Pro 4: "When the things of God are to be taught precept must
be upon precept, and line upon line, not only because the things themselves are
of great worth and weight, but because men's minds, at the best, are unapt to
admit them and commonly prejudiced against them; and therefore Solomon, in this
chapter, with a great variety of expression and a pleasant powerful flood of
divine eloquence, inculcates the same things that he had pressed upon us in the
foregoing chapters. Here is: (1) an earnest exhortation to the study of wisdom,
that is, of true religion and godliness, borrowed from the good instructions
which his father gave him, and enforced with many considerable arguments (vv
1-13); (2) a necessary caution against bad company and all fellowship with the
unfruitful works of darkness (vv 14-19); and (3) particular directions for the
attaining and preserving of wisdom, and bringing forth the fruits of it (vv
20-27). So plainly, so pressingly, is the case laid before us, that we shall be
for ever inexcusable if we perish in our folly" (Henry).
"Pro 4 could be used by the expositor to warn young people of
the dangers of not deciding for the Lord and to motivate them to commitment.
Life is a series of forks in the road where decisions must be made. Youth must
pay attention to the road (vv 21,25–27) in order not to miss the correct
turns. Ultimately there are only two routes to take: 'Wisdom Lane' (vv
10–13), which could be illustrated as a small ordinary-looking lane going
up a big hill, and 'Folly Freeway' (vv 14–17), an eight-lane expressway
leading downward with apparently no obstacles or red lights. Verse 19 shows that
the ultimate destiny of the fool who fails to heed the warning signs is
darkness, symbolizing destruction" (Parsons, BibSac 150:598).
"Solomon transmits to his son the instruction which he has
received from his father. Thus he aims at making it an old household treasure.
He also hands down royal power, great possessions, national fame. But wisdom is
to him an inheritance more precious than all other things. The rest may go
rather than that this most prized part of the family estate [be lost]. It would
be well if fathers and sons had a similar opinion of the best of treasures. One
labours to leave heavy legacies in his will; another aims at securing good posts
for his sons; a third is proud of the unsullied family honour; but many forget
that which alone secures true welfare here and eternal life hereafter. It is
beautiful to see this heirloom of piety carefully guarded in the cottage of the
poor; but it is more interesting to see those who might be drawn aside to lower
pursuits -- as, alas! Solomon was in his later days -- setting the same treasure
before their family as the most valuable of all possessions" (Pulpit). As to the
passing down of the family "treasure" of godliness, even amongst the poor, Paul
commends Timothy: "I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived
in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now
lives in you also" (2Ti 1:5; cp 2Ti 3:14,15).
LISTEN, MY SONS, TO A FATHER'S INSTRUCTION; PAY ATTENTION
AND GAIN UNDERSTANDING: "Parents, remember: a child untaught will be a
living shame (Pro 29:15)" (CPro 36). One of the Ten Commandments had a promised
blessing attached to it: the commandment for children to honor their parents:
"so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you" (Exo
20:12; Deu 5:16). This honor, which extends to all ages of parents and children,
included obedience to their instruction (Lev 19:3; Eph 6:1-3; Col 3:20). To
emphasize the importance of obeying this command, the Law of Israel enforced the
child's obedience to parents by the death penalty (Deu 21:18-21). Children must
pay careful attention to hear and obey the instruction they receive from their
parents, especially fathers (Pro 23:22; 30:17). They are fools if they despise
the teaching of their fathers (Pro 15:5).
Correspondingly, fathers have a clear and important duty to
train their children in the fear of the LORD, and to perpetuate the truth of God
through them and their children (Pro 22:6; 29:15; Gen 18:19; Deu 4:9;
6:4-9,20-25; Jos 24:15; Psa 34:11; 71:18; 78:1-8; Isa 38:19; Joel 1:1-3; Eph
6:4). Paul presumed that fathers will righteously exhort, comfort, and command
their children (1Th 2:11).
The leaders of congregations, or ecclesias, are spiritual
"fathers" (1Co 4:14,15; 2Co 6:13), who are bound to be diligent in their
teaching (1Ti 4:13-16; 2Ti 4:1-4). And it is the duty of their hearers to listen
attentively to their instruction and obey it (1Th 5:20; Heb 13:7,17).
The Lord Jesus Christ heard all His Father taught, and
attended to all His instruction, for he declared plainly that he always did
those things that pleased Him (Joh 8:29). Even when the duty seemed
overwhelming, He heard and obeyed his Father (Mat 26:39).
MY SONS: The plural suggests, at least the possibility,
that what is in view here is an instructor (called the "father"), and his
students (called his "sons"). But v 3, referring to "my mother", brings us back
more firmly into the family environment. Of course, from our perspective today,
there are elements of both sorts of relationships in this instruction: the
early, and very important, parental instruction must not be neglected, but
neither should the later, and ongoing, adult instruction of us all -- from the
words of the Bible.
INSTRUCTION: "Muwcar", sw "discipline" (Pro 1:2,3,7)
and "instruction" (Pro 1:8) -- signifying (1) physical or parental: "discipline;
chastisement", (2) verbal: "warning; exhortation" and (3) moral: "training;
instruction". This instruction consists of wisdom acquired by observing the
consequences of foolish actions in others and developing the ability to control
the natural inclination to folly. This sometimes comes through experiencing
chastisement from God.
UNDERSTANDING: "Biynah", sw "insight" (Pro 1:2; 2:3) --
signifying to separate mentally, or to distinguish or discern between two things
-- ie, good and evil, practical and impractical, etc.
"The strong influence of the home and family in spiritual
training is a pronounced feature of Proverbs' teaching. Since God first taught
man in Eden, 'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom', it has been
passed from believing father to son. It was one secret of Israel's perpetuity,
even if it was so often disregarded. 'Only take heed, and keep your soul
diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen... make them
known to your children, and to your children's children' (Deu 4:9, RSV). The
basic cause of the present permissiveness in society is the failure of parents
to bring up children with a reverence for God and His Word (even if mixed with
I GIVE YOU SOUND LEARNING: "Sound" ("tob" = good)
suggests that which is the result of practical experience. It is "good" not only
intrinsically, but also because of both its source and its its effects (cp Pro
2:9). The word "learning" signifies a body of instruction or wisdom, something
like the modern "curriculum" in a college or university.
SO DO NOT FORSAKE MY TEACHING: Hebrew "torah": the
statutes or precepts of the Pentateuch -- the five books of Moses. Is the
father's "teaching" the Law of Moses, or his own instruction, or both?
"Where are fathers? The typical Christian father today sends
the kids to Sunday School for a woman to teach them, attends their Little League
games... brings home enough cash flow for three modest families to subsist on,
sends them to... university, and pays for a big wedding. He is AWOL! Fathers are
a despised species! They are demeaned at school, ridiculed on television, mocked
in movies, and ignored in court... They are the butt of most family jokes. Kids
learn to avoid them, conspire against them, steal from them, placate them, and
"Real fathers laugh at the conspiracy. They have an office and
mandate from heaven, and they are going to do their job with confidence and
zeal. They fear no man, especially their wives and children. They know they have
more truth and wisdom than the local school board combined and squared. They say
boldly, 'I give you good doctrine!' [AV] What is their textbook and manual? The
Word of God, the Holy Bible, the inspired Scriptures! They know that everything
else is mere drivel and twaddle, the babblings of egotistical idiots in love
with themselves (Isa 8:20; 1Ti 6:3-5,20-21). They despise any opinion contrary
to God's Word (Psa 119:98-100,128). They know they have wisdom, righteousness,
and life to make men and nations great (Deu 4:5-10; 6:24,25; 32:46,47)"
Vv 3,4: "The concern that these traditional teachings be
received is reinforced by personal experience -- they were lovingly handed down
by his parents. They were ingrained in his soul; he has seen them shape his life
and prove reliable. So the home continues to be the prominent arena of learning
as the parents in turn pass on the traditions (see Deu 6:6-9). In this section,
then, the one teaching strengthens his credibility by informing his sons that it
is a shared experience" (EBC).
WHEN I WAS A BOY IN MY FATHER'S HOUSE, STILL TENDER:
The adjective 'rakh' means 'tender; delicate' (BDB 940), and describes a lad who
is young and undeveloped in character (eg, 2Sa 3:39; cp Gen 33:13; 1Ch 22:5).
This "tenderness" in the young child suggests a danger -- that the child is
susceptible to the wrong influences, and therefore ought to be well-protected,
in both practical as well as spiritual matters. But the same "tenderness"
implies a tractable or malleable nature -- one that can be more easily
instructed in the right ways; and thus it is an opportunity as much as it is a
AND AN ONLY CHILD OF MY MOTHER: Heb "yachiyd": most
literally, the one and only, but also -- by implication -- that which is most
precious, or most beloved. Cp Psa 22:20: "Deliver my life from the sword, my
PRECIOUS life from the power of the dogs." Thus Isaac is spoken of as Abraham's
"only son" (Gen 22:2,12,16), as though God did not consider Ishmael and
Keturah's sons to be true sons of Abraham.
As used in the OT, the term is typical of Christ, the "only
begotten son", the beloved son, or the "precious" son: sw Gen 22:12,16; Jdg
11:34; Psa 25:16; 35:17; Pro 4:3; Jer 6:26; Amo 8:10; Zec 12:10.
