I always felt safer in the dark when carrying a MagLite. There was something about its size, about its heft, about its sheer brightness that made me feel better, that made me feel safer, when I would walk through the lonely woods at night. The MagLite was the flashlight of brave police officers, of well-trained soldiers, of courageous first responders, so surely it ought to be the flashlight of a terrified young boy who had to make his way from cottage to cottage in the dark forests of Eastern Ontario.
The great King David knew something about being alone in the dark, for he was a shepherd before he was a king. Where most kings are first princes who spend their youth learning etiquette in fine palaces, David had spent his youth tending sheep in lone pastures. He had heard the first-far-off and then-growing-closer sounds of lions and bears as they stalked his sheep. He had led his flock through dark and dangerous valleys to the green pastures and still waters that lay just beyond. He was well familiar with the trouble and travails of navigating the darkness.
Later in life, when he had become familiar with different kinds of darkness—the darkness of betrayal, the darkness of persecution, the darkness of loss, the darkness of shame, the darkness of sorrow over sin—he sang to God, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” As he made his way through life’s difficulties, as he navigated trials, as he was cut to the heart over the depth of his sin, he relied on God’s Word as a source of light, a source of spiritual illumination. He was never without guidance, never without help, because he was never without the Word.
David had no MagLite. He had no flashlight to project a beam far into the distance. He had no lantern with a reflector to focus the light and enhance its strength. The lamp he knew was but a little wick and a little oil that cast a little glow. David’s lamp was sufficient to see a couple of steps ahead, but not much farther than that. It did not illuminate the whole way his feet would have to tread, but only the next few footfalls.
And just so, God’s Word does not show us the end from the beginning, it does not show us the whole pathway of our lives or the entire course of our obedience, but just the next step, the next right thing. God illumines our way, but not our whole way all at once. He shines a light along our path, but not our whole path. Just as God promises food and clothing for today but not tomorrow, he provides wisdom and guidance for the next step, not the ones that come far later. Just as we live a day at a time, we take a step at a time, with the light piercing the darkness just beneath our feet.