Led in the Right Paths
Brian D. Dykstra (teacher at Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI)
Proverbs 4:11-12: “I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths. When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened; and when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble.”
I still remember when my wife and I took our first child home from the hospital. I unlocked the door, stepped into the kitchen of our Loveland, Colorado, apartment, and placed the baby, who was safe and secure in her car seat, on the kitchen table. The baby immediately began to cry. I looked at my wife. I was wondering, “O.K., now what?” I knew nothing about babies. I had held one baby one time in all my life. I had no idea what this child wanted. Meeting the physical needs of our children is challenging enough. What about instructing them in the fear of God? So, what’s a father to do?
We have a good example to follow here. The father in Proverbs 4 taught and led his son. He was active in his son’s life to point out how the son should live his life before the face of God. The father was not a predestination fatalist. He did not assume the attitude that the salvation of his son was determined by God in eternity, so whatever he does, or does not do, is of no consequence. How could his actions affect God’s eternal determination of the destiny of his son’s soul? If his son is saved, he’s saved. If he is not, he’s not. It’s out of his hands and, therefore, there is nothing he can do about it either way.
This father obeys his sovereign Lord. One aspect of being sovereign is that one may do as one pleases. He is free to do according to his own will. Nobody can tell him what to do. Yes, God is sovereignly free. He will elect whomsoever He will by grace alone.
Yet, there’s another aspect of sovereignty which we sometimes forget. A sovereign king has the right to tell those under him how he wants things to be done. God has told us how He wants His children reared. We may not sit back and hide behind the doctrine of predestination, as though we have no work to do in the rearing of His children. God commands us to teach and lead the children He has given to us. We had better do as He commands or there will be spiritual consequences, and God will hold us accountable.
This father taught his son. He pointed out the way marked out by God’s word. He told his son what was good and what was evil. God has the right to determine that and we have the obligation to obey. Just as a father taught his son the use of the bow and arrow to hit a target, the father pointed out the mark of obeying God.
This father also led his son. He and his son walked the same path of life, hand in hand, as a father leads his young son. This was not some random wandering, “Let’s see where the path happens to take us today.” The path was deliberately chosen. The father had a certain goal to achieve. He was not as a workman seeing whether or not he could bend a piece of wood into an as yet undetermined shape as an experiment. He was as a man placing his foot on his bow to bend it enough so he could pull the bowstring tight over it. He has a clearly defined goal, a dedicated purpose.
The father did not teach his son the way of the world or how to measure up as a man in the eyes of society. He taught the way of wisdom. This way was not some nearly overgrown, hard to see path in the remote hills. This way had been travelled many times by those who had gone before and it is easily visible. The way is a course of life, one’s usual way of living, conversing and acting. This was wisdom’s way, the way of the skilful use of God’s Word to determine what decisions to make in the different stages of life.
He led his son in paths which were right. The path did not lead through brambles or patches of poison ivy. It did not go by the opening of the bear’s den or on a narrow ledge along the side of a windblown cliff. The path ran straight and even. Also, this path had been used many times, so often in fact, that it had nearly become a trench. It was a track which had been used over and over again in the past. The father led his son on the path which had been used innumerable times by God’s people. It was nothing new. It was an old path.
As a result of his father’s faithful instruction, the son experienced benefits. First, his steps were not straitened. This does not mean his steps ran straight and true to the south or some other direction. This is “strait” in the sense of a narrow, difficult passage. Think of the Straits of Magellan. The son’s steps were not in a way which was oppressive or difficult. Although the son would experience the oppression of the wicked for his steps on God’s right path, he would not feel that God’s hand was raised against him in anger. He would not suffer the vexation of his soul for turning onto the path of sin. His experience of covenant fellowship with the Triune God in Jesus Christ would be warm and pleasant.
The second benefit for the son was that, when he ran, he would not stumble. There is a pace to life as we walk before God. Often the days move by in a regular rhythm. We live each week in a routine. The weeks go by without any great change. Life is a steady walk.
However, sometimes the pace quickens. Our children make important decisions. Suddenly, big plans have to be made. Perhaps there is a move to attend college or take a job in another part of the country. To prepare for these great changes, the pace of life quickens. We and our children run. Because this son has been taught the way of wisdom and was led in right paths, he will not stumble. He will discern the temptations around him and avoid them. He will not stumble into sin. He will not waver because his knees or ankles are weak and feeble. He will run strongly and evenly with God’s law to give him strength.
May God use our schools, and may teachers and parents do their parts, to show His children wisdom’s way and the right paths. Then God’s children will not stumble but will walk the beautiful way of fellowship with Him.