Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God. But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment.
These verses come right after Isaiah's third "Servant Song." These songs about the Servant of the LORD have been seen as prophecies of a promised Savior. As Christians, we believe that these prophecies are fulfilled in the coming of Jesus to be the world's Savior.
The two verses above are a response to the prophecy of the Servant Song. Two ways are offered to us: We can either walk in darkness, trusting in YHWH alone, or we can try to light our own fires or torches in order to have light for our way. This is an unusual image. Generally the Bible speaks of the light that God gives us in his Word and in Christ (Psalm 119:105; John 8:12). But here God calls us to trust him even when things seem dark.
The temptation is for us to try to light our own fires or torches in order to see where we are going. But, this passage warns us, relying on our own "wisdom" and "insight," or on human philosophy, or our reasoning powers, or on occult sources of knowledge, or anything but trust in God and his Word can only result in "lying down in torment."
What I find comforting here, though, is that I often feel as though I am walking in the dark. I don't know what is coming down the road. I feel inadequate in the darkness of the world in which we live. This passage in Isaiah suggests that this is normal; that this is what disciples are called to do. We are called to trust in the Lord and his Word in the midst of the darkness of our world. He is the only real light.
May the Lord be your light during this Christmas season and throughout your life!