Like a madman who throws Firebrands, arrows and death, So is the man who deceives his neighbor, And says, "Was I not joking?" Proverbs 26:18-19
I like to call this the, "Practical Jokes" proverb. That is because it describes what can happen when practical joking gets out of hand. Unfortunately, I've watched a few of these in my day and they can get ugly in a hurry.
The proverb speaks to us of a certain madman. This guy is out of control. He is throwing three things in his insanity. The first is firebrands - which are akin to something like a flaming arrow. This crazy guy is also shooting regular arrows. The third thing he is dealing in is death. The first two are easy to understand, but this last one is a little more cryptic. I see the final thing in light of what happens due to the deception. He is throwing around these things that hurt physically - but he is also throwing something that hurts emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. He is throwing "death" - he is killing relationships and injuring people so that they are dead to him emotionally. His actions are hurting things and killing someone's ability to be around him - interact with him - and receive anything from him. So we see three pretty rough things going on here. All three are destructive and can cause great harm. The interesting thing is that since he is a madman - his aim may not be the best. From how this is stated, it seems as if a rather random pattern is being followed in how these things are being shot and thrown. Thus he will not hit everyone, but when he does, it is going to hurt badly. It might even kill someone. What could this be describing? Let's look, because the answer is given in verse 19.
Verse 19 tells us that the comparison is to a man who deceives his neighbor - then tells him he was only joking. First of all we need to see that this man does these things to his neighbor. The term here implies more than just a casual relationship. Some passages imply a relationship as close as a close friend or even a lover. What he is doing to his neighbor is that he is "deceiving" him. The word here is "ramah" and it means to intentionally deal craftily with someone. Other ways it is used is to indicate lies, betrayal, crass jokes, and even pulling a trick on someone. That is definitely the case here in Proverbs 26:18-19. What is going on is that a trick or a crass joke is being played on a person by his neighbor, which is pretty much the definition of a practical joke.
If we did not know the nature of this proverb through the word "ramah" - things become much clearer as we see that after this man deceives his neighbor - he eventually lets him know about it by saying, "Was I not joking?" There it is - a practical joke, pure and simple. But why is this such a strong statement? Is God adamantly opposed to all practical jokes? From what I read here I cannot say one way or the other. This is just a warning about consequences.
A day is coming when the practical joker is going to play a joke on someone and it is going to blow up in his face. He is like that madman randomly shooting arrows. Most will fall relatively harmless to the ground. They won't hit any real target. But every once in a while he will strike something - actually someone. When that happens - problems are coming. In some cases real harm comes to someone in a practical joke. Somebody gets physically hurt - and at times it is a bad injury. In other situations the pain is much worse - because it is emotional and relational. I've actually watched relationships broken forever or for a long time because of a practical joke gone bad. These are very sad things to watch because the joke was meant to be funny (at least to the one doing it - and to everyone watching the person humiliated). But at times the humiliation breeds anger. That is why God warns us about it.
In all honesty - when I consider that most practical jokes are done to humiliate someone - or at least to laugh at their expense - I think that a wise man should probably avoid them. He knows that such an action may result in an offended brother. And from other proverbs he knows that if this happens that brother will be very hard to win back. That is why the wise man decides against such actions. But before you think I am a 'stick in the mud' on this issue - you should know that I have been the mark of many practical jokes. How do I respond them? I laugh with those who did them . . . sometimes threaten retaliation . . . and usually end up forgetting them and thinking, "You got me good!" It is good to have a sense of humor - and an ability to laugh at yourself. Just remember that some won't - and when that happens - it's going to be bad - very bad.
The desire of the sluggard puts him to death, For his hands refuse to work; All day long he is craving, While the righteous gives and does not hold back. Proverbs 21:25-26
The wrong kind of desire in our lives can kill us according to this proverb. It is the desire of the sluggard that puts him to death. That seems strange because my first take on this would be that it is the lack of desire that would be his demise.
