Proverbs 16:17

The Highway of the Upright

17a The highway of the upright is to depart from evil:

A. The Highway of the Upright

1. Highway defined:

a. Strong’s: raised public road.

b. Dict. of Bib. Lang.: an open-country thoroughfare; maintained roadway.

c. Zodhiates notes that the term “is used in a figurative sense to describe the course of the stars (Judg. 5:20); the road of life lived by the righteous.”

2. Solomon is using the term in a figurative sense.

a. It is different term than the normal word for “way” or “road.”

b. This term implies a road, but also the maintenance needed to keep it functioning.

c. Our lives are like roads… and to keep our lives headed in the right direction, it requires a lot of maintenance and upkeep.
→ As frost heaves can cause a road to become bumpy;
→ Excessive rains can wash a road away completely.
→ Large rocks can fall from a nearby cliff and land on the road…
→ Ordinary use results in potholes that need to be constantly filled in.

d. Maintaining a highway is a lot of work. We see highway crews working on one road or another every day.

e. Today, if the highway is NOT maintained properly, it could result in many accidents… a loss of property and even life.

f. Maintaining a highway is a good way to illustrate the lives of believers.

3. You can’t just build a highway and forget about it. Left to itself it will deteriorate.

a. Our lives are like that too.

b. It is not enough to be saved on the right road.

c. The roads of our spiritual lives need to be maintained.

d. Our spiritual lives need to be continually maintained too… or they will deteriorate like the highway.

e. Left to ourselves, apart from continual upkeep, apathy will take over… zeal will cool down… mediocre complacency will settle in… various sin will enter our lives… and unless constantly confessed and forsaken, they will take over…

f. When that is the case, that highway becomes an accident waiting to happen.

g. It’s not that we set out to sin or wander away… or purposed in our hearts to become lazy and neglectful of the highway… but just as ordinary, everyday use of a highway over time causes deterioration, so too, everyday life wears away at us.

h. Unless we are careful to maintain the highway of our lives, ruin could be around the corner…

i. If you are buzzing along a highway—even going the speed limit—and hit a section of road that was washed out… or a sink hole… or some other problem that was neglected—it can result in serious harm.

j. The same is true in our spiritual lives. We can be buzzing along as normal… living our lives… but if we have been negligent in reading the Word, confessing sin, getting the fellowship we need, maintaining our highway (keep your heart with all diligence) etc… we might be headed for serious harm spiritually.

k. We didn’t plan it. We never intended for it to happen. But because of negligence, it DID happen.

4. Roads normally don’t deteriorate overnight.

a. They CAN with a hurricane or a flood.

b. But most road deterioration occurs gradually… imperceptibly… over time… through normal, every day use.

c. That’s what happens in a cursed earth. Things tend to go downhill… deteriorate… weaken… crumble…

d. No matter how well that highway was constructed, over time, it WILL deteriorate.

B. Departing from Evil

1. That is a danger sign in the Christian life. We might THINK that we are strong… and that deterioration will never happen in MY spiritual life.

a. I Cor. 10:12 – Let him that THINKETH he standeth take heed lest he fall.

b. PRIDE will cause us to think that “we won’t fall.” That’s what happens to the other guy… (Cf. Prov. 16:18)

c. Prov. 3:7 – Don’t think you’re so smart… don’t think that nothing will ever happen to you!
• Fear God!
• We don’t fear God in the sense that we shy away from Him… as we might fear a deadly lion.
• We fear God in the sense of reverence before Him which arises out an acute awareness of our inclination to sin and that should cause us to fear displeasing Him.
• It is an awareness of His holiness and power… and an awareness of our puniness… and sinfulness.
• A healthy, balanced fear of God is GOOD for our spiritual lives.
• A healthy and balanced fear of what might happen on the highway is good too. A healthy fear of the possibility of a serious accident keeps us alert while driving… keeps us focused on the road… and that keeps us safe.
• That healthy fear of violating the laws of physics will help to PREVENT us from real calamity and tragedy on the highway.
• A healthy fear of violating the law of God will prevent us from a spiritual calamity on the highway of life too.
• It will cause us to depart from evil… stay away from anything that could result in evil… spiritual disaster.

2. The UPRIGHT man who maintains his highway of life will depart from ANYTHING that might lead to disaster.

a. He will MAINTAIN his highway by departing from evil.

b. Evil = anything bad; distress; misery; injury; calamity.

c. DEPART = to turn away; to keep far away; to take away; to remove; to be removed; to make depart. The basic root means to “take away.”

d. The upright man will maintain his highway by removing all stumblingblocks… because he fears the evil or injury that they can cause.

e. He will fix the potholes… patch the holes…

f. He might even build guard rails… to prevent him from rolling over the edge.

g. Because he is an upright man… (straight; correct) he does things RIGHT. He wants to PREVENT a serious accident.

h. If he is aware of something dangerous in his pathway, he will depart from it—remove it! Get rid of it!

i. If the Lord brings to mind things that are dangerous in our spiritual lives, we would do well to get rid of it!

j. It may not be sinful in itself… but if it is likely to cause us to swerve off the road—get rid of it!

17b He that keepeth his way preserveth his soul.

1. He that keepeth his way:

a. Guard; watch; watch over.

b. Zodhiates: The word refers to people’s maintaining things entrusted to them, especially to keeping the truths of God in both actions and mind.

c. The one who keeps his way is the upright man who maintains his highway… the highway of his life.

2. Preserveth his soul.

a. Preserveth:
• To keep; guard.
• Watch, i.e., limit access and movement of persons or objects in and out of an area, implying protection to or from the object being guarded.
• Used in Gen. 3:24 – of the cherubim “keeping” the way of the tree of life. (protecting that way… guards)

b. Soul:
• Life.
• The man himself; self; person or individual; seat of the appetites; seat of emotions and passions; activity of mind.
• It speaks of the whole inner man… the inner life… thoughts, emotions, passions… drives.

c. Thus, Solomon states here that in a sense, WE are the guardians of our own souls.
• We are to maintain the highways of our own lives.
• We are responsible to remove anything that might be dangerous… anything that could cause calamity.
• We are responsible for our own walk… responsible to maintain the highway…
• We are to GUARD that way… that highway of life.
• Keep your eyes and ears open… keep the way clear.
• Vigilance on our part may even save our lives!
• Be careful—our adversary the devil walks about, seeking whom he may devour.
• Prov.4:23 – Same word for keep – Our hearts need constant maintenance… constant upkeep… KEEP your heart with all diligence.
• Prov. 2:10-13 – One of the ways we maintain our highway is through wisdom and knowledge in God’s Word. It shall KEEP thee (same word) from calamity.
• To remove stumblingblocks and to fill pot holes one must first have KNOWLEDGE… information as to where they are… or where they are likely to appear.
• KNOWING ahead of time and ACTING on that knowledge can prevent many calamities along this highway of life.
• If we keep our way, God will keep us and hold us up along that way…