A Proverb a day, with commentary from H.A. Ironside, a great Bible teacher from the mid-20th Century.
Solomon’s early training is touchingly alluded to in the first four verses of this chapter.
As his mother’s only son, Solomon was tenderly loved and cared for; as the object of his father’s heart, he had been carefully instructed in the law of the Lord, and had profited by it.
The unhappy history of Solomon’s half-brother Adonijah shows how indebted Solomon was to his mother’s counsel and his father’s instruction. David had never intervened in Adonijah’s activities by asking him, “Why hast thou done so?” (1Ki_1:6) The value of parental discipline cannot be overestimated. To be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord is a blessing beyond appreciation. It is sad that David treated these two sons so differently! But it is the responsibility of the children that is dwelt on in these verses rather than that of the parents. Solomon, despite his aberrations, knew well the value of wise and godly instruction.
The soul not only needs knowledge, but the wisdom and intelligence to use it correctly. This is the principal lesson Solomon impresses on the young. Wisdom will preserve from folly and guard those who truly love her.
In the previous chapter it is stated that “shame shall be the promotion of fools” (Pro_3:35). Even in this evil world wisdom leads to honor and true promotion. But among the children of God how valuable is a man of wisdom! Mere knowledge may inflate pride and render its possessor contemptible; but the word of wisdom is always in season. Even though it is often rejected, it is at least appreciated. Often the unspiritual man’s conscience assents to the wisdom even though he may be determined to refuse it.
The book of Ecclesiastes, as noted in our introductory chapter, portrays the wrong paths into which the royal writer had wandered. He temporarily forsook the Word which had been the guide of his youth and selfishly sought his own pleasures. It is not necessary to follow him in paths of folly to learn their end. The book of Proverbs marks out right paths-the way of wisdom. All who walk in these paths will find their steps unhindered and will be able to run without stumbling.
The principle in these verses is of prime importance and cannot be repeated too often. The child of God is called to separation from all evildoers. He who knows what is in the darkness has described their unholy ways. We are called to holiness and are to avoid the evildoers’ path. To trifle with them is most harmful and will greatly hinder spiritual progress. The true pilot may not know every rock or reef, but his wisdom consists in taking the safe channel. So the Christian need not make himself aware of all the evils of the day, but simply take the safe path as described in Pro_4:18-19.
There is a marked difference between the two paths presented in these verses. The path of the righteous leads upward to that city lit by the glory of God where the Lamb is the only lamp needed. This way shines brighter and brighter as the uncreated glory from Heaven illumines it with splendor. Who would not cry, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his” (Num_23:10)? A far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory is at the end of that path.
How great the contrast when we turn to the way of the lawless. As their road nears the pit of woe, darkness begins to envelop it. Even the light of nature and revelation are obscured so that men stumble on blindly without knowing what causes them to fall. The end we well know-eternal banishment from the presence of God. With two such paths from which to choose we do well to heed the admonition of Pro_4:20-22.
The Spirit of Christ in the psalmist could say, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psa_119:11). The heart controlled by Scripture assures a walk in the truth. God desires truth and wisdom to control our innermost being. This is when the words of knowledge indeed become life and health to the one who keeps them.
This verse displays a scientific knowledge and accuracy far beyond Solomon’s times. Harvey’s great discovery of the circulation of the blood revolutionized medical thought. Yet here it is calmly taken for granted and used to illustrate a spiritual truth. The heart is the center of the physical system out of which flow the issues of life. The heart, or soul, is also the moral and spiritual center. It must be jealously guarded so only that which is edifying comes forth.
The mouth and heart are intimately connected for out of the heart’s abundance the mouth speaks (Mat_12:34). A perverse mouth indicates one who is not in subjection to God. When God’s Word has its place in the soul, the lips reveal it.
It is not only the mouth that shows the state of the heart. The feet likewise will walk according to the condition of the soul. Forgetting the things behind, we are exhorted to press on to the prize of the calling of God on high. The eye should be fixed on the goal, looking straight ahead. For us, this goal is Christ. The plowman cuts a straight furrow when his eye is on a distant point directly before him. In the same way the Christian’s path will be true when the eye of the heart is fixed on the Lord Jesus in glory. But this involves earnestly establishing one’s ways in accordance with the truth. Evil is to be judged and departed from, the foot turning neither to the right nor the left. Once the mind of God is known it is to be faithfully acted on, irrespective of self-interest or the unenlightened thoughts of others.
To walk with God means to be misjudged and misunderstood by those who are ignorant of the power of God and the value of His truth. But if one has God’s approval the opinion of others should not influence him. The Christian need only be concerned with implicitly obeying God’s Word.