The word for desire here is the Hebrew word "ta-awah" and it means to crave greedily. It indicates something that is attractive to the eyes - and therefore is desirable to the person who sees it. In the second verse of our proverb we are told that all day long the sluggard is craving. The literal here is that he is "desiring desire." So what is going on here that is so dangerous for the sluggard? The second word used for "craving" here means to be coveting - to strongly desire something that someone else has. Thus, we see from both verses that the sluggard is filled with a desire and a covetous craving for things.
What kills the sluggard is that he is content with desiring and craving. He has plenty of desires, he just does not do anything to actually fulfill them. Consumed with desire, lust, and greed - he "craves" himself to death. Let's look at this a little closer.
We read first in verse 25 that the sluggard refuses to work. This one is a dreamer - but not a worker. In fact he refuses to work or give hismelf to the kind of labor that would eventually cause him to prosper and succeed. When he "refuses to work" there is a rebellioin present in his refusal. This word was used of Pharaoh's rebelliousness toward God in refusing to let Israel go. Thus this is an outright rejection of work. And as he refuses to work - he begins coveting what others have who do work. His desires continue to grow - even while he does nothing to solve his situation. In the end his own desires are his demise. He is consumed with longing and with desire for things - but will never attain them. He sits in his chair longing - ever longing - but never doing. Thus he dies of intense desire and want - but will never lift a finger to get the things he desires.
We are told at the end of this proverb that the righteous has a fundamentally different way of living than the sluggard. The righteous gives and does not hold back his generosity. He is not one ever filled with longing - but with a desire to bless others. The wicked, slothful man holds back his desire to give - because he wants all he has for himself. The strange thing is he has nothing because he won't work for it. The righteous works hard for what he has - and yet does not allow desire to kill him. He is looking for ways to give to others - to bless others - and to invest in others. He will not only know physical life - but he will also know spiritual life too. He will be a life-giving rather than just a stuff-wanting force on earth. He will not hold back his desire to bless others - and will be overjoyed and fulfilled again and again as he does.
A man who wanders from the way of understanding Will rest in the assembly of the dead. Proverbs 21:16
To wander from God's way of understanding is a very dangerous thing to do. Here in today's proverb we see just how dangerous this can be. According to Solomon the eventual end of the man who does this is a final resting place among those doubly dead.
The word "wander" is key to understanding this passage. This is the Hebrew word "taah" which means not just to wander off - but to err and go astray. The primary meaning is to err and to make a mistake. This word is used most often of thos who err or who are being misled in a moral or religious sense. It is the word used in Isaiah 53:6 when the prophet tells us, "All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him." To wander is to go astray of God's moral path - and to incur iniquity in His eyes. Therefore to wander is to go astray of God's path and God's will for us. The wandering going on here is that of erring from the "way of understanding." This phrase speaks of someone who no longer has discernment or any kind of spiritual insight. And since the phrase begins with the word "way" - it refers to someone whose very way of life turns from any spiritual insight and discernment gained from a relationship with God or from His Word. Instead, this guy chooses a life guided by selfish desires and longings. There is a biblical word for this - it is the flesh. A life guided by our flesh is never going to end well.
The picture we get now is not just someone wandering away from a single situation where advice is offered, but rather a situation where as a way of life he is turning from God's will and Word. This is basically the condition of a lost person. They reject the wisdom of God - the Word of God - and the way of God. They instead choose the world, their flesh, and the lies of the devil.
This proverb is given as a warning. We are told what happens to someone who lives this way. The man who lives this way "will rest in the assembly of the dead." For those who think this is a reference to spiritual death - or a lack of spiritual life and blessing here and now - the actual word for death here is, "departed spirits." This is a warning to turn from rebellion and purposeful rejection of God's will and way. The end of such a lifestyle is a life spent with those who are "doubly dead." They have died in this life losing their physical life - but infinitely worse they are devoid of spiritual life when they die physically - so - the place of their eternal dwelling is hell. That is why it is so important to reject the heart and mind that reject God's Word and way. To continue in it is to continue toward an abyss where there is no return. Far better to embrace God's way and Word now - to embrace repentance from our own fleshly mindset - to embrace a turn from ourselves to God - from our way to His. To reject this is to choose to "rest" in the assembly of the dead. If you know anything about hell as it is described in Scripture, you know that this eternal destination will be anything but restful.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. Proverbs 18:21
What is the most powerful part of the human body? Contrary to what some may think, the tongue is considered the most powerful part of the human body according to what we see written in the Scriptures. Here we read that it has the power of death and life. Elsewhere we see that the words that come from it can injure like the thrusts of a sword. James has what is probably the most powerful commentary on the power of the tongue in chapter three of his letter.
