LIGHTING THE CANDLE
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.
In 1934 English poet T. S. Eliot mourned his day’s “Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.” In his poem, “Choruses from the Rock”, Eliot asks plaintively: “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? /Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”
I have often wondered that if Eliot were writing that poem today, he might ask about wisdom lost in data points and gigabytes! We are able to communicate more information and data to more people faster than ever, but to what end?
Today’s scripture is taken from the longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119. Ancient Jewish tradition says that David wrote this psalm as an acrostic poem to teach his son Solomon the alphabet. Whether that is the case or not, we do know this psalm appears to have been written for young people, emphasizing the importance of knowing and living God’s Word (Psalm 119:9). Perhaps Solomon drew upon his father’s teaching when in his book of Proverbs he spoke of God’s Word as a “lamp” and “light” to him: “For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light” (Proverbs 6:23a).
Several years ago, when I was in Tamil Nadu, India, the meaning of this verse was impressed upon me. I was staying in a village with only one electric light so that at night I clung to my flashlight to show the way. Venomous snakes were about and other creatures lurking, so the flashlight was essential to me. Similarly, is the essentiality of God’s Word for us in our life journeys!
Throughout the year 2020, our nation has longed for light. We have wanted to know the way out of our plight and predicament. In thinking about our situation, I have remembered the earliest laws providing for public education in America. They were enacted in Massachusetts in 1642, and in Connecticut in 1647. The laws were known as “The Satan Deluder Act”, explaining why young people needed to be educated:
It being one chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures, as in former time…it is therefore ordered…after the Lord hath increased [the town] to the number of fifty householders, [they] shall then forthwith appoint one within their town, to teach all such children as shall resort to him, to write and read…And it is further ordered, that when any town shall increase to the number of one hundred families or householders, they shall set up a grammar school…to instruct youths.(The Laws and Liberties of Massachusetts)
We are not surprised, then, to discover that our founders read and knew the Bible. The Bible formed their thinking and shaped their ideas about community and government. If a family owned but one book, it was certainly going to be the Bible. They looked at the Bible as God’s “flashlight” for them.
We live at a time much like T. S. Eliot’s: “Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.” In the midst of our darkness, focus on the Word of God: “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.”
Let us be readers of the Word, followers of the Word, and proclaimers of the Word. In being so, we will lighten the darkness!
PALMS DOWN/PALMS UP
Lord, sometimes we let ourselves get so busy and distracted, that we do not spend time in your precious Word. Sometimes it seems we know a lot of words, but not your Word. Help us to slow down during this Advent so that we can spend time in your Word and walk in its light. Amen.