“The highway of the upright is to depart from evil;
He who watches his way preserves his life.”
Proverbs has much to say about roads, paths, and ways. One thing that Proverbs makes clear is that roads are linked to destinations. To embark down a road is to embark toward a destination and perhaps a destiny. The decision to embark down a road should therefore be made carefully and prayerfully.
God’s Word instructs us that certain roads should be avoided altogether. We read of a father’s instructions to his sons in Proverbs 4:14-15, “Do not enter the path of the wicked, And do not proceed in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not pass by it; Turn away from it and pass on.”
Thus we see that some roads are clearly marked, “Do Not Enter,” and should be absolutely avoided. Other roads however, are not as clearly marked. They seem entirely safe and inviting to the unsuspecting traveler but lead to a dangerous destination. Proverbs 14:12 (and 16:25) speaks of such roads, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”
Proverbs 16:17 speaks of “the highway of the upright.” In this verse we learn that the upright (or the righteous) man sets himself upon a course that avoids or departs from evil. The righteous man understands that it is not only important to know which road to travel, but which roads to avoid as well.
The righteous man is wise and discerning enough to know that there are certain paths or courses that will bring him dangerously close to evil or perhaps into the very heart of evil. Some of those paths are clearly marked “Do Not Enter.” Others are unmarked, but littered with the wreckage of human lives. These paths are to be avoided.
Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “abstain from every form (appearance) of evil” (I Thessalonians 5:22). The Psalmist wrote, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers” (Psalm 1:1).
Proverbs 16:17 states that the upright man is to avoid or depart from evil. This leaves no room for tolerance or even for curiosity. The righteous man has no business taking leisurely strolls down dangerous paths. Such a departure from the main road can be rather costly.
Proverbs 21:16 warns, “A man who strays from the path of understanding comes to rest in the company of the dead.” That is why Proverbs 16:17 declares, “He who watches his way preserves his life.”
May we learn the importance of staying on the Highway of Holiness (see Isaiah 35:8). May we learn to obey the signs along the way and to steer clear from unmarked trails. Our destination, destiny, and life depends upon the road we choose to travel and how well we heed the signs along the way.