THE LAMP OF GOD
T. PIERCE BROWN
In Proverbs20:27we find an interesting statement which deserves our attention. It says, “The spirit of man is the lamp of Jehovah.” It does not say, “To the spirit of man Jehovah revealed a light,” or various other true statements. But the spirit is the lamp. The word “lamp” or “candle” can refer to the vessel itself, or the light that is produced by it. A light is usually not for the purpose of shining just to be seen, but to reveal something that would not otherwise be seen.
The spirit of man itself reveals some things about God that would otherwise not be known. What are some things which man’s spirit reveals?
First, it reveals that there is a higher power. How does it do that? Only a person who is perversely blind and willfully ignorant could find a car or a computer and conclude that they just got there accidentally, or came into being by some autonomous evolutionary process. How much greater the impossibility that the one who made the car and computer came into being that way!
It is one of the strangest things known to man that so many persons who otherwise seem to act rationally and with a reasonable degree of intelligence will assume against all known facts, contrary to their own experience and logic that some non living, non intelligent, inanimate thing by some unknown process evolved into a man with a spirit. How a person could say with a straight face, “I do not believe in miracles” and then assert the above theory is amazing beyond expression.
The phrase, “survival of the fittest,” was supposed to explain all sorts of things in the presumed evolutionary process. For example, I have read that the giraffe had a short neck, but in order to survive when the foliage was gone at the lower level, it had to stretch its neck to reach higher, and thus, in the process of time, developed its long neck. Simple little questions about how those short necked giraffes survived long enough to live for several million years without being able to reach food, we are not told. Also, why the zebra and other animals that lived in the same locality and needed the same food to survive did not grow the long necks, we never learned. But the point now is that the spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, revealing that there is a higher power, and that we are made in His image.
When Jesus said, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9), He indicated that such attributes as love, mercy and righteousness that were in Him and revealed by the operation of His spirit showed the nature of God. His spirit was the lamp of the Lord in a very special way. But to the extent that we let the life of Christ be manifest in our mortal flesh (2 Corinthians4:11), our spirits are also the lamp of the Lord in that special way.
The spirit of man is a lamp because it is endowed with the light of reason, knowledge and wisdom. There is no evidence that any animal ever raised such fundamental questions as “From where did I come?” “What is my purpose on earth?” “Why do I act like I do?” “How can I change my actions for the better?” “What is my final destiny and that of the world about me?” And it is also another interesting fact that not only did no animal ever have any answers to those questions, no person who ever believed that man merely evolved from some animal could answer them either. The reason for this is that those answers only come from God, and only the spirit of a man who is willing to let the light from heaven shine through him can find the answers to those questions.
The spirit of man is the lamp of God because it burns with the light of conscience. There is not the slightest evidence that any other being on earth has a conscience. The average person who believes in God still does not understand the function of the conscience. In hundreds of private home Bible studies I have had, it appears that most believe that the conscience tells them what is right or wrong.
The truth is that someone teaches the intellect that a thing is right or wrong. But the intellect is not the conscience. A man may have a wonderful intellect, but a poor conscience, or vice versa. The conscience is not actually taught anything, but is like a computer, programmed to receive certain information and respond in one of two ways. When the intellect gives the input to the conscience, “That act was good, and I did it,” God programmed the conscience to respond, “You are to be commended for the noble thing you did.” So you have a good feeling, and the impulse to do good is strengthened. When the intellect gives the input to the conscience, “That was the wrong thing to do, but I did it,” the conscience responds, “You should be ashamed of yourself.” The Bible sets forth the fact that the conscience is a witness, accusing or excusing (Romans2:15). That is all it can ever do. But in doing that, it bears witness that there is a wise, loving and powerful God. For if there is no God, then there is nothing morally right or wrong. And we can tell that He is wise, loving and powerful because although He made man with freedom of choice, He built in a device that encourages him to do what he believes is right and discourages him from doing what he believes is wrong.
So the spirit of any man, Christian or sinner, is in many ways a lamp of Jehovah. But the spirit of a Christian is a light in some special ways. When Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (John8:12), he expressed a great truth. Just by coming into the world, He cast more light on the nature of God, the nature of man, the worth of man, and many other things than all the philosophies of man combined. And He gave more light on any subject He discussed than any and all others.
But when He said, “Ye are the light of the world” (Matthew5:15), He expressed another different, yet similar truth. To the extent that we let the life of Christ be manifest in our mortal flesh, we let the light of Christ be manifest in our spirit. A candle or lamp gives the fire a manifestation point to the whole room or locality around it. The candle is glorified by the fire, and the fire is manifested in the candle. The candle was made for that purpose. Only as it yields to the fire can the purpose of the fire or candle be properly fulfilled.
The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, but how brightly that lamp shines depends on the supply of oil with which we keep it furnished, and the frequency with which we re-kindle the flame. Paul told Timothy, “Quench not the Spirit.” So we can let the light burn so low it cannot be seen, or actually go out unless we deliberately choose to maintain a loving and spontaneous spirit of obedience, and strive to have the mind of Christ in all respects.