As regards Solomon, the word must mean -- more figuratively --
the special and best-loved of his mother's sons -- since Bathsheba had more than
one son (1Ch 3:5). "His mother Bathsheba, who had a most affectionate regard to
him; and therefore in his tender age, as soon as he was susceptible of
instructions, gave them to him, which being received, made deep and lasting
impressions on him (Pro 31:1,2)" (Gill).
"What a delightful picture is painted in few words! Three
generations are represented: the father, his father, and his children. Hence
each living child of God is linked with those who have falled asleep and with
those who are yet to come. There is every reason for accepting this part of the
book as autobiographical. Solomon is telling of David his father. David had
other sons, but only Solomon was a child of promise, predestined by God to sit
on Israel's throne. He was in this sense a 'true son' of his father: he had
respect for him and obeyed him. He was also the 'only one in the sight of his
mother': Bathsheba had other sons, but Solomon was beloved as if he were an only
Vv 4-9 seems to be the remembered instruction of the
HE TAUGHT ME AND SAID: Following on from v 3 ("my
mother"), this may suggest that the first teaching of the small child was, more
naturally, done by the mother -- but at some point the father begins to assume
responsibility for the instruction of the growing child.
And so David must have taught Solomon, for he had seen the
dire consequences of neglecting his other sons, Adonijah, Absalom, and Amnon
(1Ki 1:6). Other examples of David's instructions to Solomon are found in 1Ki
2:2-9; 1Ch 22:12,13; 28:9,10.
"LAY HOLD OF MY WORDS WITH ALL YOUR HEART": "Lay hold"
is the sw as in Pro 3:18: "lay hold" of Wisdom. To "lay hold" is, then, not just
to grasp, but to hold fast, with a kind of bulldog desperation -- no matter the
consequences: It catches the sentiments of the Shullamite when at last she found
her Lover (who represents Christ to the body of believers): "Scarcely had I
passed them when I found the one my heart loves. I held him and would not let
him go..." (Song 3:4). And it does the same for the fiercely determined Jacob,
who finds to his surprise that he has mistakenly laid hands on an Angel of God,
but now knows that he must not let him go until he is specially blessed (Gen
"KEEP MY COMMANDS AND YOU WILL LIVE": It is not enough
to hear and retain the commandments -- they must be kept -- they must be obeyed.
As with the word of God, it is the doers of the word who are blessed, not the
hearers (Jam 1:21-25). Any rules are only as good as they are obeyed.
Receiving this traditional wisdom wholeheartedly will bring
life. "You will live" must mean experiencing life with all its blessings, life
as opposed to the whole "realm of death" with which it is in conflict (Kidner)
-- for there is such a thing as a "living death"! Deu 30 captures the contrast
forcefully: people are in a life-and-death struggle; choosing life means obeying
the commandments in order to enjoy God's bounty now, and His infinite blessings
hereafter: "See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and
destruction... This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I
have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so
that you and your children may live" (Deu 30:15,19).
GET WISDOM, GET UNDERSTANDING: This will be amplified
beginning in v 7. "The father urges the acquirement of wisdom in the same way
and with the same importunity as the trader or merchant presses his goods upon
buyers. Wisdom and understanding are put forward as objects of merchandise; for
the verb 'kanah' signifies not only 'to acquire for one's self,' or 'to
possess,' but especially 'to buy.' The verb occurs again in the same sense in v
7, 'Get ['kanah', ie, buy] wisdom;' and in Pro 23:23, 'Buy (kanah) the truth,
and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding' (cf also Pro
15:22: 16:16; 19:9, where we also meet with the same verb). The reiteration of
the word 'get,' as Umbreit remarks, is 'an imitation of the exclamation of a
merchant who is offering his wares.' The importunity of the father measures the
value he sets upon wisdom as an inestimable treasure, a pearl of great price
(see Pro 3:14)" (Pulpit). The great importance of acquiring this wisdom, but
especially of retaining it and continuing in it, is emphasized many times in
Proverbs and also in Joh 8:30,31; Col 1:22,23; and Heb 3:6,14.
DO NOT FORGET MY WORDS OR SWERVE FROM THEM: It is not
enough to remember what has been taught (v 4); one must continue to acquire
knowledge. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God" (Mat 6;33).
DO NOT FORSAKE WISDOM, AND SHE WILL PROTECT YOU; LOVE HER,
AND SHE WILL WATCH OVER YOU: Here, once again, wisdom is personified. It
becomes "Lady Wisdom", the wealthy and wise and beautiful woman, who offers a
young man all he can possibly desire -- if he will only love her. She is
presented in this verse more as a patron who can protect, whereas in v 8 she
becomes, figuratively, a bride that is to be loved and embraced. In either
appearance, Wisdom is personified as a virtuous woman contrasted to the strange
and immoral woman. Proverbs elaborates on how she protects from the evil man
(Pro 2:12-15), the evil woman (Pro 2:16-19; 5:1-20; Pro 7), and catastrophe (Pro
SHE WILL WATCH OVER YOU: "Watch over" is variously
translated "keep" (AV), "preserve" (LXX), "guard", and "take care of".
WISDOM IS SUPREME; THEREFORE GET WISDOM: Use whatever
else you have acquired to "buy" wisdom (cp Pro 16:16; Luk 10:42). Acquiring this
wisdom is not the result of innate intelligence or opportunity only; it is the
result primarily of DESIRE: 'Do you really WANT it? Then come and get
SUPREME: Hebrew "reshith" (familiar as the "beginning"
in Gen 1:1) offers varying possibilities: does it mean "first, or beginning" in
point of importance, or in point of time? Thus the KJV -- along with the ASV --
translates "the principal thing", and the NIV -- along with the NET --
translates "supreme". With this agrees Ecc 12:13, where the "conclusion" of
"wisdom" is to fear God and keep His commandments. On the other hand, the RSV
has "The beginning of wisdom is this...": thus introducing the next phrase of v
And surely, no matter which way we read it, the point is true:
we BEGIN by seeking wisdom, which is the PRIMARY thing; and we END by truly
acquiring wisdom, and CONTINUING to grow therein, in the most practical ways.
First, last, and always, true Biblical wisdom is foremost, or supreme!
THOUGH IT COST ALL YOU HAVE: "With all thy getting"
(AV). But this does not mean, as the AV seems to imply, that while one is
acquiring other things, he is also to acquire wisdom; rather, it means that
wisdom is to be purchased with all else he has acquired or gotten. "Getting"
("kinyon") is the purchase money. In other words, no price is too high to be
paid for wisdom, no sacrifice too great.
And so, instead of the AV rendering, which is ambiguous, the
phrase might be better translated as in the NIV, or, perhaps, "above all else".
The point is that no price is too high for wisdom -- give everything for it
(KD). "She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with
her" (Pro 3:15). Jesus turned this proverb into two little parables: the
treasure hidden in the field (Mat 13:44), and the pearl of great price (Mat
13:45,46). And he also said, "In the same way, any of you who does not give up
EVERYTHING he has cannot be my disciple" (Luk 14:33). And Paul spoke of "knowing
Christ Jesus my Lord" (which must be, in this sense, the ULTIMATE of "wisdom"!)
as so much greater than all other attainments and acquisitions that they were to
him as rubbish (Phi 3:8).
GET UNDERSTANDING: "Pro 4:1-7 is another urgent plea to
seek wisdom, summed up in v 7 -- Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get
wisdom: and with all thy getting, get understanding.' Do we fully realize this
is addressed to us? -- that WE are the ones in urgent need of making the pursuit
of life-giving divine wisdom the single concern of our lives?
"It is so easy to read all this over and over without ever
perceiving its present, direct, and pressing bearing upon OURSELVES. Unless we
awake, and make the personal application, all these beautiful, divine words will
do nothing for us except to condemn us.
"In our natural state we have NO wisdom. In our natural state
we are silly, shallow, fleshly, and foolish, like all the rest of mankind, and
we STAY that way unless God's Word changes us. God has no use for such. 'God
hath no pleasure in fools.' Therefore, the Proverbs make repeated, intense
efforts to get us to realize the urgency of these things -- to realize that we
have no time to waste, that we must put aside all else and devote ourselves to
God's Word and work, that there is no hope or promise for any who neglect this
or get sidetracked into the meaningless things of this life" (GVG). See Lesson,
Wisdom and knowledge.
V 7 is not in the LXX, although evidently well-established in
the MT. Some critics say that this verse interrupts unnecessarily the flow from
v 6 ("love her") to v 8 ("embrace her").
ESTEEM HER, AND SHE WILL EXALT YOU; EMBRACE HER, AND SHE
WILL HONOR YOU: David, by wisdom, had a heart like God's (1Sa 13:14; 16:7);
thus the LORD made him king over Israel, and all Israel loved him (1Sa 18:16,30;
2Sa 7:8). In the language of Proverbs, "Lady Wisdom" exalted and honored him!
Even his enemies and subjects thought of him as an angel (1Sa 29:9; 2Sa 14:17)!
How did he get this glorious reputation? He committed himself to wisdom (Psa
101:1-8). David exalted and embraced wisdom. Consider his holy example well.
What did he think of Scripture? He thought it more valuable than much fine gold
and more pleasant than honey and the honeycomb (Psa 19:10; 119:127)! How often
did he think about the Bible? Day and night (Psa 1:2)! What was his greatest
treasure? The Bible (Psa 119:14,111,162)!
ESTEEM: "Prize" (NASB, RSV).
