Biblical Wisdom

The Call of Wisdom | Proverbs 1:20-33

Wisdom cries aloud in the street,
in the markets she raises her voice;
at the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
and fools hate knowledge?
If you turn at my reproof, 
behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
I will make my words known to you.
Because I have called and you refused to listen,
have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded,
because you have ignored all my counsel
and would have none of my reproof,
I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when terror strikes you,
when terror strikes you like a storm
and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
when distress and anguish come upon you.
Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
they will seek me diligently but will not find me.
Because they hated knowledge
and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
would have none of my counsel
and despised all my reproof,
therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way,
and have their fill of their own devices.
For the simple are killed by their turning away,
and the complacency of fools destroys them;
but whoever listens to me will dwell secure
and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”

Proverbs 1:20-33 ESV

 

Although most Proverbs’ first nine chapters is written from a father to a son, we now arrive at one of the sections were wisdom herself speaks to the reader. Like a street preacher, wisdom is personified as a woman crying out in the busy streets for people to love and embrace her. The significance is that wisdom beckons to everyone, but few answer her call. In fact, the choice between wisdom and folly is a choice between a narrow or broad gate. Just has few find the hard, narrow gate, few embrace wisdom.

WISDOM SPEAKS // VERSES 20-21

These two verses introduce and set the scene for the literary device used in the remainder of the section: the personification of wisdom. Although wisdom is an abstract concept, Solomon is poetically giving it a voice, and since the goal of Proverbs is to give us wisdom, we could easily say that these glimpses of wisdom personified are the heart and soul of the book.

The backdrop for Lady Wisdom’s speech is not a well-kept college classroom or a philosopher’s forum; rather, Solomon pictures wisdom scream in the middle of the markets and noisy streets. She is standing at the city gates crying out to anyone that will listen. Wisdom is the equivalent of an Old Testament prophet or a street preacher. She is desperate for anyone to hear her message.

Why?

Wisdom is intimately connected with godliness. We cannot have true wisdom without knowing God, and we cannot know God without growing in wisdom. Sin is the epitome of foolishness; therefore, as we walk with God, we will become wiser. Wisdom is an essential element of a Christian’s sanctification. This is why James urges to ask for wisdom when we lack it (James 1:5). Wisdom is necessary pursuit. We cannot know God without it.

Fortunately, wisdom is attainable. In fact, wisdom is guaranteed to those who are willing to ask for it. God is generous, and wisdom is one of His many gifts that He pours out without reproach (meaning that He will not turn us away). The imagery of wisdom street preaching is important because God openly invites humanity to embrace wisdom. He is not withholding this secret of life from anyone. He gives it freely to all who will humble themselves enough to admit that they need wisdom. Of course, such humility is reason why wisdom is short supply. Free gifts require open hands. We cannot ask for wisdom until we first realize that we are fools.

HOW LONG // VERSES 22-31

Lady Wisdom begins her proclamation by crying out “how long” twice. These two words set the tone for the remainder of the passage. Wisdom is being boldly and blatantly offered but continuously refused by the simple, scoffers, and fools.

We’ve already discussed the fools and the simple, but who are the scoffers? “They are cynical and defiant freethinkers who ridicule the righteous and all for which they stand (e.g., Ps 1:1)” (NET). Scoffers stand as a category of their own because of their aggression toward the ways of God. The simple at least have the potential of becoming wise, and the fools despise knowledge and wisdom. But scoffers do not merely hate wisdom, they mock it. They are revelers in their wicked path.

In verse 23, Lady Wisdom explains how wisdom can be attained: by responding to her rebuke. This notion of wisdom’s rebuke is crucial to the passage since it also appears in verses 25 and 30. A rebuke is never fun because it means being convicted of sin or having our faults revealed, but it is a critical aspect of biblical wisdom. Upon reaching a fork in the road, we must choose which way to follow. Likewise, being shown the path of wisdom necessitates having the path of foolishness condemned. Embracing wisdom means we must repent at her reproof.

Wisdom then responds to her rejection with laughter at their calamity. She mocks the mockers when trouble befalls them. She claims that whenever they seek her in the midst of their trials, she will refuse to answer them. This may sound harsh, but verse 31 clearly establishes that when the foolish suffer, they are merely eating “the fruit of their way.” They are being left to their own devices. Their destruction is well-earned because they had plenty of opportunities to repent at wisdom’s reproof.

But what about verse 28? Is that verse teaching that God will refuse those who repent in the midst of trials and hardship? In a way, yes. The repentance being described in verse 28 is not true repentance. It is the half-hearted prayer that many people make to God while in the middle of a storm of life. They do not love and serve God, desiring for His will to be done above all else. They simply want God to bail them out of their problems. It is against this kind of superficial “Christianity” that Hebrews 3:12-14 speaks:

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

SECURITY OR DISASTER // VERSES 32-33

These final verses of the chapter summarize Lady Wisdom’s message. Those who listen to wisdom will dwell in security, while fools will be destroyed.

Verse 32 describes the path to destruction in two ways. First, the simple are killed by their turning away. Though the simple are given the choice between wisdom or folly, life or death, many choose folly and death. Instead of turning in repentance, they turn a follow after fools. They die for their lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6).

Second, the fools are destroyed by their complacency. This is a terrifying image. While the simple were killed because they turned toward sin, fools are destroyed by doing nothing. The NET translates this as “the careless ease of fools will destroy them.” This is a great warning against “Christians” who refuse to take sin and the things of God seriously. Twice Jeremiah warns the people of Judah against prophets and priests who heal “the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (6:14, 8:11). These religious leaders refused to take the sin of Judah seriously. They spoke of peace while God was crying out for His people to repent. We must take care that we do not allow a similar complacency to sweep us away. The path to damnation is open wide for those who refuse to let God’s word call them to action.

Those who listen to wisdom, who embrace the fear of the LORD, find a much different outcome. Instead of meeting destruction and death, they find security and ease. They find the true peace that fools only attempt to imitate with their complacency. Because they listened to wisdom’s call, they live without fear of disaster.

Wait. So then what happened to Job? He was blameless man before the LORD, right? Why did the very definition of disaster fall upon him if he was a wise man who feared God? And what about the apostles, most of whom died violent deaths because they preached Christ?

Verse 33 does not promise or guarantee that God’s people will not see disaster; rather, they would not dread the disasters that may befall them. They will dwell secure regardless of what life throws their way. They are a people who possess a Treasure that cannot be stolen by thieves, eaten by moths, or corroded by time. They are a people who, when destitute, afflicted, and mistreated, consider “the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures” of all the world (Hebrews 11:26). The wise are not exempt from suffering; they simply know Him who is their comfort in the midst of the storm.

Vanity Under the Sun

The Vanity of Folly Under the Sun | Ecclesiastes 10

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Ecclesiastes 10:1 | Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.

Ecclesiastes 10:3 | Even when a fool walks on the road, he lacks sense, and he says to everyone that he is a fool.

OPENING THOUGHT

At its heart, Ecclesiastes is an investigation of life under the sun. Written by the Preacher (most likely King Solomon), Ecclesiastes gives the author’s reflections after attempting to discover what is good for mankind to do during our short days here on earth. He throws himself head first at pleasure but finds that it is only a temporary distraction from death’s looming shadow. He observes the necessity of living in community but laments the many ways that we sabotage such relationships. He knows all too well the allure of wealth and power, yet he also witnessed those who couldn’t seem to enjoy the money and blessings that they possessed. At the end of the day, time runs out and death comes for all people, man or woman, young or old, rich or poor, wise or foolish. Therefore, the Preacher repeatedly urges us to enjoy life as being the gift of God, finding contentment with the lot that He has given us.

After summarizing most of the book’s themes in chapter nine, chapter ten is the beginning march toward the conclusion. The proverbial nature of this chapter can seem rather eclectic, but the overall goal is give us a fuller picture those who walk in foolishness. Even though the Preacher has emphasized that the wise and foolish will both face death, he is now emphasizing that there are still clear benefits to be wise and avoiding folly.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Ecclesiastes 10 and discuss the following.

  1. Which verses stood out most to you as you read Ecclesiastes 10 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  2. How would to describe biblical wisdom and folly? How are they different from general ideas about wisdom and folly?
  3. Of the various forms of folly described in this chapter, which one(s) do you most identify with? What is the godly and wise alternate to that kind of foolishness?
  4. How can we practically pursue wisdom and flee from folly?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions about the present text.

