Here is one of a number of proverbs that we have to understand with the Hebrew mindset in order to get what it is saying. It is imperative to grasp what the words light and lamp mean to get what is being said here. But before you get discouraged and decide to read a different proverb, this one can be understood through a song I learned as a child. The song is sung after sticking your index finger up into the air. If you haven't figured out what song I am referring to, it is the song, "This Little Light of Mine."
The light of the righteous rejoices. To a Hebrew light referred to the posterity and prosperity of one's life. These things also were what pointed to the favor of God upon them - by which they enjoyed their prosperity of soul - and by which God guaranteed them a posterity (memory and children) that would be blessed. The righteous man has a light that rejoices. It is a light that shines on and on into the future. This man's life shines brightly with the favor of God. That favor is granted to him because of God's grace - and because he continues in it to choose righteousness rather than sin and godlessness. One older Hebrew writer compared the flickering, dancing light of the candle to this passage. The light of a candle dances as it lights a room - flickering and jumping to offer its illumination to all those around. So also the righteous man joyously walks through life regardless of his circumstances. He shows such a wonderful prosperity of life - and rejoices in all that God does in his life - whether it is what the world would call good or bad circumstances. Paul describes it this way in Romans. God works all things together for good to those who love Him and who live according to His purposes. He rejoices because God has predestined this man to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ! No matter what happens he knows that this process will continue till He sees His Lord. That is the joy and the delight that exists in any disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The wicked though do not know such prosperity. Proverbs tells us that their lamp goes out. What is interesting to note here is that for the Hebrew a lamp meant more a testimony of their life than anything else. We read of the lamps of the seven churches - and the Lord speaking of their lampstand being removed. Here the wicked are shown to have the most ignoble of ends. They face their lamp going out. They may shine for a while on earth - but in the end there is no light whatsoever. Whereas godly men and women leave a light for years and generations afterward - all the wicked leave us is the legacy of their darkness. Think of the wicked leaders like Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin. Think of their legacy. They ruled for years - but died horrific deaths. Now their very names reek of darkness and evil. This is what awaits those who live for wickedness. One of the most terrifying thoughts is that they will be cast into a lake of fire that will burn for all eternity. But even though it will burn like fire - it is described as outer and utter darkness. The smoke of their torment will go up forever - and yet no light whatsoever will be manifest. Truly their lamp goes out - not just for a moment or a season - forever.
Wisdom embraces a life of righteousness and light. Wisdom realizes that such a life, even with its difficult moments far outshines the momentary brightness of the wicked in this world. For us the Scripture holds true. The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter till the full day. That, dear saints of God is our future!