SHE WILL HONOR YOU: "Them that honor me, I will honor"
"Howard Hughes had money, lots of it! But he ended his life a
neurotic recluse and dysfunctional idiot! Princess Diana had popularity, lots of
it! But her life was filled with loneliness, pain, and turmoil! Ty Cobb had
athletic success, lots of it! But he spent his life hating, and being hated.
These lives exemplify the horror of not seeking wisdom first. John F. Kennedy,
Jr, had great advantages and potential, but folly cut him short. Marilyn Monroe
was a star, but her light was put out in obscure darkness! Elvis Presley was
adored by pagans, but he died a bloated wreck in the prime of life. These few
examples pursued sin to their hurt. They rejected wisdom, and life spat them out
"David was youngest of eight sons and a shepherd, ignored by
his own family when Samuel came to anoint a king from Jesse's sons (1Sa
16:1-11). But God saw the inner workings of his heart and promoted him over all
his brothers, Saul's family, and every other man in Israel. David exalted
wisdom, and it promoted him! He was loved by Israel (1Sa 18:16), Philistines
(1Sa 29:9; 2Sa 15:18-22), and famous kings (1Ki 5:1)! But David had wisdom far
beyond right thinking, speaking, and acting. He had wisdom to see beyond this
life and into the next. He saw and believed God's promises in Jesus Christ, and
it was in the sweet comfort of that wisdom he died (2Sa 23:1-5). The ultimate
measure of folly is to exalt anything in this world without regard for the next!
David saw his Son and his Lord as the true object for life and death (Psa
SHE WILL SET A GARLAND OF GRACE ON YOUR HEAD AND PRESENT
YOU WITH A CROWN OF SPLENDOR: The personification of wisdom continues with
the bestowal of a wreath for the head (cp Pro 1:9). The point is that grace will
be given to the individual like a wreath about the head. Some see here an
allusion to a "wedding feast", with the bride ceremonially bestowing a golden
crown upon her husband (cf Song 3:11); hence, 'Worship and serve Wisdom, and
then she will serve you!'
This, of course, was exactly what Solomon did in the
beginning: he sought wisdom first and foremost. He did not ask for long life,
wealth, women, the destruction of his enemies, or any other vain thing. He
wanted wisdom and understanding (1Ki 3:6-10). And because of his wonderfully
prudent choice, the LORD gave him a wise and understanding heart greater than
any other man's (1Ki 3:11,12). And the LORD also gave crowned him with riches
and honor, as additional rewards for the wise choice (1Ki 3:13,14).
A CROWN OF SPLENDOR: We seek to "buy" wisdom
(experiential wisdom) by serving in the Lord's flock, despite difficulties and
sufferings. "And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of
glory that will never fade away" (1Pe 5:4).
Waddoup has an interesting comment on this verse: "A crown is
the symbol of kingship. As if to emphasise the source of the gift, Peter used an
unusual word for 'receive': 'komizo' instead of 'lambano', which is used by
James, for instance, when he too mentions the crown: 'Blessed is the man that
endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall RECEIVE the crown of life,
which the Lord hath promised to them that love him' (Jam 1:12). We have already
mentioned the promise of a crown in Revelation; let us not forget its warning:
'Behold, I come quickly: hold fast that which thou hast, that no man take thy
crown' (Rev. 3:11). Paul, again, can speak of the brethren themselves being his
hope or joy or achievement when standing before the Lord Jesus (1Th 2:19). He
calls it there a 'crown of glorying' (RV). In the RV rendering of Pro 4:9,
'crown of glory' becomes 'crown of beauty'. It is interesting that there too a
rare word is used: the Hebrew word 'magan' for 'deliver', found only in two
other places, namely Gen 14:20 and Hos 11:8. Young gives its meaning as 'to
deliver up, to give freely'. "Isaiah tells of Zion becoming a crown of beauty:
'Thou shalt also be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal
diadem in the hand of thy God' (Isa 62:3, RV). 'Strength and beauty are in his
sanctuary' (Psa 96:6). God's purpose with Zion is to put His Name there. In that
day: 'Of Zion it shall be said, This one and that one was born in her'
(Psa.87:6, RV). But for the time being we see Jesus 'because of the suffering of
death crowned with glory and honour, that by the grace of God he should taste
death for every man. For it became him ... in bringing many sons to glory, to
make the author of their salvation perfect through sufferings' (Heb 2:9,10,
SPLENDOR: "Tipharah" is translated "glory" in AV, but
"beauty" in RV and "beautiful" in RSV.
Vv 10-19: Once again, two paths lie before the youth, the way
of wisdom (vv 10-13) and the way of the wicked (vv 14-17). In vv 18,19 the two
paths are compared.
"Commentators are divided in their opinions: should the new
series of exhortations beginning at v 10 be regarded as a continuation of
David's advice to Solomon, since part of the first talk resembles David's last
words found in 2Sa 23? Certainly Solomon confirms his father's message, but we
sense a change. Either he is talking to another son, or to the same son at a
more mature stage of life, for v 11 reads: 'I have taught thee in the way of
wisdom; I have led thee in the right paths'. And he will do so again!
"We are reminded of the introductory verses of Pro 1 which
show us that Proverbs is for the attention of the simple (the open-minded, the
undecided), for the young and for the more advanced: 'The wise man will hear,
and will increase learning.' We all need telling these things over and over
again; there is no let-up. As Paul wrote, 'Wherefore let him that thinketh he
standeth take heed lest he fall' (1Co 10:12). Further, to quote Proverbs itself:
'Happy is the man that feareth ALWAY: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall
into mischief' (Pro 28:14)" (Waddoup).
LISTEN, MY SON: Men have trouble hearing advice,
because their own feelings, thoughts, ideas, opinions, preferences, and goals
are racing loudly through their selfish and conceited minds. Others are too busy
chasing vanity and do not have the time to listen. Only a few have the wisdom to
make the time and shut down their own ignorant thinking to learn wisdom from
another, whom God has appointed as a teacher (Pro 18:1,2).
ACCEPT WHAT I SAY: Men resent correction, instruction,
and reproofs, because pride refuses to admit they are wrong. The enslaving power
of arrogance and conceit dooms most men to ignorance and failure (Pro 26:12,16).
They cannot learn, because they will not reject their ideas to admit another is
wiser. Only a few have the wisdom to confess ignorance and learn from others
(1Ki 3:7; Psa 131:1-3; Jer 1:6; Mat 18:3,4).
AND THE YEARS OF YOUR LIFE WILL BE MANY: That is, the
years of your life will not be diminished as a result of falling into mischief
(cp Pro 3:1,2). "Life" here is literally plural: the use of "lives" suggests
"both the present life and the life to come" (1Ti 4:8)!
"Learning wisdom will extend your life, and it will enhance
your life. There is safety in wisdom that secures you from life's dangers and
the judgment of God and men (Pro 2:18; 3:2,16; 5:5; 7:27; 8:36; 9:11,18; 10:2;
11:4,19; 12:28; 13:14; 14:12,27; 16:14,25; 18:21; 21:6). And there is a reward
in wisdom that brings glory and honor (Pro 3:16; 4:8,9; 22:4). Do you fully
appreciate the value in hearing and receiving the sayings of your
"Wisdom will extend your life naturally, especially the
sayings of this book of Proverbs. Here are clear warnings against the
life-shortening consequences of accidents, anger, a broken heart, capital
punishment, crime, depression, disease, divorce, drunkenness, envy, fear,
gluttony, grief, guilt, hatred, marital dysfunction, murder, STDs, stress, and
strife. It is your wisdom to consider each of these sinful causes of premature
"If you do not think the above things shorten life, you need
to think again. Some will kill you directly; some will kill you indirectly.
Consider just for starters the enormous power of psychosomatic illnesses --
bodily breakdown from mental or spiritual problems. It is a modern medical fact
that a joyful and happy person in a monogamous marriage will outlive a single
[immoral person] of either sex.
"Wisdom will extend your life supernaturally by securing God's
blessings and/or avoiding His justice and judgment. The blessed God will cut off
the lives of the wicked (Psa 55:23; Ecc 7:17), but He will extend the lives of
the righteous (Pro 10:27; Psa 34:11-16; 91:14-16; 128:6; 1Ti 4:8; 1Pe 3:8-12).
Remember the reward for obeying parents (Eph 6:1-3). When God is on your side by
obedience to His word and teachers, you have done more for your future health
and longevity than any vitamin or exercise program!
"Consider the shortened lives of the world's inhabitants (Gen
7:21-24), Sodom's fine citizens (Gen 19:24,25), Er and Onan (Gen 38:7-10), Eli's
sons (1Sa 2:25), Nabal (1Sa 25:38), Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11), Herod
(Acts 12:23), and many church members at Corinth (1Co 11:30)! This is no
laughing matter, for we see it throughout the OT; and we see it even among the
church members of the NT" (LGBT).
V 11: The figure of a road is now used to make a
comparison. Living according to wisdom is like walking or running on a safe
road, a course that will be free of obstacles, so that progress will be certain
(see Pro 3:5,6n). God's way is the best route to take through life. It offers
the fewest potholes, detours, and dangers. God's commands are similar to the
stripes or lines on modern highways, and the large and well-lit signs. They help
travelers stay on the proper part of the road so they do not have accidents, and
so that they reach their intended destinations. As David writes in Psa 18:36:
"You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn" (cf also Psa
I GUIDE YOU IN THE WAY OF WISDOM: The verb "yarah"
means "to teach; to instruct; to guide"; according to Driver, it is from the
same root as the Hebrew word for "law" (torah). "Way" is "derek", track and
road. Whereas the KJV has the word "taught", the NIV has "guide", which is
surely better. The point is not simply to "teach", in so many words -- but to
"guide" by showing the way; practical demonstration and example is the best
method of teaching anything (see Lesson, Sermons we see).
