds guidance from the Word of God and desires for more guidance from it. He forgets not the Word of God and therefore does not act rashly even in very difficult circumstances. He clings on to the Word that he might not fall into the trap of the Wicked One. He takes the Word of God as his heritage because it rejoices his heart. He inclines his heart to the Word to keep it today and forever more.

Such is the Greater David. Such is the aim of everyone united to Him.

Oh may the Lord grant that we may sing this song with sincerity and gratitude for the direction, promises, guidance, inhibitions, warnings, satisfaction and trustworthiness of God. Oh may our hearts be filled with gratitude that though we fail and cannot sing these words with sincerity by ourselves, yet Christ never fails and covered by His righteousness and sanctified by His Spirit our words and not only acceptable to God, but actually begin to reflect our actual attitude towards God’s Word. Amen.

—JJ Lim