If you had a choice, which would you choose in life . . . to be guarded or subverted. What we learn from today's proverb is that we can actually choose which one we experience from day to day. Choose righteousness and you will be guarded - but choose wickedness and you will find your way subverted. Let's take a look at these two choices and their outcomes.
It would behoove us to know what righteousness is from time to time in our journey through Proverbs. Righteousness is the Hebrew word "sedaqah" which means to do what is right; to have blameless conduct; and to walk in integrity. The one who embraces righteousness embraces justice, right actions and attitudes, and a lifestyle that will mirror the heart and character of God. We are told here that righteousness will guard us. The word guard means to watch over closely, to hide from evil, and to preserve. When we choose righteousness - the blameless and godly way - the way that mirrors the heart of God, there is a protection and a watch that will be set over us just for doing this. The rest of the Proverb says that righteousness will watch over "the one whose way is blameless." The picture here is of a way or a path. The literal phrase is "blamelessness of way" and it refers to a path that is blameless before God. Choosing biblical and moral integrity will watch for us to keep us on the blameless way. When we walk with God in this way - desiring and choosing righteousness - our very way will be guarded - and it will be a way that God approves and one in which He delights. This is a pretty awful example - but it would be like having a cruise control that warns us when we are about to go out of a way that pleases and honors God.
In the New Testament God tells us that He works marvelously in our hearts through the person of the Holy Spirit. He instructs and leads us in the way we should go. He teaches us - but He also rebukes and corrects us when we are about to go astray. Here is the personification of this proverb. God the Holy Spirit will guard us and make sure that we stay on a blameless path before God as we walk through our day. How does He do this? He does it as we focus on righteousness and holiness - when we focus on a lifestyle that will please and honor God. This is the way to walk and have your footsteps guarded each step of the way. You will receive warnings when you are about to misstep. But do not think that this is a life merely of correction and constantly hearing a buzzer when you are about to mess up. This is a life where God the Holy Spirit is changing and conforming us to God's image in Christ. As He does this our heart is changed from stone to flesh. Our desires are also changed and we long to please and to honor Him. We learn to walk - not out of some slavish fear of God's punishment. We learn to please God in all we do - because His transformation of our hearts results in us WANTING to do what He desires. It is a life of joy as we follow Him with all our hearts.
The sinner has another path - one that is far less secure. The sinner here is the "chattah" the one missing the mark. The sinner is at fault with God and is failing Him in his choices and desires. It is "wickedness" that is doing this to him. This word describes wrong doing - but it refers to it in the context of rebellion against Yahweh. The sinner misses the mark - because he doesn't even have the right target up when he is shooting. The mark is God's way and God's Law - yet the sinner is in rebellion against God - and thus doesn't even want to obey His commands. This rebellion is what subverts the sinner. Subverts is the Hebrew word "salap" which means to overthrow something, to twist it and to pervert it. It speaks of distorting and misleading someone from what is normal to what is foolish. It refers to bribes that twist government officials to disregard the law. As the foolish man rebels against God Himself - he is guaranteeing that everything will be twisted the wrong way in his life. He misses the mark - and is sure to do nothing but miss it until his heart is changed by the work of God's salvation.
Here we have two paths - the way of the one in rebellion against God - the way of the lost man. His way is twisted even before he starts his day - because his days always begin with a heart in rebellion against God. We also have the man who daily chooses righteousness - who chooses God's way. As he does this daily - that very choice - that very mindset and path will protect him and keep him from dozens of wrong choices before his feet ever hit the floor in the morning. God will guard him and keep him and protect him from great sin. There is a way paved before him because he chooses the integrity of holiness and true godliness. We will never know this side of heaven how often our way has been blessed and how many difficulties and sins have been avoided simply because of our salvation. We will be protected simply because we have been saved - our hearts changed - and our paths set toward the blameless way. Praise God for His glorious gift - and his wonderful protection that results from it!