AND LEAD YOU ALONG STRAIGHT PATHS: "Lead" is the verb
"darak", closely related to the word for "way". "Paths" is "magal" -- the track
of a wagon-wheel (see Pro 2:9n). As a wagon-wheel cuts a deep track in a much
traversed dirt road, so a person falls into routines and habits that reveal his
moral character. In Proverbs the "paths" of the righteous are characterized by
uprightness (as here, "straight", or "yasher") and integrity. "The idea of
straightness or evenness is the primary meaning of the word, and is, of course,
appropriate to the image of a path. In the moral view, it suggests how much more
simple and easy a course of rectitude is than one of sin. The one goes straight
and unswerving to its end; the other is crooked, devious, intricate, and wanders
from the true goal. A crooked road is a long road, and an up-and-down road is a
tiring road. Wisdom's way is straight, level, and steadily approaches its aim"
The duty of the parents (fathers AND mothers) is three-fold,
as outlined in this verse; it pertains to the duty, the content, and the
confidence of good parenting and teaching: (1) We must teach; (2) we must teach
the right things; and (3) we must do it confidently, and
WHEN YOU WALK, YOUR STEPS WILL NOT BE HAMPERED:
"Straitened" (AV). The verb "tsarar", "to be narrow; to be constricted",
signifies distress, trouble, and adversity; conversely, that which was wide-open
or broad represents freedom and deliverance. It is popularly assumed -- by the
masses, and even by some who are themselves religious -- that religion has a
hampering or confining aspect, and that it is a "hard" life... so many rules and
regulations and requirements! But the very opposite is suggested by this verse:
the servant of Divine Wisdom runs with a joyful freedom on his designated
course, at the same time being carefully guarded from misadventure. "Then you
will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (Joh 8:32).
On the other hand, "Foolish men find that life is like a hedge
of thorns -- very difficult to get through (Pro 15:19). It is an axiom of human
existence that fools will have a hard life (Pro 13:15). Without wisdom, man has
no light to direct him, and he will stumble over life's surprises (Pro 4:19)! If
a man chooses to be a fool, he is asking for misery and pain (Pro 8:36). Friends
may entice him into a crime, and then he is a felon for life. A strange woman,
looking ever so good, may ruin his marriage and reputation. A vain talker may
deceive him into quitting a real job to purse a business scam. Mooching friends
may bankrupt him with cosigned loans" (LGBT). And, of course, these are but a
few examples of the "constricted" way of the foolish man, or woman.
WHEN YOU RUN, YOU WILL NOT STUMBLE: The progression
from "walk" to "run" suggests greater and greater freedom, or deliverance --
going on, so to speak, "from strength to strength" (Psa 84:7; cp the same idiom
employed in Isa 40:29-31). If a man humbles himself before the word of God and
his teachers, and if he accepts and applies their instruction, then the great
God will guide him, protect him, and prosper him (Pro 10:17; 13:18; 14:27;
15:32; Psa 32:7-11; 34:11-22; 128:1-6).
STUMBLE: "The primary idea of the Hebrew 'kashal'... is
'to totter in the ankles'. It occurs again in v 16 and is a different verb from
the one in Pro 3:23 which means to 'strike the foot' " (CPro).
Now, a digression, with -- first of all -- an
We start with "THE WAY OF WISDOM" (v 11 again): We really
ought to think of this "Way" as the Faith, or the Truth of the gospel. Better
than speaking of our distinctive Faith as "the Truth", we might more
Scripturally call it "the Way" (cp Acts 9:2; 19:9; 22:4; 24:22), or -- more
specifically -- "the Way to be saved" (Acts 16:17), or "the Way of the Lord"
(Acts 18:25), or even "the Way to the tree of life" (Gen 3:24; cf Joh 14:5,6).
And here, as elsewhere in Proverbs, that same "Way" is called the "Way of
WISDOM". But "wisdom" is not to be understood in the abstract only, for there is
one true "Wisdom", and that is the "Word" of God, and there is one true "Word",
and that is Christ -- "the Word made flesh" (John 1:14). And so the "Way of
Wisdom" is, simply put, the "Way of Christ".
This introduces the wise words of the old Scottish preacher
Alexander Maclaren, which are here reproduced at more than usual length, simply
because the exhortation is so powerful, and so meaningful to us.
"With that heightening of the meaning of the phrase, 'the
[Way] of Wisdom' assumes a heightened meaning too, for it is the path of the
personal Wisdom... Christ Himself. And what does it THEN come to be to obey this
command to walk in the way of Wisdom? Put it into three sentences. Let the
Christ who is not only wise, but Wisdom, choose your path, and be sure that by
the submission of your will all your paths are his, and not only yours. Make his
path yours by following in his steps, and do in your place what you think Christ
would have done if he had been there. Keep company with him on the road. If we
will do these three things -- if we will say to him, 'Lord, when thou sayest go,
I go; when thou biddest me come, I come; I am thy slave, and I rejoice in the
bondage more than in all licentious liberty, and what thou biddest me do, I do'
-- if you will further say, 'As thou art, so am I in the world' -- and if you
will further say, 'Leave me not alone, and let me cling to thee on the road, as
a little child holds on by her mother's skirt or her father's hand,' then, and
only then, will you walk in the path of Wisdom.
"Now, then, these three things -- submission of will,
conformity of conduct, closeness of companionship -- these three things being
understood, let us look for a moment at the blessings that this text promises,
and [especially] at the promise for long uneventful stretches of our daily life.
That, of course, is mainly the largest proportion of all our lives. Perhaps
nine-tenths at least of all our days and years fall under the terms of this...
promise, 'When thou walkest.' For many miles there comes nothing particular,
nothing at all exciting, nothing new, nothing to break the plod, plod, plod
along the road. Everything is as it was yesterday, and the day before that, and
as it will be to-morrow, and the day after that, in all probability. 'The
trivial round, the common task' make up by far the largest percentage of our
lives. It is as in wine, the immense proportion of it is nothing but water, and
only a small proportion of alcohol is diffused through the great mass of the
tamer liquid. Now, then, if Jesus Christ is not to help us in the monotony of
our daily lives, what, in the name of common sense, is his help good for? If it
is not true that he will be with us, not only in the moments of crisis, but in
the long commonplace hours, we may as well have no Christ at all, for all that I
can see. Unless the trivial is his field, there is very little field for him, in
your life or mine. And so it should come to all of us who have to take up this
daily burden of small, monotonous, constantly recurring, and therefore often
wearisome, duties, as even a [most] blessed promise... that 'when thou walkest,
thy steps shall not be straitened.'
"I remember hearing of a man that got so disgusted with having
to dress and undress himself every day that he committed suicide to escape from
the necessity. That is a very extreme form of the feeling that comes over us all
sometimes, when we wake in a morning and look before us along the stretch of
dead level, which is a great deal more wearisome when it lasts long than are the
cheerful vicissitudes of up hill and down dale. We all know the deadening
influence of a habit, we all know the sense of disgust that comes over us at
times, and of utter weariness, just because we have been doing the same things
day after day for so long.
"I know only one infallible way of preventing the common from
becoming commonplace, of preventing the small from becoming trivial, of
preventing the familiar from becoming contemptible, and it is to link it all to
Jesus Christ, and to say, 'For thy sake, and unto thee, I do this'; then, not
only will the rough places become plain, and the crooked things straight, and
not only will the mountains be brought low, but the valleys of the commonplace
will be exalted [Isa 40:4]. 'Thy steps shall not be straitened.' 'I will make
his feet as hind's feet,' says one of the old prophets [2Sa 22:34; Psa 18:33;
Hab 3:19]. What a picture of light, buoyant, graceful movement that is! And each
of us may have that, instead of the grind, grind, grind! tramp, tramp, tramp!
along the level and commonplace road of our daily lives, if we will. Walk in the
path of Christ, with Christ, towards Christ, and 'thy steps shall not be
HOLD ON TO INSTRUCTION, DO NOT LET IT GO: "Feeble,
indeed, is our hold when connected merely with the excitement of novelty (Mat
13:20,21), temporary convictions (Psa 78:34-36; 106:12,13), unestablished
knowledge (Gal 3:1-4), or the indulgence of sin (Mar 6:18-26). Truths received
only in the understanding, not becoming our daily spiritual nourishment, never
fix on the heart. We must exhibit an intense interest, 'continuing in the things
which we have heard and been assured of' (2Ti 3:14). As Jacob detained the angel
(Gen 32:26-29); as the spouse held fast to her beloved (Song 3:4); as the
disciples 'constrained the Savior to abide with them' (Luk 24:28,29), so must we
not let her go. Let us recognize Wisdom's importance as being our life as did
Peter in Joh 6:67-69" (CPro).
The AV is more powerful here: "Take FAST hold..." This echoes
the "embrace her" of v 8. "To take 'fast hold' is an exhortation which concerns
the strength, the reality, the heartiness, and the truthfulness of faith, and
the more of these the better. If to take hold is good, to take fast hold is
better. Even a touch of the hem of Christ’s garment causeth healing to
come to us, but if we want the full riches which are treasured up in Christ, we
must not only touch but take hold; and if we would know from day to day to the
very uttermost all the fullness of his grace, we must take fast hold, and so
maintain a constant and close connection between our souls and the eternal
fountain of life. It were well to give such a grip as a man gives to a plank
when he seizes hold on it for his very life -- that is a fast hold indeed... At
the outset, my brethren, much must depend upon the intense decision which a man
feels in his soul with regard to eternal things. If he intends trifling he will
trifle, but if he means taking fast hold he will, by God’s grace, do so.
