Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path
Image: Cara Shelton (Pixabay).
The bible is a great resource. We see in it the story of God with people; it helps us make sense of the world and to find out what God is like (He’s like Jesus). It is also a great collection of human experiences and writings, from lots of perspectives, but all of which help us understand our condition because it is so honest and authentic. And then it is a spiritual resource, with wisdom and insight and Spirit breathed light which somehow feeds us and guides us – whoever we are, from whatever nation, at whatever time in history.

I was struck by this when thinking about Jesus being tempted in the wilderness. I sometimes am not sure whether the voices in my head and heart are helpful and from God, are undermining and from the enemy, or are fanciful or fearful and from me. How can we know what is the right thing to do, or say or think?

I thought about Jesus who was led by the Spirit into the wilderness after hearing God’s voice at his baptism. This all sounds very convincing. I would like this kind of guidance – although not into a wilderness to fast for 40 days… But then the devil comes to tempt him and says some understandable and believable stuff. Jesus was not confused by these various thoughts – the clash of the Spirit and the enemy. Instead, he found that scripture made sense and he spoke it out. He had read in Deuteronomy about the situation of Israel being led through a cloud and fire by God into a wilderness; into hunger, isolation, attack and questioning. So, he used the helpful words of God to Israel at that time and applied them to his own situation. The devil then quoted some great verses from Psalm 91 to reassure Jesus that he would be protected when displaying his power. Jesus went back to Deuteronomy rather than warming himself by the cosy fireside of these verses. They were not wrong, but neither were they meant to be superficial promises that ignored the tough call to live obediently as a human.

Jesus found himself in God’s big story through reading and meditating on the Word; he understood God’s nature and strategy through this. He was also able to express himself through his reading of the bible; he could see the pain and hope of human experience and allowed it to help his own expression of faith. And he clearly found spiritual power in verses – precepts, laws, poetry, and story – that filled his own heart and helped him discern the difference between the Spirit’s leading and the enemy’s misleading.

I need the word of God in this way, too. I sometimes find it hard to pray and hear God if I haven’t got some bible resource swirling around in my heart and mind. I need some anchor points, some flashes of divine inspiration, some hooks that will provoke me, catch me, slow me, or even stop me. I need the breath and the thoughts of God to resound in my heart and mind so that I can follow through with a train of thought of how to live, what to do, where to head. It is hard to pray and hard to live without God’s word – as Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 8 “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Psalm 119 in the Passion version puts it this way:
102 I refuse to turn away from difficult truths, For you yourself have taught me to love your words.
103 How sweet are your living promises to me, Sweeter than honey is your revelation-light.
104 For your truth is the source of my understanding, Not the falsehoods of those who don’t know you, which I despise.
105 Truth’s shining light guides me in my choices and decisions; The revelation of your Word makes my pathway clear.
106 To live my life by your righteous rules Has been my holy and lifelong commitment.

This is what it means to live by Word and Spirit.

Martin J Young


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