THE PATHS OF LIFE
If chapter 1 was about some of life’s voices then Chapter 2 is about life’s choices!
Choices about everything –
- Cornflakes – crunchy nut; honey coated; sugar coated; chocolate coated
- Car – Make … model … engine size … manual … auto …colour … sunroof .. electric windows … electric mirrors … seat heating … leather or fabric seats …
While we live in a world that appears to have a multiplicity of choices about everything — sometimes I think that life in a poor country where there is only one type of bread is far easier and certainly less stressful —
However in the midst of these innumerable options the Bible presents us with two possible options
– the possibility of going God’s way
– the possibility of going our own way
If Proverbs does nothing else it show us clearly that there are two paths each with a different destination.
If we are to choose the right path then we need to know what they are.
1. THE NEED TO RECOGNISE THE DIFFERENT PATHS.
In order to recognise the different paths we need to recognise the Biblical Wisdom.
1.1. Recognizing biblical wisdom
- The reality of good and evil – that there is moral good and evil and that there are such things as absolute standards against which we are to be measured. Evil is not only a breaking of these standard but an offend against the one who put them there.
- The reality of God and Satan – that there is a supreme creator God who not only made the universe but has a vital interest in it — to whom creation is accountable. And that there is an evil being [Satan] who is a creature and not a creator BUT who is nevertheless very powerful and who does everything possible to oppose the creator — and to hinder every other creature from worshipping the creator.
- The reality of heaven and hell – accepting that this life is not all there is – that there is an existence after death in one of two places – heaven or hell
- The reality of life and death – life is a gift from God – death is not simply the cessation of life – rather it is a theological statement – death cries out ‘This is not how things were meant to be!’ – God agrees – death tells us that there is something wrong with this universe – something wrong with us that only God can put right!
1.2. Rejecting popular wisdom
- Everything is relative – Relativism is one of the dominate philosophies of the day and age in which we live – basically teaches that there is not such thing as absolute truth in terms of morality – so what is wrong for you may not be wrong for me —
ILLUS. adultery is not always wrong – if all the parties involved know about it and agree to it and ‘it is not hurting anyone’ then why should it be wrong. ILLUS.: TV – Last week – KILROY [chat show] – happened to turn on in middle – subject strip-tease and tabletop (women strip on or next to a table of customers) – some of strippers there (fully clad!!) — defending their occupation (it is not hurting anyone – not doing harm but, in fact, providing entertainment — while others opposed.
Relativism in full flight!!!
- God is irrelevant; Satan is not existent – many don’t believe in God – and if they do believe it is vague understanding of a deity who is remote and irrelevant — most people don’t believe in a personal devil — that is not to say that people are not interested in the spiritual because they are and the evidence is the huge interest in the occult, eastern religions, New Age, etc. …. [ILLUS.: news this week of mother accused of murdering her 6 yr old boy then laying out in a sacrificial manner in a woodland area]
- Heaven – a state of mind; Hell – a medieval concept. –
ILLUS.: Ken Lancaster – B/Study – ‘Hell is a state of mind and I have been there.’
The same can be said of heaven according to many – for some it is achieving a kind of utopian existence on earth except I don’t know of many who have!! If there is no belief in a personal devil then it is not surprising that hell is considered and figment of medieval imagination – even within some theological circles.
- Life is what you make it; death – try to ignore it – humanism tells us that this life is all we have — so live for now and get all you — be as comfortable as possible — it is no wonder that materialism is so popular. If this is all then we don’t want to think about the end — but do everything in our power to put it off.
So we have biblical wisdom and popular wisdom — God’s way and our way!
Proverbs Ch.2 teaches us about the:
The certainty of discovering the right path — as well as —
The possibility of taking the wrong path.
Choices – [video Sun. p.m. – Stuart Briscoe] – we have the ability and freedom to choose which path we will take – we have a certain freedom to make decisions – what we don’t have is the freedom to choose the consequences of our choices.
