Grace For The Journey
There are a lot of “wise people” in the world. We tend to think that this ability is granted to just a few elite people. Many think they could never get into such a high and noble group. But . . .
God wants all
Of His faith-children
To be “wise.”
And the Bible tells us
In James 1:5 that wisdom
Is ours for the asking.
In the next few blogs, I want us see what God teaches about wisdom in the Book of Proverbs. We’ll do a short survey of the book, gleaning some of the bigger pictures painted throughout.
I don’t know about you, but I like witty sayings. I like the short little one-liners you read in fortune cookies like, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” And I’ve always enjoyed the sayings of the New York Yankees baseball legend Yogi Berra. Yogi said things like:
- “You can observe a lot by watching.”
- “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
- “It gets late early out there”
- “A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.”
- “It’s deja vu all over again.”
- “Nobody goes to that restaurant anymore, it’s too crowded.”
The book of Proverbs is much more than that. It is very important that we interpret Proverbs correctly.
The Book of Proverbs
Is best understood as
Principles rather than promises.
They are “general truths” about
Life from a divine perspective.
That is exactly what makes the Proverbs in the Bible different from any other proverb – they are literally God’s Word.
God gives them to us
So that we will be wise.
One example that illustrates that Proverbs are best understood as principles, rather than promises is Proverbs 26:4-5. Verse 4 says, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly or you will be like him.” If understood as an unconditional promise, then I should never respond to a fool’s charge or I will become a fool myself. But in the very next verse, we read: “Answer a fool according to his folly or he will think himself wise in his own eyes.”
So which is it? Do I respond to a fool’s charge or not? Well, it depends on the fool. Some fools can be helped and some fools are helpless! Respond to some and walk away from the others. It depends on the fool. So again, proverbs are best understood as principles rather than promises. They are not laws. They are general truths.
King Solomon is the author of most of the proverbs. You remember the story of Solomon in his early days. The book of 2 Chronicles records that fateful evening when Solomon was getting ready to follow David as king of Israel. God appeared to Solomon and said, “Ask! What shall I give you?” How would you have answered that question? Most would probably say, “God, pay off my home. Get me out of debt!” “God, make me healthy. Give me a lot of money.”
In 2 Chronicles 1:8-10, Solomon responds by saying: “You have shown great mercy to David my father, and have made me king in his place. Now, O LORD God, let Your promise to David my father be established, for You have made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude. Now give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can judge this great people of Yours?”
And God replies in 2 Chronicles 1:11-12,“Then God said to Solomon; ‘Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked riches or wealth or honor or the life of your enemies, nor have you asked for long life – but have asked wisdom and knowledge for yourself, that you may judge My people over whom I have made you king – wisdom and knowledge are granted to you; and I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings have had who were before you, nor shall any after you have the like.”
Predictably, the key word in the Book of Proverbs is the word “wisdom.” The word “wisdom” literally means “a knowing of one’s heart through an intimate relationship that leads one to have skill to live as God wants.” Wisdom in the Bible involves a growing, personal relationship with the one true God which leads us to have skill and ability to live in a way that honors and glorifies Him. That is the underlying focus as Solomon talks to his children about how to live in the world.
You see this word used six times in the first seven verses of Chapter One. Proverbs 1:1-7 says, “The proverbs of Solomon, the son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding, to receive the instruction of wisdom, Justice, judgment, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion; a wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel, to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction.
There are three truths I want to identify from these verses today.
1) The Purpose of Proverbs.
Verses one through four introduce the many purposes of Proverbs. The verses really don’t require any explanation or illustration. They are fairly straightforward. We do see the purpose of the book of Proverbs: “The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel To know wisdom and instruction, To perceive the words of understanding, To receive the instruction of wisdom, Justice, judgment, and equity; To give prudence to the simple, To the young man knowledge and discretion.”
That last verse especially helps us in our short survey of this book as we’ll be making our way through select passages. Verse 4 says, “To give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.”
