When I was looking at my blog’s analytics recently to see what kind of search terms were used to find my blog, I noticed that one search term used was “that compass yourselves about with sparks, meaning, Isaiah.”
I can totally understand why someone would search for an explanation for that line of Isaiah. It took me a lot of thought to figure out what was meant by that imagery and what gospel lesson it was teaching. That image of someone surrounding themselves with sparks is the negative side of a contrast that Isaiah is trying to set up in these verses:
10 ¶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.that compass yourselves about with sparks:walk in the light of your fire,and in the sparks that ye have kindled.This shall ye have of mine hand;ye shall lie down in sorrow.(Isaiah 50:10-11)
Verse 10 is the positive side of the contrast (those who fear the Lord) and verse 11 is the negative side (those who don't fear the Lord)
In verse 10, Isaiah asks a rhetorical question—“Who among you that fears the Lord and obeys his servants (the prophets) walks without light?” It is sort of a loaded question because for those of us who follow the Lord and listen to the prophets, there should be plenty of gospel light in our lives showing us what we should do. It is like walking in the day in the light of the sun/Son.
But of course, it isn’t always that simple. Sometimes there are very dark times in our lives even with that prophecy and revelation. To those of us who are in this situation, Isaiah says, “let him trust in the name of the Lord and stay (depend) upon God.” We have to get through those dark times by trusting the Lord.
How about verse 11? If gospel light comes from above as revelation, what then is meant by kindling a fire? It means to manufacture our own way to see by, to make our own rules to live by, instead of trying to live by God’s commandments. (This is the creation of worldly principles, which are not nearly so bright.) And compassing ourselves about with sparks? “Compassing [oneself] about with sparks” describes a person with flint and steel in hand, banging those fire-producing materials together and trying to see where to go in the very brief light that is produced by the little flashes of sparks. They bang that flint and steel all around them to try to see where they are. That is kind of like trying to use debate to find the true path. In debate, you collide two viewpoints together in hope that some light will be generated about what the truth is.
But what is the end result? “Ye shall lie down in sorrow.” At the end of their lives, those who have lived by worldly principles will lie down to their graves with regrets. They will also lie down in sorrow at the end of the day without the hope of Christ.
I like these verses because they show that even in dark times, people who trust the Lord have more light in their lives than people who depend on worldly wisdom.