The Path of the Just 

adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 4 June 2010 


“But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Proverb 4:18).

The Book of Proverbs is not just a book of proverbs. It is actually full of principles and promises as well. Most of the promises in proverbs are conditional. For example, in Proverbs 3:5-6, we read:

5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths” (Prov 3:5-6)

It is clear that the Lord’s promise to direct the path of the believer is conditioned upon the believer’s faith and obedience in Him. To the degree that we trust in the Lord and seek to follow His ways, to the degree that He will guide and direct us.

There are, however, promises in the book which are written in unconditional absolute terms. This evening, the Lord helping us, we want to consider one such promise in our series on the great and precious promises of the Lord.

Let us consider Proverbs 4:18—

But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.

Now, this statement if taken by itself may be viewed simply as a proverbial axiom. A proverbial axiom is a saying developed through observation that is generally and usually true, but not always.

If Proverbs 4:18 is a merely a proverbial axiom, then all we can say is that it is usually the case that the path of the just will get brighter and brighter as the years go by. However, we must remember that the book of Proverbs is not merely a collection of wise sayings of men. It is a collection of divinely inspired statements.

As such, we must interpret the statements in it by comparing Scripture with Scripture. When we do so, we will see that Proverbs 4:18 is indeed a statement of promise by the Lord who says: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb 13:5).

This is how the Westminster Assembly understood this verse when they used it as scriptural proof to support the proposition that one of the benefits that in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption and sanctification is “the increase of grace,  and perseverance therein to the end” (WSC 36).

With this in mind, let us study this promise by considering three things about it.

·   First, this is a promise for the just.

·   Secondly, this is a promise pertaining the Christian walk in this life.

·   Thirdly, this is a promise about the destination of the believer.


1. A Promise for the Just

But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.

This promise is clearly for the just. Who are the just? Well, clearly they are the opposite to the wicked, verse 14 & 19.

Indeed, the word ‘just’ here translates the Hebrew tsadiq (qyDix') which can also be translated as ‘righteous’, which is the opposition of ‘wicked’. In fact, out of 206 times that the word occurs in the Old Testament, it is translated ‘righteous’ in 162 times.

In other words, to be ‘just’ is to be righteous. The just is the righteous. Now, if Proverbs 4:18 were merely a proverbial axiom, we might think that the righteous person refers to one who is honest, or perhaps if we stretch it further, one who is a nice guy—a gentleman or a fair-lady, one who does not offend people, one who is helpful, or kind, or gives to the poor, etc.

But no, this cannot be what the Lord would have us understand by this word, for otherwise, the Scripture would be contradicting itself.

To be righteous in God’s eye is to be without sin. But the Scripture tells us that “there is none righteous, no not one” (Rom 3:1). All our righteousness is as filthy rags in the sight of God (Isa 64:6).  When Adam, our first father, fell, all mankind descending from him by natural generation sinned in him and fell with him. All men are sinners both by the imputation of Adam’s guilt and by inheriting his sinful nature. The only exception is the Lord Jesus Christ who was born of the virgin and was tempted at all points yet without sin.

Who then is the just in Proverbs 4:18. Surely Proverbs 4:18 cannot be about Christ alone. Well, comparing Scripture with Scripture, we may conclude that the just must be refering to the elect of Christ who are justified in Him. “The just shall live by faith” says the Apostle Paul (Rom 1:17) as he quotes from Habbukuk 2:4.

Proverbs 4:18, in other words, is a promise for all believers. All who truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and are justified by His blood will enjoy the truth of this promise.

Conversely, the wicked or all unbelievers would not only not enjoy the blessing promised, but suffer the consequences of their unbelief:

“The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.” (Prov 4:19)

They will in other words have a life of misery that will end suddenly in misery.

But what is the promise. We note secondly, that it is…


2. A Promise about the Journey of the Just

But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.

It is interesting to consider the picture that Solomon is painting in this proverb. He is painting a picture of the Christian life.

The just is liken to a traveler setting out on a journey very early in the morning at dawn. There is a streak of light in the horizon—in the Eastern sky. As he walks, its gets brighter and brighter until the day is perfected with the sun shinning full bright.

But why is the Christian life portrayed as beginning at dawn and then ending with the brightness of day? Would it not be more intuitive to portray life as beginning in the brightness of morning, continuing until mid-day and then heading towards evening and finally the darkness of the night as death sets in.

Why would Solomon and the Holy Spirit who inspired him have us think of the Christian life as beginning at dawn and ending at noon?

Well, we can think of three reasons.

First, the Bible teaches us that our lives in this world is just a brief span when compared to eternity. If you ever go hiking at dawn, you will realise something: dawn does not last very long. If you start off at dawn, you would barely have gone a short distance before it is completely bright. Life in this world is like that. The Bible tells us that we will live on the average 70 years, and then we go on our long journey home. The journey at dawn is an excellent reminder of the shortness of this present life compared to eternity.

Secondly, the shadows of dawn is also a good picture of the present life, for this present life is indeed like that—it is imperfect, and dark. It is filled with pain, sorrow and misery. It is also a time when we cannot see everything things in clear. This is why we experience doubts and fears. This is why we have relationship breakdowns. This is why we have frustrations.

