Light on Life’s Roadway from the Psalms
“Your word is a lamp to my foot, and a light to my roadway.”—Ps. 119:105
LIGHT is happifying, especially the sunlight. This is even more true of what might be called spiritual light, light for the mind and the heart. Without this light men are blind, lost, do not know which way to go, for it simply is not in man himself to direct his own steps. Proof of this is seen in the sorry state of affairs in which men find themselves today. Look where we may, we find confusion, strife and wickedness due to selfishness and conflicting theories as to what is best for man in science and art, in religion and politics.—Jer. 10:23.
Who is to blame for this sorry state of affairs? Not the Creator, for he has provided man with spiritual light, with an infallible guide, his Word, the Bible. Concerning it the one man whose life more greatly affected mankind for good than any other one that ever lived, Jesus Christ, once said, “Your word is truth.” It is, as a psalmist long ago expressed it, ‘a lamp for our feet, a light for our roadway.’—John 17:17; Ps. 119:105.
This Word of God is known as The Book and itself consists of sixty-six books. The term “books” here is used in a special sense, since twenty-eight of these are less than six pages in length, and the five shortest average less than a page each of the ordinary Bible. The largest as well as perhaps the best known among the sixty-six books is the book of Psalms, it accounting for about 8 percent of the entire inspired Scriptures.
In the original Hebrew this book was known as Te·hil·limʹ, meaning “Praises.” There are 150 of these psalms, almost half of which are credited to David, the shepherd king. Written over a period of more than a thousand years, they do indeed have as their theme the praises of Jehovah God. In them their writers praise Jehovah God, call on others to praise him and give many, many reasons for doing so. Interwoven in among these many psalms is what might be termed an epitome of the Hebrew Scriptures, for in them much is found to throw light on life’s roadway in the way of Bible history, Bible prophecy, Bible doctrine and exhortation to right conduct.
THE LIGHT OF BIBLE HISTORY
Information concerning God’s mighty deeds and his dealings with human creatures in times past throws light on life’s roadway. It shows us how we came to be here and what God expects of us, and this the book of Psalms certainly does, covering events from the time of creation on to sometime after the Jews returned from Babylon in 537 B.C.
To begin with, the Psalms eloquently and repeatedly call attention to the fact that Jehovah God created all things: “When I see your heavens, the works of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have prepared, what is mortal man?” (8:3, 4) “Before the mountains themselves were born, or you proceeded to bring forth as with labor pains the earth and the productive land, even from time indefinite to time indefinite you are God.” (90:2) “Know that Jehovah is God. It is he that has made us, and not we ourselves.” (100:3) “I shall laud you because in a fear-inspiring way I am wonderfully made.”—139:14.
Among the earliest instances of God’s dealings with his creatures that the book of Psalms records is that of Jehovah concluding a covenant with Abraham and his making sworn statements to Isaac and Jacob. In fulfillment of these promises Jehovah God “brought out his people with exultation” to the land promised.—105:9, 10, 42-44.
Bringing his people Israel into their Promised Land involved many mighty acts, and these the book of Psalms also features. It tells that Jehovah sent ten plagues upon Egypt, that he split the Red Sea so that they could pass over and that he miraculously sustained them in the wilderness, providing bread, meat and water. Noted also are the striking victories God gained for his people in the days of Barak and Gideon.—Psalms 78, 83, 105, 106, 135.
Then too, the Psalms record that it was necessary for Jehovah God repeatedly to chastise his people, even to the point of bringing them into Babylonian captivity: “By the rivers of Babylon—there we sat down. We also wept when we remembered Zion.” (137:1-9) And they record also Israel’s return from captivity: “When Jehovah gathered back the captive ones of Zion, we became like those who were dreaming. . . . At that time they proceeded to say among the nations: ‘Jehovah has done a great thing in what he has done with them.’” (126:1, 2) Yes, by recording how Jehovah God dealt with his people in times past and why, the book of Psalms throws much light on life’s roadway, for thereby it acquaints us with God’s attributes and principles.