  • What has God taught you about Himself?
  • What sin is God convicting or reproving you of?
  • How is God correcting you?
  • How is God training and equipping you for righteousness?
Vanity Under the Sun

The Vanity of Death Under the Sun | Ecclesiastes 9

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Ecclesiastes 9:1 | But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God. Whether it is love or hate, man does not know; both are before him.

Ecclesiastes 9:7 | Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.

OPENING THOUGHT

The book of Ecclesiastes is a brutally honest survey of life under the sun. The Preacher’s observations of life in a post-Genesis 3 world may be a few millennia old, but the insights are just as relevant today. At the heart of the book is the Preacher’s investigation to find what is good for man to do under the sun during the days of his vain life. In other words, he searched for some kind of lasting meaning and purpose that could be found here on earth. And he certainly did search. He gave himself completely over to pursuing pleasure, taking everything that his eye desired and accumulated for himself wealth beyond compare. In many ways, he achieved the American Dream. And yet his conclusion is that all is vanity, as meaningless and futile as chasing after the wind.

In chapter nine, the Preacher turns his attention once more to the topics of death and wisdom. In many ways, this chapter is the culmination of the previous eight. He reminds us again that death is the great equalizer and that wisdom is still worth pursuing even if things don’t work out as planned. In the center of it all, he repeats again the book’s refrain. Enjoy the life that God has given you under the sun.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Ecclesiastes 9 and discuss the following.

  1. Which verses stood out most to you as you read Ecclesiastes 9 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  2. In verse 1, the Preacher reiterates how he laid everything to heart and examined all things during his investigation. How often would you say that you time the time to truly lay everything to heart, considering God and His creation?
  3. Why does Solomon call death evil whenever it happens to everyone under the sun?
  4. Why does Solomon once again command us to enjoy life under the sun? Why enjoyment a crucial aspect of following God?
  5. Why does the Preacher so firmly commend wisdom, even while he admits that wisdom does not always work out in this life?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions about the present text.

  • What has God taught you about Himself?
  • What sin is God convicting or reproving you of?
  • How is God correcting you?
  • How is God training and equipping you for righteousness?
Vanity Under the Sun

The Vanity of Injustice Under the Sun | Ecclesiastes 8

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Ecclesiastes 8:2 | I say: Keep the king’s command, because of God’s oath to him.

Ecclesiastes 8:12 | Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him. (ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

The Preacher, who is most likely Solomon, wrote Ecclesiastes in an attempt to describe life under the sun. By wisdom, he searched out everything that he could find on earth and tried every avenue that he could find that might lead to lasting meaning, purpose, and contentment in life. His search led him to give himself wholly over to ever pleasure that came into his line of sight. It caused him to search everything that could be done with having an unprecedented amount of wealth and power. It turned his heart to study how humans are meant for community, even though we constantly attempt to break that community apart with our own selfishness. Ultimately, his conclusion is that everything under the sun is vanity, a striving after wind. Fortunately, not everything in Ecclesiastes is vanity however. The Preacher repeatedly seeks to turn our attention above the sun to the God who alone can give enjoyment and contentment in life.

In chapter eight, Solomon continues to build upon a theme that he has already mentioned before: injustice. Previously, he discussed injustice in terms of how those with authority oppress those who are under them. This chapter is in many ways a continuation of that thought since the Preacher begins by discussing how we should conduct ourselves in the presence of the king. In the end, however, it is God, not the king, who wields final authority, and Solomon expresses his confidence that God will enact complete and total justice one day.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Ecclesiastes 8 and discuss the following.

  1. Which verses stood out most to you as you read Ecclesiastes 8 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  2. What do verses 1-9 teach universally about governments and authority on earth? How can their principles be applied to us within a democratic government today?
  3. What do verses 10-13 teach about justice under the sun? How does justice relate to both love and wrath? How is justice an essential aspect of the gospel?
  4. With injustice present in this life but the hope of justice still to come, how does Solomon commend us to live?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions about the present text.