God says, ‘If you choose the path the leads away from me then be sure that there are certain consequences that will follow as sure as night follows day.’
BUT there is …
2. THE CERTAINTY OF DISCOVERING THE RIGHT PATH
2.1. God is committed to revealing the right path.
The basis of knowing the truth – of attaining wisdom – of having knowledge and understanding – the basis for all these is revelation. We can know nothing about God except that he chooses to tell us.
It is God’s nature and character to reveal himself – he tells us!
One of the first things we know about God in Scripture is that he speaks:-
Gen 1 And God said, …
Gen 12 God called Abram
Ex God speaks to Moses
Pss God speaks thru’ his creation
1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. (NIV)
So here in Proverbs
6 For the LORD gives wisdom,
and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. (NIV)
This knowledge – not only spiritual knowledge but all true knowledge – about the natural world and everything else. All true knowledge and understanding originates with God.
However this passage moves beyond general knowledge to knowing God – to fearing him.
The means of discovering the right path is revelation – Does that mean we are simply passive recipient??
While this wisdom is only received by revelation that does not absolve us from searching for it!!
The means is revelation – it is also exploration
V.1 – must be a willingness to receive the Word
NB the starting point of this exploration for wisdom is revelation (words & commands)
The method of exploration for wisdom is not free speculation BUT it is treasuring and exploring the revelation received. i.e. In other words we can’t say ‘I will find God in my own way and on my own terms.’
Must be a willingness to come his way.
V.2 – there must be a readiness to apply the heart –
– not just a matter of the brain – wisdom is not academic – its purpose is to change lives.
– unless there is a readiness to accept then understanding will not come –
– can’t expect to know God’s wisdom if we are not going to accept it –
– so often our cry is ‘I wish I knew what God wanted me to do?’ Q> ‘Are you obeying what you DO know?’
V.3 – a carefulness to beseech (plead with) the Lord –
Often we don’t have this wisdom and understanding because we don’t really want it – we say we do!! — But do we??!
Are we hungry for God??
“Lord I want you more than anything else!” – passion!!
We want the blessing – Listen to Jesus
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled. (NIV)
V.4 – is there an eagerness to pursue wisdom until we find it –
more precious than hidden treasure or silver
ILLUS.: Parables of pearl of great price and treasure hidden in a field.
V.5 – God never disappoints those who seek him!
‘IF’ – [vv.1, 3, 4] – if .. if.. if.. then .. the fear of the Lord [AWE] & the knowledge of God [INTIMACY]
In a very real way we don’t find wisdom and knowledge IT [HE] finds us!
Who can find Him?? everyone – because God has spoken and still speaks – he commands ALL to repent and come to him…
Acts 17:30 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands [SPEAKS] all people everywhere to repent. (NIV)
When we seek God we will find him – and what we find is what he gives – discovery and revelation are inseparable!
V.7-9 show us that to know the Lord is to know how to live –
– we receive his provision – protection – guidance – and an understanding of what is the right path to follow.
2.2. We must be committed to following the right path.
NB V.10 – this wisdom and knowledge becomes part of those who receive it – it enters the heart
33 “This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after that time,” declares the LORD.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people. (NIV)
Far from being a burden – knowing God is pleasant – we often make it burdensome because of all the baggage we drag with us – What is in that baggage << bitterness, resentment, stubbornness, tradition, judgemental spirit, selfishness, persistent disobedience, spiritually apathy, ……>>
If there is a right path then that presupposes that there is a wrong path.
3. THE POSSIBILITY OF TAKING THE WRONG PATH.
Those who reject wisdom follow the path of the godless – not necessarily violent criminals – murderers, rapists, child abusers, fraudsters, etc.. although they are included BUT it includes ALL those who live life ignoring God – it is possible to come to church but still to ignore God by stubborn disobedience.
V. 12-19 give two examples of the godless – godless men and godless women –
– as is often the case in the bible we are given the extremes as examples but these are there to warn of the seriousness of following the wrong path –
— and to show the calamity that is at the end
Godless men of corruption } not that women are never corrupt
Godless women of seduction. } nor that men never seduce anyone!!!