Think of the Book of Proverbs as a wise, older father sitting down with his young son, giving godly advice that helps that son grow into a godly man. It really helps to see Proverbs this way. You see the pattern again in Proverbs 2:1-9, “My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you, So that you incline your ear to wisdom, And apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the LORD, And find 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 uprightly; He guards the paths of justice, And preserves the way of His saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice, Equity and every good path.
Here’s a father passing on wisdom for living to his son. We see it again in Proverbs 3:1-2, “My son, do not forget my law, But let your heart keep my commands; For length of days and long life And peace they will add to you.”
We again in Proverbs 4:1-9, “Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, And give attention to know understanding; For I give you good doctrine: Do not forsake my law. When I was my father’s son, Tender and the only one in the sight of my mother, He also taught me, and said to me: “Let your heart retain my words; Keep my commands, and live. Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you. Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you; She will bring you honor, when you embrace her. She will place on your head an ornament of grace; A crown of glory she will deliver to you.”
If I were to give a succinct paraphrase of these passages it would be this: “My son, seek these things and you will grow in your relationship with God and be able to live as He designed and desires. You will grow to become a “biblically wise person.” That’s the purpose of proverbs.”
2) The Benefit of Proverbs.
Anyone and everyone can benefit from the study of Proverbs. We note that truth in verses 5 and 6: “A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel; to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles.”
The idea here is that
Anyone can benefit
From the study of Proverbs
And will prosper
In attaining true wisdom.
Not just the young person of verse 4, but the wise man of verse 5, too. Even a man or woman who is already considered biblically wise will hear “and increase” learning. And a “man of understanding,” that is, a man who already has some measure of understanding these truths will also, “attain wise counsel.” Solomon is saying, “There’s something here for everyone.” The wise will add to their wisdom and the man or woman of understanding will add to theirs.
The more you
Study the Word of God,
The wiser you become.
And when you become wise,
You will please God
And know something of
Fully living life God’s way.
The point is that no one is too young or too old to learn and benefit from the study of God’s Word. God’s Word is limitless in application.
That the study and love of God’s word brings great benefit is David’s point in Psalm 1:1-3 where he writes: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. And He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.”
Lasting value and a fulfilling life come when we study God’s Word, no matter our age.
3) The Power of Proverbs.
What is that power? Proverbs 1:7 tells us, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
Note that carefully what God is saying here: the fear of “the LORD” is the beginning of knowledge. There is a starting place in finding godly wisdom, and it’s the fear of the Lord. For the Christ follower, it isn’t a fear of being struck dead or the fear of hell, but . . .
A reverential respect and regard for God
That leads to a proper response
To Him and His Word.
We noted earlier that the proverbs are general truths from a divine perspective.
That’s what sets the proverbs in the Bible
Apart from the proverbs of the world.
The proverbs of the Bible
Are couched in the context
Of “the fear of the LORD.”
That’s what gives these biblical proverbs the power in their punch. They come from God. And it is this concept that sets apart the wisdom of God from the wisdom of man.
You can have plenty of worldly wisdom and there’s nothing wrong with that. I think a person ought to get as much formal education as he or she can. God wants us to use our minds. But you can have earned degrees from the most prestigious universities, and post-graduate degrees, and doctoral degrees, and post-doctoral degrees, and still lack the wisdom of God.
I like what Warren Wiersbe said once: “Some men are dying by degrees.” You can have all the education offered from the finest universities and lack Godly wisdom. And that’s because true wisdom begins with “the fear of the LORD.”
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul describes Jesus Christ as the embodiment of wisdom. In Colossians 2:3 he says: “in Him [Jesus] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge! And in verses 8-10 of the same chapter he warns: “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him.”
You are “complete” in Christ Jesus. You may be reading this post as someone who feels “incomplete.” There’s something missing. Listen to what the Word of God says: You are complete in Him, in Jesus Christ. Trust in Him today.
What About You?
A wise man once challenged me to read a chapter of Proverbs as it coincides with the day of the month. Perhaps this plan will bless you as much it has blessed me. Pray right now something like this: “God I want to be wise. Help me to grow in my daily relationship with You and Your Word so that I might live as You want me to.”
This is God Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”