What Colour Is Your Lamp Psalm 18:28

Thou wilt light my lamp - Psalm 18:28

Have you ever heard of the wonderful game of “lantern-bearers” played by Robert Louis Stevenson when he was a boy? He and his friends played it on the shore at North Berwick years ago, but you can read about it in his essay, The Lantern-bearers. That essay doesn’t read a bit like the ordinary school essay we all know, and some of us hate. It is more like a fascinating story. It tells how Louis quietly left his house in the evenings of late September when the holidays were almost at an end, and the nights were already dark. He was buttoned up to the chin in his overcoat, but there was a mysterious bulge at his waist, and there hung about him a strong smell of toasting tin. He hurried over the links with a walk that spelled mystery, and he met another figure equally bulging, and equally smelling of blistered tin. “Have you got your lantern?” whispered Louis anxiously. “Yes,” was the all-important reply, and together the two hurried over the links to a spot previously agreed upon.

When four or five such figures had gathered they climbed into an empty fishing-boat, or crouched down in some sheltered hollow. Then the top-coats were unbuttoned, and the mysterious bulge and the tinny smell resolved themselves into a bull’s-eye lantern fastened to a belt. In the flickering light of the lanterns, and with the wind sweeping over the links, the boys talked of matters both wild and exciting. But the talk was nothing compared to the joy of being a lantern-bearer. “The essence of this bliss,” as Stevenson tells us, “was to walk by yourself in the black night; the slide shut; the top-coat buttoned; not a ray escaping ... a mere pillar of darkness in the dark; and all the while ... to know you had a bull’s-eye at your belt, and to exult and sing over the knowledge.”

Now, we don’t play at “lantern-bearers” like Robert Louis Stevenson; nevertheless we all carry hidden lamps or lanterns. The lamps themselves are hidden, but their light shines out plainly whether we will it or no. No buttoned-up coat can conceal their flame.

Many of us have lamps that burn a fiery red light others have lamps that show a cold green, others, again, have lamps that glimmer a muddy purple. But some of us carry lamps whose flame shines steady gold. That sounds as mysterious as the bulge under the overcoat, doesn’t it?

What color of lamp have you? I can tell you; for though I don’t see the actual flame I can tell by your face and your actions the color your lamp is burning. Is your lamp burning red? Then I’m afraid there will be angry sparks in your eyes and a black line between your brows. Your hands will often be clenched. Your feet will be given to stamping. You will flare up at small things. And people will say, “What a dreadful temper!”

Is your light green? Then your eyes will always be looking round the corner at someone else’s belongings. ‘I wish I had nice clothes like So-and-so.” “It’s a shame that such and such a person has so many nice things” “I want this.” “Give me that.” “Me too!” will be the words that are oftenest on your lips. Hard lines will grow round your mouth, and your companions will say, “Grabby thing!” because your lamp will be showing the green light of jealousy and greed.

Does your lamp burn darkish purple? Then your mouth will have a droop at each corner and a pout in the middle. Your eyes will seem only half open. You will skulk about in corners and look altogether a most unpleasant person. And outsiders will remark “The sulks again!”

Does your lamp give a beautiful golden glow? Then your eyes will be clear and bright. Your lips will be ready to smile. You’ll be  happy, and willing to run an errand or lend a helping hand. You’ll sing or whistle at your work, and your friends will say—well, I think I had better not tell you what they will say. It might make you conceited.

Have you caught the idea? Our hidden lamps are our characters, our natures, our dispositions, our tempers —whichever you like to call them. They shine out unmistakably in our faces and our actions. We may try to pretend to others that we are burning a golden light, when our flame is really red or green or purple; but we shall not be able to keep up the pretense long. Sooner or later the true color will show.

Now, how shall we contrive to burn a golden flame? It depends on who lights our lamp and how we trim it. You see it is not a case of the glass being colored. It is a case of the flame itself having a color.
If we ourselves light our lamps we shall find that our flames will be, at the best, unsatisfactory. Some days they will burn one color, some days another. We shall never be able to depend on them. The only way to make sure of the true golden light is to ask God to light them for us. Our text says, “Thou wilt light my lamp.” And “Thou” is just God. If we tell Him that we want to be His lamps and to shine for Him, He will pour into us the oil of His Holy Spirit and set us afire with His love.

Then when He has lit the flame we must trim it carefully, for of course you know that a badly-trimmed lamp never burns well. The trimming is our duty— not God’s—and trimming our lamps means prayer. That is the best preparation for any day’s work. That will keep our flame pure and bright. Then the world will see that we are trying to be God’s children, for our lamps are burning steady gold.

- James Hastings, Children's Great Texts Of The Bible

APIBS Sermon notes
APIBS Audio Sermons
Expository Sermons by James Smith