  • What has God taught you about Himself?
  • What sin is God convicting or reproving you of?
  • How is God correcting you?
  • How is God training and equipping you for righteousness?
Vanity Under the Sun

The Vanity of Understanding Under the Sun | Ecclesiastes 7:25-29

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Ecclesiastes 7:29 | See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.

OPENING THOUGHT

To many the book of Ecclesiastes appears to be quite depressing. Of course, the book’s repeated proclamation of everything being vanity does little to disprove such interpretations. Likely written by Solomon near the end of his life, Ecclesiastes is the findings and conclusions to his lifelong search for discovering what is good for humanity to do during our short lives.

He has observed community, finding it necessary but damaged. He has chased unabashedly after pleasure, which only gave a temporary enjoyment. With more wealth than any other human in history, he discovers the insufficiency of wealth to satisfy our souls. But Solomon hasn’t just presented to us the bad news; he has also given us the good news that life can be truly enjoyed and satisfaction can be found. But enjoyment and satisfaction cannot be gained; they only come as a gift from God.

In chapter 7, we have studied some of the difficult teachings of Solomon. He began with a reminder that God makes days of prosperity and adversity and we should consider such things. He then pondered why bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people only to realize that no one is truly good or wise. Nevertheless, the chapter concludes with his commitment to pursue wisdom and what he learns about humanity.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Ecclesiastes 7:25-29 and discuss the following.

  1. Which verses stood out most to you as you read Ecclesiastes 7:25-29 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  2. What is wisdom, according to the Bible? What is foolishness? Why does Solomon describe foolishness as wicked and insane? How does this differ from current views of foolishness?
  3. What does Solomon mean by the woman whose heart is a snare? Why is being captured by her worse than death?
  4. What does Solomon mean when he says that he has only found one man in a thousand but no women? In what ways do we rebel against God by seeking out many schemes?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions about the present text.

  • What has God taught you about Himself?
  • What sin is God convicting or reproving you of?
  • How is God correcting you?
  • How is God training and equipping you for righteousness?

 

Vanity Under the Sun

The Vanity of Righteousness & Wisdom Under the Sun | Ecclesiastes 7:15-24

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Ecclesiastes 7:15 | In my vain life I have seen everything. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing.

Ecclesiastes 7:23 | All this I have tested by wisdom. I said, “I will be wise,” but it was far from me.

OPENING THOUGHT

Very few books can even attempt to rival the brutal honesty of Ecclesiastes. Its author, the Preacher, claims to have witnessed the very best that life has to offer, but at the end of it all, all is vanity under the sun. Much of his reasoning comes from understanding the brevity of life. Our time in this life is short and fleeting, especially when compared to the seemingly unchanging mountains and seas.

Yet in the midst of all this vanity, the Preacher continues to extend to us the brighter side of things: enjoyment is possible. Life is certainly full of toil, suffering, and sorrow, but these things do not exclude the ability to enjoy each day that we live. Unfortunately, enjoyment is a possibility, not a guarantee. Many people wander through life chasing after enjoyment without achieving it. The Preacher’s paradoxical answer is that enjoyment is not an achievement to be gained but a gift to be received. Enjoyment comes not through getting more but from simply realizing the beauty of what you already have.

As we continue our study through Ecclesiastes’ seventh chapter, the Preacher takes his understanding that prosperity and adversity are outside of our control and he dives into how that impacts our understanding of righteousness and wisdom. Too often, our pursuit of righteousness and wisdom are rooted a desire for self-improvement or self-exaltation. Only by realizing that no one is righteous or truly wise can we turn to the One who is altogether righteous and wise.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Ecclesiastes 7:15-24 and discuss the following.

  1. Which verses stood out most to you as you read Ecclesiastes 7:15-24 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  2. What is Solomon’s message in verses 15-18? How do these verses relate to verses 13-14? What might application of these verses look like?
  3. If no one is truly righteous or wise, how then are we meant to live wise and righteous lives?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions about the present text.

