Lessons from Proverbs 3: The Pursuit of Wisdom Brings Security

My son, if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments within you,

Make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding;

For if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding;

If you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures;

Then you will discern the fear of the LORD and discover the knowledge of God.

For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding

He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity

Guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones.

Then you will discern righteousness and justice and equity and every good course.

For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;

Discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you.

Proverbs 2:1-11

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Here, the father reinforces the lesson that he gave previously by exhorting his son to earnestly pursue wisdom. In this statement, it is assumed that the natural disposition of our heart is to love our folly and thus to rebel against God’s wisdom. The son is charged to receive the words of the father and to treasure his commandments (v.1). In other words, the son is charged to internalize the father’s commandments for a definite purpose and to love his words. In the process of internalizing the father’s words, the son must be attentive to wisdom. Because wisdom is the full substance of the parent’s teaching and the skill required to live a godly life, the son must not only passively listen to his father, but he must carry out the command. He must be a “doer of the word, and not a hearer only” (cf. James 1:22)

However, in carrying out the father’s command, the son must understand that internalized wisdom is both a gift and a reward. It is a gift that is received by crying out to the Lord (and to his father) and yet it is something that must be diligently pursued (v. 2). In this statement, the father is challenging the son to truly assess what he values. This does not mean that worth and value are completely subjective ideas, but it does mean that the worth and value of an object are determined by the length for which the owner would go to possess it. We know that men have traveled across continents in search for silver, but who would expend this much effort for wisdom? Jesus repeats the same sentiments in discussing the kingdom of God:

The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and brought. Matthew 13:44-45

After living a long life, the father understands what his son does not – namely that the value of wisdom surpasses any earthly treasure. Moreover, the father also knows that wisdom is indeed a hidden treasure; it cannot be obtained unless one is looking for it and willing to sacrifice for it.

Moreover, no one will find wisdom if they believe wisdom doesn’t have any true value to it. Fools and mockers regard the wisdom of God as foolishness and thus, they love their folly and refuse to turn from it. However, the father clearly states that nothing compares to value of wisdom. When the son internalizing his father’s teaching, he will come to fear and know the LORD (v. 5). According to Jerry Bridges, this fear of the Lord is “that affectionate reverence, by which the child of God bends Himself humbly and carefully to His Father’s law.” Hence, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the reward of obtaining wisdom. By internalizing the father’s teaching, the naive can truly come to have personal intimacy with God through obedience to His word.

The Lord is the fountainhead of all true wisdom, knowledge, and understanding and therefore, those whose conduct does not deviate from the paths of revealed wisdom, piety, and ethics will come to truly know the Lord. Furthermore, the pursuit of wisdom brings true security (v. 7), rather than the false safety from those who walk along the road of folly. As the son begins to grow in wisdom, then he will properly discern righteousness, justice, and equity.

Through wisdom, the naive begin to learn righteousness intuitively. This is a vitally important point because what characteristics the naive of Solomon’s day (as well as our current day) is a lack of moral discernment and intelligence. Many individuals attempt to use fallen human reason as a means to understand righteousness, whereas others use the ever-shifting standards of modern ethics and morality. The promise given to the son in the passage is that the naive will know and understand true righteousness because it has been revealed to them in the Scriptures. Because the naive will learn true righteousness, they will also understand justice. In other words, without knowing and understanding true righteousness, then it is impossible to restore true righteousness after it has been disturbed. Rather than being outraged at every little fad or issue that arises, the wise will have proper discretion and see beyond the surface.

In summary, obtaining true wisdom is not merely an obligation; rather, it is a blessing that guards, shapes, and protects our life.

 

Lessons from Proverbs 1: Do Not Experiment with Their Addiction

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction

And do not forsake your mother’s teaching;

Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head

And ornaments about your neck.

My son, if sinners entice you,

Do not consent.

If they say, “Come with us,

Let us lie in wait for blood,

Let us ambush the innocent without cause;

Let us swallow them alive like Sheol,

Even whole, as those who go down to the pit;

We will find all kinds of precious wealth,

We will fill our houses with spoil;

Throw in your lot with us,

We shall all have one purse,”

My son, do not walk in the way with them.

Keep your feet from their path,

For their feet run to evil

And they hasten to shed blood.

Indeed, it is useless to spread the baited net

In the sight of any bird;

But they lie in wait for their own blood;

They ambush their own lives.

So are the ways of everyone who gains by violence;

It takes away the life of its possessors.

Proverbs 1:8-19

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On the introductory blog to this series, we discussed the need to diligently study the book of Proverbs and how this book is particularly targeted towards young men and women. We now look at the first lesson of the book of Proverbs, which is an exhortation to reject the enticement of sinners.

