Today we are going to cover an amazing proverb that applies to every area and every aspect of life itself. Here, like in the gospel, we are told of "the way of life." Unlike in the gospel, this "way of life" is not one that can redeem us from sin - but it can be used by the Holy Spirit to make us a lifetime learner - a disciple who knows how God works through His Word and through the way that it is taught to us by the Spirit. If there was ever a day to listen closely - today would be that day.
We are told of two things at the beginning of this proverb. We are told of the commandent and the teaching. These two things are compared to a lamp and to light. First we have the commandment. This is the same word that is used for God's 10 commandments. It refers to God's Law - and I believe beyond the Old Testament it can be applied to the inspired Word of God anywhere in the Old or New Testaments. We are told here that the commandment is a lamp. A lamp is something that can emit light if used properly. The lamp will always have the potential for light to come from it. It is something that holds light - and if lit it will radiate light. Interesting for us who understand the figures and types that are used for God's Holy Spirit, a lamp is filled with oil which is a type throughout the Old Testament for the Spirit and His work. When that oil is lit - the lamp produces light. In much the same way, the Word of God always has within it the teaching of the Holy Spirit - His leading and His instruction, warning, and rebuke. When we come to God's Word, the lamp, we have the wonderful working of the Spirit of God as He illumines the Scriptures for us. But before we think that simply reading or hearing the Word will always produce light, we need to remember that the commandment is a lamp. It can produce light - but it can also remain unlit and just be a lamp. There are those who misuse God's Word and no light comes forth. The devil himself quoted the Scriptures to Jesus - to try and get Him to sin. In that instance the lamp did not produce light - but it was abused to promote darkness. There are also professors even at semniaries who do not believe the Bible is the Word of God. The teaching they do promotes darkness. This means that we cannot make a blanket statement that when the Bible is taught or read that it always results in light.
The second statement made here is that the teaching is light. First off we need to note here that we are not reading that the teaching is the light. "THE" light is reserved for references to Jesus Christ Himself - God - and amazingly enough, us when we are manifesting God's character to others. Here we read that the teaching is light. The word for teaching here is the Hebrew word "torah." Here torah means instruction or direction. In the Old Testament the word mean instruction in a general manner from God Himself. The idea here is that the command is the lamp - and when the Spirit or a Spirit-inspired teacher is instructing from it - the lamp becomes light - or begins to illumine with light. This is so important for us to grasp because it is the very way that God will instruct and teach us. We come to the Word, but we covet that when we do the Holy Spirit instructs us as we read and as we meditate upon what the Word says. Do not misunderstand me to say that the Bible becomes the Word as it is taught. That is false doctrine. The Bible is always the inspired Word of God that gives us the revelation of God. It is just that we are blind to it without the instruction of the Holy Spirit who opens our hearts and spirits so that we can receive what God says. That is why I think it is important to consciously ask the Spirit of God to teach us when we come to the Word of God.
There is one other thing this passage teaches us about the functioning of the Word in our lives. Today there are many who teach that the major reason for God's Word is that we can "confess who we are" in a positive way. There is a potential problem with this doctrinal view. We can get to the point where we only receive "positive" messages about ourselves from God's Word - and not conviction of sin. When we read this passage though, it seems that we are learning something contrary to the positive confession doctrine.
"And reproofs for discipline are the way of life." When we read this we have to come to the conclusion that a large part of what the Word of God is going to do is reprove us. It is probably at least one fourth of what it does because we read in 2 Timothy 3:16 that the Word of God is profitable for reproof. Actually the 2 Timothy passage says not just reproof, but also correction as well. The Word of God comes to us often to reprove and correct us. One of God's complaints against the false prophets is that they would whitewash Israel's sin. They would constantly talk about blessing without helping Israel and Judah to see that they had sinned against the Lord. It does not matter how many "positive" confessions you make to yourself, God, and others - if you have unconfessed sin in your life - God will not bless you. And since we are fallen creatures who live in a fallen world - we need for God to reveal to us that when we are acting "fallen!" If you read Romans 7 - you do not come away with the thought that Paul just needed to be more positive. He was wrestling with very real sin - and a very real fleshly, sinful nature that could not be defeated except through Jesus Christ. That is why we need desperately to see that we need to be reproved and disciplined by God to become all that God desires for us to be in Christ. Without that reproof and correction, we will not know from what we need to turn.
The way of life is through being disciplined by God - and that involves the Lord reproving us for our sin. When we come to His Word - His commandments - He is going to reveal to us how we have sinned against Him. He does not do this because He hates us. Contrary to that thought, He does it because He loves us! He desires for us to share in His holiness (Hebrews 12) - and that means He wants us to share in His life.
Wisdom is coming to God's Word in the right way each day. It means that we approach the Lord each day being open to what He wants to teach us. As we do this we also open ourselves to His Spirit to reveal to us that we may have sinned - or we may be lacking godly character - or a good attitude toward an authority. There are any number of ways that God might speak to our hearts and help us to abandon sin - and embrace His holiness. Regardless of what specifics are involved, God desires to bring blessing into our lives through this process. Remember - the reproofs and discipline are the way of life! He is bringing you life when He does these things. Be wise therefore and receive what He is saying each day - whether it is encouragement, exhortation, teaching, or reproof. They are all in his arsenal of blessing to conform you to the image of His Son and change you to be a better vessel for the blessing of not just yourself - but everyone around you.