Compass Yourselves About with Sparks

An Orientalism:
A Custom or Mannerism in the Bible Times

Read Time:  5 Minutes

Isaiah 50
:11 Behold, all ye that kindle a fire,
        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.

Bishop K. C. Pillai explains that in order understand the true meaning of this verse we need to understand the manner in which a small agricultural village operates in the east. The people wake up at the cock crowing; it crows three times, at 4:00, 4:30 and 5:00 a.m. The men come to the center of town and the first man kindles a fire; they all bring sticks and add them to fire to warm themselves. No man would come and warm themselves unless they have contributed to the fire.

Spiritually we are taught the Word of God and we warm ourselves by the light of God's Word. We then must contribute to this flame, be not a hearer only but a doer of the Word as well.

James 1
:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only,
        deceiving your own selves.
:23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer,
    he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
:24 For he beholdeth himself,
    and goeth his way,
    and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.
:25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty,
    and continueth therein,
        he being not a forgetful hearer,
        but a doer of the work,
    this man shall be blessed in his deed.

We see Paul observing this practice when he was shipwrecked on the Island of Melita (Acts 28). That is why, even though he was a guest, he brought wood to the fire.

Regarding the part of Isaiah 50:11 which says, "that compass yourselves about with sparks" God is describing the practice of the men which take a cord made of coconut bark and light the end. They blow on this to make it glow brightly and use it to light their way to the fields so they don't step on any snakes or scorpions with their bare feet. They have their farm implements on their shoulders and lead their oxen holding the glowing rope ahead of them. When they blow on it to brighten it sparks will fly off, these are the sparks referred to in the Word.

Isaiah 50
:11  . . .
    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.

When you walk in the light of your own fire and sparks that you have kindled you are not looking to God and He cannot bless you when you are not relying on Him, therefore you will lie down in sorrow. This is not to say that it is bad for the men to use the coconut ropes to light their way, but God is using it as an analogy, when we try to do everything ourselves we will be disappointed. We must also walk in the light of God's Word. We cannot rely on our knowledge alone, we must also look to God.

The following story was told by Bishop K. C. Pillai as an example of this truth.

I remember an incident in India, when I first began to preach in the village of the untouchables. I still had my job with the government, but during my free time I preached. My former associates among the Hindus would not listen to me because I had changed my religion and so was an out-caste to them.
      The people to whom I preached had determined among themselves to build a church, and, according to their means, they were able to put up a mud hut structure to meet in.
      One day I was coming along by ricksha, and saw one of  the old believers struggling along the street with two heavy pails of water. I got down from the ricksha and said to him. "Why are you  carrying these pails of water?"
      "Well Pastor," he said, "I just wanted to do something for the Lord. I cannot read or preach, but I can plant some coriander seeds around the church so that it will not look so bare."
    "But it is such a long distance from the well," I told him. "Please do not trouble yourself with this project until we are able to dig a well by the church. We can get some money together soon for this."
      The old man thought a minute and then said "Listen, Pastor, did you not preach to us last Sunday about how the children of Israel received water in the wilderness by Moses striking a rock," I said, "Yes, I preached that."
      "Isn't He the same God today that He was then? Can't He give us water by our church like that?"
      Well, I was surprised at his believing, but I did not want to discourage him. If I had been walking in the light of my own sparks, I could have said., "Well, you know all the wells in this area are at least fifty feet deep." But I did not say that, because that is man's light. God's light is that He can give us water.
      "Hallelujah, He is going to give us water," the old man said, jumping up and down. He took a crow-bar and started poking away at the dirt, digging it up and throwing it aside and praising God all the while. About three feet down, the water started coming into the hole. We had plenty of water for the plants and for drinking and for everything.
      When the officials of the city of Madras found out we had a well, they came around and wanted to collect the water tax. They came to me and asked me for the money. I told them the city of Madras did not give us the well. I said God gave us the well and the water, and we would not pay the tax So, they went away and we never did pay the water tax!
      These are the things that happen when we walk in God's light. If we try to walk in our own light we shall lie down in sorrow, but in God's light, we have victory, joy and peace; we are more than conquerors.
      God bless you.