18 But the path of the just is like the shining sun,
That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.
19 The way of the wicked is like darkness;
They do not know what makes them stumble.
The night was dark. There was no moon, and a low mist had settled over the fields around our small family farm. It was night of mystery, when unseen things crept in the shadows, and only the most stout-hearted adventurers would brave the unknown while the world slept. It would take courage. It would take guts. It would take a good flashlight. It would take a whole lot of snacks.
The adventurers were my my brother, my cousin, and myself: three preteen boys enjoying a weekend camp out in the yard of our family farm. There was no school, no limits, and no telling what trouble we could get into.
We were fueled-up on an evening of watching classic monster movies, and after retiring to our pup tent, we began to tell ghost stories and lie to each other about our level of bravery if it came to fighting a marauding werewolf or aliens from outer space.
Soon, our snacks ran low, along with our fear of the unknown, and we resolved to explore the farm in search of plunder. Flashlight in hand, we climbed fences and wandered fields, discovered frogs and bugs, annoyed sleeping farm animals, and dared each other to enter darkened buildings–where surely certain death awaited in the form of bloodthirsty, sharp-toothed beasts.
Familiar daylight scenes and places now took on an air of menace, as dark pools of night filled quiet corners and patches of woods.
With visions of vampires and hungry night creatures rolling through our minds, we decided to head back to the tent. The mist had turned to fog, and with only the dim glow of the distant porch light of the house for a beacon, we struck out.
Within moments…disaster! I was suddenly caught in the vice-like grip of a horrible beast. Its terrible claws ripped at my clothes and tore at my flesh. My arms were caught among its thin appendages, and as I frantically kicked my legs in defense, they too became tangled. Down I went to the soft earth, my glasses and flashlight flew in different directions, and I grappled with the creature on the ground. I screamed for help, knowing that each breath may be my last.
As I battled for my life for what seemed like an eternity until suddenly the scene was flooded with light. What was this? Surely the alien creature had summoned its mother ship to abduct me into deep space where horrible experiments awaited–or perhaps to be served up as the main course of a meal back to their home planet. With the light came another terrible sound: laughter. Loud, mirth-filled laughter and uncontrollable giggling filled the night air.
As I came to, I saw that my little brother had run to the house to fetch my mom, who stood there in her robe and slippers holding a large flashlight and trying not to cry from sheer delight. She had been awakened by frantic pounding on the door and yells to call the national guard. While my brave older cousin stayed on the porch (to guard the house, he said), mom had followed my brother into the night and down to the vegetable garden–to discover her oldest boy rolling on the ground and fighting madly with…a wire tomato basket.
Needless to say, to this day I have a certain level of trauma while eating tomatoes and when I see a wire tomato basket I break out in a cold sweat.
Solomon speaks of dark paths here in Proverbs 4. He lays out to his son a picture of contrasts, a tale of darkness and light. God often uses images of light and darkness when speaking to us, for they can convey a powerful message. One path is a path to love, the other is a path to selfishness. Here in verse 18 the message is that the wise man is one whom keeps to the path of light:
18 But the path of the just is like the shining sun,
That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.–Proverbs 4:18
The bible is replete with examples of the contrast between light and darkness. Darkness stands in for evil, foolishness, and all that opposes the holiness of God. Darkness is, in essence, the absence of light. From creation’s first day to the coming of the One who is the Light of the World, the struggle has raged. The Apostle John captures this majestically in his Gospel:
4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.–John 1:4-5
The light of righteousness is seen on Solomon’s path of wisdom. To live justly or in righteousness is to walk in this light. Light is piety, morality, and safety. The Lord Himself is this light:
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?–Psalm 27:1
When you walk this bright path you will find that the longer you stay in its sunlit lane, the more sure you become of the road ahead. You may not know what is around the next bend or what distant miles may bring, but you know that it will ultimately lead you home.
You will directly find this path of light in the richness of God’s word:
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.–Psalm 119:105
The more you study God’s word, take in its richness and seek to pattern your life by Christ, who is the Word, you will come to understand that you may not know what troubles, trials or even joys lie ahead, but you grow ever more confident in the One who leads the way. Dr. Bruce Waltke reveals this in his commentary:
Proverbs normally contrasts righteousness and the wicked as black-and-white opposites, there is in fact a growth in righteousness and with that implicitly an intensifying security in an already secure way.–Bruce Waltke, “Proverbs”
As you walk the path of righteousness, Solomon says, you will soon discover too that the light shines brighter. The image he presents at the end of the verse is a bright morning that turns into a golden afternoon.