Under God, this, in many cases, depends very much upon a man’s
individuality and force of character. Some men are naturally thorough and
whole-hearted in all things upon which they enter, whether of this world or the
next... [But] many in our churches appear to have no depth of earth; with joy
they receive the word, from the very fact that they are so shallow, but as soon
as the sun ariseth with burning heat it is discovered that they have no root,
for they wither away. Others are truly religious, and probably will remain so,
but they are not zealous; in fact, they are not intense about anything, but are
lukewarm, weak, and unstable. These are mere chips in the porridge, neither
souring nor sweetening: they give forth no flavour, but they take the flavour of
that which surrounds them; they are the creatures of circumstances, not helmsmen
who avail themselves of stream and tide, but mere drift-wood carried along by
any and every current which may take hold on them. They have no fullness of
manhood about them, they are mere children; they resemble the sapling which can
be bent and twisted, and not the oak which defies the storm. There are certain
persons of this sort who in other matters have purpose enough, and strength of
mind enough, but when they touch the things of God they are loose, flimsy,
superficial, half-hearted. You see them earnest enough in hunting after wealth,
but they show no such zeal in the pursuit of godliness. The force of their
character comes out in a political debate, in the making of a bargain, in the
arrangement of a social gathering, but you never see it in the work of the Lord"
"The image of the path is dropped for the moment, and the
picture of the way of uprightness and its travellers is translated into the
plain exhortation to keep fast hold of instruction, which is substantially
equivalent to the queenly Wisdom of these early chapters of Proverbs. The
earnestness of the repeated exhortations implies the strength of the forces that
tend to sweep us, especially those of us who are young, from our grasp of that
Wisdom. Hands become slack, and many a good gift drops from nerveless fingers;
thieves abound who will filch away 'instruction,' if we do not resolutely hold
tight by it. Who would walk through the slums of a city holding jewels with a
careless grasp, and never looking at them? How many would he have left if he
did? We do not need to do anything to lose instruction. If we will only do
nothing to keep it, the world and our own hearts will make sure that we lose it.
And if we lose it, we lose ourselves; for 'she is thy life,' and the mere bodily
life, that is lived without her, is not worth calling the life of a man"
GUARD IT WELL, FOR IT IS YOUR LIFE: " 'Grab the
lifeline, and don't let go! You can make it! You can live!' If you were drowning
at sea, would you obey these words from a sailor in a rescue boat? You would,
for the consequences of not obeying would be certain death. You would, for
holding a line is a very cheap price to pay, and easy effort to make, to save
"You may never face drowning at sea; but you will face
drowning in the sea of life, when the storms of a sinful world come against you.
Only by keeping instruction will you be able to survive the storm. The Lord
instructs us by parents, pastors, and His Word. Have you grabbed hold of this
teaching to save your life (Pro 3:18,22; Ecc 7:12; Deu 32:45-47)?
"Our proverb teaches us how to listen to instruction. We must
grasp with understanding what we hear and not let it slip away. The instruction
of wisdom is what will save us from the perplexities and dangers of life. We
must hold it tight and not let it go. We must retain what we learn. Don't sell
it for any price (Pro 23:23)!
"Jesus described good hearers as those who took His sayings
and built their lives on them (Mat 7:24-27). He told of two men, one who built
his house on the sand, one who built his house on a rock. The storms of life
destroyed the house built on sand, but the one built on a rock easily withstood
the storm" (LGBT).
Vv 14-17: "How mindful of our weaknesses is our Teacher!
Having led us into the right paths, he is still close by, ready to guide us if
we, for our part, 'continue... in the things which thou hast learned and hast
been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.' Paul's advice to
Timothy was that even on the right road persecution would not be avoided. 'Yea,
and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution', he said.
On the other road, not far away, are the 'evil men and seducers', who Paul said
would 'wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived'. [2Ti 3:12-14] The
tendency to deviate from the right way towards theirs we must surely recognise
as folly" (Waddoup).
"Verses 14 to 17 give the picture of the other path, in
terrible contrast with the preceding. It is noteworthy that, while in the former
the designation was the 'path of uprightness' or of 'wisdom,' and the
description therefore was mainly of the characteristics of the path, here the
designation is 'the path of the wicked,' and the description is mainly of the
travellers on it Righteousness was dealt with, as it were, in the abstract; but
wickedness is too awful and dark to be painted thus, and is only set forth in
the concrete, as seen in its doers. Now, it is significant that the first
exhortation here is of a negative character. In contrast with the reiterated
exhortations to keep wisdom, here are reiterated counsels to steer clear of
evil. It is all about us, and we have to make a strong effort to keep it at
arm's-length. 'Whom resist' [1Pe 5:9] is imperative. True, negative virtue is
incomplete, but there will be no positive virtue without it. We must be
accustomed to say 'No,' or we shall come to little good. An outer belt of firs
is sometimes planted round a centre of more tender and valuable wood to shelter
the young trees; so we have to make a fence of abstinences round our plantation
of positive virtues. The decalogue is mostly prohibitions. 'So did NOT I,
because of the fear of God' must be our motto" (Maclaren).
Vv 14,15: Cp the ideas of Psa 1:1: "Blessed is the man who
does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit
in the seat of mockers." This simple rule would have saved Lot (Gen 13:10-13),
Dinah (Gen 34:1), Solomon himself (1Ki 11:1-10), Jehoshaphat (2Ch 18:1-3;
20:35-37; 21:1-6), and Peter (Mat 26:58). God is serious about separation from
the wicked (Pro 9:6; 13:20; 14:7; 22:24,25; 2Ch 19:2; Psa 101:3-8; Rom 16:17,18;
1Co 5:1-13; 2Co 6:14-17; Gal 1:6-9; Eph 5:11; 2Th 3:6; 1Ti 6:5; 2Ti 3:5; Tit
3:10,11; Jam 4:4; Rev 18:4). Of course, we cannot avoid ALL association with the
world (1Co 5:9,10), but we can surely avoid conforming to it (Rom 12:1,2; 1Jo
DO NOT SET FOOT ON THE PATH OF THE WICKED OR WALK IN THE
WAY OF EVIL MEN: "Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character' "
(1Co 15:33). "The conversation of the wicked has far more power to corrupt the
righteous than the conversation of the righteous to amend the wicked; just as it
is much easier for the healthy to become diseased by communication with the sick
than for the sick to be restored by communication with the healthy. One reason
why the society of those who are not truly religious will be a great hindrance
to the Christian is that if he will not give up the dictates of his conscience
he must expect to meet with the scoffs of men. There would be less danger to the
Christian in mixing with sinners if it were not that they are always ready to
entice him to their evil ways. Good men, it is to be lamented, are not usually
as anxious to bring their companions to the knowledge and practice of true
religion as bad men often are to tempt the good to wander from it. Many a
person, after feeling his heart impressed with the things belonging to his
eternal peace, has been fatally ruined by mixing with those who viewed his
religion with suspicion or contempt, and were desirous to make him forget the
sacred impression" (BI).
Setting a foot on this downward road of the wicked will be
like the first venture upon the "slippery slope"; it may be impossible -- who
can tell? -- ever to retrace one's steps, once that fatal first one is taken. It
is fatal to think we can dally with sin because we think we have a built-in
resistance; our only safe course is complete avoidance. All the more reason, as
Waddoup puts it, that "the solid warning to enter not into the way of evil men
holds within it the [further] meaning, '...but if perchance you have entered, go
no further'." For it may yet be still possible, if only barely, to escape that
fatally dangerous declivity!
Why is sin so dangerous? Because it is deceitful! "But
encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you
may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness" (Heb 3:13). "Sin" masquerades as
innocent pleasure, or as the merest trifle of the passing moment, hardly worth
notice at all, or even as praiseworthy action. The "devil" doesn't have horns
and hooves and a pitchfork. He wears a business suit and talks about "guaranteed
future returns" on his investments. Or SHE assumes the guise of a beautiful
young woman who purrs, "So you're married. So what? There can be no harm in one
simple drink, can there?"
There is a scene in the movie "Broadcast News" where a
television news reporter tries to dissuade a young co-worker from pursuing a
relationship with a television news anchor man: "Tom, while being a very nice
guy, is the devil!" he says. At first, she is offended by his comment, but as he
continues there is a powerful logic to his argument. "What do you think the
devil's going to look like if he's around? C'mon, no one's going to be taken in
by a guy with a long, red, pointy tail!... He will be attractive. He'll be
charming. He'll have a pleasant smile. He'll be nice and helpful. He'll get a
job where he influences a great, God-fearing nation. He'll never do an evil
thing. He'll never deliberately hurt a living thing. He'll just -- bit by little
bit -- lower our standards where they're important... Just coax along flash over
substance. Just a tiny little bit. That'll be enough." For how else can the
"devil", or "sin", hope to "deceive" mankind?
AVOID IT, DO NOT TRAVEL ON IT; TURN FROM IT AND GO ON YOUR
WAY: Do not just "avoid" evil, but put the greatest possible distance
between yourself and it! The rapid sequence of brief commands stresses the
urgency of the matter -- it is not something to be trifled with.
