Don’t Live In The Dark!
Psalm 119 is a very lengthy Psalm, and I have chosen simply to lift up several verses from the heart of that Psalm. These verses, as a matter of fact, communicate beautifully the meaning and the significance of the Psalm as a whole. Please listen then, Psalm 119, beginning to read at the verse numbered 105. This is the Word of God. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it to observe Thy righteous ordinances. I am sorely afflicted. Give me life, oh Lord, according to Thy word. Accept my offerings of praise, oh Lord, and teach me Thy ordinances. I hold my life in my hands continually, but I do not forget Thy law. The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from Thy precepts. Thy testimonies are my heritage forever. Yea. They are the joy of my heart. I incline my heart to perform Thy statutes forever, to the end.” Soli Deo gloria. To God alone be the glory.
Let us pray. Now, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, oh, God, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
Voltaire, the French philosopher known, among other things, for his hatred of Christianity, Voltaire once said, “If we wish to destroy the Christian faith, we must first of all destroy the Christian’s Bible.” Now, whatever else may be said of Voltaire, at least, we can say that he recognized the significance of the Bible for the Christian faith. And I count that as a theme worthy of our consideration today. And I want to begin with the very basic question, what is the Bible? Well, some say it is great literature, and that of course it is. It is in fact, the most frequently quoted, the most broadly influential, the most widely distributed bestseller of all time.
We may not be aware of how deep an impact the Bible has made upon the language that we use: clear as crystal, still small voice, thorn in the flesh, the fat of the land, the skin of my teeth, the sweat of the brow, my brother’s keeper, the wages of sin, heaping coals of fire, give up the ghost, holier than Thou, wolves in sheep’s clothing, a house divided against itself cannot stand, the battle is not to the strong nor the race to the swift. Phrases, images, figures of speech, even whole sentences have passed straight from the pages of the Bible into everyday usage in our language. The Bible contains some of the most magnificent poetry ever written. The Bible is without any question, the largest anthology of short stories ever compiled. The Bible is great literature, and not only that it is the source of great literature, and it is the source, in addition, of great art and music and drama. The Bible is great literature.
And yet, unfortunately, this dimension of the Bible, totally apart from any faith commitment to it, this dimension of the Bible is largely missing from our educational system today. And as a result, otherwise educated men and women are culturally impoverished because of its absence. The Bible is great literature.
But then there are some who say that the Bible is the foundation stone of democracy, and that, of course, is also true. There are three great concepts that make democracy unique in the world. There is the concept of human dignity. Now, where do you think we ever came up with the idea that people are somehow more than mere animals, more, as Carlisle puts it, than inverted radishes. Where do you think we ever came up with the notion that people are of the dust of the earth and the dust of the stars mixed together by some strange alchemy of God’s Spirit, so that they wind up being living, breathing, loving souls made in the image of God and nothing less than that. But that whole concept of human dignity came straight from the pages of the Bible. But a second great concept in democracy is the concept of human equality. Once again, where do you think we ever got the notion that God is no respecter of person. That all people are created equal before Him, and that all people under God have certain unalienable rights in the course of their living. Where did that idea come from? Straight from the pages of the Bible. Or then there is the concept of human responsibility. In democracy, we know and believe that we are responsible to one another, yes, but more than we are responsible for one another.
If you know anything at all about the city of Moscow and Soviet Russia, you know that the busiest, largest department store in Moscow is called the GUM department store. It stands on Red Square, immediately opposite the Kremlin, the source of Soviet power. I remember reading about an incident involving Brother Andrew – that’s the only name we know him by – that missionary who is charged by God’s spirit with smuggling Bibles to Christian behind the Iron Curtain. One occasion, Brother Andrew was to deliver a group of 100 Bibles to a man named Markoff, and then those Bibles were then to be distributed to the Christian who lived in the city of Moscow.
Now, Brother Andrew, operating on the principle that what is most obvious is most difficult to discern, set the meeting place for the exchange of the Bibles right in front of the GUM department store in the midst of Red Square. And there in the midst of the swirling masses of people, the exchange was made. Markoff, in the process, suddenly stopped and said to him, “Think of it. 100 Bibles, $10,000 worth of pornographic materials, and we are passing it right under their noses.” Understand please, that’s what the communists called the Bible, pornographic material because you see, this book exalts the individual, and the Soviet system exalts the state. This book speaks of freedom, and the Soviet system speaks of submissiveness. This book exalts love, and the Soviet system exalts power, and thus they refer to the Bible as pornographic material. The Bible is without any doubt, the foundation stone of democracy. So the Bible is all of these things and so much more than all of these things, and so much more for all of us.
I think we begin to get a hint of what I’m talking about here from just a single line right in the heart of Psalm 119, just one line. “Thy word,” the Psalmist writes, “Thy word is a light unto my feet and a light unto my path.” Let me show you what I mean at this point.
