Choosing The Way of The Righteous
The earlier we expose our children to the truth of scripture, the reality of Jesus Christ, and the truth of the wisdom that comes from God, the longer they will have to prosper in the right way. Simply put, this segment of this chapter could be called ‘choose.’ You get to choose the way of the righteous or the way of the wicked.
This passage is simple. It’s about choosing the right way. ‘The way’ is a motif throughout Proverbs. I’ve talked about this many times. Two women illustrate the way of the righteous or the way of the wicked.
Dr. Bruce Waltke explains that ‘the way’ as the dominant metaphor can be seen as the 4 C’s. The first is character: who you are. The second is context: with whom you associate. The third is conduct: what and how you make decisions. The fourth is consequences: what comes out of the decisions you make. These four components are an examination of the way you live.
The Way of Wisdom (Proverbs 4:10-13)
We are again given the warning of ‘hear, my son.’ Solomon says, ‘accept my sayings, and the years of your life will be many.’ The way of the righteous is always straight, clear, and well-defined. It’s always easy to follow. It will not be hard to find as opposed to the way of the wicked that heads in the wrong direction. One is straightforward; one is not. The point is to accept these teachings so the years of your life will be many. The words of God’s wisdom will become years of life.
The word path is important because it signifies a route that will always be there. The word directed is also interesting. It means to cast or to shoot. Solomon is holding out his hand, placing it on ours, and directing our cast. This is how you find wisdom.
Proverbs 4:12-13 tells us that the path is unimpeded, and you can run without stumbling. But, if you do miss the path, it will hurt. The word stumble is used literally and figuratively in Scripture, from the instability of climbing around the broken walls of Jerusalem in Nehemiah 4 to those stumbling in the blindness of their sin even in the strong years. In Isaiah 40:30, we are told that young men will stumble badly compared to those who wait on the Lord and gain new strength.
Take hold parallels ‘guard her and take care of her.’ This is more important than jumping off a cliff. It’s God’s word. It’s the way of the wicked or the righteous, period. The wisest man on the planet is telling us about this simple choice.
The Way of The Wicked (Proverbs 4:14-17)
The simple point is to avoid the way of the wicked. There’s a rapid sequence of verbs here; when you read this, you’re supposed to feel it as a reader. It says, ‘do not enter, do not proceed, do not pass by, turn away.’ It’s a movement, and you’re looking at these moving verbs. So, again, wisdom is clear, common sense, and urgent.
We can parallel this to Psalm 1, which tells us what not to do with our lives. Proverbs say the same thing. Solomon reiterates the command, ‘Don’t do this!’ He does this because we need a lot of help with it. Proverbs 4: 16-17 represents upside-down morality when it says, “They cannot sleep unless they do evil.”
Dr. Bruce Waltke describes the wicked as evilholics. They are so addicted to evil that it becomes their sedative by night and their food and drink by day.
You need to stay away from evil. You need to stay away from friends who abuse substances and experiment with sexuality. Avoid people that are cool but wicked. You will never regret not sinning; it’s a choice.
Derek Kidner said, “…where wickedness has become meat and drink and even duty. It warns against setting foot on a path which one might think adventurous and diverting, for it can lead as far as this.” This points directly to Proverbs 4:14-17. Wisdom says, ‘Don’t go down that path. There’s nothing down there that’s good.’
The Ways Compared (Proverbs 4:18-19)
The phrase, ‘I’ve directed you,’ is compared and contrasted to darkness. The author says, ‘I’ve told you how to do this right. If you do it the wrong way, it’s wicked and will end in darkness.’
It is easy to see the contrasts in Proverbs 4:18-19. The path is seen from the early morning light and even more so as the day progresses. Keeping to the path of righteousness becomes brighter and brighter, meaning it’s easy to see and follow. You can’t miss it!
If you follow the way of the wicked, you will stumble around in the dark and end up in death. This is the first time Solomon uses this interesting phrase, ‘They do not know over what they will stumble.’ Not knowing becomes a motif throughout wisdom literature. Proverbs 7:22-23 makes it clear that the person who follows the seductress instead of wisdom does not know it will cost his life. When you follow the way of darkness, you will stumble around.
The Lesson of The Passage
You have a choice. Will you choose the way of the righteous or the way of the wicked? You have to choose in every area of life, just like I do. God’s way is simple. It’s clear and well-mapped out. The way of wickedness and sin is convoluted, deceptive, unstable, and uncertain. It will hurt you, and you will suffer. Do you want to suffer for doing good or suffer for self-inflicted sin? I don’t think anybody escapes suffering even when you do the right thing.
You’re going to go through hard things, but it’s easier to bear when you go through hard stuff following Christ. But, on the other hand, when you go through hard things living in sin, it’s tough to bear.
We’re fallen creatures in a fallen world, and the God of the universe loved and died for you, took your sins upon Himself in your place, on your behalf. He said, ‘I love you, and I’ll die for you. And I offer you wisdom.’ You get to make a choice. No one can make it for you.
Check out the previous sermon in this series here.