Tag Archives: Journey

Thy Word: A light through the darkness

In my late teenage years, I spent many of my summers at our local Christian summer camp.  Camp Columbia was nestled in the forests of Thetis Island.  It was more run-down that rustic, but I enjoyed much of the time I spent there.  One summer, my role was to help with the Leadership Training program.

One evening, the group decided to wander up to Pride Rock.  Pride rock was a clearing in the forest,  where you could sit and look at the stars.  As I was finishing some duties at the main house, I told the group that I would meet them later.  It was only 10 minutes or so before I was walking up toward Pride Rock in pursuit of the group.  My journey, however, did not go as smoothly as I would have liked.

There were two reasons why the trek to Pride Rock did not work in my favour.  Firstly, it had grown dark. The sun had long ago set behind the horizon and the stars were beginning to come out.  This meant that a pathway through the forest was nearly impossible to see.  Furthermore, the deeper I got into the forest the less I could see.  At one point it was close to pitch-black.  I was convinced, however, that I knew the way.  I had been to Pride Rock several times before; I was confident that I could find the appropriate pathway and meet the group.

Secondly . . .I didn’t have a flashlight.

The lack of a flashlight proved to be disastrous for me. At one point in my journey through the forest, the path zigged where I thought it zagged, and I went tumbling down a hill, landing in a bed of thorn bushes.  I did not hurt myself, beyond a few scrapes on my legs, but now I had a new problem; I was deep in the forest, unable to see, and unsure which way I should go.  I was disoriented and confused.  And I couldn’t see anything!   I called out to the group yet no reply came.  Had I taken the wrong path?  I tried to walk back up the hill, but with no visibility I could not make any progress.  I tried to step in different directions, but it seemed that each way I moved brought me deeper into bushes, thorns, and scrapes.  I will be honest, at one point panic started to set in.

Then I saw it.  The light from the main House.  I could see the light of the House cutting through the darkness of the forest.  While I still could not see a defined trail, or the house itself, I could see the light, and I knew the light meant safety.   Walk towards the light, I told myself.  I began moving in that direction. With each step thorn bushes cut into my legs, but I had to keep going.  The light was always before me, despite all the darkness and scrapes.  I kept moving toward that light, and eventually, emerged from the forest and into the clearing by the main house.

The Psalmist declares, “Thy Word is a lamp unto our feat, and a light unto our path” (Psalm 119:105).  The Psalmist is not thinking specifically about the pages of scripture, but about an inner dynamic.  When we live in relationship with God, we have the privilege of experiencing the voice of God spoken to us.  Sometimes we may ‘hear a voice’, sometimes we may have a feeling; but like a light shining in through the darkness, God’s voice beckons us forward in our Christian lives.  God guides our steps.  God illuminates the way.  God directs our path.

Of course, this does not stop us from experiencing some cuts and scrapes along the way.  The word of God is not the voice of easy street.  As we journey through life, we will still fall down hills, or experience the zigzaging paths. This is simply part of being imperfect people living in an imperfect world.  Yet with God’s light shining before us, God will continually direct us into the places of life where we experience his presence, power, and healing.  Even though the Psalmist is not thinking about leather bound books with gold-trimmed pages, we have the benefit of the Bible to aid us in in hearing the voice of God. Prayerfully reading scripture mediate’s God’s voice to us.  The gift of scripture is that God’s voice is always open to us.  When we read the text on the page, we hear God’s voice spoken into our hearts. God is always speaking.

Now we can turn to the light of God’s voice in two ways.

We can turn to the word of God when we find ourselves lost.  Like falling down a hill in the middle of a forest, there may be times where we find ourselves in a situation that we are ill equipped to handle.  In these times we can turn to God’s word as that light that breaks through all darkness.  The light of God’s voice, spoken through scripture, becomes the way we journey through the unexpected tumbles of life.  Of course, this does not stop us from getting hurt along the way.  There will always be difficulty in life, and even with the light of God’s voice before us we may still find ourselves scraped or bruised.  Yet God’s voice proves constant and faithful, and it will lead us out of the darkness.

There is nothing wrong with this approach to scripture.  In fact, the very Psalm that lauds God’s word as a lamp and light speaks about the sufferings of Psalmist.  When we find that life zigs where we zagged, when we fall down the hills of life and find ourselves knee-deep in some type of obstacle, we are encouraged to turn to scripture for guidance, healing, and wisdom.  God’s voice is spoken in those times to protect us, to lead us, and to rescue us.

Still, it is one things to look to God’s voice as a distant beacon when we find ourselves in need of direction; it is quite another thing to carry a flashlight.

When we turn to God’s word as a flashlight – when we carry it with us daily – we find that we are able to avoid some of the pitfalls of life.  When we carry God’s word with us, we walk in God’s will with every single step.  We avoid the snares and traps that lurk in the darkness, and who can say how many hills we do not tumble down, simply because we are able to the right path clearly.

