Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Bible, A Lamp, and A GPS

Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

To begin with, just a bit of information about this Psalm in case you are ever on Jeopardy and there’s a Bible question about Psalm 119. With 176 verses, it is the longest of the Psalms. It is also known as an “alphabet" or "acrostic" Psalm, meaning that every eight-verse section begins with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

There are eight other Psalms that are written this way, each with a differing number of verses per letter. For this reason and because Psalm 119 focuses on the importance of keeping God’s law, it is often used to train Jewish children in the Hebrew alphabet. “I’ll take The Bible for 500, Alex.” Now you’re prepared.

But what I really wanted to talk about was last week, when I put my handy-dandy GPS on my dashboard to head to the church where I was preaching. Those of you who know me know that I can get lost in my own backyard, so the invention of the GPS instantly took the stress out of trips for me. No longer do I have to try to read directions and drive at the same time. If I go the wrong way, my lovely GPS figures out where I am, says “recalculating” without a hint of criticism for my error, and gives me a new way to get there.

Last week, however, I discovered a flaw. It apparently is not smart enough to know about bike races. I was an hour away from home and almost to my destination, when I saw the flashing lights up ahead. Bicycles flew by but the nice officer stopped me and told me that the road was closed and I would have to go another way. I asked my little dashboard friend what to do about it, but it was silent. It was up to me to make a choice and then it would give me maps and directions based on the road I was on.

Some people seem to believe that the Bible shows only one road that must be followed at all costs—a road that can be followed to its completion if you just figure out how to do it correctly. But I think this verse from Psalm 119 (made famous by Amy Grant’s song) teaches us that it’s not quite so simple. The Bible is like a lamp. It shows what is beneath our feet so we can take our next steps. That lamp might show a flat, firm path. It might show a rocky ascent, a slippery slope, or a path so covered in brambles that it is impassable. It might show us a crossroads with several paths to choose from. It is then up to us to decide what steps and what path to take.

When we make a choice, the lamp continues to show us what lies in front of us, just as my GPS always shows me a map of my immediate area. But lamps and GPS devices don’t make your decisions for you. They simply give you a clearer idea of what you get if you go a certain way. The Bible is no different. God does not take away our freedom to choose the way we will follow. God simply makes sure that we always have a light for our path.

Labels: , , , , ,