The Expository Files.


The Way That Seems Right

Proverbs 14:12



The Bible urges us to develop such virtues as RESPONSIBILITY, HONESTY, LOYALTY, FAITHFULNESS AND LOVE. Whether you are reading the
teachings of Christ, in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the epistles, the writings of Old Testament prophets or the wisdom of Proverbs, you are trained in these and other virtues. The Bible is the instruction manual for human life.

But, not only does the Bible impart positive instruction in virtues and their cultivation, ALL THROUGH THE BIBLE ... THERE ARE STATEMENTS DESIGNED TO MAKE US AWARE OF POTENTIAL DANGER. Proverbial statements; lengthy illustrations, and warning signs --- designed and given, to awaken us to certain dangers.

We are often informed of wrong choices, and told of the inevitable consequences. And this is the kind of statement we shall study in this article, from Proverbs 14:12 ---> "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." This is repeated later, in Prov. 16:25 - "THERE IS A WAY THAT SEEMS RIGHT TO A MAN, BUT ITS END IS THE WAY OF DEATH."

This is one of the most familiar passages, often quoted from the book of Proverbs. I'm pretty sure that most of you have heard this passage before ... But, HOW OFTEN DO WE TAKE THE TIME TO STUDY IT ... HAVE WE EVER JUST SAT DOWN WITH THIS PASSAGE ... TO STUDY WHAT IT MEANS,
AND THINK OF ALL THE IMPLICATIONS INVOLVED ?? "THERE IS A WAY THAT SEEMS RIGHT TO A MAN, BUT ITS END IS THE WAY OF DEATH."

There are four observations I want to make, pertaining to this verse.

One:
IF I MAY BEGIN ON A VERY SIMPLE LEVEL, MY FIRST POINT IS -- SOME THINGS ARE NOT WHAT THEY SEEM!!

Appearances and first impressions are not always accurate! Two illustrations will help us think about this:

In the hard winter months in Kansas (where I once lived) -- accidents sometimes happen, when small children venture out onto the thin ice of a frozen pond. They cannot see beyond the thin layer of ice. It appears to be a strong surface, and they think it will hold them .... But in the end, there is disaster! Some things are not what they seem.

Another example --- the sparkling, cool, clear water in a mountain stream MAY BE TOXIC AND FATAL. It may look all right, but be poison. It  may appear, to the naked eye to be clear, clean, transparent and pure water ... but actually be full of deadly poison. Some things are not what they seem!

And this bit of truth is something we must bear in mind, as touching morals and religion. Some form of entertainment may seem to be right; it may appear to be right but, upon further investigation, IT TURNS OUT TO BE DETRIMENTAL OR HARMFUL.

A religious practice may have the endorsement and approval of the majority .... all the appearances may lend themselves to acceptance .... but, when you really study the matter and check the Scriptures, IT TURNS OUT TO BE WRONG. Some things are not what they seem. And this applies to doctrines, moral issues, religious institutions, religious personalities and religious ideas or interpretations of Scripture. Some things are not what they seem.

Some pathway may look like a smooth garden-path, winding among flower-beds; it may be attractive, appealing and agreeable. But - in the end, it's the way of death! The way leading to destruction is usually not accompanied by A HUGE NEON SIGN that identifies it as "THE WAY OF DEATH." Some things are not what they seem. SO, LET US NOT BE HASTY OR IMPULSIVE! Let us act like Christians using the Word of God to gain insight and make right decisions! Let us look beyond appearances, as far as we can! Let us study deeper going beyond the first impressions. Let us try to find out, FOR SURE, that which is good. "Test all things; hold fast what is good," (2 Thess. 5:21). "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God ... because many false prophets have gone out into the world," (1 Jno. 4:1). FOR, "there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death."

Two:
MAN IS NOT THE HIGHEST SURVEYOR OF LIFE!

In our society, there are the philosophies of HUMANISM and SUBJECTIVISM and these approaches have in common, ONE MAIN FALLACY ---->
THESE APPROACHES MAKE MAN THE HIGHEST SURVEYOR OF LIFE. Man is set up as the highest surveyor of life; the measure of all things! The problem with this is --- that which seems right to a man, may turn out to be "the way of death!" For, "there is a way that seems right TO A MAN, but its end is the way of death!" Man is not the highest surveyor of life!

Just compare THE HUMAN PERSPECTIVE WITH THE DIVINE PERSPECTIVE.

Man sees the appearance ... God can see beyond the appearances.

Man has a limited knowledge of the past ... God has a perfect view of the past.

Man has limited knowledge of the future ... God has what the Bible calls "foreknowledge!"

Man can be affected by prejudice, selfishness, ulterior motives ... God is perfectly impartial and just in all His judgments.

Man can be blinded by passion and self-will ... Man can be tempted ... THESE THINGS DO NOT HAPPEN TO GOD !! NOW, WHO HAS THE BETTER VIEW OF THINGS? You see, there is A HIGHER JUDGE ... FAR ABOVE MAN !

When we compare THE HUMAN PERSPECTIVE with THE DIVINE PERSPECTIVE ...it becomes clear that THERE IS A VAST DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOD AND MAN. Isa 31:3 says -- "Now the Egyptians are men, and not God!" When the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel, he was instructed to say to the people: "You have not distinguished between the holy and the unholy," (Ezek. 22:26). It must be clear to us --- that MAN IS NOT THE HIGHEST SURVEYOR
OF LIFE. So, Jer. 10:23 says ---> IT IS NOT IN MAN THAT WALKETH, TO DIRECT HIS OWN STEPS. And -- this verse says: "THERE IS A WAY THAT SEEMS RIGHT TO A MAN, BUT ITS END IS THE WAY OF DEATH."