3.1. Godless men of corruption
v.13 – they reject uprightness – the pattern of life is deception – not only the Robert Maxwells and Nick Leeson’s of this world but all who in everyday things
ILLUS.: exaggerating a little to look good — phoning in sick to work when you are not — claiming money that is not rightfully yours — telling half a story to put someone down — …….
v.14 – they rejoice in unrighhteousness — not only following this pattern of life but actually enjoying it – it gives them a buzz to live like this —
3.2. Godless women of seduction.
v.16 – flattery with words
– she offers a taste of life but sell you death —
— the word for adulteress is not the normal one for immoral women but mean ‘alien women’ or ‘stranger’ — these are committed to foreign gods so not only led astray sexually but religiously as well
Her path leads away from God – to religious unfaithfulness
v.17a – forsaking the ‘partner of her youth’
– she has broken her marriage vows – she is characterised by unfaithfulness — what makes you think that her path is a faithful one — what makes you think she will be faithful to you — God has the same accusation against the men in:-
13 Another thing you do: You flood the LORD’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. 14 You ask, “Why?” It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. (NIV)
reflection of relationship with God
v.17b – forgets the ‘covenant made before God’ –
This goes much deeper than a marriage covenant – God calls us into a covenant relationship with him and by ignoring him and following other paths we are guilty of spiritual adultery.
OT – Israel – God’s people portrayed as God’s wife – anything that damages that relationship is seen as a seductive adulteress and is to be avoided.
3.3 the consequences of godlessness
These passages are not simply descriptions of wrongdoing – they are warnings of the calamity that this wrong path leads to!
Sexual sin is wrong BUT here even more than that it is stupid!
‘The pressures of our own world glamourize sexual self-expression in the name of love; it is commonly only afterwards that people discover that the pain and loss are hardly worth the pleasure.
v.19 – loss in this life – the path we choose has consequences – we can choose the path but not the consequences!!
v.22 – lostness in the life to come – ‘land’ – ‘Promised land’ – in OT seen as God’s inheritance for his people – the wrong path leads to exclusion from God’s inheritance – i.e. eternal life!!
- – 1st – finding the right path [Illus. Narrow road to life and the broad road to destruction]
- – 2nd – on the narrow way there are wise choices that need to be made
[Illus.: African pastor – Mfundzi Inkwanazi at Intewerni Church – at cross roads – uncertain which ways to go – spits in hand and slaps – goes way spit shoots]
– some choices God will bless whichever way we go –
OR [ training in wisdom – as in sport e.g. cricket – study every aspect – practice in nets so when games is on right choices become part of your very character and being]
The more we learn and practice and train at making right choices the wiser we become – not necessarily easier!!
If Bad choices – always a way back !! — back to beginning — seek God because he is ready and willing to show us the right path – that what he is committed to ‘revealing the right path’.
Wisdom and insight and understanding and knowledge of God are there to be found – he wants to give them to us – We need to desire is above all else – to search for it – And God says ‘I will give it to you if you come my way!’
Are you prepared to give all that you have and are in order that you may have all that God has to give you!
This is what is expressed in our closing Hymn :-
“Take my life ..
…take my skills and abilities …
… take my possessions …
… take my passions…
THE PATHS OF LIFE
1. The need to recognise the different paths
Recognising biblical wisdom
the reality of good and evil
the reality of God and Satan
the reality of heaven and hell
the reality of life and death
Rejecting popular wisdom
everything is relative
God is irrelevant; Satan is non-existent
heaven is a state of mind; hell is a medieval concept
life is what you make it; death – try to ignore it
2. The certainty of discovering the right path
God is committed to revealing the right path
We must be committed to following the right path
3. The possibility of taking the wrong path
Two examples of godlessness
godless men of corruption
godless women of seduction
The consequences of godlessness