"So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison." (James 3:5-8)
James warns us of the very powerful, and potentially very destructive power of the tongue. We can bless or curse with it. A carelessly spoken word like a carelessly thrown match can set an entire forest on fire. But the word can set a life - and indeed a whole group of lives on fire with gossip and slander. Therefore we would be very wise in being very careful with how we let our tongue's loose in the world. It would also be wise of us to heed the admonition given by Paul to the Ephesians when he said, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." (Ephesians 4:29)
Those who love this power of the tongue, are warned that they will eat of its fruit. Consider the man who destroys others with his words. He writes and speaks so as to destroy his political opponents - and loves the power that this brings to him. He does so until the day another more silver-tongued than him uses this same power to dismember him in the public eye. The power of the tongue is intoxicating - but it is also explosive and very dangerous if not used under the direction of Holy Spirit. But when used in this way - the tongue is not something whcih brings death - but rather a tool in God's hand to bring life and life abundantly!
The tongue is also the instrument in God's hands to bring the gospel to others. "How blessed are the feet of those who bring good news," is the delightful refrain for those who speak forth the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our tongues can share the gospel with others and be that aroma of life to life as they are born again by the power and mercies of God. We have the glorious opportunity to speak life every day! So, as we look at this proverb may we both fear and rejoice - may we be both overjoyed and cautious - may we both be silent and vociferous. May we see the destructive power of the tongue and shun it completely - and - may we see the life-giving power of the tongue and joyeously share the good news with total abandon.
There is a way which seems
right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Proverbs 16:25
Ever since the fall of man we've been making the wrong decisions as a race - and - as individuals. The whole world was turned upside down at this event - and man has had his thinking on right and wrong completely ruined. That is what today's proverb deals with - and it is one that we should take very seriously - especially when it comes to spiritual matters - and more than anything, when it comes to salvation.
There is a way that seems right to a man. We truly blew it when we decided to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Ever wonder why this was such a huge blunder. I mean, isn't it a good thing to know the difference between what is good and what is evil? But this is not what entered into the heart of Eve, then Adam when they partook of the fruit of this infamous tree.
They ate of something forbidden by God. In fact, there was only one rule in the garden - just ONE! They were not to eat of the fruit of this one tree. But they chose to eat - and by eating brought the entire creation into futility by their choice to sin against God. We will NEVER be drawn closer to God through disobedience. That is something you can take to the bank every day you live. They were not eating of a tree that would help them know the difference between good and evil. This was not a discernment tree which would help them choose good things the rest of their life. They were wanting to partake of good and evil - they wanted the knowledge of both. The way that seems right to a man is a way that experiences good and evil - and therefore man can choose which he wants. The problem is that once he chooses to DO evil - to ACT evil - to WANT evil - he will be enslaved to it.
There is a way that seems right to a man - which includes knowing evil intimately so he thinks he will be able to choose what is best. But the reality is that the end of this way is the way of death. Jesus said that whoever sins is the slave of sin. We cannot "dabble" in this stuff enough to see the wrong of it - then consistently choose against that wrong. The wrong enslaves - and warps - and lies - and deceives - and in the end, kills.
As we look at this proverb, there is another danger in the "way that seems right to a man." This again proceeds from eating and participating in the knowledge of good and evil. Once the pair had eaten of this fruit - they knew both good and evil. That knowledge made them think that they could reject the evil, choose the good, and become acceptable to God. What was birthed at the foot of this tree was man-made religion. What came to life within the wicked breast of man in that hour was the idea that man can make himself acceptable to God by his works. Do more good than evil - and God will have to accept you. There was a false idea of God that was perpetrated by the devil there - and it was the height of wickedness. Satan said to Eve, that she would not die when she sinned - but that in having the knowledge of good and evil - she would be like God Himself! She herself would then be able to determine what is good as well as what is evil! Birthed in that infamous moment was the lying games of human philosophy as well. The thought that by the working of our own minds we could determine good and evil - as our own little gods!
