Proverbs 10:17

Proverbs 10:17 "He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth."
Proverbs 10:17 Baptist Church Buffalo NY
In today’s culture, when we want to express our view that someone is trending towards success, we say, “he’s on the right track” or “she’s heading in the right direction.”  When Solomon refers to a man being “in the way of life,” that’s essentially what he’s saying.  While there is often a substantial difference between the world’s view of success and the Bible’s view of success, the Bible’s “the way of life” refers to a lifestyle that is spiritually healthy.  A spiritually healthy lifestyle tends to trend towards a physically healthy lifestyle.  A spiritually-disciplined person will avoid excess which almost always results in a healthier and longer life.  A spiritually-healthy person will avoid alcohol, drugs and crime which almost always results in a healthier and longer life.  This is why the Bible connects the “way of life” to a spiritually-healthy life.  In general, one’s spiritual health directly impacts their mental and physical health.  Just as death is the wages of sin (Romans 6:23), life is the fruit of righteousness.  While there are plenty of physical and medical exceptions to this relationship, life is clearly connected to righteousness.

To be “in the way of life,” virtue is a must!  To stay “in the way of life,” the traveler must pay a toll and the price is always HUMILITY.  Because the path of life is full of twists and turns, snow and ice, darting deer and flying fowl as well as large trucks and little bikes, signs are posted throughout this way for the traveler’s safety.  To survive all of the obstacles and keep “living,” a traveler must be open to advice and instruction.  Speed limits are posted for the safety of the traveler but if that INSTRUCTION isn’t KEPT, a speeding traveler could find himself going too fast for the conditions of the road.  Warning signs about large animals crossing the road are posted for the safety of the traveler but if that INSTRUCTION isn’t received, an oblivious traveler could find himself unprepared to stop.  Road signs are instructional and need to be kept in order to keep your vehicle on the road.  It requires humility to submit to the instruction found on road signs.  Heeding the instruction on road signs requires a traveler to acknowledge that the engineers know something about that road that they don’t.  It requires an appreciation for instruction.  Young drivers often lack that humility and appreciation for instruction and as a result, easily find their vehicles off the road and their lives in jeopardy.  

On any route, instruction is critical to stay on the road.  Sometimes, that instruction comes in the form of correction.  Sometimes, signs tell you to reroute because of construction or because of flooding.  Other times, emergency workers tell you to reroute because of an accident or a fire.  Oftentimes, your copilot or your GPS tells you to reroute because of a missed turn or congested traffic.  It is in these moments that virtue determines the course of your travel.  If you REFUSE to heed the signage, you’re going to jeopardize your vehicle and its occupants as you travel towards a flooded road or a missing bridge.  If you REFUSE to submit to the emergency worker or police officer, you’re going to jeopardize your license and your freedom.  If you REFUSE to humble yourself and listen to the voice of your copilot or to your GPS, you will spend unnecessary time and money (and probably jeopardize your marriage).  In this proverb, humility is toll for the highway of life.  The person who REFUSES to pay that toll “erreth,” or STRAYS from the highway of life.

The way of life is full of reproof.  No one knows everything about life and no one knows what awaits them in life.  Our ignorance leads us to detour signs.  Our inexperience introduces us to police officers.  Our lack of focus initiates a voice from the GPS declaring, “re-routing.”  These reproofs are both interrupting and frustrating.  It’s hard to hear reproof and it’s hard to take correction.  No one likes to be corrected – not children, not teenagers, not adults.  No one wants to be reproved – not underachievers, not overachievers.  In light of the difficulty of being reproved, this proverb teaches us the “error” of REFUSING that reproof.  The person who REFUSES reproof finds themselves in contrast to being “IN the way of life” – they find themselves “OUT of the way of life.”  Refusing reproof leads to an unhealthy lifestyle because refusing reproof is a spiritually unhealthy way of life.  Refusing reproof is the absence of humility.  This lack of virtue leads a person astray and into many moral ditches.

Pharaoh stands as the Bible’s example of someone who refused reproof.  By worldly standards, he was as successful as it gets.  By Biblical standards however, he was not “in the way of life” because he never paid the toll of humility.  God set up a sign on the road that read, “let my people go.”  He REFUSED to heed that sign.  God then sent a construction worker by the name of Moses that told him to “turn around” because of the danger ahead in the form of plagues.  He REFUSED to submit to that construction worker.  God referred to Pharaoh’s “refusal” of reproof on six occasions in the Book of Exodus with Exodus 10:3 being the most pointed reference where God said, “How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me?”  That was the G.P.S. (God’s Pointed Statement) reproving Pharaoh for missing his turn.  Sadly, he REFUSED to humble himself before God and as a result, he strayed off the way of life and into a deadly ditch that the Bible calls the Red Sea, where his life was cut short.  Pharoah’s demise was the lack of one simple virtue – HUMILITY.

There are a lot of important virtues in life but nothing is more critical to keeping a person “in the way of life” than humility.  It is the toll necessary to stay on the right path because it helps us receive the reproofs that come to all of us throughout our lives.

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