As I mentioned yesterday we will be looking at the doctrine of illumination for a few post. When it comes to illumination there may be no richer material on the subject than Psalm 119. The information provided in Psalm 119 on the doctrine of illumination is significant to say the least. Just a sampling of this data reveals the psalmist’s profound understanding of this doctrine. The information provided by the psalmist is significant to a biblical understanding of illumination and it synthesizes perfectly with what the rest of the bible teaches about this doctrine. As was stated yesterday, illumination is the work of the Spirit of God empowering the people of God to understand and appropriate the word of God. This definition includes the need for illumination, the source of illumination, the content of illumination, and the result of illumination. Each one of these aspects is also developed by the psalmist in Psalm 119. Beginning today we will take some time to look at each one of these aspects of the doctrine of illumination.
The Need for Illumination
In Psalm 119 the psalmist clearly recognizes his need for divine enablement, particularly when it comes to the word of God. For example, in verse 18 the psalmist prayed for God to open his eyes, and allow him to see the word of God. This was only necessary because the psalmist’s eyes, just like all men, were closed to spiritual truth. This is why the psalmist prayed for enablement. He knew that apart form divine enablement the psalmist would have been blind to God’s truth, and incapable of following God’s word as a child of God. Or, as Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 2:14,
A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.
The psalmist was not only blind to the truth apart from divine illumination, but he was also inclined toward the vanity of rebellious ways. Verse 37 makes this clear when it says,
Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, and revive me in Your ways.
Here the psalmist recognizes his natural inclination away from God’s word, and thus his need for illumination. Romans 3:11 similarly states,
There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God….
With respective to the doctrine of illumination, the starting point for the psalmist was his desperate need for divine enablement. This starting point is totally consistent with what the rest of Scripture teaches on this issue, and it is the first point of emphasis of the doctrine of illumination. We need God’s help in order to understand His word. Sure, we may be able to understand some facts about a passage or remember stories from the bible. However, because of our utter inability we cannot fully grasp and apply the spiritual truths of Scripture without the help of God (i.e. illumination).