AVOID IT: Keep clear of it or away from it. Have
nothing to do with it. Shun it like the plague.
DO NOT TRAVEL ON IT: Keep a safe distance. Better yet,
keep a GREAT distance -- the greater the better! Do not even approach it. Choose
a course in another direction. Change your route home from work if it takes you
by the bar, or the questionable bookstore or video store.
TURN FROM IT: Change direction when you realize you are
near it. Get away from it as fast as you can. Run for your life -- like Joseph
did (Gen 39:12)!
GO ON YOUR WAY: KEEP moving away. Put distance between
you and the danger -- as much as you can, and as fast as you can. DON'T look
back (ct Gen 19:26)!
"Many excuse their sin by saying, 'But everyone is doing it!'
Wisdom answers back, 'That proves it is wrong!' For this world lies in
wickedness (1Jo 2:15-17; 5:19). Jesus said things highly esteemed by this world
are an abomination to God (Luk 16:15). And to follow a crowd into sin and moral
compromise is specifically condemned (Exo 23:2)" (LGBT).
"One chief cause of wickedness is our curiosity to have some
fellowship with darkness, some experience of sin, to know what the pleasures of
sin are like. Not to know sin by experience brings upon a man the laughter and
jests of his companions. Curiosity brought about Eve's fall; and a wanton roving
after things forbidden, a curiosity to know what it was to be as the heathen,
was one chief source of the idolatries of the Jews... If we admit evil thoughts
we shall make ourselves familiar with them. Our great security against sin lies
in being shocked at it. [And] there is a tendency to repeat an act of sin once
FOR THEY CANNOT SLEEP TILL THEY DO EVIL; THEY ARE ROBBED OF
SLUMBER TILL THEY MAKE SOMEONE FALL: "How sick to find peace only at the
price of another man's misfortune" (Alden, cited NETn). Here is pictured an
unwearied wickedness; wickedness is the center of their lives, their complete
preoccupation: Pro 1:10-14; 2:12-15; Job 24:15,16; Psa 36:4; 10:8; Mic 2:1; Rev
2:14. Examples: Judas (Joh 18:13); Sanhedrin (Luk 22:66); and the enemies of
Paul (Act 23:12).
"As much satisfaction as a covetous man has when he has got
money, an ambitious man when he has got preferment, and a good man when he has
done good, so much have they when they have said or done that which is injurious
and ill-natured; and they are extremely uneasy if they cannot get their envy and
revenge gratified, as Haman, to whom every thing was unpleasant as long as
Mordecai was unhanged. It intimates likewise how restless and unwearied they are
in their mischievous pursuits; they will rather be deprived of sleep than of the
pleasure of being vexatious" (Henry).
THEY EAT THE BREAD OF WICKEDNESS AND DRINK THE WINE OF
VIOLENCE: There are two ways to read these two phrases, either: (a)
wickedness and violence are their food and drink -- so important are they to
them (cp Job 15:16 and, perhaps, Psa 14:4); or, less likely, (b) they derive
their livelihood from the evil they do. [More generally, cp the constructions in
Deu 16:3 ("bread of affliction"); Psa 127:2, AV ("bread of sorrows"); and Amo
2:8, AV ("wine of the condemned").]
In a sort of NT parallel, Paul speaks of those believers, in
Corinth, who EAT bread and DRINK wine (the memorials of the Lord's death) in an
unworthy manner (1Co 11:27-29). But, on the other hand, he says elsewhere that
"It is better not to EAT meat or DRINK wine or to do anything else that will
cause your brother to fall" (Rom 14:21).
Vv 18,19: "This section closes with another summary comparison
(cf Pro 1:32,33; 2:21,22; 3:35)" (Const).
THE PATH OF THE RIGHTEOUS IS LIKE THE FIRST GLEAM OF
DAWN: The "shining light" (AV) refers to the "first gleam of dawn" (as the
NIV) -- the early morning light (BDB). Figuratively, the course of life that the
righteous follow is like the clear, bright morning light. It is bright, clear,
easy to follow, and healthy and safe (cp 2Sa 23:4). "Light will shine on your
ways" (Job 22:28). It is exactly the opposite of what darkness
SHINING EVER BRIGHTER TILL THE FULL LIGHT OF DAY: The
KJV has "unto the perfect day" -- which obscures the point: it is not a FUTURE
day that is being described her; instead it is the "full light" (NIV) or the
"full day" (RSV) -- ie, the noon-time sunlight of the SAME day that had
witnessed the "first gleam of dawn". In other words, the first bright light of
early morning grows ever brighter and brighter, until it comes to the full light
of the noon-day sun. So is the path of the righteous: it starts out in the
light, but even that light grows progressively brighter the further the traveler
continues his journey. (By absolute contrast is the "deep darkness" in which the
wicked walk, or more likely, stumble!)
"Why shouldn't that be us? It very easily can be -- IF we want
it more than anything else, and are prepared to give up everything else for it.
It is up to us to decide what we really want. Is our way of life constantly
IMPROVING -- constantly getting more godly, deeper in divine wisdom, more and
more thankfully joyful, a fuller and fuller sense of purpose and meaning and
hope for the future -- 'SHINING MORE AND MORE unto the perfect day?'
"If it is not, we are not really living at all, and -- sadder
still -- we are not in the way of future life. The proverbs agonize to awake us
to the wisdom of Wisdom -- to the wisdom of dropping everything else and making
these things ours, in the so brief time that our little span encompasses"
"Not only brightness, but progressive brightness, is the
characteristic of the righteous man... No more sublime figure of the continuous
progress in goodness, brightness, and joy, which is the best reward of walking
in the paths of uprightness, can be imagined; and it is as true as it is
sublime. Blessed they who in the morning of their days begin to walk in the way
of wisdom; for, in most cases, years will strengthen their uprightness, and to
that progress there will be no termination, nor will the midday sun have to
decline westward to diminishing splendour or dismal setting, but that noontide
glory will be enhanced" (Maclaren).
BUT THE WAY OF THE WICKED IS LIKE DEEP DARKNESS: Heb
"aphelah" describes the "total darkness" (perhaps a collosal sandstorm?) that
overwhelmed Egypt in Moses' day (Exo 10:22), when "no one could see anything or
leave his place for three days" (Exo 10:23). It occurs again in Pro 7:9: the
"dark of night".
THEY DO NOT KNOW WHAT MAKES THEM STUMBLE: "Like the
blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes. At midday
we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead" (Isa
59:10; cp Psa 82:5; Job 18:5,6; Joh 11:10; 12:35,36).
"These are rich Bible metaphors. Isaiah foretold Israel's day
of distress when they would 'look to the north, and behold, distress and
darkness, the gloom of anguish' (Isa 8:22). Also Jeremiah: 'Wherefore their way
shall be unto them as slippery ways in the darkness: they shall be driven on,
and fall therein' (Jer 23:12). When a man's powers of moral discernment are
gone, he is blind to any understanding of sin, and he will not know what makes
him stumble. Jesus said, 'He that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he
goeth' (John 12:35); also, 'If a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because
there is no light in him'.
"We can now understand how sinners can 'wax worse and worse',
how figuratively they become 'blacker than black', as a result of their mutual
deception. For example, in a recent case reported in the press, men who had
shown obscene films were cleared of possessing such articles for gain; part of
the defence was that their customers 'knew what to expect'. The inference to be
drawn by the 'man in the street' is that they did nothing wrong, and thus men's
consciences are seared. How well the apostle perceived the dangers to every
generation of God-fearing people: 'Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works
of darkness, but rather reprove them... but all things that are reproved are
made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light' (Eph
"The brighter the light, the darker the shadow. That blaze of
growing glory, possible for us all, makes the tragic gloom to which evil men
condemn themselves the thicker and more doleful, as some dungeon in an Eastern
prison seems pitch dark to one coming in from the blaze outside. 'How great is
that darkness!' [Mat 6:23] It is the darkness of sin, of ignorance, of sorrow,
and what adds deeper gloom to it is that every soul that sits in that shadow of
death might have been shining, a sun, in the spacious [firmament] of God's love
[Mat 13:43; Dan 12:3]" (Maclaren).
In fact, the darkness that characterizes the ways of the
wicked will -- at last -- prove to be their own trap. For that which hides their
sins (and which they think of, at the first, as a good thing!) will be the
means, finally, of their own stumbling. How they thought they would "get out"
before it was too late, and retrace their steps to what was good, and healthful,
and right! But their groping around in the dark -- so that others would not see
what they were doing -- meant that they themselves would not see what they were
doing either! And before they knew it, they were in over their heads, enmeshed
and beyond escape. And so, as the Scriptures say, they who choose darkness
rather than light, because their deeds are evil (Joh 3:19,20), at last come to
the place where darkness chooses them! And it was in fact God's own doing, His
judicial punishment for the choices THEY first made: "Therefore God gave them
over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading
of their bodies with one another... Because of this, God gave them over to
shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural
ones... Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the
knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to
be done" (Rom 1:24,26,28). "They perish because they refused to love the truth
and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they
will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the
truth but have delighted in wickedness" (2Th 2:10-12).
MY SON, PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT I SAY: Cp Pro 5:1. The
last section of this chapter emphasizes the importance of persisting in the good
practices that will lead to life. Success usually comes to those who keep
concentrating on and perfecting the basics in their work. A common temptation is
to forget the fundamentals when we think we have become adequately proficient --
which can be dangerous.