Do you walk this path of light? When you walk humbly in the wisdom of Christ, His light will flood into you, His righteousness will live in you. Your life can become free of evil, as Waltke says, “and were it present, you would see it immediately.”
I struggle to imagine my life so free of evil that I would detect its presence immediately–but if I am seeking to have the heart of Christ, then a mere drop of evil will seem like that of a drip of acid on bare skin.
You and I long for this because it is truly what you are made to be. Sinclair Ferguson captures this well when he writes:
God is God; you are but one of His creatures. Your only joy is to be found in obeying Him, your true fulfillment is to be found in worshiping Him, your only wisdom is to be found in trusting and knowing Him.–Sinclair Ferguson
Solomon couples this path of hope with a warning to his son of the path of hopelessness:
19 The way of the wicked is like darkness;
They do not know what makes them stumble.–Proverbs 4:19
Herein lies the darkness that creeps out of the night world and into the world of the living. The darkness of sin and its foolishness is as the darkness that covered Egypt:
22 So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days.–Exodus 10:22
The foolish who pursue the selfish path of darkness soon discover themselves hopelessly lost:
29 And you shall grope at noonday, as a blind man gropes in darkness; you shall not prosper in your ways; you shall be only oppressed and plundered continually, and no one shall save you.–Deuteronomy 28:29
When you live in sin and follow the decaying ways of this world–and he who rules it–you will not realize that you walk constantly in the presence of spiritual death. Bruce Waltke explains why the lost seem so persistent in their pursuit of oblivion:
Without moral light they see no connection between sin and death.–Waltke
Do you remember a time in life when you were locked in the deadly grip of sin? Maybe you struggle now with some besetting sin that still curses your life. You often do not know any better, or choose not to resist because selfishness is growing and festering in your heart. Tim Keller reveals this blindness in us:
The more we follow the path of selfishness the more we live in denial until, when life breaks down, we do not know what makes us stumble. –Tim Keller, “God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life”
When you live a life that is only focused on yourself, you will eventually become entangled in the darkness. Mankind is always seeking to better himself and to better this life through his own self-focused ways, and these schemes always end in loss. Utopian failures, such as communism, globalism, and the latest efforts to redefine even the very identity of men and women, will ultimately come crashing down. The lost will rage and blame but will only seek to build a new Babel on the rubble of the last. You and I do the same thing when we seek to "self medicate" our way out of sin and selfishness–and end up worse than when we started.
Wherein lies your hope? In the Lord of the Rings, Frodo and Sam find themselves trapped in the horrible darkness of Shelob’s lair. As this giant, marauding spider descends on them to begin her feast, Sam remembers the Light of Elindil, given to the Hobbits by Galadriel. She provides a word of hope as she bequeaths it:
“May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out.”
With the bright flash as of a star come to earth, the light shines and the evil beast is driven away. Wherein lies your hope if you find yourself on the path of darkness? It is in the light of the Gospel and the One who is the Light of the World. Michael Card’s song “You are the Light of the World” portrays this beautifully:
You are the Light of the World oh Lord
You make Your servants shine
So how could there be any darkness in me–Michael Card
Like the Psalmist says, “in Your light we see light” (Psalm 36:9) is is by the light of Christ that you begin to see yourself as you truly are–and as He can recreate to be. Tim Keller provides insight:
The gospel so assures us of Gods love that we are finally capable of admitting the worst about ourselves. –Tim Keller, “God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life”
Can you admit the worst faults about yourself? Perhaps in the bathroom in front of a mirror, or on the drive home after a bad day of work, but this is not about self-pity–this is about reflecting Jesus, who has delivered you from all of those secret and terrible things. As Paul encourages:
13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.–Colossians 1:13-14
As you walk the road of your life, seek the bright morning path of righteousness, to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Pray that God will reveal to you the darkness that hides in the corners of your life and seek to root it out with the beautiful light of Christ:
5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.–I Corinthians 4:5
No matter what terrors may lurk around you as you make your way through life, follow the light of the One who is leading you home.
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:
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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.