The Righteous Vs the Wicked.
“In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality.” – Proverbs 12:28 NIV
In a later Proverb Solomon says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12 NIV). In another one of his Proverbs, he tells us, “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day” (Proverbs 4:18 NIV). Along the same lines, the prophet Isaiah said, “The way of the righteous is level, the path of the righteous that You make is straight” (Isaiah 26:7 NIV). There is a path that each of us must take. Actually, there are two paths. One leads to disappointment, destruction and ultimately, death. The other leads to blessing and life. And it’s not just the final destination these paths lead to that is important. It’s the journey itself. The path so often referred to in the Old Testament carries with it the idea of a journey or way. It often refers to a manner of life. The manner in which one conducts his life. It is the day-to-day act of living out our lives as we follow the path before us. Throughout these two Proverbs Solomon contrasts the “way” of the righteous and the “way” of the wicked. He compares and contrasts them, using simple illustrations to set apart these two approaches to life. Solomon gives us unmistakable characteristics of each, easily recognized in daily life. The righteous are characterized by honesty, integrity, discretion, diligence, compassion, humility, trustworthiness, and generosity. The wicked are selfish, self-centered, deceptive, lazy, prideful, arrogant, unfaithful, hateful, cruel, lacking in discretion, corrupt, and foolish.
The promises offered to those who choose the way of righteousness are many. And they aren’t just waiting out there somewhere in the future. Solomon talks of blessings to be had in this life for those who choose to walk the way that God has established. His way is the way of righteousness or right living. It is the way that leads to joy and fulfillment, blessing and abundance, peace and prosperity. But this is where we have to be careful. Solomon is not saying and God is not promising that His way is all health, wealth, and prosperity. He is offering us so much more than money and material things. He is promising so much more than just a long life free from sickness. He is offering an antidote for anxiety, a rest in the midst of the pressures of life, a peace right in the middle of chaos, a joy in spite of sorrow. God is offering us direction when we find ourselves lost, comfort when we find ourselves sad, community when we feel like we are all alone, rescue when we find ourselves in trouble. God is offering us a relationship. He is offering to light the path on which we walk and give us companionship for the journey. He is not just telling where we need to go, He is walking alongside us the entire way, teaching us, encouraging us, providing for us, and protecting us. It reminds me of the journey the Israelites took through the wilderness. God was with them every step of the way. He led them. He fed them. He protected them. He provided for them. He talked to them. He gave them rules to live by. He did miracles for them. He revealed Himself to them. Yes, they were headed to the Promised Land, but a big part of God’s plan for them was the journey on which they found themselves. He could have easily transported them right to the land of Canaan the minute He delivered them out of Egypt. But He had another plan. He had a journey in store for them. They were going to learn just who God was as they walked with Him day by day. They were going to see His power on display. They were going to learn about His holiness and hatred of sin. They were going to see His deliverance first-hand. This was their opportunity to see their God at work in their lives – each and every day. But many of them chose to take the path of the wicked. They wanted to return to Egypt. They complained. They whined. They refused to listen to God. They let their desires rule their decisions. They gave in to their urges. And they sinned. The result was death. They turned their backs on God’s way and chose their own. And the results were devastating and deadly.
What about us? What path are we choosing? Even as believers who are walking the path that God has established for us, we can choose to turn around or take detour. We can refuse to follow His path and take our own. And before we know it, we find ourselves in the high weeds. Oh sure, it may go well for a while. We may find ourselves living the high life and enjoying all the pleasures we were seeking, but that path will never get us where we really need to go. The way of the righteous is God’s way. It is a narrow way. It is not the popular way. But it is the only way that leads to life. I love the way The Message paraphrases the words of Jesus: “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life–to God!–is vigorous and requires total attention” (Matthew 7:13-14 MSG).
Father, Your way is best. But sometimes it is so tempting to take another way, to follow another path. But keep me on the path of righteousness. Help me to see You as I walk each and every day. I know that there will be difficult days, but that is where I can see Your power on display and Your compassion first-hand. Walking Your path requires trust and faith. It requires diligence and determination. But You make the journey well worth the effort. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men