The Bible is light.
The Bible is light for our minds. The Bible is rather like a reading lamp. Now, I suspect that most of you have some place at home, a comfortable chair, and a reading lamp beside that chair, and it is in that chair that you do most of your reading. And yet, are you aware of the fact that every time you sit in that chair beneath the light of that reading lamp, your mind is being stretched and enlightened? Every time you open a book, for example, you learn at least three things. You learn something about the author, you learn about the story that the author is trying to tell, and you learn something about yourself as you react and respond to that story.
Let me give you an example. If you were to sit down and read Daniel Defoe’s classic, Robinson Crusoe, you would learn, first of all, how Daniel Defoe based the story of Robinson Crusoe on the actual experiences of a Scotsman named Alexander Selkirk. And not only that, but you would soon begin to learn that the story of Robinson Crusoe is in fact a testimony to faith. That Robinson Crusoe was able to withstand the dangers and the difficulties of that time through is dependence upon the Word of God. And then not only that, but you begin to learn a little something about yourself, as you begin to meditate upon your own courage in the face of privation, upon your own ability to stand up in the face of the elements of life.
Well, that’s what I’m talking about in terms of the Bible. For you see, the Bible is like a reading lamp, as it were. We learn something about the author. The author Who is God, the author of everything that is, and we learn that this God is not some kind of celestial bellhop ready to hop at our every command. We learn that He is not some kind of eternal policeman ready to nail us for anything we do wrong. We learn that He is not some kind of a king-size, old grandfather sitting about, taking his ease and spinning out old stories and dispensing candy to good children. No. We learn instead that God is Father. Father to every single one of us. Father Who made us and Who loves us. Love us to the utmost. And the only thing that this God requires is that we love Him in return.
But then, we not only learn something about the author, we also learn something about the story. The story of how this God came to the earth in the form of Jesus Christ. In theological terms, we refer to that as the incarnation. Now, that big theological word, simply takes its source from the same phrase we know as chili con carne, chili with meat. That’s what the incarnation is. God with meat on his bones. God in flesh and blood with muscle and sinews and tendons and ligaments. God, Who lived and breathed and died and rose again. That’s the story.
But then, we also begin to learn how we respond to that story. I remember hearing about a little boy who made a model sailboat, just a little toy. The kind of little boat that you sail in your bathtub. He was very proud of it. And so one day, he took it down to a nearby lake, and he was playing with it there. But suddenly, there came a gust of wind, and it caught that little sail boat and pulled it out beyond his reach and then, before long, beyond his sight. It was gone. He was heartbroken. Well, just a few days later, he happened to be walking down the street and saw in the window of a toy store, his sail boat on display there. He went in, and he said to the owner, “That’s my sailboat that’s in your window. I made it with my very own hands.” And the owner said, “Well, son, I’m sorry. But you see, I paid good money for that sailboat, and if you want that sailboat, you will have to pay me.” And the little boy then gathered together all of the resources that he had, and he bought that sailboat. And as he walked away from the store with that tiny little boat clutched close to his heart, he said, “I made you, and I loved you, and I lost you, and I bought you back again. And now you are twice mine.” That’s what the story is trying to say to you and to me. That God is the God Who loves us and Who made us and Who lost us, and Who then paid an immeasurable, unimaginable price, in order to buy us back again. So that now, you and I are twice His. And when you understand that, you either say, “Yes, Lord,” and begin to walk your life in the light. Or you say, “No, Lord,” and continue to walk your life in darkness.
You see the Bible is light for our minds. It’s like a reading lamp. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet a light unto my path.” But not only that.
The Bible is also light for our souls.
It’s rather like a miner’s lamp. You know a miner’s lamp, the lamp that’s always fixed right up there on the front of the helmet of those who go down into the deep coal mines? Do you know that the light in that lamp is a very special light? It’s called the Humphry Davy light. It’s named after the man who invented it, and it’s of great value to miners for two reasons. Number one, it will burn no matter how deep into the darkness of the earth you go, and secondly, that lamp will never explode in the presence of the dangerous gases that frequently are to be found in those mines. And you know that’s what the Bible’s like? The Bible shines brightly, no matter how deep into the darkness of sin we go.
I love the story in the Scripture, don’t you? The story where the Pharisees dragged that adulterous woman into the presence of Jesus Christ, and they then demand that she be stoned to death. And do you remember what the Scriptures say Jesus did? The Scripture says, Jesus knelt down and with his finger, he began to write in the sand. Do you ever stop to think about the fact that’s the only time in all of the Bible we are told that Jesus wrote anything. And yet, he wrote with his finger in the sand. We’re not told what He wrote. But I’d like to suggest to you today that this is what he wrote. That as the first Pharisee looked over his shoulder, He wrote into the sand, the word “liar.” And as the second Pharisee looked over his shoulder, he wrote into the sand, the word “cheater.” And as the third Pharisee looked over his shoulder, He wrote in the sand, the word “adulterer.” And for each one of the Pharisees, a word of accusation was written in the sand, so much so that the Bible says suddenly – what did they do? – they turned and walked away, every last one of them.
