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Old Route 66 in Hackberry, Arizona Old Route 66 in Hackberry, Arizona Matt Richardson

on the route of wisdom

Proverbs 4:10-13

10 Hear, my son, and receive my sayings,
And the years of your life will be many.

11  I have taught you in the way of wisdom;
I have led you in right paths.

12 When you walk, your steps will not be hindered,
And when you run, you will not stumble. 

13  Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go;
Keep her, for she is your life.

 

There is an old highway that makes its way across the heartland of America. When you drive it, you will pass from the big cities and rolling farmlands of the midwest, cross great deserts filled with red sandstone canyons, and finally stand on the Pacific shores of California. 

This old path has had many nicknames and has been called the “Main Street of America.” Author John Steinbeck, penning his 1939 novel “Grapes of Wrath,” called it “The Mother Road” as his dustbowl-era farmers from Oklahoma migrated west along its route with all of their worldly goods. It was a name that bespoke of what it meant for desperate people:

66 is the path of a people in flight, refugees from dust and shrinking land, from the thunder of tractors and shrinking ownership, from the desert’s slow northward invasion, from the twisting winds that howl up out of Texas, from the floods that bring no richness to the land and steal what little richness is there. From all of these the people are in flight, and they come into 66 from the tributary side roads, from the wagon tracks and the rutted country roads. 66 is the mother road, the road of flight.–John Steinbeck, "Grapes of Wrath"

You perhaps have driven or traveled this route and know it best by the catchy song that was penned in 1946 by singer/songwriter Bobby Troup:


If you ever plan to motor west,
Travel my way, take the highway that is best.
Get your kicks on Route 66.


It winds from Chicago to L.A.,
More than two thousand miles all the way.
Get your kicks on Route 66.


Now you go through Saint Looey
Joplin, missouri,
And Oklahoma City is ooh so pretty.
You’ll see Amarillo,
Gallup, New Mexico,
Flagstaff, arizona.
Don't forget Winona,
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernandino.
Won't you get hip to this timely tip
When you make that California trip
Get your kicks on Route 66.

This song has since been covered famously by Nat King Cole, Chuck Berry and numerous others. Along the route, travelers would marvel at the wonders of America, gawk at petrified forests, sleep in motels shaped like Indian teepees and pause to spend money in roadside curio shops and diners.    

Once an artery of cross-country travel, from the days of Spanish rule to covered wagons, Route 66 fell into disuse with the coming of the interstate highway system during the 1960’s and ’70’s. Its small towns were bypassed by the roaring traffic of I-40.

It was not until 2003 when Disney/Pixar children’s movie “Cars” was released that Route 66 regained long-lost popularity. Within a few years, people were once again driving the route, but this time as tourists and adventurers, seeking to see forgotten Americana such as the giant concrete “Blue Whale of Catoosa” and the half-buried car-henge of “Cadillac Ranch.”

Today, you can take the wide, modern highway to the west coast, but at eighty miles-per-hour you will miss the iconic sights, stunning landscapes, and friendly people of small town America. The old path is the best path to enjoy life at a living pace–and a trip down Route 66 today is a reminder of that.

Proverbs 4 finds Solomon talking about old paths. He is instructing the sons and daughters of Israel on the right path to take in this life: the path of the Way of Wisdom:

10 Hear, my son, and receive my sayings,
And the years of your life will be many.–Proverbs 4:10

Wait, did not Solomon already say something like this? If you have been a parent or have taught children in any capacity and found yourself saying something like, “how many times must I tell you to do this?” then you can understand the impact of this verse. My kids often accuse me of repeating myself or telling the same stories over again but more often than not, it is for their own benefit–and not simply that I am getting old. 

Thus, Solomon instructs again for his student to “listen and understand.” In like manner, Jesus often found himself repeating things to his disciples as they struggled to understand. The followed Him and heard the same lessons, saw multiple people healed and called to saving faith–and still they did not understand. Then, on one blessed morning, Jesus commands Peter to, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find fish” and at once Peter recognized Him as his risen Lord [John 21:1-14]. 

Solomon continues to instruct:

11  I have taught you in the way of wisdom;
I have led you in right paths.–Proverbs 4:11

Here, the instruction means something deeper than a father’s lecturing of his child for better behavior. He is leading him in right paths: the son is to follow in his footsteps and to tread in the tried and true ways of the faithful who have gone before him. This is the way of wisdom. As commentator Bruce Waltke describes, this is no artificial interstate highway, but a winding scenic route:

A track is not a road that has come into existence without people moving on it, but it iw that on which and in which people move. The son will be walking on an ancient and proved way.–Waltke

“I have taught” is in Hebrew הֹרֵתִ֑יךָ (hō·rê·ṯî·ḵā) and can be translated along the same lines as the Greek katecheo (κατηχέω): “to teach” or “share communication that one receives.” Both show that the path of wisdom is not a matter of chance, but of being sincerely led. 

