As I considered a text for tonight’s devotion I looked at this verse several times. It is one to which we refer very often, and yet I have never preached from it. I considered skipping over it in our current study because its meaning is so obvious. Is there anything about this scripture which you should have not already seen? Is there anything here which most Christians do not already know? I suppose these are not questions I can answer on your behalf – so maybe there IS something here you’ve never considered.
For me, I think I’d just feel guilty if I didn’t shine a spot-light down upon it for a few minutes. But how can I make these next few minutes different or special? I wasn’t sure. Then, my mind fell upon an old homiletic trick – alliteration, but I came up with nothing. And then I found five words all ending in with the same two letters – “al.” I used to call that “alliteration,” but when I double checked, I found out that I was wrong. Alliteration only refers to words which begin in the same way – “instruct,” “inspire,” “incite.” Words ending the same way are examples of “homoioteleuton” – (hom-eo-tay-lee-ton). I am going to use the words “individual,” “intellectual,” “migrational,” “eventual” and “terminal” to take apart this scripture and bring to back together again. And now I know there IS at least one thing that you have might learned tonight.
Notice that like many scriptures, this speaks to the INDIVIDUAL.
“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Do political parties ever have agendas? Does ISIS or the Taliban have an itinerary? We know that Satan has had a master plan since about the time of man’s creation. “There is a way which seemeth right unto the Democrats, but the ends thereof are the ways of death.” And ‘there is a way which seemeth right unto the Republicans, but the ends of their plans are the ways of death as well.” But the agendas of others are not as practically important as that of the individual – you and your neighbor. YOU are not responsible for the plans of your congressman in the same way you are for your own.
Doesn’t the Lord point that out in this verse? “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man.” “There are a variety of ways which seem right unto each and every man who take them up.” And “there is a way which seemeth right unto every woman” – in fact, even those ways chosen by children. One child decides to take up music while his brother gets into sports. There are consequences for all our choices. One man chooses to become or remain a Roman Catholic, another follows a path of atheistic secularism. Some listen to the advertising lies and become alcoholics or addicts of some other sort. A young man becomes a gangster because it’s much easier than fighting the influence of the streets. Each of those are individual choices – each becomes a way of living that particular life for the next 60 years.
But notice how the verse comes back to a collective whole. The verse begins with a singular “way” – but it ends with the condemnation of them all – “ways.” “There is a WAY which seemeth right unto (an individual) man, but the end (of all of them) are the WAYS of death.”
There are so many scriptures, hundreds of scriptures, which make general, or universal, statements. But we are obligated to apply those generalities in specific ways to ourselves. “For all have sinned and some short of the glory of God.” The context of Romans 3 clearly shows that Paul has lumped together all the Jews and all the Gentiles, condemning everyone. Intellectually that may be important, but it is far more important to apply that condemnation to ourselves individually and personally. “I have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” “There is a way which seemed right unto me, but the end of that way, and the other humanly devised ways are all ways of death.”
Solomon also points to the individual’s INTELLECTUAL position.
“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” How many drug addicts, before their first puff of marijuana, think to themselves, I know that evidence suggests that this can lead to harder drugs, the destruction of my health and an early death? 1% – 2% – none? How many start drinking a little beer to stay on friendly terms with their friends, telling themselves are headed toward alcoholism just their grandfather? How many neophyte smokers seriously consider the facts about the poisons of tobacco? A man starts flirting with a coworker, thinking nothing about it, until his marriage is destroyed. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”
There isn’t a specific word in this Hebrew text for “seemeth” – it is just a part of “seemeth right.” But the Holy Spirit’s meaning is clearly exposed. In our immature, naive, or foolish minds, we perceive some path as being harmless or even helpful. It “seemeth” to be so – it appears to be a good path. This is where the Word of God is so important because it tells us about various broad roads that lead to destruction. The way before us may seem right because there are lots of people already on that road. But the Lord Jesus has warned us against that path in Matthew 7 and elsewhere.
The Hebrew word in this verse is most often translated “right” but it is also rendered “upright” and “righteous.” Strong suggests that the root word carries the idea of something being “straight” as in straight and true. But that road may be straight only up to the top of the next hill and from there it may be more crooked than a snake’s back. Do we have the mind or heart to admit to the possibility?
Pride is a malady which often blinds us to the truth – “this way only seems to be right.” I know you think that you are smart, and, yes, you have made a few good choices in the past. But isn’t it possible that you are mistaken in this current situation or temptation? Put this choice to the Biblical test. Turn to an older counselor and ask his opinion about this way. Just because it seems to good or right to you, doesn’t make it so. Intellectual decisions always need to be tested spiritually.
This verse also suggests that we are MIGRATIONAL creatures.
“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” The word “way” can be used when talking about the manner in which we might do something. Have you ever noticed the way in which some people use a knife to cut their food? The knife, fork and spoon have their respective side of the plate. But some people pick up their knife and move to it to their other hand to cut their meat. And some people hold the knife as if it were a scalpel, but some look like they are going to stab with it. It’s just the way they do it. But the “way” of this verse is not a method; it’s a pathway. This Hebrew word is translated “way” nearly 600 times, but it is also rendered “toward” and even “journey.”
People sometimes think of themselves as stuck in a rut with nothing new ever entering into their lives. While that is sometimes true, the fact is, their lives are still progressing. “Time marches on” as they say, and we are swept along with it. Every day brings us closer to the end of our earthly lives – “death” as the verse reminds.
In many large airports there is a life-saving apparatus called “a moving sidewalk.” It’s a horizontal escalator – so it doesn’t escalate anything – but it does move people east and west. When we have to get from one terminal to another and there is only half an hour, those moving sidewalks get us to our destination and entertain us at the same time. Have you ever seen anyone, particularly kids, get on that sidewalk and try to go in the opposite direction? Have you ever seen anyone trying to go up the descending escalator? That is similar to trying to employ something to keep us from the end of life. There is nothing going to keep us from the way which leads to death. “It is appointed unto man once to die,” and nothing is going create a permanent detour. Each of us are on our own particular pathway – sometime of our own design or choice. But, thankfully, sometimes by the grace of God, we are on the path of God’s choice for us.
And that brings me to my last alliterated word – “TERMINAL.”
Every way – even the God-designed and regulated way – every way eventually leads to physical death. The only exceptions are when the Lord miraculously intervenes as with Enoch and Elijah. And there will also be the intervention of the translation of all God’s saints just prior to the Tribulation. But other than that, life ends in death. Every life is terminal.
Ah, but there is death and then there is another death. There is the moment when our heart stops beating and our brain stops its functions. But there is also the second death when “death and hell (are) cast into the lake of fire” – Revelation 20:14. To which death does Solomon refer? Admittedly, it is probably to physical death, but the modern day preacher has every right to point to spiritual death as well, because the verse certainly can.
Jesus Christ is “the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by (Him).” Did you catch that? He is “the way.” The way which Jesus applied to himself in John 14:6 is certainly not the way to which Solomon referred. Christ is not the way which only seemeth to be right to the unredeemed heart. Christ is the only right and righteous way. “And whosoever liveth and believeth in (Him) shall never die. Believest thou this?”