And yet, I would ask you to notice that if this is true, that Jesus wrote those words of accusation against them in the sand, so that with nothing more than just a brush of His hand, they would be wiped away. Do you get the point? Jesus was ready not only to forgive the heinous sin of this adulterous woman, but He was also just as ready to forgive the invisible sins of the religious leaders of His day. No matter how deep into the darkness of sin we go, the light of the Bible always shines clear.
But then also, the light of the Bible shines no matter how deep the danger that surrounds us.
I remember reading about a young man in Norway. He was a resistance fighter in the second world war. He was captured by the Nazis. He was sentenced to death for his activities. On the night before he was to die, a Lutheran chaplain, who had also been captured by the Nazis, went to visit the young man. He found him completely withdrawn, in complete despair, unable to say or do anything, just sit and stare. The Lutheran chaplain couldn’t get anything out of him, and so he simply laid beside the bed a little pocket version of the New Testament and walked out of the room. The next morning, that young man, now bound and shackled was being led to his death. And he happened to pass that Lutheran chaplain, and he said as walked on by, “Last night, I read the book, and I saw the light.” He walked on a few steps farther, and then he stopped, and he turned around, and he looked at the Lutheran chaplain, and there was a smile wreathed upon his face. And he said, “I’ll see you in Heaven,” and then walked on to die.
No matter how deep the darkness of sin that surrounds us, no matter how clear and present the danger we confront, the light of the Bible shines true. It is light for souls like a miner’s lamp. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” But then this.
The Bible is light for our way.
It’s like a lighthouse. Yes, that’s it. Like a Lighthouse standing on the shore casting out a light of hope and direction to all of those caught in the storms of life. I’ve seen it happen so many times. Individuals who were filled with fear and fright and despair and confusion and loneliness. Individuals who were hurt or crushed by the circumstances of life, and suddenly they confronted the scriptures, and out of the light of the Bible, they found their hope, and they found their way. They heard the voice of God saying, “This is the way that you should go.”
And it always works like that. It is like a lighthouse towering on the shore. We enter it through a doorway at the bottom, a doorway called Genesis. And when we walk through that doorway and into the base of the lighthouse, we then look up, and we see stretching out before us, all of the panorama of creation itself. And then we begin to climb the long and winding stairway of human history, climbing up and up. And as we climb, we notice along the walls, the portraits of the great Old Testament heroes, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph and Moses. And there’s a special place for the women, Ruth and Naomi and Hannah and Deborah and Esther.
And on we climb, higher and higher we climb, until we reach the music room where we hear the melodies of God, so them as soft and gentle as the soft strumming of David’s harp, but some of them as full and majestic as pipe organ of all creation thundering out the chorus, “The earth is Lord’s and the fullness thereof. The Heavens declare his glory, and the earth shows forth His handiwork.” And climb higher still we go, higher and high up the winding stairway, until we reach the observation deck. That stop where the prophets train their scopes out to the far horizon, there to try to catch a glimpse of a star which would one day rise over Judean hillsides for our salvation.
And still we climb higher and higher, until we reach the audience room of the king. And there we are introduced to Jesus of Nazareth. The one who is himself in fact the very hinge of all of history, Jesus of Nazareth. We’re introduced to him by the likes of Matthew and Mark and Luke and John. But still we climb higher yet into the correspondence room where the great saints of the church Peter and Paul and James and John and Jude and Titus are writing those letters at which the world still marvels. And then just a bit more, just a few steps higher, and we move up through the trap door and into the top of the lighthouse itself.
And suddenly, we realize that we can see all around us in every direction, eternity stretching out before us in every way that we look. And in that moment, in the full light at the top of the lighthouse, we see the shimmering radiance of Jesus Christ and the glittering glory of His kingdom. And in that moment, our hearts begin to sing, “All hail the power of Jesus name. Let angels prostrate fall. Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him,” yes, “Crown Him the Lord of all. For “His word is a lamp unto our feet. And His word is the light unto our path.”
Oh. Oh. My dear and beloved people, there is no reason for us to stumble through life in the dark. All we ever need to do is to come to the light, to come to the light that shines so clearly from the pages of the Bible. All we ever need to do is to come to the light of Jesus Christ. And that light, I promise you, that light will dispel forever any darkness in your life or in mine. I bid, you every single one of you, I bid you come to the light, the light of Jesus Christ.
Let us pray. Almighty and gracious God, let Your word be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path that we may move through this life triumphantly and courageously. And may that light ultimately lead us all the way home in Christ. Amen.