What did the wise man of Proverbs have in mind?
I’m going to have another birthday in a few days so I guess that explains why I’m doing a little more cogitating than usual, thinking about life and how to live in a manner pleasing to the Creator and Sustainer of all life.
This phrase which comes from the Book of Proverbs in the Old Testament,
caught my eye and off I went looking for just what the wise man meant.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death”. (14:12 and 16:25)
If you have a couple of minutes I’ll try to tell you the gist of my thoughts and then tell you what I discovered, from all people, Charles G. Finney, who seems to have come to the same answer.
I always took it for granted that in keeping with so many of the wise sayings about life by the wise man of Proverbs, that this “right way” of living was in stark contrast to all those he labels as “foolish”, “wicked”, “sinner”, “scoffer”, or even “backslider”, etc. It just made sense that this expression also referred to a specific, observable class of individuals who seemed to be radically different (by observation) than these others. And yet it struck me that he says these folks, living a way that seems to them to be the right way to life, ended up instead coming to the same end- death.
So I thought about other parts of the Biblical narrative, wondering if the answer was not clearly revealed in other places both in the New as well as the Old Testaments. Could it be, I mused to myself, that this has reference to the “religious” folks- those that not only believe this is the right way to live, but actually practice a specific codified system of rules of an organized religious order? In the context of the Old Testament, the keepers of the Old Covenant-those who lived by the rule of law?
Now I’ve speant a lot of time in Paul’s letter to the Romans over the last forty years or so, and I remember that part of Paul’s thesis in that letter is that there is something that the law, as perfect as it is, just can’t produce: the right way of living before God (righteous living). So to make a long time of meditating as simple as I can, that is exactly the conclusion I came to, not only reflecting upon one book of the Bible, but reflecting on the entire story-line. The reason why the announcement to the Shepherds that Jesus had been born was such good news, “tidings of great JOY to all peoples” makes sense to me now as I prepare for Advent season. Read the following Scripture and see if you see what I see:
“2) For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (3) For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, (4) in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:2-4)
To see what Finney said about
this in July, 1859, Go Here! (approaching his 67th birthday)