Proverbs 21:16

Wandering Out of the Way

The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding
shall remain in the congregation of the dead.

Wandering out of the way of understanding…

1. The way of understanding

a. This expression is translated variously:
• The way of wisdom
• The way of good sense
• The path of understanding

b. Understanding: To have insight; wisdom; gain understanding; be prudent; be skilled; i.e., have a capacity for understanding; the ability to discern.

c. Way: This term speaks figuratively of a way of life… a pathway in life… a manner or habit of life…

d. The way of understanding is a pathway of life, or a manner of life that is characterized by wisdom and discernment.

e. Prov. 1:3 –Instruction of wisdom (Same word as understanding.)
• The proverbs were written so young men might receive the instruction of wisdom (understanding)
• In a sense, the purpose of the book of Proverbs is that young men might learn walk in the way of understanding… that the young and inexperienced might make the way of wisdom a habit of life.
• It is also valuable for those of us who are NOT young to be reminded about the importance of walking on the pathway of wisdom, discernment, and prudence.
• That’s good for everybody!

2. Wander:

a. To err; wander aimlessly; go astray; stagger.

b. To be deceived.

c. The term is used of a literally wandering…
• Job 12:25 – To stagger like a drunken man.
• Ex. 23:4 – Wandering like an ox or a donkey.

d. Most often it is used in a figurative sense of wandering off morally or spiritually.
• Prov. 7:25 – Wandering in the way of the strange woman. (This would be a wandering in the moral sense.)
• Isa. 28:7 – Strong drink causes men to wander out of the way (morally).
• Ps. 95:10 – Israel erred (wandered) in heart. This would be a combination of moral and spiritual wandering.
• Ps. 119:110 – Erring from God’s precepts.
» When one begins to wander in heart away from the Lord, there is a corresponding wandering away from His Word.
» One wanders away from reading it… then it degenerates into wandering away from where it is taught or preached…
» Ultimately, a wanderer in heart will attempt to block it out of his mind.
» And it is possible to do all this inward wandering, and still appear to be a faithful servant of the Lord in the local church.
» As believers, we know how to cover it up… how to hide the fact that we are wandering on the inside.
• When we have erred from God’s precepts, and have erred in our hearts, we leave ourselves wide open for MORE wandering… deception… seduction… led astray.
» Prov. 12:26 – Wicked men attempt to seduce others (cause them to wander; deceive).
» II Kings 21:9 – Manasseh caused Israel to wander
» Jer. 50:6 – Their shepherds led them astray (deceived them).
• Ps. 119:176 – To wander like a lost sheep.
» When we have wandered in heart and have wandered away from the Word… it will eventually manifest itself in our outward behavior.
» Isa. 53:6 – All we like sheep have gone astray.
» This is our nature. We have ALL wandered away.
• Ezek. 14:11 – Going astray from God.
» This is the real danger. Any deviation out of the straight and narrow path takes us AWAY from God.
» When we wander away from God, we are always headed in the wrong direction. (Idols here – perhaps the world in our lives… or materialism… or some other idol…)
» That’s why we need a Savior…
→ To initially save the unbeliever from the condemnation of sin.
→ Then as believers, we need the Savior to continue to save us from the power of sin in our daily lives.
→ He is our Good Shepherd… and the Good Shepherd seeks to keep us from wandering outside the fold…

3. Here Solomon acknowledges that it is possible for a young person who was at one time IN the way of understanding (for various reasons) to wander OUT of the way.

a. It is possible for those who seem to be heading in the right direction to be led astray.

b. They can be given false information and be led into error.

c. They can be tempted and seduced and thus, led off course.

d. Or, through neglect, they can just begin to wander aimlessly… and head out of the way of understanding.

e. Wandering is part of our nature.

f. If we are not diligently running the race, keeping our eyes on the Lord Jesus… and our heart filled with His Word… then wandering will occur.

g. The purpose of this proverb is to WARN us about wandering… and its dangers.

4. The danger nature of wandering is that it happens so gradually.

a. It starts off with a few wandering steps… that don’t take you too far away… but headed in the wrong direction.

b. And as time goes by, you find yourself drifting farther and farther away.

c. Before you know it, you are gone… way off track.

d. And the way back may not be so easy… or even visible!

Shall remain in the congregation of the dead

1. Those who wander OUT of the way of wisdom, discernment, understanding, and discretion are turning their back on wisdom.

2. This is similar to the picture Solomon painted in Prov. 1 wherein Lady Wisdom was calling out to young men, and they were headed in the opposite direction. They WOULD not listen.

a. Vs. 20 – Lady Wisdom calls out to them… to walk in HER way. (The way of wisdom and understanding.)

b. Vs. 24 – She called but they refused.

c. Vs. 29 – The reason? They hated knowledge and discretion.

d. Vs. 31 – Therefore, they shall eat the fruit of their OWN WAY. (They left the way of wisdom… and there are consequences.)

e. Vs. 32 – They TURNED AWAY from the way of wisdom. And in that turning is their DEATH. It shall slay them.

f. This is basically what Solomon means in Prov. 21:16 when he states that those who wander from the way of understanding end up in the congregation of the dead.

g. The end of that road is death. Sin leads to death ultimately. Death is the END of that road.

3. The congregation of the dead may well refer to the assembly of spirits in sheol (hades) who died without being saved and went to hell… awaiting the resurrection of their bodies, at which time they will be cast into the Lake of Fire forever… the second death.

a. Solomon may have included in this congregation those who are still alive physically, but are spiritually dead… and are walking on the broad road that leads to eternal destruction.

b. The fool who wanders OUT OF the way of life and righteousness and wisdom… has only one other road to follow: he ends up with this crowd…

c. And the broad road is crowded with those who are spiritually dead… and being deceived and led down the wrong pathway in life… the end of which is spiritual condemnation.

4. However, the proverb serves as a warning about the CONSEQUENCES of wandering out of the straight and narrow way… the way of understanding.

a. There are earthly consequences too.

b. When you depart from the way of life, you leave the company of those who are alive (unto God) and end up in the company of and fellowship with the dead (those who are dead to God and spiritual things).

c. That fellowship can have a numbing effect spiritually.

5. Of course the good news is that there is always a way back for those who wander.

a. Gen. – Abraham wandered down into Egypt for a while.

b. What seemed to be a gain was actually a loss spiritually. (Cattle caused division with Lot; Hagar; etc.)

c. But there was a way back for this wanderer… and that way back began by coming back to the altar… at the very place he left… to start over again…