  • What has God taught you about Himself?
  • What sin is God convicting or reproving you of?
  • How is God correcting you?
  • How is God training and equipping you for righteousness?
Biblical Wisdom

The Path of Wisdom | Proverbs 4:10-19

Hear, my son, and accept my words,
that the years of your life may be many.
I have taught you the way of wisdom;
I have led you in the paths of uprightness.
When you walk, your step will not be hampered,
and if you run, you will not stumble.
Keep hold of instruction; do not let go;
guard her, for she is your life.
Do not enter the path of the wicked,
and do not walk in the way of the evil.
Avoid it; do not go on it;
turn away from it and pass on.
For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong;
they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.
For they eat the bread of wickedness
and drink the wine of violence.
But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
The way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know over what they stumble.

Proverbs 4:10-19 ESV

 

Everyone in life is walking down one of two paths: the path of wisdom or the path of folly (or foolishness). The path of wisdom leads to life and being blessed by God, while the path of folly leads to sin and death. Within these verses of Proverbs, Solomon will present for us again the two roads set before us. Although we can continue to discuss the benefits of wisdom, ultimately we must choose to begin obeying God, to begin walking down His path.

THE PATH OF WISDOM // VERSES 10-13

Once more, Solomon opens with the word hear. This urges us to have our ears open, ready to hear the words of the LORD, but he also goes further by telling us to accept his words. Of course, as has been the common pattern, Solomon immediately follows this command with a promised blessing: the years of your life will be many.

The call to accept Solomon’s words is not fully understood without verse 11. There we find the author declaring that he has taught the way of wisdom and has led us in the paths of uprightness. As previously stated, the way/path motif is common throughout the Proverbs. It boils all of life down to two categories: walking down the path of wisdom or the path of foolishness. Jesus adopts this metaphor, adding the idea of a narrow gate and a broad gate. Thus, the idea of the path of wisdom is not new, but Solomon’s usage of the past tense certainly is.

Why does Solomon use the past tense in verse 11? I think this is Solomon emphasizing that much of Proverbs is repetition. Even in chapter four of nine in our study, the information presented in these verses is not new. He has already told us of our desperate need for wisdom, and now he simply continues to reiterate that truth using different words. Too often, we long to make God’s Word more complex in order to stall our obedience. True, there are infinite complexities in the Bible, but it’s message is utterly simple: God loves us, so we must love God and love others. We can throw 10,000 but’s at God’s Word, but ultimately we must walk in obedience with what we understand. Mark Twain (not a Christian) gives a wonderful thought on this: “It ain’t the parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”

Because the main message has already been delivered, Solomon is now calling us to obey. The instructions have been given, so the emphasis is now upon action. He wants us to accept his words by obeying them, by living them. We must cling to wisdom and guard her because she is life to us. Verse 12 describes that kind of life. It is a life free from hampering and stumbling. We will discuss stumbling later, so let us view hampering for the moment. Hampering means to restrict, restrain, or confine; therefore, when we walk wisely, our steps will not be restricted.

Wait a minute. We’ve all read the Ten Commandments, and Leviticus is almost entirely filled with laws to obey. The Bible is filled with commandments and laws and is even commonly referred to as God’s Law. But commandments and laws do not make us feel unrestricted. How then can God tell us to follow His ways so we will not be hampered? God’s laws and regulations are not meant to confine us but protect us. A father is not evil for banning his child from playing in the street, and the child is not hampered but guarded. These are how God’s laws and commands function for us.

Take the fourth of the Ten Commandments into consideration. Why did God demand that Israel keep a Sabbath day of rest by consecrating that day to Him? It was for their benefit. Jesus said that “Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27). God commanded them to rest one day in seven because they needed it. He then told them to keep it holy, to give that day to Him, because He knew that they could only find true rest in Him (Matthew 11:28).

We think God’s commands hinder us because we want to sin instead, but God knows that sin leads to death. Sin always promises freedom and happiness, but it leads to slavery, sorrow, and death. God demands that we submit to Him in everything, but He graciously gives us freedom, joy, and life when we do. Freedom cannot be found in sin. Nevertheless, we continue to believe that lie time and time again.

THE PATH OF FOLLY // VERSES 14-17

These four verses present the converse image of previous four. In fact, many verses in the two sections are almost direct opposites of one another. For instance, verse 11 finds its converse in verse 14. Verses 16-17 are the other side of verse 12. And verses 13 and 15 both have the same rapid urgency to their respective commands. After describing the life that is found by following the path of wisdom, we now view the death that comes from choosing the path of folly.

