18 The path of the righteous is like the morning sun,
shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
19 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know what makes them stumble.
With discipline comes insight, with obedience comes understanding. This is the path of the righteous, the further they journey the more clearly they see things. Often the only way to know how difficult something will be is to do it; the only way to make sense of a command is to obey it. As the righteous mature they also gain insight into their flaws and limitations, experience gives them confidence while self awareness keeps them humble. Consider Paul, who referred to himself as “the least of the apostles,” then later as “less than the least of all the Lord’s people,” and finally as “the worst of sinners.”
The path of righteousness is not one of increasing perfection, as many assume, but rather of increasing dependence on the Lord. The mark of true wisdom is therefore humility, the opposite of self-righteous pride. “Have mercy on me, O God,” prayed the aged king David, “according to your unfailing love.” David did not commend himself before God – and neither should we – instead putting his hope in God’s unfailing love.
This same principle works also in reverse. Wickedness begins with self delusion, progresses to denial and eventually leaves one out of touch with reality. Incapable of acknowledging their own faults, the wicked project them onto others and plot revenge for what they have brought on themselves. They stumble through life feeling sorry for themselves, rejecting opportunity on the basis of difficulty and obedience on the basis of suspicion. What hope do they have to embrace? They are “like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud.”