Proverbs 4:18-19 The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,
shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know what makes them stumble.
Verse 18 is well known, and the Japanese translation I use has been set to music almost exactly to make a very nice little chorus, but verse 19 isn’t so well known. Since they are intended as a pair, the contrast is an important part of the message. If you’ve ever tried walking outdoors very early in the morning, you know that things are often hard to distinguish, and appearances can be deceptive. That is very much the way things are for the brand-new Christian. More mature believers are sometimes shocked at the choices of “baby” Christians. However, over time right choices become more obvious. Hebrews puts it this way: “Solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:14) It’s that “constant use” that makes our way brighter. In contrast, there is no inner illumination for someone who has consistently chosen evil. There are people in prison who literally can’t figure out how they got there. (This is not to put down those who are falsely imprisoned. That is a serious subject and I applaud such efforts as The Innocence Project.) For that matter there are many videos on the Internet for people to laugh at the stupidity of criminals. People who can’t figure out how to proceed in life need to start with an honest commitment to the One who created them. That won’t instantly solve all their difficulties, but it will at the very least open the door to the light, and they will be able to begin to distinguish good and evil, as it says in Hebrews.
In my own experience there is a corollary to this: if your back is to the light, the way ahead of you looks dark. I have had moments when I willfully turned away from God, and things indeed got pretty dark. In a way that’s part of the training mentioned in Hebrews, because doing it wrong teaches me not to do that again! It’s been about 64 years since I was baptized, and I’ve done my share of stumbling in that interval. However, God is totally faithful, and I have no reason whatsoever to complain. As a pastor I seek to help others recognize the light and turn toward it, rather than away. I’m more successful with some than with others. I am not to be discouraged, but remember that Jesus said to “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) I am not the source of the light, but by God’s grace I can reflect it to those who may see very little light at all.
Father, thank You for amazing grace. Thank You for the encounter yesterday that I was concerned about, but which turned out so well. Thank You that You indeed have perfect wisdom for every situation. Help me keep remembering that, and that such wisdom doesn’t originate in me. May I not distort Your light, nor mask or hide it. May I continue to look forward to the full day of standing before Your throne with all those You have enabled me to bring with me, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!