Just as the path of wisdom leads to life, the way of folly (or wickedness) leads to death, particularly let us observe verses 16-17. First, we are told that they cannot sleep without doing wrong or causing others to sin. Then we are find that wickedness is their bread and violence is their wine. Both of these verses emphasize the domination of sin upon the fool’s life. For them, sin is as normal as sleep and food. They see nothing wrong with their rebellion against God and gladly encourage others to join them.

This normalcy of sin usually results from taking the good gifts of God and making them into our gods. We take objects or actions that God created for us to enjoy Him and make them into the ultimate good of our lives. We revolve our lives around the gift rather than the Giver. This is true even of ourselves. God made us as His image-bearers; therefore, our very life is a gift from God. Yet when we commit idolatry whenever we live for our glory and pleasure instead of for God’s glory and pleasure. And ultimately, there is no quicker way to devalue something than by using it to usurp God’s throne.

We will soon spend multiple weeks on the topic, so let us preemptively consider the idea of sex. As the culture continues to promote sex as an inherent good, sex continues to lose its sanctity and worth. Why is this? Only God can truly be everything. Everything else fails. Therefore, when we make sex everything, it simultaneously becomes nothing. It cannot stand under the weight of our expectations because we hand it a burden that it was not meant to hold. Likewise, when my happiness becomes everything to me, it also becomes nothing. If my happiness is my ultimate goal in life, I have no means of processing chronic illness, horrific accidents, and deaths. Only God is big enough to be everything. Only He is able to bear the burden of being the singular focus of our lives.

TWO PATHS // VERSES 18-19

These verses present the final contrast between life’s two paths. There is no neutrality. Every person on this planet is either described by verse 18 or 19. Verse 19 picks up verses 14-17 discussion of the foolish path. It is first described as deep darkness. Biblically, darkness often carries with it the connotation of ignorance. In the light, we see and know things for what they are, but in darkness, we are left to wander on our own. Of course, living in darkness means that they will stumble over things they can’t see. This completes a very interesting progression of the word stumble in this text. First, we saw in the first section that the wise will not stumble (v. 12). Then we saw that the wicked cannot sleep without causing others to stumble (v. 16). Now we find that the wicked stumble around in the dark. What a glorious truth for God’s people! One day every account will be settled.

C. S. Lewis paints a vivid picture of this principle in the final Narnia book, The Last Battle. The main characters find a group of dwarves sitting to themselves in field, and when questioned, they realize that they dwarves’ minds are shrouded in darkness so that they cannot see the gorgeous field that surrounds them. Eventually, one character asks Aslan (aka Jesus) to help the dwarves, and he responds by setting a feast of food before dwarves. But blinded creatures eat the whole meal complaining about the food tasting like it came from a horse trough and suspecting each other of hiding better tasting food. Aslan states that they cannot be helped because they refuse to be helped. This is ultimately what sin does. It blinds us to all that is really good and lovely in the world. For example, when we understand that God created the combination of taste buds and flavors, we are able to more fully appreciate the simple joys of food and drink. We enjoy them then as an expression of our Father’s love for us. Instead of viewing sex as a biological need (as many secularists today do), we view as God-given pleasure to be enjoyed in the safety and security of the marriage covenant.

But not so for the righteous! They are like the light of dawn, getting brighter and brighter. Dawn is a wonderful metaphor because God does turn night to day with the flick of a switch. The sun rises slowly, first filling the horizon with light and then invading the rest of the sky. Such is the life of God’s people. When we first believe the gospel and are justified before God, light enters, but it is only just bursting across the horizon. And we know that one day we will be completely free from sin and with God in glorification, just as the full day continues to arrive. But in between those two truths, the sun continues to gradually fill the earth with light. This is the concept of sanctification, the process by which we die to our sinful selves and conform each day to the holiness of God.

We should allow this truth to encourage us. We are not yet glorified, so we are still deeply sinful. But we are also justified, so we know that sin no longer holds authority or power over us. Thus, each day we must simply continue to grow in the LORD. Some days that progress might seem incremental, but we leave our growth and fruit to God. We just continue, however slowly, down the path of wisdom, knowing that God alone will keep our feet from stumbling.