The Lamp

Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin! (Proverbs 21:4)   

This is one of those verses that it’s easy to just skip over thinking, “Well that’s not me.” But then, I would be just fulfilling the verse wouldn’t I? So I decided to take a closer look. And it’s not what I thought.

The Hebrew word for “lamp” in this verse actually means untilled or fallow ground. I think this verse means that the proud have not plowed up, examined, their ways or thinking, therefore they are in the sin of pride. That is one of the things that our lamp is supposed to do – illumine our wrong thinking and doing. Jesus said:   

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good (single, clear, sound, whole, folded together), your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad (diseased, derelict, blind, evil, wicked), your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! Matthew 6:22-23   

What does that mean: single, clear, sound, whole, folded together? That Greek word is haplous and comes from a root word that means “to plait, braid, weave together.” Woven together with what?   

There are two words in Hebrew for hoping or waiting. Qavah, which means “to bind together (perhaps by twisting),” and tiqvah, which means “literally, a cord (as an attachment).” Could Jesus have meant that if we are hoping and waiting on God (woven together into a single cord, attached to God heart to heart) our lamp or eye is good?   

Another thing, in Numbers 8:2 the Lord gives instructions for setting up the Temple (remember we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit now). He says to set up the Lampstand so that it continually shines “in front” or across the room and illumines the table of the Bread of the Presence. Our lamp, our eyes always upon Jesus, the Bread of Life, God With Us, the Word.   

When Jesus talks about the eye as the lamp of the body here in Matthew, and in Luke 11:33-36, it is in the middle of pointing out a lot of wrong thinking – being a hypocrite, caring about what people think, setting your heart on treasure, serving/loving money, worrying, lack of faith in God, being legalistic but not obeying God’s commands.    

Wrong thinking is when you are not woven together with (or abiding in) the Lord, therefore you don’t have the mind of Christ. You have not allowed the Lord to plough up your hard, stony ground. The light within you is darkness. It is no longer shining on the Bread of the Presence, on the Word of Life, but on yourself. That is why haughty eyes and a proud heart is a lamp of the wicked, a dark lamp. A person with haughty and proud thinking would never shine the light of the Word on any wrong ways but would imagine they are right in whatever they think or do. It is revealing that it says five times in Proverbs that the way of a person can seem right to them but be wrong.   

The way of a fool is right in his own opinion, but the one who listens to advice is wise. (Proverbs 12:15)   

There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way that leads to death. (Proverbs 14:12)   

All a person’s ways seem right in his own opinion, but the Lord evaluates the motives. (Proverbs 16:2)   

There is a way that seems right to a person, but its end is the way that leads to death. (Proverbs 16:25)   

All of a person’s ways seem right in his own opinion, but the Lord evaluates the motives. (Proverbs 21:2)   

I know I am mixing a lot of metaphors here, but we need to humbly surrender to being woven together with Him, heart and soul and mind and strength. We need to let the Light of God shine on our wrong thinking and plough up our hard hearts. That we might know him. That we might be like him – a light in a dark world. 

The lamp of the LORD searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being. Proverbs 20:27

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

You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. Psalm 18:28  

He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. Psalm 25:9  

God, I invite your searching gaze into my heart. 

Examine me through and through; 

find out everything that may be hidden within me. 

Put me to the test and sift through all my anxious cares. 

 See if there is any path of pain I’m walking on, 

and lead me back to your glorious, everlasting ways— 

the path that brings me back to you.  

Psalm 139:23-24 (The Passion Translation) 

Hurling My Worries

Like a discus thrower, hurling the discus, we are flinging our burdens to a defined target – God’s unfailing love and care.

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility towards one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:5b-7 (NIV)

Did you ever wonder why Peter combined the ideas of humility and anxiety in these verses? God opposes the proud – humble yourselves and cast your anxiety on him. I wondered, what do those two ideas have to do with each other? I have actually thought in the past that worrying and being anxious showed I was lowly and humble, that I knew I couldn’t do it. I mean, if I was confident about something wouldn’t that mean I was proud? But recently I have been reading a very good book on humility by C.J. Mahaney, and I read this:

“Where there’s worry, where there’s anxiousness, pride is at the root of it. When I am experiencing anxiety, the root issue is that I’m trying to be self-sufficient. I’m acting independent of God.”[i]

Ah, pride is so slimy and cunning and can disguise itself even as humility! Even though I picture myself as humble, really, I’m still thinking I can do it, or I have to do it. That somehow my worry will change things. I am still trying to be the Wonderful One. Oh, sure I am asking God to help me do it, but in my mind it’s still up to me.

The Greek word translated “anxiety” or “care” is merimna (μέριμνα) and comes from a word that means divided or disunited “through the idea of distraction.” Worry distracts us, divides us from God and his promises. It reminds me of James 1:6-8:

But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded (or divided) man, unstable in all his ways. (NASB)

I like how the Message says that last verse: “People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.” Ouch! Just in case God can’t do it, I’m keeping my options open, I’m still available to worry about it.

But Peter says to cast all our anxiety on God, trusting that he cares for us. The word translated “cast” means “to throw or place upon”. You have to let go of the worry to throw it, and in doing so you are putting all your trust in God. You are humbling yourself. Daniel Wallace put it this way: [Casting your anxiety] “is not offering a new command, but is defining how believers are to humble themselves … Humbling oneself is not a negative act of self-denial per se, but a positive one of active dependence on God for help.”[ii]

Psalm 55:22 (NIV) says to “Cast your cares (or burdens, the lot you have been given) on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” Hebrew is a passionate language and the word for “cast” is quite a bit more zealous than the Greek. The word is shalak (שָׁלַךְ) and means to “throw, cast, hurl, fling.” I love that! Hurl your burdens on the Lord. Yes, that is definitely “active dependence on God for help.” There is a sense of total abandon there – like a little child trustingly throwing herself off a high place into the arms of her father. But, it’s not just a vague, cosmic “letting go.” Like a discus thrower, hurling the discus, we are flinging our burdens to a defined target – God’s unfailing love and care.

“This is an important spiritual truth as is also the admonition in Psalm 55:22 to cast our burdens on the Lord. That is, our cares and burdens, are to be thrown away, abandoned into his care, so that we have nothing more to do with them.”[iii]

“Nothing more to do with them.” Wow, that’s scary stuff to the self-sufficient, proud person who secretly doesn’t trust God to get it right without her help. Lord, forgive me for my ridiculous pride and double-mindedness, for not trusting in you. Give me the grace today to humble myself under your mighty hand, to declare my total dependence on you, and to hurl my worries and my very self into your loving arms.

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. Selah.              Psalm 68:19 (NIV)

 

Image by Ron Gilfillan, 2017 Canada Summer Games. CC BY 2.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/2017canadagames/36281659232/

[i] Mahaney, C.J. Humility: True Greatness. Multnomah, 2005.

[ii] Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.

[iii] M. Cogan, “A Technical Term for Exposure” (Journal of Near Eastern Studies 27:133-135 [1968J)