What Does it Mean That God's Word Is a Lamp Unto My Feet?
- Aaron Brown Crosswalk Contributing Author
- 2021 18 Jan
To be called a Christian is to believe in Jesus Christ and the supporting text that talks of life before, during, and after His time walking amongst people. That text is the Bible, God’s Holy Word. Within Scripture itself, aside from the various stories and characters we read about, there are several verses that give us insight into why God has blessed us with His Word to begin. One such verse is written in the Book of Psalms.
“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” (119:105)
Verses such as this are rare areas where the Bible talks about itself. These verses highlight the importance of not only hearing God’s Word but living accordingly. In order to live life according to God’s will, we first have to know how He has called us to live. In order to know that, we cannot rely first on our own thinking, but instead, must hear what the Bible says. This verse from Psalms 119 embodies the wisdom we receive from reading the Bible. The verse also reveals an important truth - to live like a Christian is to live like Christ, who lived out God’s teachings perfectly.
How Is God's Word a Lamp Unto My Feet?
The phrase “God’s word is a lamp unto my feet” is a metaphorical statement meant to emphasize the wisdom that comes from following God’s instruction. This particular chapter in the Book of Psalms is authored by an unknown person. Over the course of this passage, the author writes in an acrostic pattern, including twenty-two stanzas with eight lines each. Each stanza begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
This chapter lacks a cohesive narrative as each stanza is written with varying topics and tones. One underlying theme that is present throughout is the idea of understanding God’s Word. The writer assures that people who follow God are blameless (119:3). The speaker wants to do better in following God, and that only occurs when living by the Lord’s precepts. The phrase “God’s word is a lamp unto my feet” appears far into the writing, as the 105 verse.
“Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
This verse furthers the idea that reliance on God’s Word is the only way to successfully live as a Christian. Lamps are used in society to create light for movement and activity. The Hebrew word for lamp is niyr. This description of a lamp is more equivalent to the subtle light of a candle. The implication then is that there is limited visibility of the surrounding area, but just enough light to navigate.
With enough light to navigate through life, God gives us the direction that we need, not all at once, but as needed. In this way, God’s Word operates for the speaker as a form of direction. In the verses following 105, the writer continues on to ask God for teaching (Psalm 119:108). The speaker wants to learn from God. This illustrates God’s Word operating as a lamp in bringing wisdom into the mind of a believer. When they compare God’s Word to being a light on a path, that pathway is life. Within the details of Psalm 119, abiding by God’s word in every instance creates a more fulfilling life.
Walking in the light is very distinctive from walking in the ways of the wicked (Psalm 119:110). If God’s Word is a lamp, helping us to navigate the pathway of life, then we know God’s Word is intended to help us live prosperously. God does not fully reveal the future with the lamp He gives us. However, our prosperity in living by God’s word is not contingent upon how much of the path ahead we can see. That prosperity is not contingent on financial and occupational standards, but on a closeness with God. And He gives us just enough to be successful in life (2 Corinthians 12:9).
God is the speaker’s chief concern in Psalm 119 and according to Jesus is to be our chief concern too (Matthew 22:35-37). If we can focus on loving God, obeying His Word, then we will have better lives. This idea is not only present in Psalm 119 but also in other passages where God reveals similar commentary on His Word.
What Does God Say about His Word?
In addition to what we read in Psalm 119, there are other areas in the Bible where the Bible talks about itself and offers key insight into why reading God’s Word is vital for any Christian. These other passages from Scripture complement the message from Psalm 119. Upon reading, we can confirm that the Bible is intended to offer wisdom to believers, and help us live according to God’s commandments, not other ideas that we sometimes confuse with God.
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
The Bible when followed or when ignored, reveals certain truths and emotions that lay in our hearts. If God’s word is meant to edify our behavior, how we respond to His teachings will reveal characteristics about our beliefs, personality, and more. For example, the Bible says to forgive others just as we ask God for forgiveness (Matthew 6:15). If we find that exercising forgiveness is difficult, then God’s Word has revealed truth to us.
“Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)
Reading, interpreting, and living by God’s Word is as essential as our daily food and drink. Jesus himself indicates the significance of applying God’s word to our lives. Just as we instinctively know to eat and drink, and we make plans to do so, we should respond likewise to Scripture.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Certain translations indicate that Scripture is God “inspired” rather than breathed. Whatever the translation or word choice, the Bible makes full admission that God Himself did not physically write the Bible. Neither is Jesus known to have written anything. Nevertheless, the purpose of the Bible is consistent throughout each book. By reading, we learn how and why we should aim to be more Christ-like. In this way, God redeems us from our sinful nature.
“Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.” (Mark 13:31)
The tangible things and people in our lives, and the ideas that they exclusively represent pass away with time. However, since the beginning of time, God’s Word has been true and has endured throughout the generations.
“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” (Joshua 1:8)
To live according to God’s Word is not as simplistic as rehearsing or reciting what Scripture says. Instead, to live by God’s Word means to design your life in a way that reflects His teachings. God wants us to live so in tune with Scripture that we think about what He teaches throughout the day.
Why Reading Your Bible Is Important
The aforementioned verses from the Bible highlight God’s desire to improve our lives. By following His commandments we will live a life that is more prosperous than what we would have outside of Him. Recognizing that God’s Word is intended to redeem us by making us better people is important for any Christian to do early on in their faith journey. If we call ourselves believers in Christianity, then we should understand what our religious text, the Bible, says about our faith. The more versed we are in the Bible, the more we can become like Jesus. The more like Jesus we are, the more God can call us to His purpose. Not only will we be redeemed, but we can help God redeem others.
- BlueLetterBible.org, 'The Greatness and Glory of God's Word'
- OverviewBible.com, 'Authors of the Bible'
- WorthBeyondRubies.com, 'Thy Word is a Lamp Unto My Feet'
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Javier_Art_Photography
Aaron Brown is a freelance writer, hip-hop dance teacher, and visual artist, living in Virginia. He currently contributes work to iBelieve, Crosswalk, and supports various clients through the platform Upwork. He's an outside-the-box thinker with a penchant for challenging the status quo.