“But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day. The way of the wicked is like darkness; They do not know over what they stumble” (Proverbs 4:18-19 NASB). This is the tragedy of the wicked—they do not know the full impact of their actions. They are in darkness (cf. John 1:5, 3:19-21). They think it doesn’t harm others, or they will get away with it. They just don’t understand the damage they do or that they will have to be held accountable by God. Righteousness is the better path because it is free from this ignorance. Righteousness recognizes the truth of God’s Word, the importance of treating others well, and the damage caused by even the “littlest” of sins. It is a path of improvement that keeps getting brighter and brighter.
“For they cannot sleep unless they do evil; And they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble. For they eat the bread of wickedness And drink the wine of violence” (Proverb 4:16-17 NASB). These are reasons to avoid the path of the wicked (cf. Proverbs 4:14-15). The wicked are happy when they are scheming and enacting their evil plans, cf. Micah 2:1. They do not have your best interest in mind, only their own. They don’t mind tormenting others as long as it benefits them. If you hang out with the wicked, sooner or later they will take advantage of you.
“Do not enter the path of the wicked And do not proceed in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not pass by it; Turn away from it and pass on” (Proverbs 4:14-15 NASB). If you know where evil lives and dwells stay away from that place else you will be tempted to join in or you will suffer righteously. We are blessed when we do not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers (Psalm 1:1). Instead, we put good influences into our lives (cf. Psalm 1:2-3, Philippians 4:8-9).
“When you walk, your steps will not be impeded; And if you run, you will not stumble. Take hold of instruction; do not let go. Guard her, for she is your life” (Proverbs 4:12-13 NASB). Wisdom helps us clear out some of the obstacles that trip us up in life such as pride, haste, and greed. When we clear out such sins it is easier for us to change, we are more careful, and we are focused on what is really important. This helps us to avoid mistakes in our lives, especially our spiritual lives. We need to realize that true living is found with wisdom and take hold of her instructions.
“Hear, my son, and accept my sayings And the years of your life will be many. I have directed you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in upright paths” (Proverbs 4:10-11 NASB). No matter how wise a person is who teaches you, the choice is up to you whether or not to go down the path they directed. The sad truth is many ignore wise advice because it isn’t what they want to hear, they think they know better, or they just feel like their way is better. This is especially true when it comes to the wisdom of the Bible. Many have become hearers of the word instead of doers and have deluded themselves into thinking they are alright (cf, James 1:22-25). We need to do more than hear about God’s ways, we need to live according to God’s ways.
“Prize her, and she will exalt you; She will honor you if you embrace her. “She will place on your head a garland of grace; She will present you with a crown of beauty.” (Proverbs 4:8-9 NASB). Wisdom treats those who seek her ways and keep them very well (cf. Proverbs 4:7). There is no need for boasting or for men to praise you when a life of wisdom brings you the confidence and satisfaction you need. There is no need to pursue external beauty with immodest clothing or face-lifts when wisdom gives you the true beauty of a good character (cf. 1 Peter 3:3-4).
“The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; And with all your acquiring, get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7 NASB). The pursuit of wisdom is not a passive activity, you just don’t become wise, not even through experience. There are lots of old fools. Some people never learn from their mistakes because they are not seeking to acquire wisdom–there is no understanding of what they have done. Besides, the wisdom that comes from experience mostly comes from the mistakes we have made. We have better avenues of wisdom (cf. Proverbs 1:1-6). We don’t have to make so many mistakes if we will begin pursuing wisdom and understanding.
“Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding! Do not forget nor turn away from the words of my mouth. “Do not forsake her, and she will guard you; Love her, and she will watch over you.” (Proverbs 4:5-6 NASB). Solomon’s life is one that shows the rewards of seeking wisdom, but also the consequences of turning away from wisdom. David passed on three very important concepts to Solomon.
First, the need to acquire wisdom and understanding. Perhaps this is why Solomon requested wisdom when God offered him anything he wanted. At the start of his reign, he had learned enough wisdom from David to seek wisdom and was richly rewarded for it.
Second, David taught him not to forsake wisdom. It is not enough to learn the ways of wisdom, you have to stick to them as well. Unfortunately, Solomon did not heed this advice. He married foreign wives who took him away from God (1 Kings 11:1-4). Abandoning wisdom led him to abandon his faith.
Third, Solomon was taught to love wisdom–to follow the ways of wisdom unconditionally, to put wisdom above pleasure, esteem, and wealth. Instead of loving wisdom, though, Solomon turned away from it and worshipped false gods (1 Kings 11:5-8). This caused the division of the kingdom in his son’s reign (cf. 1 Kings 11:9-13)–perhaps his son followed his example rather than his teachings. This would never have happened if Solomon had been following the wisdom he knew; wisdom would have watched over him and protected him.
We need to understand the importance of acquiring, keeping, and loving wisdom–only when we do this does wisdom have any value in our lives.
“When I was a son to my father, Tender and the only son in the sight of my mother, Then he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; Keep my commandments and live” (Proverbs 4:3-4 NASB). The best time to start a child’s training is when they are still receiving the attention from their mother that infants need. For a while after birth, every child whether it is your first or your fiftieth gets special attention. It is during this time that training begins. This is a time of rapid learning that we need to use to the benefit of our children’s spiritual lives. It is important not only to teach God’s ways, but to encourage our children to hold them fast and keep them.
“Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, And give attention that you may gain understanding, For I give you sound teaching; Do not abandon my instruction” (Proverbs 4:1-2 NASB). Aside from the Bible itself, the primary teachers children are given for religious instruction are their parents–not their preacher, elders, youth minister, or Sunday school teachers. Parents must instruct their children in God’s ways, especially the father. Solomon here is passing on such instructions to his children (instructions he learned from his father, Proverbs 4:3-4). He speaks in such a way that he demands his children listen and pay attention. In addition, these instructions are not willy-nilly; they have a purpose–understanding. (Note: the reason for a child to listen is not based on the authority of the father alone, he offers sound teaching.) Children need to understand what is really important: that no education, career, or pleasure is as important as seeking God’s ways (Matthew 6:33). Children need to be given the knowledge from God’s Word showing the path to heaven and the desire to go there. In addition, children must see these principles in action in the lives of their parents.