There is a way which seems right to a man...
Proverbs 16 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Contrast the Upright and the Wicked
The plans of the heart belong to man,
But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
2 All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight,
But the Lord weighs the motives.
3 Commit your works to the Lord
And your plans will be established.
4 The Lord has made everything for its own purpose,
Even the wicked for the day of evil.
5 Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord;
Assuredly, he will not be unpunished.
6 By lovingkindness and truth iniquity is atoned for,
And by the fear of the Lord one keeps away from evil.
7 When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord,
He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
8 Better is a little with righteousness
Than great income with injustice.
9 The mind of man plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.
10 A divine decision is in the lips of the king;
His mouth should not err in judgment.
11 A just balance and scales belong to the Lord;
All the weights of the bag are His concern.
12 It is an abomination for kings to commit wicked acts,
For a throne is established on righteousness.
13 Righteous lips are the delight of kings,
And he who speaks right is loved.
14 The fury of a king is like messengers of death,
But a wise man will appease it.
15 In the light of a king’s face is life,
And his favor is like a cloud with the spring rain.
16 How much better it is to get wisdom than gold!
And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver.
17 The highway of the upright is to depart from evil;
He who watches his way preserves his life.
18 Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before stumbling.
19 It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly
Than to divide the spoil with the proud.
20 He who gives attention to the word will find good,
And blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.
21 The wise in heart will be called understanding,
And sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.
22 Understanding is a fountain of life to one who has it,
But the discipline of fools is folly.
23 The heart of the wise instructs his mouth
And adds persuasiveness to his lips.
24 Pleasant words are a honeycomb,
Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
25 There is a way which seems right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
26 A worker’s appetite works for him,
For his hunger urges him on.
27 A worthless man digs up evil,
While his words are like scorching fire.
28 A perverse man spreads strife,
And a slanderer separates intimate friends.
29 A man of violence entices his neighbor
And leads him in a way that is not good.
30 He who winks his eyes does so to devise perverse things;
He who compresses his lips brings evil to pass.
31 A gray head is a crown of glory;
It is found in the way of righteousness.
32 He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.
33 The lot is cast into the lap,
But its every decision is from the Lord.
Each of these statements by the writer of proverbs contains wisdom for life. Perhaps none better captures the entirety of the gospel message and God’s plan for man than: There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. From the beginning, in the garden, Adam and Eve chose a way that seemed right. Having been deceived by the devil, they reasoned that it was good and right to disobey God and eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Rather than only being aware of what was good and holy, from that time on they also had knowledge and awareness of evil. From that time on every minute of every day, both for Adam and Eve and for all of us who have followed them, is filled with choices, good or evil; obedience or rebellion. Time and time again, the way which seems right, the way to self satisfaction and pleasure, actually leads to death. It is not that God is a restrictive tyrant, withholding all that is good. On the contrary, He is a loving Father who tries to protect us from what is bad. In Deuteronomy 30:15-19 God summarizes the choice that we each must make saying: “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live.” Jesus says it this way in John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” A life of obedience to God is not a life of lack or denied pleasure. It is a life of abundance and prosperity. In Psalm 37:4 the psalmist says: Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. God wants us to have our hearts desire; all that is good.
Why then does it seem that it is so difficult to choose the right way? The writer says: Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling. To question God’s commandments is an act of pride. It is to put ourselves equal to or above God. In Isaiah 45:9 God says: “Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker— An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’ Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands’?” To quarrel with the God of all creation is not only pride, it is foolishness. Perhaps the only thing more foolish and prideful is to question that He is. Either way, questioning God and questioning His commandments and the order He has established leads to stumbling and destruction. If you want to see an example of what it is like to question and confront God, or more accurately to be questioned and confronted by God, read Job 38-41. If you think that you have more understanding than either Job or God because of the simplicity of the description of creation; do not doubt for a minute that God could also challenge the greatest scientific minds in the world today, on topics from astrophysics to microbiology and everything in between. He is omniscient; all knowing. Human understanding, with all of its pride, has to admit that even as it gains more knowledge, every answer poses many new questions.
The text says: He who gives attention to the word will find good, And blessed is he who trusts in the Lord. The wise in heart will be called understanding. Knowledge without understanding is nearly useless. To find what is good and what is valuable, to gain understanding, we need to give attention to God’s word. We need to turn our hearts to Him; to delight in Him and His way; to choose the way that He says is right, rather than the way that seems right; to choose life and prosperity. Jesus makes it easy for us to choose. In John 14:6 He says: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit rather than choosing what to do every minute of everyday, I will choose Christ today and every day. I will humble myself to the one who humbled Himself for me. Thank You for Your words and commandments
that lead to life, prosperity and abundance. Amen.