Since man thought that he could determine what is right and good - there was no need for God. There was no need for the Almighty to grant revelation. We were good enough in ourselves to determine for ourselves what was right and what is wrong. Since that time the heart of man has been a veritable idol-factory. We are experts at fashioning gods of all kinds. Man is hopelessly religious - finding some god that he can worship. Problem is that according to Romans 1
- he finds worship in all the wrong places - looking for god in too many faces. Actually he even looks for God in animals - four-footed creatures - bugs - and in various self-styled versions of himself. Man eventually will have a god of his own making - who will look like, act like, and condone a lifestyle just like the one he is currently living. Anyone who has looked at the pitiful gods of the Greeks and Romans has realized that they were more lecherous and despicable than the men they supposedly ruled over on the earth. We think there is a way that seems right - but it only confirms our previously embraced wickedness and desire for sin.
Hope for mankind lies not in the fashioning of another parthenon of gods, but in communication and mercy from the One True God. There is a way that seems right to man - to each of us - but it is infinitely flawed by sin and selfishness granted to us by our descendants. We are the products of Adam and Eve - and we are after their likeness - and after their sinfulness. Hope comes when we see that God sovereignly reaches down to us and reveals Himself through His Word. There IS a way that is RIGHT - but that way belongs to God and to His revelation of Himself to us through the Scriptures. There is a way that does not lead to death - it leads to life. But that way is through God's provision of life through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. What we need is not our own ideas. We need the life of God - the righteousness of God - and the kindness of God which leads us to repentance. God has made a way - but it is His way. He has made a way - but He did not consult with us as to what it was going to be. When man was embroiled in his sin - in fact before man ever existed or had sinned - God provided a lamb, slain from the foundation of the world. Salvation was - and ever is His idea - His provision - and His act of mercy and grace to us. Oh, that we will remember that - and daily worship Him for His wonderful grace in Jesus Christ.
The path of life leads
upward for the wise That he may keep away from Sheol below. Proverbs 15:24
The wise will have an upward bound life. That is what this passage tells us. It promises both an encouragement for the wise - that their path will lead upward. It also gives a warning - that the unwise path will end in Sheol, the place of the dead.
In His commentary on this verse Phillips makes the comment, "Darwin would have us believe that our feet are set surely on the upward way, that may is progressing by slow but sure degrees from protoplasm to paradise." This is the belief of those who account randomness and no purpose whatsoever for our existance and our origin. Unfortunately, both science and sociology tell us a much different story. They tell us a story consistent with the Biblical narrative.
Science reminds us through the second law of thermodynamics that we are in a constant state of decay. Things are not coming together into more order and more stability - they are moving from order to disorder. We look at the astounding complexity of life and see that it screams to us of an intelligent design infinitely higher than that of man. Science also tells us that something is wrong with this world. Things keep dying. It is as is this world has been cursed so that what originally was made - is now devolving into greater and greater chaos. Disease, sickness, pain, and suffering are the norm as we grow older individually - as well as our world grows older corporately.
Social Sciences also do not point in a direction that is good. The history of man is not a history of us getting wiser and wiser. It is not a history of mankind embracing new heights of goodness and mercy. On the contrary, the 20th and 21st centuries have witnessed a cruelty and evil that almost cannot be matched by previous generations. The endless wars and evils of our generation strike us in ways that at times takes the breath away. More people have been brutally murdered and systematically executed than ever before. We've found modern ways to exterminate our children, killing over 250 million of them since the inception of that horrific procedure. We call it population control - God calls it genocide of the innocents. The way of the fool leads to the place of death - that is what we know from experience. The way of the fool leads to pride and arrogance as he says there is no God.