THE LIGHT OF PROPHECY
The book of Psalms also serves as a light on life’s roadway by reason of the prophecies it contains, many of which have already been fulfilled, giving confidence that the rest will also have fulfillment. Among the many prophecies of the Psalms regarding Jesus Christ that the Christian Greek Scriptures show had fulfillment were that he would come in dedication to do God’s will (40:8; Heb. 10:7-9); that zeal for God’s house would eat him up, as it were (69:9; John 2:17); that he would be betrayed by an intimate (41:9; John 13:18); that lots would be cast for his garments (22:18; John 19:24); that not a bone of him would be broken (34:20; John 19:36) and that God would not leave his soul in Sheol or Hades.—16:10; Acts 2:29-31.
Further, the book of Psalms foretold Jesus’ exaltation to the right hand of his Father, there to await God’s due time for him to go into action against God’s enemies and for God to subject all things under Christ’s feet.—110:1, 2; 8:6; Heb. 1:13; 2:8.
The fulfillment of such prophecies instills faith that the prophecies in the Psalms regarding the blessings of the Messianic reign of the King’s Son, Jesus Christ, will also have fulfillment: “Let him judge the afflicted ones of the people, let him save the sons of the poor one, and let him crush the defrauder. He will descend like the rain upon the mown grass, like copious showers that wet the earth. In his days the righteous one will sprout, and the abundance of peace until the moon is no more. There will come to be plenty of grain on the earth; on the top of the mountains there will be an overflow.”—72:4, 6, 7, 16.
The book of Psalms also throws light on life’s roadway by the various Bible teachings it touches on. Fittingly it stresses the role of Jehovah God as the Universal Sovereign. Though ‘the rulers of earth mass together as one against Jehovah and his anointed one, Jehovah himself will laugh at them in derision, speak to them in his anger and disturb them in hot displeasure.’ (2:1, 2, 4, 5) He will put them in their place, answering the psalmists’ prayers: “Do arise, O Jehovah! Let not mortal man prove superior in strength. Let the nations be judged before your face. Do put fear into them, O Jehovah, that the nations may know that they are but mortal men.” “Fill their faces with dishonor, that people may search for your name, O Jehovah. That people may know that you, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.”—9:19, 20; 83:16, 18.
The means by which Jehovah will vindicate his sovereignty is his kingdom, another teaching made prominent in the Psalms, even as in the rest of the Scriptures. In fact, there are a number of psalms that might be termed “Kingdom psalms,” because their theme is God’s Kingdom rule.—2, 45, 72, 96, 97, 99, 110.
In the Psalms is also found the basic Bible doctrine of the unconsciousness of man in death. “O Jehovah, do rescue my soul . . . For in death there is no mention of you; in Sheol who will laud you?” “The dead themselves do not praise Jah, nor do any going down into silence.” “Do not put your trust in . . . man, to whom no salvation belongs. His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground; in that day his thoughts do perish.”—6:4, 5; 115:17; 146:3, 4.
Then again, the Psalms enlighten us regarding man’s need of a redeemer: “Those who . . . keep boasting about the abundance of their riches, not one of them can by any means redeem even a brother, nor give to God a ransom for him.” Fittingly the psalmist asks: “What able-bodied man is there alive who will not see death? Can he provide escape for his soul from the hand of Sheol?”—49:6, 7; 89:48.
But because God has provided a ransom there is hope that the dead will return from Sheol (gravedom), will be resurrected, a hope that the Psalms show is not limited to only Jesus Christ: “You will not leave my soul in Sheol.” “God himself will redeem my soul from the hand of Sheol.” “You have brought up my soul from Sheol.” “You have delivered my soul out of Sheol.”—16:10; 49:15; 30:3; 86:13.
