Jesus and Proverbs (Proverbs 4:14-19)
Topic: One Lord: So Great a Salvation Passage: Proverbs 4:14–19
I. Proverbs' Cast of Charactersd
Almost twenty messages ago, you and I talked about the idea that Proverbs contains a variety of characters. As a book of collected wisdom sayings, and not a book of collected stories, it sounds a bit odd to talk about 'characters' in Proverbs. But they are there. There are some obvious examples, like the “son” who is addressed here in light of the teaching of his “mother” and “father”. All of these 'characters' are mentioned together at the outset of the book, in 1:8.
But in addition to these individuals, throughout the sayings collected in this book, we encounter certain types of people; characters who are representative of the kinds of people we meet in the world; in fact, the kinds of people we often meet when we look into the mirror. In that earlier message we considered characters like the “simple”, the “scoffer”, the “mocker”, the “sluggard”, the “whisperer”, the “drunkard”, the “glutton”, the quarrelsome man”, “the worthless man”, “the dishonest man”, “the wrathful man”, “the stingy man”, “the greedy man”, “the hot-tempered man”. Many of these types could be summed up in a 'character' who appears very regularly in Proverbs: the “fool”.
But this book also includes characters like the “wise man” and the “man of understanding”. In fact, the second most popular 'character' in all of Proverbs is the “righteous” man or “the righteous”. Consider a verse featuring just this kind of person, Proverbs 18:10...
The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.
Solomon refers to this kind of person sixty-six times throughout this book. Only one other 'character' is mentioned more than the righteous (almost eighty times, in fact), and that's the “the wicked man”. Since we have arrived at our final message in this series on Proverbs, it is extremely important to recognize that this book is deeply concerned with these two types of individuals, with these two paths: the wicked and the righteous.
II. The Passage: "The Path of the Righteous" (4:14-19)d
Let's look together at a passage that emphasizes this very thing. Turn, if you would (and if you haven't already), to Proverbs 4. Follow along as I read chapter 4, verses 14-19. Solomon writes:
Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil.  Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on.  For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong; they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.  For they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence.  But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.  The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.
The contrast between the wicked and the righteous could not be any clearer, could it?
1. The Wicked (vs. 14-17, 19)
First, consider what we learn here about “the wicked”. For example, Solomon warns his son about “enter[ing] the path of the wicked” and “walk[ing] in the way of the evil”. Don't you love his emphasis in verse 15: “Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on.” Solomon, of course, is not talking about a literal road, but about a very real lifestyle. What kind of lifestyle? Verse 16: One of regular wrongdoing. One that delights in causing others to “stumble”. Verse 17: a lifestyle of “violence”.
But notice the additional insight Solomon provides in verse 19: “the way of the wicked is like deep darkness”. Again, this is not literal darkness. This is moral darkness. This is spiritual darkness. This is a lifestyle in which the light of knowledge is absent. It is a path of ignorance. And THAT kind of 'devoid-of-knowledge' darkness is so deep, the wicked man or woman doesn't even know what they are stumbling over. They may know their sins, but they do not understand the true nature, the true ugliness, the true outcome of their sin.
2. The Righteous (v. 18)
But by contrast, the righteous lifestyle is one of ever-increasing knowledge, and thus, ever-increasing blessing. Remember how Solomon expressed this in verse 18: But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
Isn't that beautiful? This “path” goes by many names in Proverbs: “the paths of uprighteness” (2:13) or the “path of the upright” (15:19), “the paths of justice” (8:20), and “the paths of life” (2:19; 5:6; 10:17; 15:24). But ultimately it is the “path of righteousness” or the “path of the righteous”. And the remainder of the book simply goes on to emphasize, over and over, the blessings that line this “path of the righteous”. For example...
The wage of the righteous leads to life, the gain of the wicked to sin. [10:16]
The desire of the righteous ends only in good, the expectation of the wicked in wrath. [11:23]
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life... [11:30]
No one is established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous will never be moved. [12:3]
The light of the righteous rejoices, but the lamp of the wicked will be put out. [13:9]
Disaster pursues sinners, but the righteous are rewarded with good. [13:21]
The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous. [15:29] And 24:16:
...the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.
This blessing is contrasted with earthly wealth in at least three different passages. Prov. 11:18...
The wicked earns deceptive wages, but one who sows righteousness gets a sure reward.
What is this “sure reward”? Moving back to 11:4, Solomon tells us...
Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.
And this is simply repeating what was written in the previous chapter, in 10:2...
Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death.
Brothers and sisters, friends, please don't miss the emphasis in all these verses: goodness, reward, stability, restoration, light and life... life... deliverance from death! According to Solomon, according to God, that is what one experiences on the “path of the righteous”. In view of such blessings, how could we choose any other path? But sadly, we do. If we are honest, we regularly choose that other path. And Solomon knew this. Consider Proverbs 20:9... Who can say, “I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin”?