The path of life goes upward for the wise man. He sees things as God sees them. He is blessed no matter what situations and privations await him in life. He knows that this life is not all that there is. In fact the Scriptures teach him that this life is just a fleeting breath. He is like a brief puff of wind that rustles the leaves and he is gone. Therefore he lives for God's will rather than his own lusts. Amazingly, this kind of choice fills him with joy - no matter what he faces in life. For him the worst he will ever face is in this life. He knows that things lead upward for him - until the day that he will embrace eternal life in all its fullness. He tastes it now, finding it sweet and delightful to his soul's palette. But how he yearns for the full meal. This grants him the joys of knowing life and of sterring clear from spiritual death and its ultimate companion, hell.
Things on this earth are not getting better and better. They were ruined by the entrance of sin brought on by man's rebellion and disobedience. Things are falling apart on this earth and will continue to do so until the day God brings an end to this fallen existance. Living for only here and now is therefore the utmost foolishness. The wise man knows this, because he knows God. The wise man therefore lives for eternal things. He lives because of His Creator's mercy in providing salvation through Jesus Christ. He also lives FOR His Creator and Lord - knowing that this is the pathway that leads upward - path this cursed ground - into the very presence of God in glory. Oh, precious ones - take this path!
The wicked is thrust down by his wrongdoing, But the righteous has a refuge when he dies. Proverbs 14:32
God is going to deck the wicked. That is the basic idea that is being communicated here in today's proverb. The word wicked describes those who are law-breakers. The Law spoken of by this word is God's Law. The wicked have no regard for God's law - and honestly for any other law as well. They are rebellious and find themselves resisting and standing against any law that tries to restrict their freedom to do whatever they want. This is what will deck them in the end.
The second half of this proverb points us in a very interesting direction. We are told that the righteous has a refuge when he dies. Thus the proverb is not just dealing with things here and now - it is pointing us to when we die. What is going to happen to the wicked and the righteous when death comes? The righteous man will have a refuge in that day. His hope is in God's remedy for sin - the Lord Jesus Christ. His refuge is Jesus. He looks to Jesus Christ to give Him a righteousness that will stand on that day - and he rests in that as His salvation. The wicked will find that all they have on that fateful day is their own wickedness. What they will learn too late is that that evil will deck them on jugdment day. They will be accountable for their choices and their actions - which were wicked. What a horrifying day that will be for all those who trusted in themselves and their own righteousness. They will not have a refuge, but their very own doctrines will cast them to the ground.
In what are you trusting to stand on that day? Are you trusting that there won't be one - because that is a vain and empty choice. Are you thinking your good works will be weighed against your bad ones - and if there is more good you will make it? That is a foolish choice for it is not by our works that we are saved. Are you trusting that God is mercy and good and will overlook all your evil? That is unwise for it ignores the righteousness and justice of God. The righteous man knows the way - because he knows first and foremost of all that the righteousness upon which he stands is not his own. He gains that righteousness by faith, not by works. He looks to the Lord Jesus Christ to be his righteousness. Therefore he will stand and will have Christ's gifted righteousness as his refuge on the jugdment day. Again I ask, "In what will you be trusting on the great day of God's judgment. Trusting in anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ crucified, buried, and risen from the dead will not stand. Take refuge in Jesus - in the One Who makes you righteous by grace.
The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, That one may avoid the snares of death. Proverbs 14:27
Ours is a society that craves safety. Some think that carrying a gun at all times or having a top notch security system will provide them safety. But for the man of God these things, although providing some measure of safety are nothing compared to the fear of the Lord. According to today's proverb that is the most effective security system known to mankind.
The fear of the Lord is described here as a fountain of life. The Hebrew words used for the phrase, "fountain of life" are "mekor chaiyim." This phrase literally means, "the vein of lives" and referred to the aorta which is the artery which carries the blood from the heart as it seeks to pump it throughout the entire body. Without our aorta we would be dead. I remember a very terrifying moment when my own father was found to have a seven inch long annuerism on his aorta. It was a life threatening condition of the worst kind. If my father's aorta burst - the very fountain of life in him would be cut off - and he would have died within seconds. The medical staff were able to do surgery and repair his aorta. But it was a reminder to me that without the "vein of lives" functioning, we will not live long. I am not saying that without the fear of the Lord we will die in mere seconds, but I am saying that the fear of the Lord is essential to us having the life that God provides. Here in today's proverb we read that the fear of the Lord is what helps us to avoid the snares of death. What are these "snares" that are mentioned here?