God’s voice is always there for us.  It is a lamp unto our feet.  It is a light to our path.  God’s word provides direction when we are lost, healing when we feel battered by life, comfort in times of stress or panic.  The faithfulness of God’s word is never in question.  The only question we face is ‘how will we approach God’s voice?’ Will God’s word be a distant voice, turned to only in times when we need rescue? Or, will we take God’s voice with us as a cherished guide for each and every step, allowing God to illuminate where, and where not, we should step.

Getting our feet wet

Scripture speaks into our lives.  The words we read, in Old Testament and in New, penetrate our hearts and our souls, addressing the dynamics of our own lives.  As we place ourselves before scripture, allowing the Word to address us, we find that the words of scripture open up new perspectives in our life of faith.  Stories and events of scripture highlight the idiosyncrasies of our own lives.  Looking at how the faithful before us have tackled some of life’s difficulties gives us opportunity to uncover new ways of living our lives of faith.  Sometimes, the detail in which scripture unfolds implications for our lives can be startling; Consider this reading from Joshua chapter 3 (the Lectionary reading for last Sunday)

 The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses.Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’”

Joshua said to the Israelites, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God. This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites. See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you. Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.”

So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant went ahead of them. Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.

So what implications can we draw from this passage?  What truth does is speak into our lives?  I offer three reflections.

1: Naming the Obstacles

Joshua, and the people of Israel faced a huge task.  At this point in Scripture, they stand before the Promised Land.  The people of Israel had wandered in the desert for 40 years under the leadership and the guidance of Moses.  Now, Moses had died and the mantle of leadership had passed to Joshua, a young and inexperienced leader.  There were probably some questions as to whether Joshua was ready for the task.  After all, claiming the Promised Land wouldn’t be the simplest of jobs.  Additionally, Israel stands on the wrong side of the Jordon.  The river separates the people from the land of promise.  As scripture records, the Jordon is at flood stage during the harvest season.  The picture is of a deep, violent and rushing river that stands between Israel and their new home.  Crossing it would be easy.

To top everything off, (if you remember the story), the spies of had returned from their mission declaring that those who inhabited the land were giants (Numbers 13).  The spies had returned convinced of that moving into the land would be impossible.  New leadership.  Raging waters. Gigantic barriers.  The hurdles seem insurmountable.

What hurdles are you facing?  What obstacles do you feel are too big for you to overcome?  Do you feel that your life is butting up against an immovable barrier at work, at home, among friends?  Life is not always easy or strait forward.   There are times we can feel that we are moving confidently toward our goals only to find that we turn a corner and find ourselves face to face with something that stops us in our tracks.

2: Claiming the Promise

Amidst the obstacles that Israel faces, as they stand on the precipice of completing their desert journey, God issues words of power and deliverance. “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God. This is how you will know that the living God is among you.”  God declares to Joshua, and to the whole company of Israel, that His power would be shown.  God would prove faithful to the promise he spoke to them at the beginning of their journey.  The nations would be driven out and God would fight for His chosen.  God declares that the river would be parted – the obstacles would be removed – and His power would be revealed.

These words sound good.  Better yet, they are true!  In the times when we come up against our own insurmountable hurdles, we must claim the promise of God’s presence being for us.  Like Israel, we journey through our lives accompanied by a God who is not only powerful, but is also faithful to all His promises.  God’s power will be revealed.  God will deliver, protect, and guide us.  If we do not claim this truth, we will never be able to move forward in our life of faith.   Faith demands that we dare to believe that the obstacles we face do not constitute God’s abandonment.  Could it be that overcoming our hurdles are just the opportunity we need to live from the standpoint of faith, and experience the wonder of God’s magnificent presence?

3: Getting our feet wet.

The declaration of God’s power for His people is a wonderful affirmation.  Yet such an affirmation is essentially empty if Israel did not choose to live out that reality.  They had to embody a faith that radically took God’s declaration of presence and power to heart.  In the midst of obstacles and fright, Israel had to step into that reality . . . literally.  Yes God declared that the waters of the Jordon would part, but notice what comes first. “And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.” The people had to get their feet wet.

Just as Israel wasn’t called to be passive in their faith, neither are we.  We don’t simply sit back, facing our hurdles, waiting for a miraculous display of divine power.  No, we walk ahead.  We proceed in faith.  We trust that God, in God’s time, will prove faithful.  And so we step into our own River, whatever that may be; we journey toward the future that God is leading us toward.

Where are you called to get your feet wet?  After you have named your obstacles, and taken the proclamation of God’s loving power for you, where could God possibly be calling you to step forward?  It doesn’t have to be the biggest of steps – a step is still a step.  Yet by doing so, you may just be participating in the dismantling of the very obstacle that you faced in the first place.

Israel did step into the waters.  The river did part, and they did enter the Promised Land.  God did prove faithful and power and trustworthy.  True, things after that didn’t always go the way they wanted, but life never does.  But time after time, Israel was able to experience the miraculous provision of God, when they allowed themselves to move ahead in a spirit of bold and radical faith.

So look squarely at the obstacle you face, claim the promises of God, and go get your feet wet.