A Fresh Look at Psalm 119: A Lamp Unto My Feet

A Fresh Look at Psalm 119: A Lamp Unto My Feet

by Daira Curran

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I am about to do you a disservice. I apologize in advance because I am about to only give you the smallest snapshot of one of my favorite passages in Psalms. To better explain what I am doing, imagine with me for a moment that you are looking over the vast beauty and majestic landscape of the Grand Canyon, then only to realize that you are only actually seeing one-tenth of it. Indeed what incredible awe-striking wonder would be missed, as the panoramic view is replaced by only a fraction of what could be discovered. Such is the case when reading Psalm 119 as a complete work of art. Therefore, I encourage and implore you to read Psalm 119 in its entirety as all one hundred and seventy-six verses read like a prayer, reaching the very heart of God. However, today, I want to focus on just one small piece of the landscape. I want to look at perhaps the most famous line of this chapter, verse 105, and the text that immediately comes before and after it.

As a child I remember singing these words from the beloved song Amy Grant recorded in 1984 (even though this was written with Michael W. Smith well before my birth). The lyrics go like this, ‘Thy Word is a lamp until my feet and a light unto my path.’ Perhaps you have heard this song! However, as a small child, little did I know that I was singing David’s heart to my Savior. Indeed, Psalm 119:105 proclaims,

“Your Word is a lamp unto my feet, a light on my path.”

However, have you ever wondered what this phrase means? Have you ever memorized these words not knowing what beauty comes before and after this rather easily sung statement? Well, directly following this small phrase, David goes on to say,

“I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws. I have suffered much; preserve my life, Lord, according to your word. Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws. Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law. The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts. Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart. My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end.” (Psalm 119: 106-112)

I love how David realizes the direct correlation that the Word is an illuminator. He follows this by speaking of a covenant. An oath, much like a marriage agreement, that ensures he will follow God’s laws. In a generation where many had forgotten who God was, David, an escapist runaway and yet also an appointed King, knew who God was. I wonder if while he was recording this, God’s voice felt silent to him. Did he speak these words merely in faith knowing that God would preserve his life and keep him safe from his enemies? Or, did he have encounters with Yahweh that we, while never actually witnessing, get the remnants of through these declarations? I also love that David links worship to learning to uphold God’s Laws. He boasts that His statutes, or rather promises, are his inheritance – which merits a response in praise. David knew that using God’s word as a perfect compass meant that God’s requirements needed to be, first and foremost, obeyed.

Now, let’s take a look at what came before this beloved verse,

“I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word. I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.” (Psalm 119: 101-104)

David understood the importance of paths. He knew that the right path kept his feet secured and the wrong path entangled. Thus, an evident theme is observed that is echoed throughout this chapter: the Law is good, the Law is truth and the Law is a preserver. The Law is seen as good when David says it is sweeter than honey. The Law is truth, in that, following it allows temptations to be seen as just that – wrong paths that lead away from God, instead of towards. Lastly, the Law is seen as a preserver, allowing the soul to be upheld and steadfast in God’s decrees.

So why did I take you on a fast forward and rewind of this text? What was the point? My hope is that you see these verses as all linked together. If you are craving and longing for God’s Word to be a lamp unto your feet and a great illuminator to finding the right path, it all starts with obedience. Whenever I feel lost, like David expressed in parts of Psalm 119, I look for the constant. The constant is the Word. It is better than my ideas of what my faith walk should look like, it is truer than my ever-changing emotions, and it is the only thing that has the power to remain perfect and timeless amidst the noise that beckons me to be pulled into distractions. I also want to share in love a hard truth: obedience is not subjective to the follower’s idea of submission. Obedience looks and feels unnatural. It is not a positive sermon on Sunday about how you can conquer the world, it is not tolerating every which doctrine that the wind blows your way and it is not justifying actions that seem right in your circumstantial life. It is black and white. How do I know this? Because the Word of God was never meant to confuse us, like David says, “I gain understanding from your precepts.”

Therefore, I encourage you, if you feel stuck on a path that seems dimly lit, open the Word. If you have strayed from living right because living wrong can be justified easily, turn to the Word. Lastly, if you desire a path that boasts with assurance what David was surrendered to keeping his feet upon, obey the Word. God’s Word, His love letters to us, His precious words that are recorded from Genesis to Revelation are good, true and always a preserver for your soul.

  • Jane George

    This is so good. Thank you for writing it! I have been studying Psalm 119 for a year now, working on memorizing and really just saturating myself. George Mueller quoted this Psalm everyday while walking home from one of the orphanages he founded. We need to love God’s word. Psalm 119:2 “Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
    who seek him with their whole heart,”

  • Daniel Carter

    Beautiful. I’ve been camping and had to use a lamp. Unlike a flashlight that protects a beam, lamps only provide enough illumination for, at most, two or the steps. This is sufficient to prevent the traveler from tripping.

    How can a young man keep his way? By taking heed according to Your Word.
    Your Word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against you.