Who is among you that fears the LORD, that obeys the voice of his servant, that walks in darkness, and has no light?…
Contrary to the teaching of those who affirm that religion's ways are invariably ways of pleasantness and peace, and that the world's ways are invariably rough and disappointing, it is the religious man who "walketh in darkness, and hath no light," and it is the worldly man whose pathway is illumined and whose prosperity is assured;
I. THE TWO CONTRASTED TYPES OF CHARACTER.
1. By "the fear of the Lord ' in the language of the Old Testament is meant a religious disposition, combining reverence and love. There are two kinds of fear — one wholesome, the other unwholesome; one the offspring of knowledge, the other of ignorance; one which liberates the soul, the other which brings it late bondage. And it is the reverential fear to which the prophet refers as attached to the character under consideration. Then, He obeyeth the voice of His Servant. That is a fuller characterization of the godly man, which takes into account conduct as well as disposition. This twofold description completes the picture. The interior life and the outward walk correspond. The character, then, is not that of an empty religious professor. Nor is he a backslider.
2. The character which comes before us in the second half of the text is not so fully described as is that of the godly man in the preceding verse. Nevertheless, the constrast which is suggested enables us to complete the outline without difficulty. It is not necessary that we should think of one who is outwardly and notoriously immoral. But it is necessary that we should think of one who is uninfluenced by the fear of God, and whose character is lacking in all the root-elements of a sincere piety. And how full of suggestion the words "He kindleth a fire"! That is to say, he warms himself from without rather than from within. He contemplates life on its physical and material side only. He finds himself in a world well suited to his requirements and capable of affording him many pleasurable excitements, and so he proceeds to gather together the materials for a good fire. To the superficial observer the difference between the godly man and the worldly man, especially when the latter happens to be respectable and moral, may not be very striking. Yet the difference is vital. It is a difference in kind as well as degree. They belong to different realms.
II. THE TWO CONTRASTED WALKS — the one in darkness, the other encompassed with sparks. Health and material prosperity are not necessarily signs of the special favour of God. Nor are sickness and adversity any sure indication of the Divine displeasure.
1. It is the portion of a good man sometimes to have to walk in darkness.
(1) There is the darkness of adversity.
(2) There is the darkness of religious doubt. A good man may find himself in this transition period drifting away from the old moorings — drifting away he hardly knows whither. He has to re-make his creed, and during that period of re-making he is compelled to walk, more or less, in darkness.
(3) There is the darkness of spiritual drought. The man whose faith is greatly tried is counselled to exercise a stronger faith.
2. In contrast to all this, there is the "walking" of those who walk in the light of the fires of their own kindling. Is this world, with all its absorbing interests, really empty and unsatisfying? No doubt it is, sooner or later. But for the present the majority of those around us are satisfied with it as a sphere of habitation. And supposing there be no God and no hereafter — then one may almost ask whether the worldly have not the advantage over the unworldly, and whether this life, with all its struggles and efforts, is really worth living. But if there be a God and a hereafter; if the kingdom of the soul is as great a reality as the kingdom of the senses; if character is everything — then we are fools indeed if we accept the creed of the materialist, and live the life of the sensualist. There are only two philosophies of life possible to us; and one of them is not a philosophy. The man who follows the first is he who walks in the light of the Sun — the sun's Sun, the great source and fountain of all illumination. The man who follows the second is he who walks in the light of Chinese lanterns and all kinds of pyrotechnic devices, and who in consequence never arrives at the goal.
III. THE TWO LIVES WITH THEIR CONTRASTED ENDINGS.
1. There can be no real and lasting success in life apart from God. In the domain of literature, science and art; in the field of material enterprise and industry; in the haunts and abodes of pleasure, how brightly the world's bonfires are burning! How the flames sparkle, and dance and leap! What crowds, what gaiety, what laughter! Soon, however, the laughter will die away, and all that will be left of that brilliant human assemblage on this side the grave will be a few brief epitaphs and a few handfuls of dust. "He shall lie down in sorrow," or as Matthew Henry quaintly paraphrases it, "He shall go to bed in the dark." That is a reminiscence of our childhood. And that is what it all comes to sooner or later, if we read Goethe and Byron instead of our Bible; if we worship the beautiful instead of the holy; if we live the life of the senses instead of the life of the soul.
2. Elsewhere we are told that "to the upright there ariseth a light in the darkness." And again it is said, "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace."
Parallel VersesKJV: Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God.