Solomon is summing up his argument to his son on why he should walk in the way of the godly rather than the ungodly. He has spoken of the way of wisdom as well as the path of the wicked. Now in these two verses he sums up his statements with one of the most memorable statements in all of Proverbs.
He begins with the path of the righteous. A "path" here is a byway or highway. It is the kind of path a person walk on and usually refers to the way a person walks throughout their life. It is referred to as the "path of the righteous" - meaning the path of those who walk in what is right. If you are wondering Who's view of right this is - it refers to what is right in the sight of God.
This path is described for us next. It is like the light of dawn that shines in increasing brightness until the full day. This description is of how the sun rises with its initial beams of light at dawn. As the sun rises in the sky, the light given to us increases ever brighter, illumining all that is in the world, until it reaches its zenith at noon. This description is given to us to describe the path and way of those who walk in what God states is right. Their path is full of light and they see clearly where to walk. In fact as time goes on their path only grows more illumined and easy to walk upon. By this I do not mean that the Christian life is always an easy one, because that is not true. For the believer who draws near to God there are times of opposition from the world as well as the fight with indwelling sin. There is also the battle with the devil and the forces of darkness. The Christian life is not one that is always easy - but this passage speaks of how clearly we know how to walk upon it. For the one who seeks the Lord and knows Him better and better; for the one who desires God's wisdom and walks in it; for this one the path of life grows brighter and brighter as God's illumination through His Spirit and through Scripture continues to grow daily.
As I think about this text I remember how some issues for me were dimmer in the past. There were things I didn't understand at first, but which God has illumined for me now. There are aspects of character and godliness which I see clearly now. There are areas that were dark and murkey - areas where I didn't yet realize that my actions were sinful. The light of God's Word and wisdom continues to illumine my darkness - and as He illumines He convicts and delivers as well.
The path to Him grows brighter every day. More obstacles are being removed and every weight is falling to the wayside as I learn to run for Him with total abandonment and joy. Choices that I did not make too confidently before are now easy ones because I see things so much more clearly in the light of His Word.
God now turns to the way of the wicked - after speaking of how the path of the righteous is shining ever brighter. The way of the wicked knows no such light. Their way is like darkness. What a word is used to speak of this darkness. It is the Hebrew word "apelah" and it means darkness, gloominess. It is the intense blackness that exists in the middle of a moonless, starless night. The word is used to describe the darkness of the naive who stumble and grope through this world. It is used in Exodus 10:22 to speak of the plague of darkness that came upon Egypt. It is a darkness that goes beyone the absence of light - a darkness that can be felt. Metaphorically, it is used in Isaiah 8:22 and Jeremiah 23:12 to speak of the trouble and misfortune that comes upon the wicked in the day of God's wrath and anger against sin. This same word is used to describe the darkness of the day of the Lord in both Joel 2:2 and Zephaniah 1:15 when God speaks of the day of "darkness and gloom" that will come upon the ungodly. This word indicates gloom, despair, distress, and anguish. This is the way of the wicked - they may look happy on the outside, but inside they are not at peace. There is gloom in their future - distress and despair await them. They walk in darkness and don't know the light of the glory of the face of Christ.
The study of the words "light" and "darkness" and how they are used in describing the darkness are very illuminating for us.
19 "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 "For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 "But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God." John 3:19-21
Here Jesus makes it clear that He has come as Light into this world. He is the One who illumines us - but men love darkness rather than light. They do this because their deeds are evil. They don't want the light because it will expose them as evil - as disobedient and rebellious. So, they come to hate the light, fearing the exposure of their hearts and deeds. Proverbs 2:13 tells us of the wicked - that they leave the paths of the Lord and turn to ways of darkness. The ungodly love the darkness - and will not come to the light. There is a secretive aspect to the darkness - one that keeps men in bondage.
This passage in Proverbs also informs us that as a result of walking in the darkness - they stumble - they fall - the wind up with problems. The word stumble here indicates more than just tripping up on something. It means they stagger, they totter and fall. This is a stumbling from weakness. It is the stumbling of those overthrown by lifestyle choices that bring them low. Yet the wicked just don't get it. They don't know over what they are tripping, because they reject God's Word as a source of truth. Thus they trip, they fall, and they curse the darkness - not realizing that their steps would be sure if they just stepped into the light
Why would anyone want to walk in the darkness of the wicked? No one would if they truly knew that they were walking in darkness. Unfortunately they do not understand. When you consider this - and watch day by day those who wallk about in darkness - it should make you eternally grateful for the grace of God that has brought you into the light.