As many of you know, I now do a radio program that is a knock-off version of ProverialThought.com, my other blog. What I do is share thoughts and reflections on a different proverb each week, and some of the content is based on what I’ve already written.
Well, in preparation for this Sunday’s broadcast, I was doing a little study this morning on Proverbs 4:11-12. There’s a lot in these two verses, and I’m looking forward to unpacking them.
The following is what I wrote back in 2012 for ProverbialThought.com (which is also included in the book).
“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.”
A Way Walked
The first part of this passage is fairly simple to understand. In a moment of recollection, Solomon is reminding his children that he has given them good instruction; that he has led them.The best teachers are those who can say, “I have been down that road.” Sure, it is easy to give directions, but how much more valuable is the instruction when the teacher can relay first-hand experience?
As a bus driver, I drive the same route every day. I could draw a map that would be as accurate as one printed. But the difference between my map and an image from a satellite would be my knowledge of hazards unique to the vehicle. Unlike automobiles, 40 foot buses aren’t able to straighten some curves, or go under some bridges. Maps don’t usually show those things; but experience will.
Solomon is telling his children, as God is telling us, that the way ahead will be much easier if we listen to those who have gone before.
A Parental Challange
One interesting thing to note is where Solomon says “I have taught thee…” A deeper look at the word taught will show that it also means “to throw, to shoot.” Let this be a reminder – children are ours for a purpose.
In Psalm 127:5 David refers to children as “arrows” in a quiver. Arrows are worthless unless they are used. Arrows are worthless unless they are sharp, straight, and designed for a specific target. Children are to be considered tools with a mission, and we are to train them and keep them until we launch them toward their goals.
Straight, or Not?
Another interesting thing to consider is the word “straightened.” At first glance, we might consider the word here to mean the same as implied in the phrases “straight and narrow,” or “straight as an arrow.” Why, then, does Solomon say “thy steps shall not be straightened?” Does he want them to encounter curves along the way?
Actually, the word here is yatsar (Strong’s H3334), which can mean “to bind, be distressed, be in distress, be cramped, be narrow.” In reality, Solomon is saying that if one follows wise instruction, the way ahead will be less stressful, less binding, less depressing.
Thinking about this, I am immediately reminded of a particular place on the path through Rock City (a tourist attraction near Chattanooga, TN). It is called “fat man’s squeeze.” Seriously, if you are over 250 pounds, you might not make it through this narrow passage between two huge walls of rock. Yet, if you follow the signs along the way, you will be led to a different way around this “squeeze.”
If we would just follow wise counsel, the chances are much better that we will reach our goals, instead of stumbling or getting stuck along the way.