Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 21:16
"A man who wanders from the way of understanding will rest in the assembly of the dead"
This proverb is trying to warn people of ultimate consequences of their actions. It states the obvious in a unique way to get people to pay attention to what may have been pushed back to the background of their mind.
a man who wanders
This hypothetical man who strays from the way of God makes choices to move outside of God's boundaries. The word wanderis the Hebrew word tayahwhich is the same word used in the famous passage in Isaiah 53: All we like sheep have gone astray, each one of us has turned aside to his own way.
When a man or woman makes choices to move outside of God's structure of safety, it always results in the separation from joy.
from the way of understanding
This is a clear reference to the path of righteousness that God has given us in the moral law – the way that brings connection and hope and proper treatment of each other. In our culture in the West, we have wandered so far into selfishness believing that if every individual is satisfied completely with all their desires, then the whole group will be satisfied. But that is patent nonsense. If everyone is allowed to pursue their own selfish desires, then many will be victimized and afflicted. God has told us that when we try and build a society that lives outside of the boundaries of the Ten Commandments, the culture will begin to break down because of the victimization of the vulnerable and the innocent.
The moral law acts as a template that fits over our lives to guide us wherever we are. It bids us to ask the question: Is this action that you are contemplating going to move you outside of the these boundaries? Wherever you go you can ask those questions. Understand that to go outside these boundaries damages relationships.
I heard a secular talk show host offhandedly remark: "You know the times that I have been the happiest is when I am the most connected to someone that matters to me." It is relationships that make life wonderful. It is the boundaries of God that keep us from inadvertently or purposely wandering into a place which will damage our relationships.
will rest in the assembly of the dead
The statement is a clear reference to those who go outside of God's moral boundaries and bring death to themselves. Their selfishness gains them a more thorough introduction into the life of the dead. The thing about people – when they want to do something wicked or wrong – is that they rarely think about the consequences of their behavior. It is always about what they want at that instant. Wickedness and immoral behavior is almost always impulsive. “I want that now.” It is this impulsive tendency that this proverb is trying to stop. If this proverb is memorized, then the Holy Spirit can bring it back to mind before one makes the lemming's choice to impulsively do the immoral thing.
This proverb is interesting because the proverb uses the word rest. The word rest clearly means the place of residence for there is not rest for the wicked. There is no rest for those who, being immoral, die. Jesus speaks in Luke 16 of the wicked, selfish rich man who dies and goes to Sheol or the place of the departed spirits. He is in the lower compartments of this holding tank. Thrown into an economy of torment because of his selfishness, pride, and lack of compassion, he does not know rest. The poor man – Lazarus, because he was righteous and had faith in God – ends up in the upper compartment in Abraham's bosom, a place of true rest. Too often we do not allow the ultimate consequences of our choices to inform our choices. This proverb is trying to cause us to reconsider that.