The Path of Life

by LA UBF   09/21/2008     0 reads


 The path of life leads upward

Proverbs 15:24

The path of life leads upward for the wise  to keep him from going down to the grave.

Welcome to the study of the book of proverbs. Unlike other books of the Bible, Proverbs identifies at the outset the purpose of the book. Speaking of the purpose, Proverbs 1:1-6 state that this collection of wise words are given in order that its reader would be wise so that he can live a life which is wise doing what is right, just, and fair. 

Life is a complex venture for it involves multiple dimensions, such as time, space, life on this side of the world, life in the world to come, moral, ethical, and spiritual aspects, etc. Many people throughout human history have presented lots of ideas about the way of life. But most of them, if not all of them, are ill-conceived and misdirected; their ideas came from human minds and they fail to address the dimension of the one and only true God, the author and giver of life. They do not understand that life comes from God and is called to go back to God. But in the book of the Proverbs, especially in the key verse, we can learn about life from God’s perspective. Among all the words the Lord has granted us to live by for a fruitful life, the key verse stands out, for it visualizes the way of life rising upward, just like a stairway reaching to the sky. 

With this in mind, then, let us consider the words of the Lord in two parts:

Part I. The path of life leads upward.

If you want to make a lot of money, you must first go to the place where there is a constant flow of money. Money makers figure this out and make a lot of money by going to the place where money flows. Donald Trump, a New York based real estate investor, is a good example. Last June, even when the real estate market went south, he still got his beach-front Florida mansion sold to a Russian mogul for $100 million and made a huge profit. [Four years ago he bought this property at a foreclosure sale for $41.4 million.] Even beggars on the street understand where money flows, so by going to the right spot, they net more money than other beggars. On one Thanksgiving Day, one person I know invited a street beggar to a lunch fellowship at a McDonald’s restaurant in Downtown LA. While eating he asked the beggar named Flores, "How is the business today?" The pan handler said, "Excellent! Today so far I averaged about $50 an hour. In fact, I feel guilty for I made too much money, so I would like to call it a day." "What happened?" the man asked. Pointing to the street right in front of the fast food store, the beggar said, "You know that spot is one of the best places, for as people get into the restaurant to eat lunch, they feel more inclined to donate. During lunch hours they carry in their pockets coins to spare." 

The same is true with life. In order for one to live a life that abounds in love and power, the first thing one must do is to go to the place where life flows freely. Where then is such a place? 

The key verse gives us a hint: "The path of life leads upward for the wise..." Let us stop for a moment and think about “the path of life”. In the Bible (NIV), the expression "the path of life" is repeated in three places, once in the book of Psalm, and twice in the book of proverbs. Psalms 16:11 reads, "You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand." Proverbs 12:28 says, "In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality." And Proverbs 15:24 states, "The path of life leads upward for the wise to keep him from going down to the grave." 

King David indicates in Psalm 16 that not all can find the path of life. He admits that he came to know it only because the Lord revealed it to him. His testimony suggests that the path of life is linked up to and stops at the "presence of the Lord." Furthermore, once you make it to the presence of the Lord, the Lord will "fill you with joy with eternal pleasures." Psalm 16, however, does not specify the way to reach the presence of God. Proverbs 12:28 is more specific. It says, "In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality." As we already learned in the book of Hebrews and in the book of Romans, "the way of righteousness" refers to "the way of the faith in Jesus Christ, the Savior, for Jesus himself is our righteousness. 

Now in Proverbs 15:24 we find the "direction" of the path of life, which is "upward." The King James Version reads, "The way of life is ‘above’ to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath." The New King James Version reads, "The way of life 'winds' upward for the wise, that he may turn away from hell below." These translations point out that the path of life rises (or goes) upward. The upward direction raises a number of questions, such as, if it leads upward, what does "upward" mean? Does it mean the place where God resides? If God is up there, in what respect is he up (or above)? Practically, what does this upward direction mean to us? And why did the Lord design the way of life to go upward? 

Answers to these questions are quite obvious. The word up is up, not in a geographical sense but in a moral, ethical, and spiritual sense. This is true because we are told: God is omnipresent; God is spirit; the Spirit gives life to man but the flesh counts for nothing, etc. and so on. 

We also can easily understand the nature of this upward direction, for in Genesis 2 we are told that man consists in not only dust but the breath of life which came directly from God. In the case of Abraham, the Lord helped him to live by faith in the Lord. In the case of Jacob, the Lord revealed to him the upward direction of the path of life by showing him in a dream a stairway, as Genesis 28:12 reads, "He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it."  When Jesus saw Nathanael, he said to him in John 1:51, "I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." Later, as Stephen was breathing his last, finishing his life’s journey here on earth, the Lord revealed to him the same path of life, as written in Acts 7:55 and 56, “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ ” 

This observation teaches us that we must struggle to live a life that is upward mobile, rather than struggling over the mundane things of this world. Daily, we must fill our hearts and minds with the things of God, rather than the things of men. We must live a life that seeks first His kingdom and his righteousness.   

Part II. The path of life is for the wise.

Knowing that the path of life leads upward is only half of the way to salvation. The remainder of the deal is to ask, "Who can go for it?" Again, the key verse answers the question, that is, it is the wise! 

