“Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.” Proverbs 4:15
Proverbs four has three sections that utter the heart cry of a loving father for his son. Listen to the cry of the father as he begins each section with a command to pay attention and receive his instruction, understanding, sayings, or words. In the first section (4:1-9), Solomon tells his son to get wisdom, get understanding, and heed his words; in the second section (4:10-19) Solomon urges his son to hold onto what he has been taught and to stay clear of the evil way; and then in the last section (4:20-27) Solomon admonishes his son to a lifestyle of keeping his heart attitude right. These verses picture the heart cry of our heavenly Father for those who are His children through faith in His Son Jesus Christ.
The verse we are focusing on today falls under the second section, Solomon urging his son to hold onto what he has been taught and to stay clear of the evil way (4:10-19). Solomon wanted his son to not just follow his instruction, but to make it his own. No longer would life be driven by “I have to, because dad said so”, but his heart would be knit with this father’s heart. The son would choose to do right, not because he had to, but because he had chosen to obey his heavenly Father. The Bible is our heavenly Father’s instruction to us. Hopefully, as you and I read our Bibles, we make our heavenly Father’s convictions our own.
Solomon speaks from the heart as he warns his son against the path of the wicked and the way of evil men. In the previous verse, Solomon commanded his son not to enter into the path of the wicked or go in the way of evil men. “Path” and “way” are the activities and lifestyle of the wicked. Solomon urges his son, to avoid and not even approach these sinful lifestyles, to turn from any inclination to go that way, and pass away from any opportunity that comes to partake of that sinful lifestyle.
Again our verse is Proverbs 4:15, “Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.” There are four commands in this verse each dealing with a different dimension of how we may be brought face-to-face with evil.
Avoid it– Be watchful against the path of evil. If we are not, then we will enter into temptation. That is why Jesus said, “Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation” in Matthew 26:41. Keep a vigilant guard against sin. To avoid we must watch against it and pray. Pray or be prey. An application can be made here to the internet. The internet is dangerous. Websites you think would be clean have provocative advertisements. Filtering services, ad blockers, and accountability software are all great ways to help avoid evil. It is also super important to have accountability partners. The latter half of 2 Timothy 2:22 says we are to follow righteousness, faith, charity, and peace with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. James 5:16 says, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” If you are a man, find another like-minded man to keep your accountable. If you are a woman, find another like-minded woman to keep you accountable.
Pass not by it – Do not consider evil. Do not entertain curiosities about evil in thought or action. Do not be like the young, simple man who was void of understanding that went on a stroll near the adulterous woman’s house and then lost his purity (Prov. 7). In our culture today, the internet is easily the adulterous’ house. It is very dangerous.
Turn from it – If you find the opportunity right in front of you to do wrong, stand alone, turn from the wrong immediately. Be like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who courageously stood alone against the king’s command to worship the golden image. They stood out like sore thumbs among the thousands who were bowed down to worship the golden image Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, had set up. They knew the penalty for disobedience was death, but they stood and turned from the evil before them, and God miraculously delivered them (Daniel 3).
Pass away – flee from evil. Be like Joseph, when Potiphar’s wife caught him by the coat and requested sexual favors of him. He turned and ran out of the house leaving his coat in her hand. No doubt, Potiphar who was a high ranking Egyptian official as captain of Pharaoh’s guard had a beautiful wife. Joseph refused to commit this sin against God, against his master Potiphar, against Potiphar’s wife, and against his own body (Genesis 39:1-12, 1 Corinthians 6:18-20). Certain sins we must stand and oppose, but youthful lusts we must flee immediately (2 Timothy 2:22)
May we be firm in our purpose as the Hebrew young men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were to stand up for righteousness. Their passion for righteousness is clearly illustrated in Daniel 3:16-18 “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” Is this our attitude towards sin? Have we made that choice that we will not serve sin, or do we like our sin? Have we ridden our lives of any provision for our flesh that would be a source of failure?
Romans 13:14 says, “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.” We all have weak areas, but it makes no excuse for sin. We must be bold and courageous, because we are victorious through Christ that loved us (Romans 8:37). God knows with what areas of sin we struggle, and He is standing there waiting for us to humbly come to Him for the grace to help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16). Though sometimes doing right seems impossible, God has given us the victory through Christ Jesus. We are complete in Him (Romans 8:37, Colossians 2:10).
How are you guarding yourself against the evil and anti-Christ philosophies that are so pervasive around us? Take to heart the truth of Psalm 84:11 “For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” Remember, “Without Him I can do nothing, with Him I can do all things” (John 15:5, Phil. 4:13). Though doing right may cost you much as a Christian, avoid evil, do not pass by it, turn from it, and pass away. It is always worth it. Romans 12:9 says, “Let love be without dissimulation (hypocrisy). Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” It’s a choice. What choice have you made? More often than not, we cleave to our sin, and don’t want to give it up. We can’t imagine life without getting our own selfish way. Thus we abhor the good way, rather than the evil way. This ought not to be. Choose to love Christ purely by abhorring the evil way and holding tightly to good. Hear the heart cry of the Father, “Stay clear of evil.”