The Hebrew word for "snares" is very telling. The word is "moqesh" and it refers not so much to the snare itself, but to the bait which is placed in the snare. The word literally means the bait placed within a snare or trap - without which the animal would never come near it. It is the bait that makes the trap effective. The bait tempts the animal to come near even when his own instincts tell him the situation is dangerous. Unable to quell his own lusts for the free food, the animal draws near. The end is a trapped or dead animal. This parallels our problem with sin. Our desires draw us toward things that will eventually damage and destroy us. But we cannot seem to shake the lusts of our flesh, eyes, and prideful love of the world enough to turn away. We are bllind due to our sin. But this is where the fear of the Lord becomes a life-giving fountain to us.
The fear of the Lord is the respect and honor that we have of Him and of His Word. It is the willingness to respond to the Holy Spirit when He warns us about something we are about to do. We listen and obey when we fear the Lord - but we ignore Him when we have no repect or honor toward the God who made us. For those who do this, there is only death in the end. They may have an initial experience of pleasure in their sinful choice - but be warned that they will stand in the judgment for their actions. Any sinful action will be eternally regretted on that day. But know also that sinful choices, although their poison may not be felt immediately - also have consequences here and now as well.
Today's society, and unfortunately many in the church, think that the fear of the Lord is a thing of the past. They ignorantly say that we are a people of grace in the New Testament. The Old Testament idea of fearing God is out of step with who we are supposed to be. What I find interesting is that the book of Acts tells us that the church benefited greatly from the fear of the Lord. In Acts 9:31
we read the following, "So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase. " The fear of God is a New Testament truth that will bless God's church. In fact the fear of the Lord is linked here with the "comfort of the Holy Spirit." It was the combination of these two that worked together by God's grace to cause the church to increase. But there is one more thing that will bless us as we look at the proverb for today.
The fear of the Lord is said to be a "fountain of life." There is another parallel that is such a blessing to see here. In John chapter 7 Jesus spoke of the way that the Holy Spirit would come to those who believed in Him. He used the picture of fountains of living water that would flow from the innermost being of those who experienced the ministry of the Holy Spirit. This is what we have learned today in Proverbs. It is another way that the Holy Spirit is linked directly to the fear of the Lord. We need to realize that one of the ways that the Holy Spirit works in our lives is to bring us the fear of the Lord. We have a respect for God - a desire to honor Him and not to displease Him. This makes us very receptive to His Word which tells us what He wants us to know. Both are the same fountain. As we fear God the Holy Spirit works in us to teach us God's Word - and then to urge us to listen and respond to what God has said. All this comes together to turn us from the snare - from the bait of Satan which seeks to lure us into His traps and his snares of death. May God give us grace to fear Him - to experience the Holy Spirit's teaching and warning - and to avoid sin as a result.
In the way of righteousness is life, And in its
pathway there is no death. Proverbs 12:28
Can there be a path where there is no death? How can Solomon say that wisdom means that there is a way of walking that does not have death on it? Death comes to all men. So what do we have here - a contradiction in the Scriptures?
There are those who try to find contradictions in the Bible - who can find tons of them. Their problem is that they do not allow for poetic license by the writers of Scripture. Of course these are the same people who do not expect others to take them literally all the time in their lives. When they say that they could kill someone for what they said - they do not expect the hearers to immediately alert the police about their murderous intentions. We all use these kind of expressions almost every day. It is only those who WANT to find problems in the Scripture that try to expose what is clearly poetic language.
What seems to be a contradiction here is actually understood when understanding this passage in the context of the whole counsel of Scripture. You see the Bible speaks of righteousness in a way that we do not normally conceive. It speaks of "absolute" righteousness in reference to God's righteousness. The "way of rightreousness" therefore is not a works thing, it is a faith thing. The righteous man lives by faith. This means that he receives righteousness as a gift - and the gift comes from God Himself. Therefore the way of righteousness is a lifestyle that looks to God for justification. In the way of righteousness is life. We experience life when we turn to Him and receive the righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ on the basis of faith (see Romans 3:21-26
In the pathway of this righteousness there is no death. This is not saying that people will not die physically. If you understand both Testaments of the Bible you know that there is more than one kind of death mentioned. There is physical death which is experienced by all men. There is also spiritual death - which is the common condition of all mankind. They are alive physically, but dead spiritually. The Bible refers to the second death in Revelation. This is what will happen to all those whose names are not written in the Lamb's book of life. They will be cast into the lake of fire at the end of the age - where they will die forever.
