"Guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones"
The word guarding is the Hebrew word nasar, which is to watch, guard, keep, to keep in view. Solomon is trying to drill into the young student that there are some lifestyles that God pays special attention to with the intent of blessing. He intimately knows everyone’s pathway, but the pathway of the godly, wise ruler gains His special attention for blessing and preservation. There is an element of protection and smoothing out of the way in this idea, and it shows up in Proverbs 3 when he says, “in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight or smooth.”
Solomon is saying: Get into this lifestyle. Problems will come to everyone; but God protects, guards, and straightens the life of those who are on the right pathway. Has God been straightening your pathway? Has He protected you from some of the stuff that could have come your way? Are you in the paths of justice?
Notice the word path is the word orah which is way or path. It is used to describe a lifestyle or way of living. There are different ways of living and the one which God guards is the one of integrity and righteous leadership
The word justice is the word misphat, which is judgment, justice, ordinance. It comes from the root Hebrew verb sapat which means to rule or govern and includes all three functions of what we call government and leadership: legislative, executive, and judicial functions. One could think of this as the right decision. God guards and protects those who lead, rule, and make the right decision. And the right decision has its own pathway. In fact, if one consistently makes the right decisions, it strings together a pathway through life that is the one that God protects.
The word godly ones is the Hebrew word hasid which means holy one or saint. It comes from the word hesed, which is the word lovingkindness, mercy, love. The idea is that those who love God deeply are those who are called His holy ones. They keep His commandments more faithfully than others because they love Him more. Even as Jesus says in the New Testament, “If you love me, keep my commandments." We are not used to this type of thinking in terms of love. We see love as a feeling and want to respond with a feeling. To be a holy one or godly person is to live within God's Ten Commandments structure out of the desire to please God. God guards the life of those people.
Remember that Solomon is trying to teach people how to begin living wisely. He is saying that there is a particular lifestyle that He has watched God protect and guard more than any other. He has watched the person who is living this lifestyle be protected from levels of trouble and difficulty that others do not experience. This lifestyle is one of godliness and justice. Therefore Solomon wants to motivate us to abandon whatever lifestyle that we have adopted that is not that one.
Throughout the Proverbs God is telling us through the teaching of Solomon, why would you want to live in a way that invites trouble and difficulty when you can have God paying special attention so that He can bless you.
Think through your life this week or this month. Are there any parts or decisions that require you to live outside of God's Ten Commandments of love? Don't do it. Stay within the pathways that God is guarding.