LISTEN CLOSELY TO MY WORDS: The AV is more literal:
"Incline thine ear unto my sayings". 'Lean over and listen closely.'
Starting with the "ear" (which appears in the Hebrew here),
this whole section (vv 20-27) is characterized by the use of parts of the body:
ear (v 20), eyes (v 21), flesh (v 22), heart (v 23), mouth and lips (v 24), eyes
(v 25), feet (v 26), and hands and feet (v 27). In each instance the part may be
taken to represent the whole; and the total accumulation signifies the complete
person involved in the process.
DO NOT LET THEM OUT OF YOUR SIGHT: 'Do not let them
depart from your eyes.'
KEEP THEM WITHIN YOUR HEART: The AV has: "in the midst
of thine heart" -- ie, in its inmost recesses, as though a man guards a treasure
stored away in the inmost and secret chamber of his house. Such a treasure is
not left lying about on any table or counter, but is put well away, in a safe or
a locked chest. Not that it might not be brought forth and its beauty or worth
or pleasure shared with others, but that it is securely protected from being
stolen, or mislaid. The command of the father is: "Store up my commands within
you" (Pro 2:1). And in words cited in Hebrews and specifically pertaining to the
Lord Jesus, David wrote, "I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within
my heart" (Psa 40:8).
FOR THEY ARE LIFE TO THOSE WHO FIND THEM: The reason
for giving heed to instruction once again is that the words of wisdom provide
life. As Jesus tells his followers, "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for
nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life" (Joh
6:63). Nevertheless, many turned away from Jesus and his teaching. But when
Jesus asked the plaintive question to his closest disciples, "You do not want to
leave too, do you?" -- Peter answered on their behalf, "Lord, to whom shall we
go? You have the WORDS of eternal LIFE" (Joh 6:66-68).
AND HEALTH TO A MAN'S WHOLE BODY: And the words of
wisdom are a life of HEALTH, to a man's whole body, or "flesh" (AV). The health
that is promised here is physical, emotional, and spiritual -- it is the health
of the whole person. It is made possible because of God's words that bring
deliverance from the evils that harm and hinder life. And so Moses exhorted
Israel: "Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day,
so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this
law. They are not just idle words for you -- THEY ARE YOUR LIFE. By them you
will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess" (Deu
Secondly, they (the words of wisdom) are "health to ALL
FLESH": there is more than enough wisdom found in God and His Word to heal all
the diseases of the whole benighted world! And so it will be done: "Fruit trees
of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves will not wither,
nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear, because the water from
the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves
for healing" (Eze 47:12). "On each side of the river stood the tree of life,
bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of
the tree are for the healing of the nations" (Rev 22:2).
"Most men think that eliminating laws and rules would bring
happiness and success. They foolishly think that freedom to do as they wish
would bring pleasure. They are fools. What do they think will keep their
neighbors from killing them for their wives and houses? They think the laws of
God's Word are onerous and restrictive; yet it is by wise precepts and statutes
that people live together most happily, prosperously, and securely.
"Most men think that eliminating laws and rules would bring
happiness and success. They foolishly forget that they arrived in this world
totally ignorant... Without divine guidance in the form of commandments, they
would not know how to treat parents, spouses, children, neighbors, magistrates,
or employers. They would not know how to make marriage, family, business,
church, or society work at all.
"Without the knowledge or restraint of wise laws, humanity
might practice polyandry, witchcraft, cannibalism, incest, child sacrifice,
sodomy, insect worship, necrophilia, or a host of other abominations, as has
happened in many nations not having the light of God's laws. There is glorious
wisdom taught in the inspired scriptures of Jehovah!
"What do these profane activities do? Bring health and
happiness, wealth and progress? No way! They promote wars, disease, death,
dysfunction, poverty, misery, and ignorance. Nations long without the Word of
God are third world, or even fourth world! They are unbelievably backward and/or
morally corrupt. Light and progress are by the Word of God alone, and the
nations that promote it are blessed indeed (Pro 8:12-21; Psa 33:12; 144:15)"
ABOVE ALL ELSE, GUARD YOUR HEART: Solomon addresses his
son and tells him to listen and submit to his fatherly instruction (v 20). He
then exhorts him to keep his advice directly before him and firm in his resolve
(v 21). And he encourages him by saying that it will give him life and health (v
22). Then in order, he tells his son to guard his heart, lips, eyes, and steps
(vv 23-27). Jesus knows that a man can sin in his "heart" -- that hatred
cherished there is like murder, and lust manifested there is like adultery (Mat
5:21,22,28,29); all the more reason to guard the heart especially.
"Keep thy heart with all diligence... the mind from vanity,
the understanding from error, the will from perverseness, the conscience clear
of guilt, the affections from being inordinate and set on evil objects, the
thoughts from being employed on bad subjects... great diligence had need be used
in keeping [the heart], since it is naturally so deceitful and treacherous [Jer
17:9], a strict eye is to be kept upon it; all the avenues to it to be watched,
that nothing hurtful enters, or evil comes out; it is to be kept by all manner
of means that can be thought of, by prayer, hearing, reading, meditation; and,
above all, by applying to Christ for his grace and Spirit to sanctify, preserve,
and keep it" (Gill).
YOUR HEART: "Heart" usually means "mind" (Pro 3:3;
6:32; 7:7; etc), but it has a much broader meaning that includes the emotions
(Pro 15:15,30), the will (Pro 11:20; 14:14), and even the whole inner person
(Pro 3:5). Here the affections are particularly in view. With vv 20-22, v 23
helps us see that the life in view is not some prize that one gains all at once.
It is rather a growing spiritual vitality that strengthens the wise person for
the trials he or she will face.
FOR IT IS THE WELLSPRING OF LIFE: Or, as AV, "out of it
are the issues of life". "Issues" is used here to mean, in the most literal
sense, that which "issues" or "flows" forth -- like water from a spring, or
blood from the heart. The Hebrew word "towtsa'ah" means "outgoings" or
"sources". It is used here for starting points, like a fountainhead or
"wellspring". NET has "sources". And in fact (though we need not think this is
the primary purpose of the verse), the heart is, physiologically, the literal
"wellspring" of the body, and the pump as well: for from it, and through it,
pulsates the life-giving blood of and to the whole body!
Spiritually speaking, of course, the "heart", or the "mind",
is also the "wellspring of life": what is stored up there will become, when it
is most needed, a "spring of water welling up to eternal life" (Joh 4:14; cp Joh
7:38), ie, providing drink to the spiritually thirsty along the way (cp also Mat
12:34,35; Mar 7:15-23; Luk 6:45) -- firstly, to the owner of the heart, and then
to others too. Furthermore, "In his heart a man plans his course" of life (Pro
16:9) -- choices are made each day that have eternal consequences.
"We shall appreciate this latter figure more if we remember
how precious were wells of water and springs in eastern lands. If you owned one
you guarded it well, to stop others from using it and to prevent it being
contaminated. Usually a large stone was placed at the opening, explaining the
figure in the Song of Solomon: 'a spring shut up, a fountain sealed'. The mind
is the fountain of all our desires, and we must be careful to see it does not
become spoiled. If it is pure it can be a healing influence for others. It
depends on us: we must be careful how we speak! 'Put away from thee a froward
mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee' (v 24). To this we may add our
Lord's word: 'A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth
that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart
bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth
speaketh' (Luke 6:45)" (Waddoup).
"There are hidden depths in this passage giving excellent
counsel to those who will give heed. We have known people to raise foolish
difficulties, actually asking 'How can I keep my heart with such diligence if
the heart means the part of the mind where character is formed? I am the heart
and the weaknesses of the heart are my weaknesses.'
"The appropriate answer to such an objector is to ask if he
has ever heard of or ever tried to practise self control? If not, this subject
is too advanced for his consideration, but if he knows exactly what is meant by
self control, there should be no difficulty in beginning to understand this
exhortation to be diligent in controlling the heart.
"A man may control his natural impulse to commit a rash act
merely because he fears the consequences. He may exercise such control for the
better reason that he fears to disobey God or to injure man. He may make a more
constant and diligent control of the heart in order that his character may
develop in harmony with the divine will, and this regular guidance of thought
and feeling is what is meant by keeping the heart with all diligence. The inmost
thoughts of the heart have the greatest effect on character. 'As he thinketh in
his heart, so is he', or so will he be (Pro 23:7). These inmost thoughts are
necessarily the most effective, for they are with us all the time and they are
always genuine. Even the most loquacious are sometimes silent and the most
honest sometimes conceal thoughts by words. But the inmost thoughts of the heart
are with us in all our waking hours, and possibly even during sleep, and those
inmost thoughts are subject to no prudential restraint except the laws we impose
upon them for our own good. The momentary act of self control may have little or
no effect upon character, but the continuous and diligent control of deed, word,
and thought may have a great effect and indeed mark the difference between death
"This is just the problem set before us in the wise saying,
'Keep thy heart with all diligence'. [Pro 4:23] We can control deeds and words
and in large measure we can control thought. We know perfectly well that in the
myriad thoughts which flash through the mind there is the usual admixture of
good and evil associated with all things human. Some thoughts are noble and
elevating carrying with them an influence for good. Some thoughts are evil and
if encouraged will lead to sin and death. Some thoughts are definitely good and
helpful even if not noble and elevating. Some thoughts are mean and petty and
will degrade the character even if they are not sinful.