When we look at the whole counsel of God's Word, this passage not only makes perfect sense - but is even a declaration of the gospel itself. There IS indeed a "way of righteousness" that we can experience - through faith in Jesus Christ. It is THE ULTIMATE way of righteousness - and more than that - it is the ONLY way of righteousness. When we walk in that way - living by faith - there is no death in that way. We may die physically (which the Bible refers to as "falling asleep") but death will be swallowed by life - and life eternally. That is the truth of the gospel. It is not a contradiction - it is a glorious revelation!
He who is steadfast in righteousness will attain
to life, And he who pursues evil will bring about
his own death. Proverbs 11:19
Here we find life gained and life lost. Both life gained and lost have to do with what we pursue and steadfastly desire in our walk on earth. It is no shock to us to learn that those who are steadfast in their desire and pursuit of righteousness are those who receive life. The word "steadfast" here means to set something up so that it will be firm and established. Here it refers to how someone views righteousness - and pursues it in their lives. Are you building a life whose foundation is laid in God's view of righteousness - or more simply put, in what God says is right? That is the life Christ referred to in Matthew 7
when He spoke about foundations. The one who hears the Word of God and heeds it - he is the man who has built his foundation on a rock. When the winds and storms of life come upon that man, as they surely will, his house will stand. That is why the steadfast in righteousness will attain to life.
The life lost is the one that is actively pursuing evil. Consider King Ahab in the Old Testament, along with his wicked wife, Jezebel. They pursued evil together. They were the poster couple of pursuing wickedness and sin. They excelled in it - and ran after it with an ever-growing lust for more. They worshipped false gods, stole, killed, and plotted their way to the top. When at the top they continued in their ways of evil - and heartily encouraged all of Israel to follow their foolish example. It is no wonder then that they both brought about their own death.
Ahab foolishly ignored the prophetic statements of Miciah, who warned him that God had allowed a deceiving spirit to move among Ahab's false prophets - so that he could be lured to his death in battle. Ahab's response was to imprison the prophet - and have him fed with barely enough bread and water to survive until he returned from battle. Miciah's fateful last words to him were, "If you return, the Lord has not spoken through me." In another desperate but foolish move, Ahab then disguised himself and did not wear his royal robes into battle. Thinking he had cheated death and God - he went into battle feeling safe. We read in Kings that a random archer shot an arrow into the air - and God guided that arrow so that it hit a joint in Ahab's armor. Badly wounded, he retreated to watch the battle from a distance until he died in his chariot.
Jezebel, having learned of a plot to destroy her family and their legacy in Israel, painted herself and called to her executioner from a tower. Thinking herself safe there - her executioner called for the men in the tower to throw her down. They did so and Jehu crushed her beneath his horses and chariot wheels. These two who pursued evil so passionately both brought about their own death because of their rebellion against God.
In Deuteronomy God reminded Israel that He put before them life and death. There was a choice for them. If they pursued evil and rebellion against God - they needed to know that their sin would find them out. They would be pursued by the very One against whom they rebelled. They would learn that He was not impotent as they thought. They would learn that the One they defied is God - and that He will prevail. They will also bring about their own death with the evil they think frees them from His authority. But life is also available to us. It is received by pursuing righteousness steadfastly. What is amazing to those who receive that righteousness is that to pursue it, one must pursue by faith. The just (righteous) man lives by faith. Their steadfastness is gained by rejecting their own works - and turning to God who Himself will declare them righteous as a gift. They will learn that the only way of being steadfastly righteous, is to steadfastly cling to God's gift of righteousness which comes only through His Son, Jesus Christ. That, dear ones, is the only way we can be steadfast in righteousness - and thereby know life.