Read Proverbs 2
The author continues his discussion of the knowledge and reverence and fear of God and its relationship to wisdom.
He says, there is the path of righteousness and the way of darkness. Jesus talked about the narrow path. We think in terms of walking in the light or walking in darkness.
Wisdom has been portrayed as a lady who will guide us to safety, a secure foundation, and away from destruction. If we listen to this lady, we understand that discretion—perhaps discernment would carry fewer modern connotations—will preserve us. Understanding God will keep us. It will sustain us.
Evil and the ways of destruction also receive some female personification, but only as a seductress. This account tells us that we will not return from an encounter with this seductress. We will be cut off. Being cut off was a significant thing in the life of the Hebrew people. Belonging to the community was very important.
We may wonder why the image of the seductress is used. Perhaps this was due to the worship of pagan gods that took place all around God’s Chosen People. Sex was often a part of pagan worship. We find references to such practices trying to make their way into the early Christian churches in the opening messages found in Revelation.
It makes you wonder if there were signs on these pagan temples that read, “Please practice safe worship.” Probably not.
But the seductress mentioned in this chapter was not a pagan but one who forgets the covenant of her God. This is not someone ignorant of the truth, but one who knowledgably deserts the truth and walks away from the path of righteousness.
Do you remember the Robert Frost poem, The Road Not Taken? Many of us remember it by its first lines. Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler, long I stood and looked down one as far as I could to where it bent in the undergrowth.
For those who know the message of this poem, the author accepts his choice of one path over another even though there was very little to discriminate the two.
The author of Proverbs brings the reader to a point where the road forks, but the choice of path here bears existential consequences. There is a choice.
Wisdom or folly.
Wisdom or cynicism.
Wisdom or delusion.
What is wise or what is seductive.
What is right or what is destructive.
Just or wicked.
Secure or uprooted.
Part of a wise and wholesome community or cut off from it.
Life or death.
These proverbs pose a simple but significant dichotomy. Sometimes it is hard to see the world in black or white, right or wrong, ethical or unethical. The world likes gray.
Proverbs frame our choices as wise and unwise.
Proverbs follow our choices with consequences—both those that provide quality outcomes and those that are destructive.
These proverbs bring us to two roads that diverge, but unlike Mr. Frost’s poem, they let us see beyond where a path bends in the undergrowth. In fact, we have visibility on both paths. One is marked with goodness, righteousness, knowledge, wisdom, and the fear of the Lord. Its travelers are labeled upright and blameless.
The other path leads to destruction. Its travelers are labeled fools and scoffers, and their path is marked with wickedness and unfaithfulness and immorality and separation and death.
Why would we not choose the wise path?
Why would we choose those things that we know will end up in calamity?
You think that with life being pretty much an open book test, we would always get the right answer, that we would always choose what is wise.
But is just doesn’t happen that way all the time and we are blessed to be able to take the wisest path of all. We are blessed to have been given the measure of faith needed to respond to God’s invitation and to have professed Jesus as the Lord of our lives.
The road taken by fools and scoffers leads to destruction. It is described as one from which you do not return. These proverbs have some finality to them. You will die apart from fearing the Lord and living by his wisdom.
But we were all dead when Christ gave us life.
Life has a better outcome in the here and now when we live wisely, but Jesus can set aside all of our folly and foolishness and just really bad choices that should consign us to the outer regions of hell. No matter where we are on the road we are traveling, Jesus can bring us home to him.
So should we ignore the wisdom that is woven into the fabric of the universe because Jesus can rescue us from our own decisions?
No. Absolutely not!
Paul addressed this very thing in something of an antiphonal monologue. When he discussed how that when sin increased that grace increased all the more, he asks, “So should we go on sinning so that grace may abound even more?”
His answer was the same. No. Absolutely not!
There is a path to walk that is pleasing to God. But once we know God, once we stop running from him, once we stop hiding from him, and once we open our eyes and ears and realize how in awe of him we should be, we will experience his love and mercy and forgiveness that shows us how much wisdom there was in allowing us to choose the road we have taken-even when we have to be rescued from it.
But now that we are rescued, are we not compelled to live not only in God’s grace, but to embrace the wisdom he has revealed to us. As God’s people are we not also to be the wisest people on the planet—the first fruits—to live a life pleasing to God and one that reaps the benefits of doing what is wise.
Let us thank God for his mercy, love, grace, and favor.
Let us live wisely in response to these incredible gifts.