Proverbs 3:2; Proverbs 9:11; on ver. 28, see on ver. 24; Proverbs 11:7). That religion is a protector to the man of good conscience, while overthrow awaits the ungodly, again brings out an often expressed thought with emphasis (ver. 30; see on ver. 25; Proverbs 3:21). Vers, 31, 32 again contrast the speech of the good and the wicked; the former like a sappy and fruitful tree, the latter destined to oblivion; the former appealing to the sense of beauty and grace, the latter shocking by its deformity.
I. THERE IS A SAMENESS IN GOD. He does not and cannot change. He is invariable substance, unalterable will and law.
II. THERE IS A SAMENESS IN NATURE. The heavens above us, with all their worlds, the great mountains and features of the landscape, the daily sights of sunrise and evening, form and colour. Abraham and Solomon looked upon essentially the same world with ourselves.
III. THERE IS A SAMENESS IN HUMAN NATURE - its passions, strength, and weakness. The same types of character appear and reappear in every age in relatively new forms. And it is proverbial that history repeats itself.
IV. THE ESSENTIAL RELATIONS OF MAN TO GOD MUST BE THE SAME IN EVERY AGE. Hence the teacher's deliverances must constantly recur to the same great points.
V. THAT WHICH VARIES IS THE TRIVIAL OR TRANSIENT ELEMENT; THAT WHICH DOES NOT VARY IS THE SUBLIME AND THE ETERNAL.
VI. EVERY TRUE TEACHER MAY THUS VARY THE FORM OF HIS INSTRUCTION AS MUCH AS HE WILL. Let him see to it that he works in unison with God and nature, experience, the conscience, and leaves a few great impressions firmly fixed in the mind. "Line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little." - J.
The way of the Lord is strength to the upright.
I. PUT CLEARLY THE MEANING AND BEARING OF THESE WORDS. "The way of the Lord" means religion, considered as the way in which God desires a man to walk. But here it means the road in which God walks Himself, the solemn footsteps of God through creation, providence and history. To many modern thinkers the whole drift and tendency of human affairs affords no sign of a person directing these. This ancient teacher had keener ears. But not only does the expression point to the operation of a personal Divine will in human affairs, but it conceives of that operation as one, a uniform and consistent whole. It is "the way." It is a grand unity. A man can know about this way, though it may be hard to understand. It is all on the side of the good; it is all against every form of evil. God's actions do not change, but a man's character determines which aspect of them he sees, and has to experience. The word "strength" is used in a somewhat archaic signification, that of a "stronghold." Hebrew is "fortress." This "way of the Lord" is like a castle for the shelter of the shelterless good man; but a castle is a frowning menace to besiegers or enemies.
II. ILLUSTRATE AND APPLY THE PRINCIPLES TAUGHT HERE.
1. The order of the universe is such that righteousness is life, and sin is death. On the whole, things do work so that goodness is blessedness, and badness is ruin. What modern phraseology calls "laws of nature," the Bible calls "the way of the Lord," and the manner in which these help a man who conforms to them, and hurt or kill him if he does not, is an illustration on a lower level of the principle of our text.
2. In our physical life, as a rule, virtue makes strength, sin brings punishment.
3. In higher regions, on the whole, goodness makes blessedness, and evil brings ruin. All the power of God's universe, and all the tenderness of God's heart, are on the side of the man who does right. All things serve the soul that serves God, and all war against him who wars against his Maker.
4. This will be made more evident in the future. It is possible that the one manifestation of God in a future life may be in substance the same, and yet that it may produce opposite effects upon oppositely disposed souls. People speak of rewards and punishments as if they were given and inflicted by simple Divine volition, and did not stand in any necessary connection with holiness on the one hand, or with sin on the other.
5. The very crown of the ways of God, the work of Christ, and the record of it in the gospel, have most eminently this double aspect. God meant nothing but salvation for the whole world when He sent us this gospel. We may make of that gospel a "stone of stumbling and a rock of offence."
(A. Maclaren, D.D.)
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