Psalm 119:105 (ESV) Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
As many of you know I love to take walks in nature. Prior to my retirement I would make it a habit every noon to leave work and hike the Rocky River Reservation near my place of employment. I had several hikes there all mapped out such that depending on how much time I had I could pick one to fit my schedule. I had one-hour hikes, 45-minute hikes, and even 30-minute hikes. Getting away from the office was my way of decompressing and alleviating the stress of the workday.
Of course, I always took my camera with me. Part of the enjoyment of the walk, or hike, was getting some photos of the scenery along the way. I have photos of every trail every season of the year although to be honest fall was the best time of all. There was something about the colors of the trees that made for some great pictures, and the cooler temperatures and less mosquitos were a benefit as well.
Now that I am retired my hiking/walking activities have been taken to the next level. I enjoy traveling to national and state parks and hiking the trails I find there. One of my favorite state parks is Twin Falls in West Virginia. They have over a dozen trails, some of them several miles long, that I have hiked over the years. In fact, just last fall I completed the last of the hikes there which means I have walked them all.
When visiting a new park, I would notice that all the trail maps seemed to categorize hikes as easy, medium, and hard depending on the distance of the hike and the elevation change. Some of them even had warnings for some of the hikes, and I have seen a few that had the designation of strenuous with warnings for those who were at risk.
But from my perspective, I have a different method of categorizing hikes - easy, medium, and hard to follow. Some hikes, like the ones in Rocky River Reservation, I categorize as easy to follow. Most of the times there is a paved pathway, or a hardened gravel path, that is very easy to identify and follow. It is hard to get lost on those hikes.
Then there is the medium path. This one is a bit more difficult to follow as it is usually not paved or graveled, but still, it is somewhat easy to see exactly where the path goes. I have been to a few parks where the trail is clearly seen in the worn-down trail through the woods. The existence of deep brush along the trail is helpful as well so it is somewhat hard to get lost and off the path.
Then there are the hard paths! I have been on a few of these where the path isn’t always that clear. Perhaps it is a less traveled trail, or it is a trail through the woods that is easy to lose or perhaps the falling leaves in the fall obscure the path. In any case, one needs to be particularly aware of these trails and make sure you follow your map or blazes along the trail to not get lost.
Which brings me to our verse today. God’s Word in Psalm 119:105 is described as a lamp to our feet, and a light to our path. Scripture is our trail guide, so to speak, showing us where our path goes so that we do not get lost. The imagery used by the Psalmist is that of a lantern. Today we have flashlights that can light the path many yards ahead of us, but in those days, a lantern did not put out a lot of light. Rather, it was enough to see your next step and maybe a couple more. It wasn’t enough to show you the entire path, but it was enough to make sure you didn’t stray from it, and that you didn’t lose your footing.
I am often reminded of that as I make my way along the path of life. Too often I want to know the entire trail ahead of me. Just knowing the next step, or next couple of feet, isn’t good enough – I want to know it all.
But I believe God in his mercy and kindness to me knows that I could not handle that kind of information. If I knew all the twists and turns I would take on my journey through life I am not sure I could handle it. In my own case, had God showed me in 2016 what I would go through during the last five years with the death of my wife, my retirement, aging parents, and the darkening world around me I would have needed medication!
I know that my path through life someday will lead me to heaven. That is where my trail will end. What I will go through to get there is known only to God. But he has given me everything I need to make it home safely. He has given me his Word which is a light to my path, and he has given me his promise that I will make it home. I remember when Donna was going through her surgery for what would later become the cancer that took her life, she would tell people that we never know what we may have to go through before we leave this life. In her case it was a difficult path, others may have it somewhat easier, but we all have a path we must walk.
So, remember God’s promise today in Psalm 119:105. We have a light, we have a path, and we have his promise of sure footing as we follow his word.
But only one step at a time.