Day 14: A way which seems right (14:12)
“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death”.
Before we consider three texts, including the above, let us first revisit three related themes, key to understanding Proverbs and specifically our three texts: righteousness, wisdom and the fear of the Lord; for example “Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands. He that walketh in his uprightness feareth the Lord: but he that is perverse in his ways despiseth him. In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride: but the lips of the wise shall preserve them” (14:1-3) and “The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way: but the folly of fools is deceit. Fools make a mock at sin: but among the righteous there is favour” (14:8,9). This places us in one of two categories: the wise and foolish, and poses the question, which one are we in? This matters because humankind likes to think it is right in its actions, and often proudly says so, but this belief can turn out wrong, even to the point of death.
Our second text relates to the way we treat the poor, another recuring Proverbs theme and, while they may be at the bottom of the societal heap such can easily invite mistreatment, with little to repay those who show them compassion, the righteous, wise, God fearers are the very ones who should step in. There may be nothing in it for them, other than happily doing the right. “He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor” (11:31). We are also told: “The poor is hated even of his own neighbour: but the rich hath many friends. He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he” (11:20,21). Day to day observance reveals many opportunities to bless the poor. As God fearers today continue to show mercy, so do some who aren’t, sometimes putting those who are to shame.
Our third text is “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (11:34). It provides an important reason why righteousness is needed – it makes a country strong, and why sin is a bad thing – it leaves people weak. We lament, especially if living in lands with a rich Judaeo-Christian heritage, when God’s law is (increasingly) rejected and the unrighteous often call the tune. An example of societal wickedness is aborting babies. The righteous may want their country to turn to righteousness, adopt righteous laws and practices and governed by righteous people but such expectation may be unrealistic, yet if sin is endorsed people suffer. Our task is being exemplars of righteousness.
Prayer: May righteousness, wisdom and the fear of the Lord feature highly in our life as we make plans, care for the poor and intercede for our nation.