"No normal being can prevent unworthy thoughts from flitting
through the mind as they are presented from outside or thrown up from the
subconscious, but every normal being can decide which thoughts to encourage and
which to reject. We have that which has been described as a spot light of
attention which we can turn on to any line of thought we care to choose. We have
a power which has been described as 'awareness', and we are not merely the
creatures of mood and feeling. If a thought takes shape in the mind we are
usually quite aware of its quality. Is it noble, good, useful, legitimately
interesting or amusing, weak, foolish, or definitely evil? We could place most
thoughts in one of these categories.
"Even if feeling is aroused, we are aware of the feeling and
its tendencies. We can choose whether we encourage the feeling or thrust it from
the mind by something more worthy. Sometimes men say with Jonah, 'I do well to
be angry', [Jon 4:9] when they are aware that they are not doing well at all.
Often they exaggerate a grievance knowing that they are exaggerating. They can
control such matters if they will.
"Even thoughts which are soon forgotten may leave a permanent
effect on the tablets of the heart, so that there is need for constant
vigilance. A man who is wise enough to give heed to the words of greater wisdom
will soon learn how to make use of his awareness and his powers of self control.
He will not merely aim to control his actions in the hour of supreme trial, when
yielding to impulse might lead to disaster; he will encourage the right kind of
thought every day, making the right choice in little matters where the task is
easy, and so building up stores of strength and character for the hour of trial
when the right choice is difficult. All this and much more is suggested by the
words, 'Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life'
PUT AWAY PERVERSITY FROM YOUR MOUTH: "Perversity" (Heb
"iqqeshuwth") refers to what is morally twisted or perverted. A foolish mouth
will ruin one's reputation (Ecc 5:3; 10:12-14). An offensive mouth will get one
in trouble with men (Pro 6:12; 12:13; 13:3; 14:7; 18:6,7; 19:1; 22:10; 24:9; Jam
3:2). And then -- by far the worst of all -- one will give account of every idle
word in the Judgment (Pro 6:16-19; Mat 12:36,37; Eph 5:3-6).
On the other hand, wisdom produces truthful and fitting speech
(Pro 8:13). Kind and wise speech will build up one's reputation (Pro 15:4;
18:20; 24:26). Appropriate words will enhance one's relationship with men (Pro
10:32; 15:23; 25:11), even with kings (Pro 16:13). And God is pleased with
constructive and helpful words (Pro 12:22; Eph 4:29; Col 4:6).
KEEP CORRUPT TALK FAR FROM YOUR LIPS: There is an
intensely powerful connection between the "heart" (mind, emotions, thoughts) and
the "mouth" and "lips". As Jesus said, "Out of the overflow of the heart the
mouth speaks" (Mat 12:34,35). In ordinary circumstances, the mouth and lips will
speak what the heart thinks. Better by far to have stored up in the heart wise
and careful and profitable thoughts, so that they will be what is spoken. And
also good -- for all of us at one time or another -- not to speak all the heart
may be thinking. Sometimes the lips must act as the "dam" to hold back what need
NOT be said! So David prays, "Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD; keep watch over
the door of my lips" (Psa 141:3; cp Psa 19:14).
LET YOUR EYES LOOK STRAIGHT AHEAD: This is the logical
follow-up to v 23: "Guard your heart." A man guards his heart by looking
straight ahead, and not letting his eyes wander to sights, and thus his heart to
thoughts, that are unlawful: "Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already
committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin,
gouge it out and throw it away" (Mat 5:28,29).
Do you see straight ahead, or do you have peripheral vision?
Peripheral vision, or seeing things from the corner of the eye, is a good thing
for driving and sports; but it is a disastrous thing for believers. We must see
only one object -- God, His kingdom, and His righteousness (Mat 6:33). This is
what the wise man does: he "KEEPS wisdom in view" (Pro 17:24) -- all the time.
It is, for all practical purposes, not possible to be truly "wise" in bits and
pieces, or for only a few hours each day. One must be "wise" at all times, or
one is not truly "wise" at all!
This is Christ's exhortation also; the "single" eye -- seeing
one thing and seeing it clear -- is the ideal: "The light of the body is the
eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore
the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can
serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else
he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon"
(Mat 6:22-24, AV). Such were the men of Zebulun who served David: "experienced
soldiers prepared for battle with every type of weapon, to help David with
undivided loyalty" (1Ch 12:33), or as the AV puts it, "they were not of DOUBLE
heart" (cp, generally, Eph 6:5; Col 3:22)! They had no mixed emotions. They were
not thinking about going home. They were not thinking about anything else except
serving their king.
By contrast, "a fool's eyes wander to the ends of the earth"
(Pro 17:24). And his heart, and his mind, follow after. James warns twice
against being double minded -- or having more than one objective for our lives
(Jam 1:8; 4:8). He says a double minded man is unstable in all his ways, and he
exhorts saints to diligent efforts to reduce their objectives to only one (James
4:8-10). Eve was seduced by her wandering eyes (Gen 3:6). Lot's wife could not
keep from looking back (Gen 19:17,26). Achan gazed upon Babylonian goods and
money, and they cost him his life (Jos 7:21). And David took what he saw one
night from a rooftop (2Sa 11:2). Our prayer should be for God to keep our eyes
from seeing "vanity", ie, lies, worthless things, or idols (Psa 119:37). For the
lust of the eyes is one of the great temptations of man (1Jo 2:15-17). So
careful was Job in his pursuit of holiness, he made a covenant with his eyes
against thinking upon young beautiful women (Job 31:1). But the false teachers
in the first century had "eyes FULL of adultery" (2Pe 2:14).
FIX YOUR GAZE DIRECTLY BEFORE YOU: "Gaze" is,
literally, "eyelids", which may merely mean the eyes themselves, or may be an
intensification -- the narrowing of the eyes as one might squint to get a
clearer distance view. Paul captures this thought in Phi 3:8-14, and esp v 13:
"straining toward what is ahead". This is, by Paul, coupled with "forgetting
what is behind". If we are to see more clearly what lies ahead, we must of
necessity put behind us all other things -- these are the things enumerated by
Paul in Phi 3:4-7: all the pride of birth, and ancestry, and place, and
attainments, and honors, and personal works. In short, we must forget all the
things we cast aside when we accept Christ. If we allow ourselves to be weighted
down and sidetracked by those present things, we shall lose the race of
MAKE LEVEL PATHS FOR YOUR FEET AND TAKE ONLY WAYS THAT ARE
FIRM: "If the LORD delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm; though
he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand" (Psa
37:23,24). "He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set
my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand" (Psa 40:2). The point is:
we must also give attention to practical planning so we end up taking the steps
we need to take to arrive at our destination (cp Isa 26:7). And we must be
single-minded in our dedication to the "journey": "Run the race set before you"
(Heb 12:1,2), making "level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be
disabled, but rather healed" (Heb 12:13). "Straight paths" call to mind the
figure of the Cherubim-Chariot of Yahweh, whose "legs were straight" (Eze 1:7),
and who "went straight ahead" (Eze 1:9) -- which itself suggests the sureness of
"Mystery surrounds me. I find myself a resident of the
illimitable realm of the unknown. The commonest objects touching me on every
side start unanswerable questions. But amidst these enveloping mysteries, like a
rock in the central ocean, emerges this certainty -- 'I am.' That means, I know
I am. I am [endowed] with self-consciousness. There is a chasm wide and awful
between myself and everything which is not myself; the 'me' is other than the
'not-me'; I am a separate, solitary soul. Amid all the mystery surrounding me,
there emerges this other certainty -- 'I ought.' That means, I have the power of
referring what I am to the judgment of the moral sense. There is, and must be,
an irreversible distinction between what I ought and what I ought not. There is
both a standard and an ability of discrimination. There is a law of right and
wrong of which the moral sense takes cognisance. Amid the mystery there arises
another certainty -- 'I can.' That means, I dwell in the sphere of moral
freedom; the helm of my being is in the hand of an unenslaved volition; I
possess a self-determining and sovereign will. I am not a thrall [a slave], a
thing; I am a power. There emerges this other certainty -- 'I will.' That means,
I exercise my power in this direction or in that. I will to do the thing I ought
not, or the thing I ought. Man is a moral being, capable of choice, and actually
choosing. You should ponder the path of your feet" (BI).
"Wise men do not simply let life happen to them. They do not
act without careful thought and sober reflection. They plan and manage their
lives. They choose wise goals and the means to achieve them, and they compare
their progress to them. Rather than bouncing from one goal to another, they fix
their lives in one steady course. They temperately discipline all aspects of
living toward this goal. They carefully consider every part of life. They
question, evaluate, and muse upon each choice they make to keep their overall
goal... It is the fool who lives without thinking, walks without meditating, and
chooses his path without pondering! Christians are called to walk circumspectly
-- examining their path from all angles! Only by this discipline can they
understand and apply God's will to their lives (Eph 5:15-17). It is your duty to
make straight paths for your feet (Heb 12:13)!" (LGBT).
DO NOT SWERVE TO THE RIGHT OR THE LEFT; KEEP YOUR FOOT FROM
EVIL: By keeping to the "strait and narrow way" (Mat 7:14), which is the
path of the righteous, the believer will not turn his foot to either side --
which would lead him off his chosen path, and into the ways of sinners. "Oh,
that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always,
so that it might go well with them and their children forever!" (Deu
The same idea is expressed most vividly in Isa 30:21, where
the Word of God, or "wisdom", becomes a "voice" -- ie, the voice of conscience,
or the voice of the Angel of God: "Whether you turn to the right or to the left,
your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way; walk in