“The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.”
Proverbs 4:18 (NLT)
The Bible isn’t just a nonfiction instruction manual. It is a living book filled with beautiful poetry that touches our emotions and enriches our lives. Even though we usually think of Psalms as the poetic book in the Bible, the book of Proverbs contains poetry as well. Tucked among all those couplets that compare how we should live versus how we shouldn’t live are magnificent lyrical verses such as Proverbs 4:18.
This verse is a simile (a comparison that uses like or as) equating the righteous path with the journey of the rising sun into the sky. The Hebrew word, orach, for way denotes the idea of a well-trodden path. This means we can trust the path taken by those wiser than us. They have proven the truth and goodness of this path, which Solomon tells us is like “the first gleam of dawn.”
Have you ever seen a sunrise? Admittedly, I don’t witness that early event often. In fact, I think the last time I saw the sun rise could have been twenty years ago when I went with my dear friend Janice to a sunrise Easter service in Decatur! What I do remember, though, is the brilliance of the sunrise as it slowly broke through the quiet darkness of early morning and then quickly rose into the sky brightening us into the new day.
While dawn often symbolizes a beginning and a new start, which can also imply a second chance, I think Solomon’s comparison in Proverbs 4:18 actually deals with the idea of light and it’s gradual increase from a glimmer to its full brightness. The idea of light versus darkness is a theme that runs throughout the Bible, and in Proverbs light is associated with righteousness while darkness is equated with wickedness (Proverbs 4:19). Light and darkness also represent truth and lies.
When we walk the path of righteousness (follow God’s ways), He sheds light to guide our way throughout the day, as we need it. If we look at this verse as the course of our lives, rather than as just one day, the gleam of dawn could represent the moment of our salvation up to the day we see Christ (“full light of day”). What an exciting thought! Visions of God in heaven are always described as bright (Ezekiel 1:27-28, Revelation 1:14-16). What an amazing sight that will be!
Light is also a symbol of guidance. Psalm 119:105 tells us that God’s word is like a light on our path. And Jesus tells us he is “the light of the world” (John 8:12). Jesus is the “way, the truth and the life” and He is the only way to the Father (John 14:6), and His way, a way guided by light (truth and righteousness), is best.
Not only does the path of righteousness shine like the dawn, but also our righteous acts will shine as well. Solomon’s father, David, tells us in Psalm 37:6, “He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.” In his last words, David, gives a similar sentiment, “…When one rules over men in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness of rain that brings grass from the earth” (2 Samuel 23:3-4).
In Henry V, Shakespeare penned, “God shall be my hope, my stay, my guide and lantern to my feet.” So, follow God’s lantern – his word – and travel the well-trodden path of the righteous. Enjoy the light every day and be happy to say, “Here comes the sun!”