The way of the LORD is strength to the upright: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity.
The words "shall be" in the second clause are supplementary and unnecessary. They destroy the completeness of the antithesis between the two halves of the verse. It is the same way which is strength to one man and ruin to another, and the moral nature of the man determines which it shall be to him.
I. PUT CLEARLY THE MEANING AND BEARING OF THESE WORDS. "The way of the Lord" means religion, considered as the way in which God desires a man to walk. But here it means the road in which God walks Himself, the solemn footsteps of God through creation, providence and history. To many modern thinkers the whole drift and tendency of human affairs affords no sign of a person directing these. This ancient teacher had keener ears. But not only does the expression point to the operation of a personal Divine will in human affairs, but it conceives of that operation as one, a uniform and consistent whole. It is "the way." It is a grand unity. A man can know about this way, though it may be hard to understand. It is all on the side of the good; it is all against every form of evil. God's actions do not change, but a man's character determines which aspect of them he sees, and has to experience. The word "strength" is used in a somewhat archaic signification, that of a "stronghold." Hebrew is "fortress." This "way of the Lord" is like a castle for the shelter of the shelterless good man; but a castle is a frowning menace to besiegers or enemies.
II. ILLUSTRATE AND APPLY THE PRINCIPLES TAUGHT HERE.
1. The order of the universe is such that righteousness is life, and sin is death. On the whole, things do work so that goodness is blessedness, and badness is ruin. What modern phraseology calls "laws of nature," the Bible calls "the way of the Lord," and the manner in which these help a man who conforms to them, and hurt or kill him if he does not, is an illustration on a lower level of the principle of our text.
2. In our physical life, as a rule, virtue makes strength, sin brings punishment.
3. In higher regions, on the whole, goodness makes blessedness, and evil brings ruin. All the power of God's universe, and all the tenderness of God's heart, are on the side of the man who does right. All things serve the soul that serves God, and all war against him who wars against his Maker.
4. This will be made more evident in the future. It is possible that the one manifestation of God in a future life may be in substance the same, and yet that it may produce opposite effects upon oppositely disposed souls. People speak of rewards and punishments as if they were given and inflicted by simple Divine volition, and did not stand in any necessary connection with holiness on the one hand, or with sin on the other.
5. The very crown of the ways of God, the work of Christ, and the record of it in the gospel, have most eminently this double aspect. God meant nothing but salvation for the whole world when He sent us this gospel. We may make of that gospel a "stone of stumbling and a rock of offence."
(A. Maclaren, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The way of the LORD is strength to the upright: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity.