“Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you, to deliver you from the way of evil…” (Proverbs 2:9 – 12a).
How do we make decisions? What guides us? What are the critical factors in decision making? The picture painted in this passage is that of discerning, being able to recognize, “righteousness and justice and equity” and in so doing recognizing the path we should take in life. This can be a challenge in an environment where the short-term pragmatic and drive for instance gratification is in the air we breathe, when the herd is stampeding away from the path of equity, justice, and righteousness. Our heavenly Father is all justice and all righteousness and all equity, we know these things because they are found in Him, otherwise they would not exist, otherwise we would have no concept of them.
Good paths are those paths where we discern righteousness, justice, and equity; when we see unrighteousness, injustice, and inequity we know to avoid those ways, we know not to tread on those paths, we know not to walk or think or speak in that direction.
“Wisdom will enter…knowledge will be pleasant…discretion will guard…understanding will watch…” There is a vibrancy and vitality in this portrayal; relationship, engagement, interplay…and I think reverence and excitement. After all, we are speaking of the wisdom and knowledge of God imparted to His sons and daughter; of discretion imparted to us by the Holy Spirit, of understanding found in relationship with the Trinity – for whatever may have been in the mind of the human author of these passages when they were written, and to be sure it was a mind and soul inspired by God, the words and images are transposed upward through and in our Lord Jesus Christ and we read them today in the light of Romans Chapter 8 and the reality of transformative sonship into the image of Jesus Christ. As Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians Chapter 2, we now speak and experience the wisdom of God for we have the mind of Christ.
There are the good paths which are found in the One Path, and then there is the path of evil. There are the ways of man which lead to death, and then there is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. A motif of Proverbs is the way of good contrasted with the way of evil; the wise man (or woman) contrasted with the man (or woman) who is a fool, the person who fears God contrasted with the person who does not fear God. From Genesis to Revelation we see two ways, two kingdoms, two genealogies, two men, two women, two families – and two very distinct outcomes. Jesus teaches that one of these ways is broad with many travelers on it, and that the other way is narrow and that few find it. We ought not to deceive ourselves in thinking that we should not judge these ways, not discern them, and not recognize the difference between the wise person and the Biblical fool. We also ought not to deceive ourselves into thinking that we are capable of discerning these two different paths without the grace of God and His wisdom and understanding and knowledge imparted to us thought His Word and His Spirit. It is discretion that will guard us, it is understanding that will watch over us – but the guarding and watching will be of no benefit to us if we do not watch and listen to receive their instruction. In Chapter 1 wisdom cries out but not all hear, those who do hear live securely without fear of evil.
What does our relationship with wisdom and justice and equity look like today? Are they woven into the fabric of our lives? Do we make decisions based on them? Do we judge actions and words in the light of them? Is our thinking imbued with them? Are we willing to suffer as a result of adhering to equity and justice and wisdom – or do we compromise? Are we known for being people of righteousness, justice, wisdom, and equity? Are we teaching others what living in this Way means? Are we showing them what it looks like to live in this Way?
Can people look at us and say, "Follow him, follow her - there is a person walking in the good path."
Paul wrote, "Follow me as I follow Christ." Can we say that?