When I was in Estes Park, I wanted to visit a relative and her kids about an hour's drive away. I set my GPS phone app and drove off. Interestingly, it said there may be gravel roads on my route. That was an understatement! It was a dirt road with a little bit of gravel that twisted and wound up the mountain with sharp drops and no guard rail, then ended at a hiking trail. Not only that, I no longer had a cell signal to re-route myself. So I turned around to go back the way I came so I could get back to reasonable cell coverage, which was back at my hotel. I went to the front desk and asked the woman there the best route to get to my destination. She laughed and said, "That happens a lot! I don't know why, though." Then she told me the best route to get me back on track. Sure enough, she was right.
Main Passage: Proverbs 4
Secondary Passage: Psalm 1
Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.” John 8:51 NIV
What's the Deal?
Our world of gray is difficult to navigate. What is right and what is wrong? It depends who you listen to. We are told to be tolerant (i.e. accepting) of lifestyles and behavior that goes against the Bible. The hot topics of social media confuse some Christians who may not be as well grounded in the Bible. Many opt to add other philosophies (religions) to the Christian faith, even though they are diametrically opposed. These people find themselves in scary places in life.
Living in such a gray world, we pick up the dirt from our non-Christian neighbors and co-workers. Some people may dabble in porn or vicious chat sessions online. They even get caught up in seances or other occultic practices to figure out the answers they seek about life. Others may snub someone who needs the ministry we can provide to them in favor of the status of only being seen with certain people. The temptations in our society are very strong. What is right or wrong? Where should we get our advice? Even the most innocent looking advice from someone or some place can lead us to perilous cliffs.
The book of Proverbs is a wonderful collection of wisdom and instruction for life written by King Solomon, the very King of Israel people from far and near came to hear. In the case of Proverbs 4, it is broken into six sections: Value of Parental Wisdom, Value of Learned Wisdom, Value of Living a Righteous Life, Value of Avoiding the Lifestyle of the Wicked. Value of Concentrating on Righteous Living, and Value of Focus on Righteousness. The analogy of being on a path and not turning to the right or the left repeat over and over with one exception in 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."
Solomon takes the Proverb from the negative of living like the unrighteous back to the positive of living a righteous life, the result of following the wise instruction of parents and the attained wisdom from general living. Interestingly, people tend to remember the beginning and end of instructions.
Summing up the content, if this son follows the wisdom he learns, he will live. If he follows the evil of those who are not godly, it will lead to his death. There is an attractive beauty of living a righteous life. People can't point to the son legitimately accusing him of wrong doing.
In the last paragraph, a key stands out:
Above all else, guard
for everything you do flows from it. Verse 23.
What we truly think and believe will show in our daily living. First, it starts in our hearts, then to our lips, and finally in our actions.
He ends this proverb with this:
Let your eyes
look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.
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. Verses 25-27.
By refusing to even look at evil living, this son can purposely stay on the straight path. He is to be steadfast, that is "firmly fixed in place, not subject to change, firm in belief, determination, or adherence" as in loyal, according to the Mirriam-Webster Dictionary.
Psalm 1 seems to be almost like a summary of Proverbs 4, although written by different human authors. The hard part is discerning who wrote this book. If it was King David, then you will hear David's son, Solomon reiterate his father's words for his own sons. If it was written by someone else, then Solomon, who knew the first five books of the Bible, the Law, restating his Heavenly Father's instruction in his own words.
You see in this Psalm the walk, stand, sit progression someone does when listening intently to someone. If we compare that with Proverbs 4:25-27, God's people should keep looking forward, staying firm in belief, moving forward on the straight path of righteousness from the wisdom learned because it will lead to life. Don't stop and stand. Don't sit down with an evil person to listen to his words. Keep walking straight ahead.
In John 8, Jesus was caught up in a debate with some Jews over who He is. They were insistent they were Abraham's children, but Jesus was demon-possessed. He went on to tell them that if they were truly children of Abraham, they would recognize Him and His teachings. In verse 51, He tells them that anyone who obeys His teaching will not see death.
We all hear about prodigal children of Christians, how they disregard what they have learned from the Bible and their parents. But it isn't just prodigals who do that; we all disregard God's Word in our lives at one time or another. Those who choose to veer off the straight and narrow path, find themselves in perilous territory. It might be as scary as drugs and alcohol, gangs, prostitution, or other flagrant disregard for the life they were taught. But it could be as subtle as accepting a position at work that requires you to live in shades of grey: prospering from the poor, entertaining clients with alcohol and "clubs", or working long hours neglecting one's spouse and family. All of these lead to ruin in one's life. It may even cost someone his or her life, literally. Just like following the wrong directions on my GPS could have been a disaster, so can following the wrong examples.
Listening to the wrong people causes confusion. Much like losing my cell signal with my GPS stuck in "Rerouting", we often will find ourselves disconnected with God and His direction for our lives. We become vulnerable to anyone's advice that will get us out of a sticky situation. Our attitudes don't reflect Jesus where we live and work. Our words don't sound like those who belong to Jesus, an I'm not talking about "Christian-speak". It's difficult to tell who we belong to because we confuse others in our own confusion.
If we grow up with Christian parents, they teach us about living out the commands of God from the Bible. Those of us who did not can find godly mentors and examples to follow. Our parents meant well, but they didn't know or understand the teachings of the Bible. They also didn't have the relationship with God, but our Christian role models have. There may be some observational wisdom our parents had, which is good to follow. But we must sort through the filter of the Bible. Just as when I went back to one of the locals who knew the mountain roads for the right directions, we can trust godly advice and the teachings of the Bible to keep us on the right path for life.
God's people who follow His word, have lives that are blessed. They have what they need. Their families are amazing. Their work ethic is flawless. People are drawn to them because of the light of Jesus that shines through their righteous living. They don't spend time watching or reading anything that is against the wisdom they've learned from their parents or the Bible. They don't allow non-Christians to influence their judgment. They lead impressive lives.
If you feel like you are about to fall off the edge of a cliff in life, consider whether you are following God's wisdom or man's. Go back to the Bible and Christians who live out Jesus' teachings for the answers you need. If you notice, I use the 4-D Living format for these studies. Use it to help yourself find the wisdom you need to live blessed by God with a life that is a shining example to others around you. God's wisdom will never lead us wrong.
Prayerfully ask God for His insight into situations as you look through the Bible with a topical index or concordance to find the subjects you want to research. Once you find your answers, Proceed to the Route.
If you need help using this method, email me. I would be happy to help you walk through this process. May God bless you!