"The path of life leads upward 'for' the wise." Why is it "for" the wise alone? The answer is obvious. The unwise (also called in the Proverbs “the simple” or a “fool”) are categorically incapable of seeing it, much less going for it or completing the journey through the path. In what respect is this so? Again, we find the answer to this question in Proverbs 1:1-7. Let us read the passage together. This passage talks about the purpose of the book, that is, to make its reader wise enough to live a prudent and disciplined life, so that he can do what is right, just and fair. It's overall purpose reminds us of Jesus' sermon on the mountain where Jesus laid down the blessed way of life. He then finished his sermon by saying what a "wise" man should do, that is, practice Jesus' teachings and build the foundation of his house on the rock rather than on sand. 

The question then becomes: "Who are the wise?" Well, a wise man is wise when he does what is right as Jesus set forth in his sermon on the mount. A practical question that comes to mind then is, "How can we be wise?" or "Why is it that not all who have been shown the way of life end up straying from it?" I think we can quickly dispose of these questions when we think about the two words: "discipline" and "understanding". In view of the teachings in the Proverbs, the wise refer to those who put trust in the Lord (Cf. Proverbs 3:5; 22:19). The disciplined refer to people like Jesus' disciples. The early disciples, such as John, James, Peter, Andrew, Philip, or Nathanel, were all Jews. They all professed their faith in the Lord. But they "distinguished" themselves from the regular "believers" by adhering to the path of life. They were able to do so not because they were born special but because they received training: Jesus made disciples out of them. As they followed Jesus, they not only learned of the path of life but also received training to not go through the broad gate, but through the narrow gate, so that they would not fall victim to the things of this world, but rather overcome the world and lead people out of this world into the kingdom of God. 

How did Jesus train his disciples? The review of the four gospels indicate that primarily Jesus disciplined them by enhancing their understanding of the Scriptures in regard to the way of salvation, especially Jesus' person and the purpose of his coming. Jesus’ teaching method corresponds with what Proverbs 1:2-3 say, "For attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight, for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right, just and fair." After rising from the dead then Jesus poured into their hearts the Holy Spirit who helped them fully understand Jesus who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  

Suppose however a man does not learn to be wise. When a man neglects discipline and fails to gain understanding, what will happen to him? Again, according to Proverbs 15:24, one thing will surely happen: going down to the grave. 

"The path of life leads upward for the wise to keep him from going down to the grave." Notice the adverb "to". This adverb suggests that God designed the path of life to lead the wise "upward" for a specific purpose, that is, to "keep" (or prevent) them from going down to "hell" beneath! From this passage we can learn a number of important truths on life. 

God designed the way of life to be upward, not to make it particularly difficult, but in order to keep man from going down! This observation reminds us of a space shuttle needing to exert itself against the pull of gravity until it gets into orbit where there is no pull of gravity. 

"The path of life leads upward for the wise to keep from going down to the grave." This passage further reminds us of all the struggles the saints have made in their holy pilgrimage to heaven. Since the fall of Adam and Eve both of them strove to overcome their earthbound nature and rise to God's level. Abraham strove to overcome the temptation to attach himself to the people and things of this world; by faith he denied himself, bound himself to the Lord, and received the vision of a better country. Unlike Esau, who succumbed to his sinful nature and fell victim to it, Jacob strove hard to overcome his own sinful nature until he could be called "Israel," a man who struggled with men and the Lord and won a victory. Through 80 long years of discipline, Moses was enabled to overcome himself and serve the Lord as the Lord's holy instrument. And the list of saints goes on and on. The point of struggles is no different with the saints in the New Testament era. Just as Mr. Christian, the main character in John Bunyan's fiction novel, The Pilgrim's Progress, had to strive hard to "flee" from the "City of Destruction" and press hard for the Celestial City, we too must plant our feet in God’s kingdom, and work hard to save those who are going down, straight to hell, as Proverbs 24:11 says, “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.” 

In conclusion, we see that the Lord gave us the book of proverbs to teach us the way to an abundant life. Through the key verse we also learned that the Lord made the path of life to lead upward so that the wise would not go down to the grave. Most thankfully, in order to lead us to the presence of God, our Heavenly Father sent Jesus Christ, so that in and through Jesus all who put trust in him would not go down to the grave but have eternal life in the Lord. For this reason let us remain thankful to the Lord for Jesus. Let us pray to follow him diligently, willing to receive his divine discipline. Let us ask the Lord to help us invite students and establish them as "disciples" and then "apostles." 

One word: the path of life leads upward


Class Exercise:

1. What Bible passage describes the way in which Solomon secured words of wisdom? ____________________

2. I, wisdom, dwell with _____________. I [i.e., wisdom] was the ____________ at his side. I was filled with _______ day after day rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in _______. 

3. According to Job, what gives man understanding? ____________ According to the book of Proverbs what is understanding? ________________

4. The proud and arrogant - _______ is his name.

5. A prudent man sees _______ and takes ________, but the ________ keeps going and suffer for it. 

6. What is bound up in a child, but what will drive it far from him? _________; ___________________

7. Buy ________, and do not _______ it; Get _________, _______ and ________. 

8. What Bible verse (in the book of Proverbs) asks you to do exactly what the other Bible verse ask you NOT to do? Why? 

The end.

      In Hebrew the word “wise,” sakal, denotes (among other meanings) the effect of one operating with "wisdom" which in Hebrew is chakam. 

 Romans 5:21; 1 Corinthians 1:30 where it reads, "…Christ Jesus has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness…."

 To what extent did Jesus train (or discipline) them? We find an answer to this question in Jesus’ high priestly prayer for them. Towards the end of Jesus' ministry, Jesus prayed to God the Father, saying, "They are not of this world any more than I am of the world!" (John 17:14).