What’s more, from the Greek katecheo is born “catechize” or “catechism.” Paul uses it in Galatians:

Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.–Galatians 6:6

Have you memorized one of the many beautiful and highly detailed catechisms of the church? If not, perhaps you have studied them or know portions of them by heart. The Westminster Shorter Catechism, the Heidelberg catechism, and others are filled with the truth of the gospel and were designed for children to memorize and take to heart.

In modern times, the use of a catechism, or catechizing children may seem foreign or outdated. There seems to be a continual pressure on pastors and youth leaders to innovate, think outside the box and adopt new and modern means of communication. 

The post-COVID age has pushed even small churches into the digital age of live streams and podcasts. While these tools may be useful, they can quickly seem to take over the energy of a church. 

Catechizing new believers and children is not a new idea, nor is it a method from the “boring” days before media and technology. It has been the traditional form of learning since the early church–and according to Proverbs, was blessed by God in the Old Testament. Doubtless Patrick catechized the children of Ireland and up until the late 20th century this was still an effective, highly encouraged form of Christian education.

Author Carl Trueman remarked on a recent podcast that an old Presbyterian newsletter from the 1920’s recorded that 20,000 children had completed catechism memorization that year. Today, smartphones, google searches and other easy means are available to swiftly bring the Bible to you–but how much is lost in not memorizing scripture and doctrinal truths? 

God wants you to remember the ancient ways, to not forget the traditions of the past, though the modern world calls you to consider new and modern means. As J.I Packer reminds you:

“The surest way forward is to carefully contemplate the wisdom of our past.”–J. I. Packer 

This is what Solomon is teaching you here in chapter 4. Brett McCracken writes about “boring” church this week in The Gospel Coalition:

The life of Christian faith should be altogether different: a long obedience, a slow burn, a quiet diligence to pursue Jesus faithfully, with others in community, in good times and bad, for better or for worse. Will this form of plodding, old-fashioned Christianity go viral on Instagram or get featured in GQ? Probably not. But it will actually grow Christians to maturity and help them run a long, steady, and fruitful race, as it has for countless saints over two millennia.–Brett McCracken

Can you do this? If you seek to find and walk the old path of wisdom once again you will not be on your own. Your heavenly Father will be with you:

12 When you walk, your steps will not be hindered,
And when you run, you will not stumble.–Proverbs 4:12

Here, Solomon has shifted to his son’s actions. “When you walk,” is a call to maintain a focus on a healthy world view. “Your steps” mean that each decision you make, if you make them in light of God’s glory and seeking His will, is a choice, a decision to obey live in truth. 

The way of wisdom will make you sure-footed in life and as David found, God will make your way plain before you:

36 You enlarged my path under me,
So my feet did not slip.–Psalm 18:36 

How does God do this for you? He has sent His son to go before you, to live and die in fulfillment of all that God requires. Your all sufficient high priest walks the path ahead and His light dispels darkness and death. Like the old hymn, “All the Way my Savior Leads Me” by Fanny Crosby sings:

 
All the way my Savior leads me–
Cheers each winding path I tread,
Gives me grace for ev'ry trial,
Feeds me with the living bread.
Though my weary steps may falter
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the rock before me,
Lo! a spring of joy I see;
Gushing from the rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.–Fanny Crosby

So take hold of the wisdom of God in Christ, as Solomon teaches, and never let go:

13  Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go;
Keep her, for she is your life.

The Israelites knew these paths and often strayed, much to their pain and suffering: 

16 Thus says the Lord:

“Stand in the ways and see,
And ask for the old paths, where the good way is,
And walk in it;
Then you will find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’–Jeremiah 6:16

You can do this. The world calls you to new and shiny ways to seek transcendence but in the end is simply offering get-rich-quick-schemes of boosting your self-esteem or relying on your own strength–which will surely fail. Instead, find your path in the footsteps of Jesus, falling back to the old, tried and true ways of scripture and the saints who have gone before you.

Like experiencing the joy of the open road on old Route 66, verses the cold impersonality of the interstate, in the old path of faith you will find peace. A cup of coffee under the floodlights of an interstate travel plaza cannot compare to a fresh cup of Joe and good conversation over homemade Elvis pie at MidPoint Cafe in Adrian, Texas. Your journey may be slower going and take longer, but you will be in good company.

 

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The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/community

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

 

 

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