“…walk in the way of understanding.”
First, this piece of the verse exhorts us to “walk”. The way of wisdom and the path of the Christian is not for sluggards who would relax and be doted upon. It is not for those who would not be constant and diligent in their duty of service and in their devotion to their savior. No, this is a constant, diligent, in-it-for-the-long-haul sort of life; a proactive consistency in doing the right thing over and over and over.
In your daily life, when walking from your door to your car, or across campus from one class to another, or during the day in your office building or workplace, how many of the exact same foot and leg movements does it take to get you from point A to point B? In your spiritual life, how many spiritual footsteps does it take to get you from point A to point B? How many times must we make the exact same spiritual motions to “walk” on the path upon which God has set us? How diligent and consistent must we be in prayer, and a DAILY study of the Word, and evangelism, and confession, and worship? If we are to do as Solomon exhorts us, we must do these things as often and as consistently as if they were physical steps in our attempt to get somewhere. We must not only make habits of these things, but to do them so often that it becomes as first nature to us as walking; as the act of picking up one foot and putting it in front of another.
Of course, there are times when walking is physically difficult for us because we are tired or lazy or distracted or etc. In just the same way, there will be times when it is difficult for us to do spiritual things because we are tired, or lazy or etc (not to mention the spiritual warfare one WILL encounter if you walk faithfully). BUT we must keep our eyes on the goal, that we might “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14 ESV)
Secondly, Solomon exhorts us to was IN the way of understanding. He does not encourage us to walk near the way, or next to the way, or within sight of the way, but IN it. We often replace the true meaning of this exhortation with the latter options. This is evident in our questions like “How far is too far?”, which are flawed by their very premise. It should be “Am in in the will of God? Am I surrounded by it? Am I following it faithfully?”, rather than wondering how far we may deviate without sinning. Now, we should recognize that, for some, the path may be wider. The Lord may have widened your path as your heart grows to serve him more faithfully, so that you have freedom to sinlessly accept or do certain things, to the glory of God. HOWEVER, let us not forget that for the brother or sister walking next to you, it may well not be the same! They may see where you are walking and follow, only to find out that their path is not near so wide, and that they have strayed from it and so away from the Lord’s will and into sin. Take care that, in your freedom, you do not lose, lead astray, or cause stumbling for your weaker brothers and sisters. As Spurgeon says, We may, in our conscience, feel the freedom to do a hundred things, yet out of love for our weaker brother we won’t do a single one. (paraphrase)
“…but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be thrown into the depths of the sea.” (Mt 18:6 ESV)
Now, we must remind ourselves here that even the wide path of the Christian is narrow compared to the world’s. Take care to not try and widen it yourself and thus push into sin! Let God and his Word set the boundaries for your heart, and see to it that you don’t go exploring off the path he has set before you!
Thirdly, Solomon says that we should walk in “…the way of understanding.” What is it that we should understand? It is, namely, the ways of the Lord. This is a much repeated exhortation throughout the chapters of Proverbs. In verse 10 of chapter 9, Solomon clarifies this for us:
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
We cannot do ANY of the formentioned things without an intimate knowledge of the Holy One of heaven! We have no legs on which to walk unless we are redeemed by the forgiveness of Christ; no eyes with which to see unless He removes the scales; no light by which to see without His Word; no awareness that there is even a right path without His holy and righteous standard! To know the way of understanding; the path God has set before our feet, we must, we must seek to know Him tomorrow better than we do today, and better the next day than we do tomorrow, and so on and so on. Without knowing Him, you cannot know His will. Far too often we spend all of our energy agonizing over what God wants us to do and where He would have us go, in lieu of spending our energy seeking Him. Instead of seeking to know Him, we seek to know His ways…which isn’t really possible if we don’t know Him. See how this works? Seek HIM!
Therefore, let us seek the Holy One with all of our strength and vigor, that we may be shown the path of understanding , and consistently and constantly walk in it!