Your word is a lamp to guide my feet
and a light for my path.
I’ve promised it once, and I’ll promise it again:
I will obey your righteous regulations.
I have suffered much, O Lord;
restore my life again as you promised.
Lord, accept my offering of praise,
and teach me your regulations.
My life constantly hangs in the balance,
but I will not stop obeying your instructions.
The wicked have set their traps for me,
but I will not turn from your commandments.
Your laws are my treasure;
they are my heart’s delight.
I am determined to keep your decrees
to the very end. (NLT)
Two qualities which stand out to me in these verses are the psalmist’s attitude and affection. This is a person who is determined to hold onto God’s Word because it is his heart’s delight. Yes, our attitudes and our affections are meant to be like a hand in a glove. It is our attitudes which help us to push through the pain to realize better days. And it is our affections which drive us forward, allowing us to experience joy in the present moment as we await our hope of ultimate deliverance.
Commitments are fluid, always moving – which means they need to be continually rehearsed and refreshed. We are constantly either fulfilling our promises or reneging on them. There is really no such thing as a one-time vow. Commitments must have reinforcement from our attitudes and our affections. Otherwise, they languish on the trash heap of good intentions. This is one reason why the psalms are designed for constant use.
It is important to have spiritually healthy habits ensconced in our lives well before any suffering and hard times roll in. If we have been nourished and supported by a daily sustenance of God’s Word, then we have both a breadth and a depth of robust theology to draw upon when the going gets rough. In addition, the sheer force of habit brings us back again and again to the treasure chest of divine instruction which informs our decisions and illuminates the treacherous road ahead.
All the psalms are designed to reframe our own difficult situations. Even and especially when a person’s life hangs in the balance, we have the opportunity of viewing such hard and awkward circumstances through the window of the psalmist. Although circumstances change and we never quite know what to expect, God’s Word remains as our ballast and our rock. Divine love and morality are unchanging. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The Spirit is always with us, through each wave of hardship.
Life is a continual journey, an exploration into the unknown of the future. The path is shadowy and unclear. We are unsure of what is just around the bend. Yet, God’s Word is like a never-ending flashlight helping us navigate forward. Maybe Jesus had this psalm in mind when he said:
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12, NRSV)
In the Christian tradition, the Word is embodied in Jesus Christ so that he is both example and fulfillment of all God’s promises. Within today’s psalm, a sequence of four metaphors runs through these verses: my feet (light for my feet to walk in the way of God); my mouth (deliberate verbal commitment to God’s words); my hands (doing God’s will despite the circumstances); and my heart (desiring God’s decrees and commands).
With Jesus as Word and Light we have a constant companion walking alongside us for the journey; we have an intercessor who takes our wordy or malformed prayers and presents them before our heavenly Father; we use our hands by observing the Master who washed the feet of others; and, our hearts find their rest in the One who loved us and gave himself for us.
In sum, our attitudes and affections are transformed into sustainable faith for the long journey; our hope is made sure through the promises of God; and, our love finds a resting place in the person of Jesus. Faith, hope, and love are the shoes which enable us to walk the long hard road uphill, as well as absorbing the shock as we run with abandon downhill – into the loving arms of God.
Let us come to Holy Scripture and liberally digest its life-giving message. I encourage you to find what works best for you in developing helpful spiritual habits. In reading the Bible, I often take the following approach using the acronym S.O.A.P….
- Open your Bible and slowly, meditatively, read the portion of Scripture in your reading plan for today.
- Write the reference of what you read in a journal along with the date.
- As you read, ask God’s Spirit to highlight the verse(s) that speak to your life and write it in your journal.
- Make observations about what you just read and write them in your journal.
- Think about: What is going on? What is the context? Who are the people being spoken to? What is the background or setting for this verse?
- Paraphrase and write this scripture down in your journal, in your own words.
- What do you think God is saying to you in this scripture?
- Personalize what you have read by asking yourself how it relates to your life right now.
- Ask yourself how you can apply what you just read to your own life and write it in your journal.
- Ask yourself how your life will be different or changed as a result of God speaking to you in this Scripture.
- Write out a prayer to God in your journal.
- Your prayer should relate to the verse that you highlighted. It could be asking for help, thanking God, etc. Write down what your heart desires to say to God in response to his Word.
May the words of your mouth, the meditations of your heart, the work of your hands, and the movement of your feet be to the glory of Jesus Christ. Amen.