Three:
SINCERITY DOESN'T STOP CONSEQUENCES.

You may be completely convinced that a certain thing is right; you may believe it with all your heart, sincerely having no doubt that this thing is correct ---> BUT IF THIS THING IS A MISTAKE, WITH HORRIBLE CONSEQUENCES .... YOUR SINCERITY AND CERTAINTY WILL NOT STOP THE  CONSEQUENCES. Your opinion that the path is right does not make it right. Your sincerity in that erroneous opinion does not exempt you from the consequences!

You see, there is an undeviating connection between causes and their effects; a connection that isn't broken by one's sincerity! Two illustrations will help us study this point:

1. Suppose you invest your money in some company. You investigate, and do all kinds of research. You talk to people you know; you see that company turn over vast amounts of money, as they do business from day to day. Everything looks good, so you invest your money in the company. Doesn't even seem to be a risk! But rather, a carefully calculated venture, whereby you are bound to make money. You throw in several thousand dollars under THE SINCERE BELIEF that you'll make money. THEN -- several unforeseen factors enter in; some eventualities occur that you couldn't foresee .... and you loose it all! You were sincere! You
really thought this was a sure thing .... but you lost everything you put in. You see - how sincerity doesn't stop consequences !!

2. A man contracts and pays for a ship to be built. He wants top quality material, expert workmanship and HE WANTS A FINISHED PRODUCT WITH ALL THE SAFETY FEATURES KNOWN TO THE INDUSTRY. So - he hires a shipbuilder, and the vessel is delivered in due time. This man BELIEVES  SINCERELY, that this is a sea-worthy vehicle --- so, he loads up his family, and out to sea they go. Not long after he embarks on the journey, a treacherous storm comes in .... And, due to human error unknown to this sailor ... the ship and its' precious cargo begins to sink! QUESTION ---> Will this man's sincerity keep the ship afloat ?? He honestly and sincerely believed the ship was sea-worthy .... but SINCERITY DOESN'T STOP CONSEQUENCES !! "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." And so it is - in morals and religion!

Let's identify a particular way as "pathway X." This could be a moral philosophy, a religious doctrine, a religious system ... or, some practice ... project, relationship. We'll call it, "pathway X." Now -- "PATHWAY X" is wrong; it is sinful in the sight of God, and some terrible consequences are attached to it! You enter into "pathway X." You are not actively seeking your own destruction ... you really think this is the way to go! You are honest and sincere, in your decision to go this way. Question: WILL YOUR SINCERITY EXEMPT YOU FROM THESE CONSEQUENCES ?? Sincerity doesn't stop consequences! Your belief that the path is right DOES NOT MAKE IT RIGHT. Your sincerity in that erroneous belief does not exempt you from the consequences. So, let us take no comfort in the sincerity we may have, with respect to some questionable path we have taken !!

I think there are people --- who are walking down a pathway THEY ARE NOT CERTAIN OF ... When that uncertainty or doubt enters their minds, they immediately dismiss those thoughts ... saying to themselves: "BUT, I'M SINCERE!" My friend -- if you are walking down the wrong path; if you are going in the wrong direction don't be comforted by your sincerity. Because, SINCERITY DOESN'T STOP CONSEQUENCES !! There is a law, that effects follow causes, and sincerity doesn't cancel the law!

"There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." THE FACT THAT IT SEEMS RIGHT DOESN'T CANCEL THE DEATH AT THE
END OF THE PATH !!

Four:
A WRONG CHOICE CAN LEAD TO DEATH !!

This is so, in respect to physical death. In driving an automobile -- a wrong choice can lead to death. Surely we have learned, in regard to drugs and alcohol, A WRONG CHOICE CAN LEAD TO DEATH. Those involved in the sin of homosexuality OUGHT TO BE GETTING THE MESSAGE TOO --- a wrong choice can lead to death.

But, THERE IS ANOTHER KIND OF DEATH ... the Bible speaks of SPIRITUAL DEATH. In Ephesians chapter two -- being "dead in trespasses and sins," and EVENTUALLY the "second death" of fire and brimstone - in Rev. 21:8. That passage says: "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."

Now - look at that verse a moment. In regard to those in this verse, who are called COWARDLY ---> how did they become "cowardly?" THEY CHOSE TO LIVE THAT WAY ... and that choice eventuates in the second death. When we look at Rev. 21:8 -- we need to look at it as A VARIETY OF WRONG CHOICES, WHICH LEAD TO THE SECOND DEATH. "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death."

Conclusion:

I've made four observations, in reference to a familiar passage:

1. Some things are not what they seem.

2. Man is not the highest surveyor of life.

3. Sincerity doesn't stop consequences.

4. A wrong choice can lead to death.

Now, in view of these things --- WHAT OUGHT WE TO DO ?? If some things are not what they seem ... If man is not the highest surveyor of life ... If sincerity doesn't stop consequences ... If a wrong choice can lead to death ... WHAT OUGHT WE TO DO ?? We ought to be sure of every step we take. We may be sincere ... but wrong. So, we need to be sure we are right!! And, if we have a copy of God's Word, and we rightly divide it and apply it, we can!

We cannot depend upon what SEEMS RIGHT TO MAN. We must place our trust in WHAT IS RIGHT, TO GOD. For, "there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." Now -- WHAT PATHWAY ARE YOU FOLLOWING TODAY ?? Are you sure that pathway is right?? There is a way
that is right, and cannot be wrong. There is a pathway, that leads to all the spiritual blessings you need ... A road that leads to heaven.

Jesus said, "I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE. NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER, EXCEPT THROUGH ME," (Jno. 14:6). Examine the pathway you are on now, and make a change if you need to!

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 2.4; April, 1995

 

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