The Reward of Wisdom

We begin with an exhortation to listen to instruction and to walk in the insight that has been passed down (v. 8). The implication is that there are ancient paths of wisdom that have been traversed by the godly and it is the responsibility of young men and women to walk in this path. Moreover, young men and women ought to build their lives on top of this instruction. In the hierarchy of authority, the parents themselves stand under Solomon’s God-inspired wisdom, and the children under the parents. This mode of instruction is repeat throughout the New Testament in which children are admonished to obey their parents in the LORD (cf. Ephesians 6:1).

Perseverance in this wisdom adorns the son with a wreath on his head and a chain around his neck, which are both symbols of honor and life (v. 9). It’s important to note that instruction and teaching are the adornments themselves; the adornments are not something future and extrinsic to them. The imagery of the wreath signifies victory and vindication over one’s enemies, as well as prestige. Similarly, all children who embrace the teaching of this book wear these teachings just as heroes wore the wreath. The fruit of their lives will be evidence of the reward for embracing these teachings. Furthermore, the imagery of necklace for the throat is not just symbolic of beauty, but it also symbolizes protection and guidance. Similarly, all who embrace the teaching of this book will be protected from the alluring enticement of sinners.

The Way of Greed vs. The Way of Wisdom

The reward of wisdom becomes particularly important when sinners do entice us. In this passage, it likely that the gang being described are the son’s peers who seek to draw him into their corruption. In particular, the gang is offering quick wealth through counterfeit means and a community based on a counterfeit worldview (i.e. they have no fear of the Lord). Although the young and naive tend to lack discernment, the father looks beyond the surface-level appeal of these sinners and exposes the true intent of their heart. In essence, the father is putting words into the sinners’ mouths that both condemn them and expose their enticement. In a similar way, the instruction of older godly saints and the instruction from the Scripture removes the rose-colored glasses of our society’s ethics and exposes the true wickedness of the world we live in. If we ignore this God-inspired wisdom, we will be the ones who will suffer the consequences.

The description of the gang from the father is rather ghastly. First, they seek to ambush the innocent (v.11), which means that they devise a coldly calculated plan against a victim and wait for the victim to fall into the trap. Second, they are in league with Sheol (v. 12). In other words, they love death and have a neurotic urge to plunder the innocent. In short, they are sinners who love their sin and are addicted to their sin. Third, their chief motivation (regardless of what they actually say) stems from covetousness and greed (v. 13-14).

In light of the true heart of this gang, the father exhorts his son: do not yield (v. 10). In other words, do not consider the plans and do not even ponder them in your heart. It is at this time in which God-inspired wisdom should be paraded about (illustrating one’s confidence and trust in God’s wisdom) and should be recited (as means of protection). Whatever enticements they use, the wicked are addicted to their sin. As the Apostle Paul writes, these sinners are walking according to the course of this world and are under the power and influence of Satan (cf. Ephesians 2:2). Because they are captivated by their sin, no one should experiment with their addiction.

Secondly, one must reject the company of these sinners because “bad company corrupts good morals” (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:33). Their company will result in calamity because God is the One who uphold justice and no one will ever escape His justice (whether it occurs in this life or in the life to come). It is well-known the way of transgressions is hard (cf. Proverbs 13:15), but the father also exposes the folly of sinners. The way of sinners is wrong, hard, AND stupid. In attempting the ambush the innocent, these sinners set an ambush for themselves because God will hold their lives into account.

Conclusion

With the true intention and folly of the gang exposed by the father, the wise son (with his father’s help) is now able to construct the trap of words set by the winners. Like every flying creature (v. 17-18), the wise son will take flight, for they spread their net in his full view. The father concludes his lesson by stating that the path of anyone greedy for unjust gain is analogous to these men. The unjust gain clings to the criminal and eventually destroys him. In commenting about this passage, Bruce Waltke states

The houses of these crooks, who think they are above all laws, are mansions in the best part of the city with high walls… The covetous see the world as a place of transferring wealth from the bank account of others into their own. Sinners love wealth and use people; saints love people and use wealth to help others.

In the New Testament, the same warning is given to Christians. Jesus clearly states that one cannot love God and wealth, for the one who loves wealth cannot love God (cf. Matthew 6:24). The apostle Paul repeats and expands upon this by stating that the love of wealth is the root of all kinds of evil, bringing destruction to many (cf. 1 Timothy 6:6-11). Just as the wise son will take flight from the enticement of sinners, Christians are admonished to flee the enticement associated with greed (cf. 1 Timothy 6:17-19). There are many in this world who are addicted to wealth and materialism and will use unjust methods to obtain it. The warning of this passage is clear: do not experiment with their addiction.