"But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn that shines brighter and brighter until the full day"
Solomon reminds us of the nature of wisdom – it keeps getting better in contrast to the way of selfishness which just keeps getting worse. If you give into wisdom and follow its direction, then the choices that you make will lead you in the direction of stronger relationships and a fuller life as time goes on. But if you live for yourself and maximize your pleasure in your teens and twenties, then you will increase the destruction in your life even while you are living at the edge of pleasure.
The path of wisdom takes longer to get going; but it has richer, deeper, and more long-lasting benefits. You never hear someone who has chosen the path of wisdom say, "I wish I had not chosen this path." You do hear people who chose the path of foolishness say, "I wish I had not made the choices that I made." Unfortunately we are creating a culture in which being a pleasure-seeking rebel is promoted.
like the light of dawn
Clearly the idea here is that the path of wisdom starts slowly. The light of dawn is gradual and slowly increasing, Solomon notes that through the slow creep of time the choices that you make to begin the path of wisdom begin to bring increasing amounts of light to your life. It is not instantaneous. It is not necessarily a stark contrast from one moment to the next as you begin to make wise choices instead of foolish ones. Some people expect the heavens to open and everything to change with the first wise, triple-win choice. Solomon reminds us that it is not like that.
The cataclysmic changes come in the way of foolishness. You can pursue pleasure and selfishness and be overwhelmed at the raw feelings of satisfying yourself – it is cataclysmic change. Then if what you have done is illegal, there is the cataclysmic change of being caught. Or if what you did to pursue pleasure was just significantly selfish, there is the cataclysmic change in damage you have done to your relationships.
shines brighter and brighter
Solomon is trying to inject the raw truth that wisdom takes a while to really make a hugely noticeable difference to the broader outlines of your life. Your life does not change dramatically if you follow wisdom; it begins to get incrementally better. You still work where you work; you still have the same relationships that you had. Small changes all over your life begin to show up and eventually the wise choices that you make bring dramatic differences between where you are and where you would have been if you had continued to live foolishly.
There will come a day when wisdom is shining strong in your life, and it is obvious that you are in a completely different place than you were when all you thought about was what you wanted and what would make you feel good. It is that day when you can see the radical difference between the path of wisdom and the path of foolishness.
What is interesting is that many people may not realize all the significant decisions that you made to arrive at the place of full, bright wisdom; all of the choices to honor God; to cause others to win; to lower the maximum win for yourself to a much longer-term win. They may just think that you were lucky. They may believe that you were always a person who acted in this self-effacing way, but you will know the difference. It may even be helpful to think back and project what your life would be like if you had not changed to wise choices and wise acts. Then praise God for the benefits of wisdom.