Thirdly, Solomon portrays life like the way he does because the perfect day or the brightness of day is a good picture of life in eternity. The Christian enters into the perfect day when he leaves the present world. Then all his sorrows, pains and sins will be no more. All things will be bright and clear. There will be no more uncertainty, no more frustrations, no more darkness. In that day, we shall know as we ourselves are known.

This is why the journey of the just is set in dawn…

But thank God that the Christian life is not all dark and shadowy, for the promise in text is that the Christian life will get progressively brighter and brighter. “the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more…”

What does that mean? Well, the path of the just will get brighter and brighter in two senses.

First, it will get brighter, because each step we take after our conversion brings us closer to the perfect day. The Christian longs for that day, and as he reaches nearer and nearer to that day, his hope and anticipation for the perfect day increases. Talk to a godly believer who is dying and you will not see him or her fearing death nor getting fearful as death looms nearer. No, the saint looks forward eagerly to the day when the sorrows of this world will be over for him, so that he can behold the face of Christ for all eternity. That thought surely makes their paths brighter and brighter. Death for the Christian is never fearful because he knows the promise of the Lord. For this reason, the path of the just is growing brighter and brighter by the day in hope.

But secondly, the path of the just is getting brighter and brighter also because the Christian does not remain stagnant. He grows in grace. He grows in godly virtue. He can never escape from sin in this life, but he grows more and more like Christ as he dies more and more unto sin. And the path continues to get brighter because God promises to protect and to preserve him.

Proverbs 2:8 teaches us that the LORD “keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of His saints.” No Christian is perfect, so his life is not going to be a consistent upward climb. But overall, the healthy Christian will, by the grace of God, walk nearer and nearer to the light. His path will get brighter and brighter in sanctification.

This is the promise of our text in regard to our Christian life in this world. Sometimes when the journey becomes difficult we may lose sight of this truth. But it remains—the path of the just is getting brighter and brighter. It ought to be getting brighter in hope. It ought to be getting brighter in sanctification.

But finally, Proverbs 4:18 contains also an implicit promise about our destination.


3. A Promise about the Destination of the Just

But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.

By contrast, “the way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble” (Prov 4:19). The path of the wicked will end with sudden destruction as they fall into a pit of deep darkness, darker than anything imaginable in this world. What a sad end to a life of misery.

But the just, according to the promise of God, will finish their race on the “perfect day”!

And what a glorious day it will be when this partially dark path gives way to the brightness of noon day when we shall see all things in clear, and will no more be afflicted by pain nor sorrow, nor disappointment, nor wickedness in this world.

That day will be bright and beautiful and joyful. It will be so because all that brings darkness, pain and sorrows will be put away. And not only so, but the Sun of Righteousness will shine full-bright.

The Prophet Isaiah makes this clear when he teaches us that on the perfect day…

“[The] sun [of the just] shall no more go down; neither shall [the] moon withdraw itself: for the LORD shall be [their] everlasting light, and the days of [their] mourning shall be ended” (Isa 60:20).

The apostle John describing heaven tells us:

“And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof” (Rv 21:23).

The Lamb—the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world is none other than Christ Himself.

Now, the Christian does not have to wait until the consummation of all things at the end of the world to experience the perfect day. The perfect day begins the minute he leaves this world, for the minute he leaves this world he enters into Celestial City to be with the Lord forever. The Celestial City is a city of light because Christ is there. Christ is the brightness of the perfect day.

Oh what a glorious day it will be when we shall be with Christ our Lord to bask in his warmth and love forever and ever.


Conclusion

Brethren and children, what is this promise to you? You who love the Lord and believe in Him, blessed are you, for the promise is unto you both for this life and for the life to come.

The Christian journey is not an easy one. The Lord speaks of bearing our cross and following Him. The Apostle Paul speaks of running an agonising race and fighting a good fight. Our own experience shows us that there are valleys of tears to traverse; moutains of challenges to climb; rivers of separation to cross; and storms of turmoil to endure.

Who is sufficient for such a journey? But thank God for his promise that “the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” Thank God that this is not merely an observation, but a promise. “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” because the Lord Himself will see to it.

The Spirit of Christ who has begun the good work in us “will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6). He will work the work of sanctification in us so that our paths grow brighter day by day as we die unto sin and grow in grace. And He will preserve us unto the day when we shall see the Lord Jesus Christ face to face, when all darkness of sorrows and tears will be put away from us forever.

May the Lord grant you the courage and strength to run the race. Run believing. Run on in the strength of the Lord, clinging on to the promise and reminding yourself: “I can do all things through Christ which strengthenth me” (Phil 4:13).

Don’t give up when you see the storm, turn your eyes to the Lord. The sun will shine even brighter after the storm.

Don’t give up in the valley of tears. The day is coming when the Sun of Righteousness will dry all your tears.

Don’t give up when you find the mountain difficult to overcome. Remember that as you climb you will be nearer to the Lord; and He will give you more strength.

Don’t give up because of the many rivers of separation you have to endure. Remember that across the last river, you will enter into the brightness of the heavenly Canaan where Christ shines full bright. Amen. Ω



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