The Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 4:11-19


I am going to overlap our scripture for this evening with what we used two weeks ago. We looked at wisdom from a conjugal point of view – the relationship of a husband and wife. Husband “forsake her not,” “love her,” “embrace her” and “exalt her.” And that wife, wisdom, shall “preserve thee,” “keep thee,” bring thee to honour” – she is “thy life.”

Blended into those images Solomon adds, “I have taught thee in the WAY of wisdom; I have led thee in right PATHS.” Then he talks about walking and running down that path with the blessing of the Lord. And he points to the paths of the wicked which are nothing but trouble. It is these two paths that I would like to briefly bring to your attention this evening.

We can look at wisdom from several directions.

Of course, the Lord Jesus is ultimately our wisdom. And there is wisdom in the truth – in the Bible and in Bible doctrine. But as it is expressed here, wisdom is a path, a road – wisdom is a way in which to live. And as such it is not a state of being “I am wise. I have reached intellectual or spiritual nirvana.” Wisdom is not a state of mind – it is a path. The man with the PhD in theology, reading both Testaments and John Gill in the original languages, may be truly born again. But if he is inert in his Christian life, he displays no wisdom – in a practical sense, he is not wise. “I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths.”

The way of wisdom is a “right” path. The Hebrew word translated “right” is “yosher;” it is translated “meet” – as in correct or proper. It is translated “right” and various forms of “uprightness.” From what I could learn it is the source of the Yiddish word “kosher” – a word applied to the proper kind of food for an orthodox Jew. “Kosher” is not a word that I could find in the Bible. Nevertheless, the way of wisdom is kosher before the Lord. And obviously, not every path in this world is approved of the Lord – not all of them are wise. I once met a Christian who had been a high school football coach; he told me that football was not a wise path for any Christian to follow, because it was a pathway of violence. The path to Hollywood is not a road a Christian should follow. There are hundreds of businesses which saints of God should avoid – they are not wise paths. The road which begins with Coors Light and steps into lighting up marijuana is not “yosher” before the Lord. There are thousands of other paths which are not wise – they are not “yosher”

Going down the wise path the Christian traveler finds that his steps shall not be straightened – verse 12. In many national and state parks, winter wrecks havoc. And in the spring, crews have to walk down every path with shovels and chainsaws clearing away the fallen trees and the effects of the winter winds and snows. The Holy Spirit promises that right path will always be wide enough for safe passage. That isn’t to say there won’t be problems, but those problems will not be with the path itself. “When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened.” The word “straitened” as you probably know refers to becoming narrow – too narrow to use safely. But obviously that isn’t to contradict the words of the Lord Jesus. This path and its initial gate is certainly much narrower than the “broad road which leadeth unto destruction.”

“When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened; and when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble.” Isn’t there a tendency, especially toward the conclusion of a long journey, to step on the accelerator just a little bit heavily? To serve the Lord for 40 years, and to begin to see spires of the Celestial City should make us pick up the pace just a little bit. The Holy Spirit promises that even when we use our old legs, stepping a little more quickly, jogging just a bit before actually sprinting, if the path be “yosher;” there will be nothing over which to stumble. What does it take to make people stumble and fall? It might be the crack in a sidewalk or a stone laying in the way. The Lord promises to remove these on the path of wisdom which He maintains. I saw, but didn’t retain, a statistic the other day which mentioned the number of people who break bones tripping over their pets. It was a large number. But isn’t it also true that we don’t need anything and yet we still stumble? I cannot tell you how often I have caught my toe on the carpet in this auditorium and stumbled. Thankfully, I have never fallen, but I have stumbled over what was essentially nothing at all. What a blessing to hear God say, “When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened; and when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble.”

“Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life” verse 13. Christ Jesus famously said, “I am the way, the truth, & the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” That last phrase causes me to think of the end of our journey – the way is unto the Father. Without implying they are not a part of our eternity with the Lord, aren’t “the truth” and “the life” more about the journey than the destination? For the saint of God, wisdom is supposed to be the life we are currently living “She is thy life.”

And “the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day”verse 18. The “yosher” path shines more brightly with every step – every quarter mile. The nearer we get to the Celestial City, the brighter its glow will be on the path we tread. But that doesn’t mean that the enemy will become less intense or incensed against us. Just because the path is brighter, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be easier. In fact, it will probably be harder because of God’s enemies. But that does not mean that the journey will not be better. The fellowship with the One who is our Wisdom will be sweeter every step we take along His pathway. The companionship with other travelers will be more joyful. And it is on this path where the Holy Spirit ministers most blessedly. “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.”

In the midst of this discussion Solomon paints a picture of the other path – that of the wicked.

“Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away. For they sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall. For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence.”

Both, Brother Estes and I have known Baptists, professed Christians, who have converted to Catholicism. I am sure that of the few who have done so, there may have been different reasons. Perhaps it was the battle for the rights of the unborn; some may like the rites & beauty of Catholicism. Some became Catholics because of their love for a Catholic friend. There may be hundreds of reasons. But it could be said that each of those pathways SHOULD have been carefully avoided. When the Christian fell in love with that unbeliever, he should have turned and run even if his heart was breaking. Moral issues can be fought without identification with the Catholics. And a stain-glassed cathedral does not constitute a godly place of worship. “Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.”

Many of the people walking down the unwise path – the non-yosher trail – sleep not unless they have done some mischief. This word “mischief” is most often translated “evil.” These evil people, “don’t sleep until they have caused someone else to fall.” Not only do they fill their broad road with mines, pits and detours, but they serepiticiously slide over to the “yosher;” path, trying to cause the righteous to fall.

They sustain themselves with bad food – the bread of wickedness, drinking the wine of violence. Oh, they might not pull a knife and threaten the righteous man, but they rejoice in making him afraid, or to sin against his Saviour. They may tease or cajole; they might verbally abuse or ridicule your faith or your Christian walk. They may want to make your walk as dark as possible, for their way “is as darkness.” But ultimately “they know not at what they (themselves) stumble.” And why? Because they are blind; blind to the truth; blind to wisdom; blind towards God.