Today read Genesis 41, Job 8, and Proverbs 4. This devotional is about Proverbs 4.
This chapter in Proverbs contains a lot of encouragement and general recommendations for wisdom rather than actual, specific, actionable instructions. In other words it says, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding” (v. 7) rather than, “Pray and ask God for wisdom and look for a wise mentor who will give you advice.” But one thing that stands out in this passage is the repeated analogy of wisdom as a pathway:
- Verse 11: “I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths.”
- Verse 12: “When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.
- Verses 14-15: “Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way.”
- Verses 18-19: “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked….”
- Verses 26-27: “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”
This imagery of waking in a pathway emphasizes that wisdom is a process not a product. It is a direction you go in with your life not a destination you reach.
To use another analogy: You build up a savings account financially by wisely using your money, spending less and less and saving more and more daily rather than by spending money on the lottery and hoping you win. Follow the steps of spending less than you earn and putting the difference away and you will steadily accumulate money.
But notice the contrast that Solomon drew in verses 18-19 again: “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.”
Have you ever met someone who had a catastrophic moral failure–he or she broke the law in some big way and got caught or had an affair or something like that?
When that happens, and it is a person you know and were surprised that it happened to them, the person will tell you, “I don’t know why I did this or how I got here!” That statement is pretty close to verse 19b’s, “they do not know what makes them stumble.” The idea is that the wicked person follows a foolish pathway but they are so in the dark, so self-deceived about the risks that they don’t even see the pit they ultimately fell into.
Are you playing around with something risky right now? Are you repeatedly going to sinful behavior, dabbling just a little in it, but doing so more and more often and going just a little further each time?
If so, let these words bring some much needed light into the dark ways of your life. Wickedness is a process that leads you into darkness. It is exciting but extremely dangerous and it will get you.
But if wandering into darkness is a process then so is becoming enlightened through righteousness and wisdom. Repent–change your mind and turn around; go toward the light. Wisdom will dawn on you; it will accumulate if you follow it daily.