What is it about fire that is so fascinating to a child? In spite of all the warnings I received, sometimes playing with fire still seemed like a good idea when I was a child. What was even better than playing with matches or a lighter was trying to produce my own fire by rubbing two sticks together or using a magnifying glass. I’m not sure I ever mastered the thing with the sticks, but the magnifying glass worked brilliantly! A bit of dry grass and a sunny day, and I could produce a regular inferno. Praise the Lord; I never caught anything important on fire, as did my husband, whom accidentally set a whole field ablaze and had to call the fire department. Oops!
Maybe there is just a place in us that despises the darkness; and I suppose we should. We are told to walk in the light. But many times we try to produce our own light. Our circumstances seem dark and the road unfamiliar. In our desperation for the answers, we are caught playing with fire, substituting whatever we can find to produce a flame, instead of walking in His light. We want to walk by sight, relying on our own resources, when it is most crucial that our confidence remains in Him. In Exodus 13:21-22, God supplied the Israelites with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night, so as the Word says, “they could travel by day or night.” As we walk through our deserts, our nights, our darkness, the Holy Spirit of God gives us these same traveling mercies, whether we walk in the light of day or in the dark of night, His guiding presence remains the place of our hope and trust.
So what does it mean to “provide yourselves with flaming torches” and “walk in the light of your fires”? When a person decides that God cannot be trusted and does not accept the only true light, Jesus Christ, they try by their own hand to provide the salvation that only God can offer. (John 1:9-13) You might say they are “playing with fire.” But even we, who have received the grace of God in Christ, are sometimes less than enthusiastic when it comes to our places of darkness. We attempt to kindle our own little fires of self-trust, amounting to nothing less than idolatry. Out of fear and self-preservation, we feel as if we must pull out our magnifying glasses and create our own light, just a small flame to dispel darkness so that we can see what is up ahead. In John 8:12, Jesus says, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ (NIV) Will you decide that He can be trusted in the shadowy places and in the black of night, or “carry the torches that you have set ablaze”? Let us follow Him closely and trust Him fully, even as we walk in the dark.
You are my lamp, O LORD; the LORD turns my darkness into light. (2 Sam. 22:29 NIV)