ADMONITION REGARDING CONDUCT
In a most practical way the inspired Psalms throw light on life’s roadway by their admonitions. Rightly they draw attention away from the creature and to the Creator. Hundreds of times they exhort us to bless, extol, laud, praise and thank Jehovah God; thirteen times the command to praise Jehovah appears in Psalm 150 alone. Yes, “Praise Jah, you people, for it is good to make melody to our God; for it is pleasant—praise is fitting.” Why? Because “Jehovah is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and great in loving-kindness,” and because of “his works of mightiness.”—147:1; 145:8; 150:2.
Throughout the Psalms we are also admonished to put our trust in Jehovah. “Trust in him at all times,” for is he not “the Trust of all the borders of the earth”? So, “you that fear Jehovah, trust in Jehovah.” “It is better to take refuge in Jehovah than to trust in earthling man.”—62:8; 65:5; 115:11; 118:8.
Wisely the Psalms show us the need to concern ourselves with the law of God, with the other parts of God’s Word as well: “Happy is the man” whose “delight is in the law of Jehovah, and in his law he reads in an undertone day and night.” “I shall certainly meditate on all your activity, and with your dealings I will concern myself.” “How I do love your law! All day long it is my concern.”—1:1, 2; 77:12; 119:97.
While such admonition, either direct or indirect, either explicit or implied, is to be expected in the book of the Psalms, what is often overlooked is that it is also filled with wise admonition as to daily conduct. For example, time and again its writers show that they appreciate that “bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Cor. 15:33) “I have hated the congregation of evildoers, and with the wicked ones I do not sit.” “In his eyes anyone contemptible is certainly rejected.” “Anyone of haughty eyes and of arrogant heart, him I cannot endure.” “Get away from me, you evildoers, that I may observe the commandments of my God.”—26:5; 15:4; 101:5; 119:115.
The Psalms also throw light on life’s roadway by their wise counsel as to what should be our attitude when we see the wicked prosper: “Be agitated, but do not sin. Have your say in your heart, upon your bed, and keep silent. Sacrifice the sacrifices of righteousness, and trust in Jehovah.” “Do not show yourself heated up because of the evildoers. Do not be envious of those doing unrighteousness. For evildoers themselves will be cut off, but those hoping in Jehovah are the ones that will possess the earth.”—4:4, 5; 37:1, 9.
Then again, the Psalms enlighten by showing what God approves and what he disapproves: “O Jehovah, who will be a guest in your tent? . . . He who is walking faultlessly and practicing righteousness and speaking the truth in his heart. He has not slandered with his tongue. To his companion he has done nothing bad, and no reproach has he taken up against his intimate acquaintance. . . . A bribe against the innocent one he has not taken.” (15:1-3, 5) “Safeguard your tongue against what is bad, and your lips against speaking deception. Turn away from what is bad, and do what is good; seek to find peace, and pursue it.” “Lovers of Jehovah, hate what is bad.”—34:13, 14; 97:10.
We have further light on our roadway by the very things the psalmist prays for: “Mistakes—who can discern? From concealed sins pronounce me innocent. Also from presumptuous acts hold your servant back; do not let them dominate me. In that case I shall be complete, and I shall have remained innocent from much transgression. Let the sayings of my mouth and the meditation of my heart become pleasurable before you, O Jehovah.” (19:12-14) “O Jehovah, my heart has not been haughty, nor have my eyes been lofty.” “Do set a guard, O Jehovah, for my mouth; do set a watch over the door of my lips. Should the righteous one strike me, it would be a loving-kindness; and should he reprove me, it would be oil upon the head, which my head would not want to refuse.”—131:1; 141:3, 5.
Truly, today there is need of light, spiritual light for guidance on life’s roadway. Such light certainly is to be found in the book of Psalms, along with other books of the Bible, for the Psalms contain much history, many prophecies, right doctrine and an abundance of fine admonition in addition to its many songs of praise to and expressions of trust in Jehovah God. “Make melody to God, make melody. Make melody to our King, make melody. For God is King of all the earth; make melody, acting with discretion.”—47:6, 7.