Someone else who understood our preferred path was the Apostle Paul. With Proverbs in mind, consider what Paul told the followers of Jesus in Rome. This is Romans 3:9–12
What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin,  as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; [that is stinging in light of Proverbs isn't it; in light of the promised blessings... Paul continues...]  no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”
III. Proverbs' Most Important 'Character'
So having spent over twenty weeks in the book of Proverbs, having discovered and affirmed the importance of wisdom, having considered God's guidance throughout this book, (and even this morning) having grasped the important role of “the righteous”, the critical call to walk “the path of the righteous”, and the kinds of incomparable blessings that come to “the righteous” man or woman, it seems kind of depressing to arrive at a place where none of this ultimately possible; or at least, to be confronted with the discouraging steepness of the mountain of righteousness God is calling us to climb.
But this is precisely where God wants us to meet another quote-un-quote 'character' through the book of Proverbs. Listen, in light of all we've heard, to another Apostle's words in I John 2:1...
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ... the righteous.
Brother, sisters, friend, in light of our study this morning, have you heard a more glorious title for the Son of God? “Jesus Christ the righteous”! (2x) What does “Jesus Christ the righteous” have to do with you and me, the unrighteous? Well, God's word encourages us in at least three ways in terms of Proverbs and “Jesus Christ the righteous”.
First, in light of Proverbs, Jesus FULFILLS. The title we find here in I John 2:1 is confirmed throughout the book of Acts where Jesus is called “the Righteous One” (Acts 3:14; 7:52; 22:14). But the extent of that title is only made plain in a verse like Hebrews 4:15, where we read that Jesus is “without sin”. A few chapters later in Hebrews 7:26, the author expands on this, confirming that Jesus is “holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners”. This is echoed in I Peter 2:22, “He committed no sin...”, as well as in I John 3:5, “...in him there is no sin.”
What does this mean? It means that Jesus, and Jesus alone, has perfectly walked what Proverbs calls “the path of the righteous”. He and he alone perfectly embodies “the righteous man” described by Solomon. Now, think for a moment about what that means. Jesus' perfect righteousness means that all of the blessings mentioned in Proverbs are his in fullest measure: goodness, reward, stability, restoration, light and life... life... deliverance from death.
But with Proverbs in mind, remember what Paul told us in I Corinthians 1:30... Christ Jesus... became to us [not only] wisdom from God, [but also] righteousness and sanctification and redemption. This leads to a another point...
Second, in light of Proverbs, Jesus FORGIVES. Wonderfully, Jesus has fulfilled this righteousness in order to forgive the unrighteous. I Peter 3:18 points us to the purpose of Christ's suffering on the cross... For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God... Yes, Paul did write in Romans 3:10 that “none is righteous”. But two chapters later, he made this stunning statement... For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:19)
How can we know this forgiveness from God that then leads to being “made righteous” by God? Paul tells us in the opening chapter of Romans: “...in [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17). What does that mean? It mean the Proverbs-blessings that belong to “Jesus Christ the righteous” can be enjoyed by those “made righteous” through faith alone in Christ alone. But as was said by the Protestant reformers, “the faith that saves is never alone”. And so...
Third, in light of Proverbs, Jesus FUELS. What does he fuel? He fuels, he powers, a righteous life. In the last verse of the same chapter in which we the Apostle John introduces us to “Jesus Christ the righteous”, he goes on to tell us...
If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. (I John 2:29)
Not only has the grace of God at work through the work of Christ made us righteous through Jesus' own righteousness, but its also made us for a righteous life. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works...” (Ephesians 2:10) In Romans, Paul urges his readers in light of this: “...so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.” (Romans 6:19)
Have you been “made righteous” by the Righteous One, by trusting him as your only hope? Having been “made righteous” before the high court of heaven, are you now, through the power of the Holy Spirit, seeking to walk “the path of the righteous”? If you are a follower of Jesus, then that path is the path he calls you to walk... because that is where he is; that is his path.
So Proverbs is not only a book that ultimately points us to “Jesus Christ the righteous”, but in so doing, this treasure chest of wisdom and warnings, of righteousness and reminders, becomes a manual designed to help us become more and more like our Redeemer and King. In speaking about himself, Jesus declared in Luke 11:31, “...something greater than Solomon is here”. May each of us, whenever we read Proverbs, whenever we hear or quote a proverb, may we remember and live in light of the greatness of Jesus, the one who fulfills, forgives, and fuels us to walk in wisdom, to the glory of God. Let's thank God and pray for this very focus!