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Wisdom From Proverbs

A lesson on Wisdom from Proverbs Chapter Two

2001 William R. Cunningham
April 8, 2001

 

Introduction

This lesson will be a study of Proverbs chapter two. We will look into the topic of wisdom and how it relates to discernment, knowledge, understanding, and the fear of the Lord. These will then be applied to the basic Christian lifestyle so that we might live more according to God's way.

Wisdom

What is wisdom?

There are at least three definitions or concepts of wisdom.

  1. Wisdom is considered by many to be simply the art of learning how to succeed in life. This deals with the belief that there is an order to the world in which we live. Therefore, true success and happiness comes from living in accordance with the order of the world. That process is considered wisdom. See Proverbs 22:17-24:22.
  2. Wisdom is considered by some to be a philosophical study of the essence of life. Much of the Books of Job and Ecclesiastes seem to deal with just such existential issues of life (see particularly Job 30:29-31).
  3. It seems that the real essence of wisdom is spiritual since life is more than just living by a set of rules and being rewarded in some physical manner. Undoubtedly, in this sense wisdom comes from God (Proverbs 2:6).

Wisdom can also be defined as:

  1. Understanding of what is true, right, or lasting; insight.
  2. Common sense; good judgment.
  3. The sum of scholarly learning through the ages; knowledge.
  4. Wise teachings of the ancient sages.
  5. Effective use of protocol within a kingdom (Ex. Someone being street smart)

Wisdom deals with many aspects of life? However, we should not think that wisdom is merely a product of the physical and intellectual worlds since life involves more than the material and mental.

What is the fear of the Lord?

We will encounter the phrase, "the fear of the Lord" so I thought we would define it now. The phrase, "the fear of the Lord" is usually thought of as respect for God. However, it is much more than mere respect as in you respecting your boss for example. The fear of the Lord is prompted by a revelation of who He is and who you are in relationship to Him. The fear of the Lord then is a reverent or awesome respect and awe of God. Some form of physical gesture such as kneeling, falling to the ground, or trembling for example usually accompanies the fear of the Lord.

The following are some illustrations of the fear of the Lord.

2 Chronicles 14:14 (NKJV) Then they defeated all the cities around Gerar, for the fear of the Lord came upon them; and they plundered all the cities, for there was exceedingly much spoil in them.

The people in the cities around Gerar experienced the fear of the Lord, which was a dread at the presence of God's people.

2 Chronicles 17:10 (NKJV) And the fear of the Lord fell on all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah, so that they did not make war against Jehoshaphat.

This is actually the same type of situation as the previous scripture. The people were afraid of God so they kept the peace with God's people.

2 Chronicles 19:6 through 2 Chronicles 19:7 (NKJV) and said to the judges, "Take heed to what you are doing, for you do not judge for man but for the Lord, who is with you in the judgment. Now therefore, let the fear of the Lord be upon you; take care and do it, for there is no iniquity with the Lord our God, no partiality, nor taking of bribes."

Here the fear of the Lord is applied to God's people. The awesome reality of who God is and who we are in relationship to Him should affect us in such a way that we would not dare do wrong in His sight (and He sees all things). The awesome revelation of the reality of God should cause us to obey Him. Why then do we sin? I dare say that we really don't know who God is or we are blinded and think that God doesn't see us or we don't consider that He does.

Job 28:28 (NKJV) And to man He said, 'Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, And to depart from evil is understanding.'"

The fear of the Lord is wisdom. We will soon see that wisdom and understanding are closely related and that the fear of the Lord, as we saw from the previous scriptures, is directly related to us attempting to do unrighteous things (true fear of God has a negative affect on the act of sin).

Psalm 34:11 through Psalm 34:15 (NKJV) Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Who is the man who desires life, And loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil, And your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry.

This is a wonderful illustration of what the fear of the Lord is in our practical life. The fear of the Lord can be thought of as shunning evil and doing what is good. This is because the eyes of the Lord are on you.

Psalm 111:10 (NKJV) The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.

We can better understand how this could be true now. It is not the fact that you are afraid of God that brings wisdom. Wisdom comes from God, as we will soon see, so it seems reasonable that wisdom is obtained through God's way. God's way is induced in our lives because of the fear that we have of Him. We turn away from evil because we realize that God is watching.

Psalm 111:10 (NKJV) The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.

This is the same concept as the above scripture. True knowledge comes from God so the fear of the Lord is necessary to obtain that knowledge.

Proverbs 8:13 (NKJV) The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverse mouth I hate.

Again we see the impact that the fear of the Lord has. This is an illustration of what the fear of the Lord will produce in our lives.

Acts 9:31 (NKJV) Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.

Again we see the impact of the fear of the Lord, which produces a turning away from or resistance to commit sin.

See also the following scriptures regarding the fear of the Lord: Proverbs 15:16, 33; 16:6; 19:23; 22:4; 23:17; Isaiah 11:2,3; 33:6.

Scripture Lesson

Now let's begin analyzing Proverbs chapter two starting at verse one.

Proverbs 2:1 through Proverbs 2:5 (NKJV) 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; 5Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, And find the knowledge of God.

First we should be aware of the literary style used here. The instruction given to the son is not passive or a request. It is given as a command in a subtle form that is presented in "if" statements. These instructions have the same force as in Proverbs 1:8 for example.

Now let's consider the phrases and words in the above scripture.

Incline your ear to wisdom. Listen carefully to wisdom. Pay attention to wisdom.

Apply your heart to understanding. A link is established between wisdom and understanding. Set your very being to obtain understanding.

Cry out for discernment. This shows the effort required to obtain wisdom. Wisdom is a treasure indeed but it takes work on our part to get it. This implies that wisdom has to be sought.

Lift your voice for understanding. Again we see the effort required to obtain understanding. We have to search for wisdom and understanding in order to obtain it.

If you seek her as silver. This is an illustration of the value of wisdom and how we should pursue it as one would pursue treasure on this earth such as silver. Wisdom indeed is more valuable than any earthly treasure.

Search for her as hidden treasure. Again we see an illustration of the value of wisdom and understanding. We should search for wisdom as one would search for a treasure that is hidden.

Then you will understand the fear of the Lord. Pursuing wisdom enables us to comprehend the fear of the Lord, i.e., the awesome respect for God. This awesome respect is directly related to living God's Way. So seeking wisdom and obtaining it will allow us to know God and walk according to His Way.

Find the knowledge of God. Pursuing wisdom will also enable us to see that we know God. We can't know God apart from seeking Him and His Way. Knowing God is more than definitions of who He is. It is a relationship that is intimate to the core and established on a real heart desire to know Him personally.

Proverbs 2:6 (NKJV) 6For the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;

God gives wisdom (See also James 1:5). The latter part of the verse is primarily a parallel form of the former part. Knowledge and understanding are a product of wisdom, which comes from God. Therefore, knowledge and understanding come from God as well.

Now God does not have a mouth in the way that we think of the word mouth because God is a spirit. The word mouth is used in the above scripture to denote that God speaks knowledge and understanding or to illustrate that as a teacher can induce understanding and knowledge, so does God give it to us. Wisdom, knowledge and understanding do not come from God as if we took a wisdom pill. First we must seek and we gain wisdom as a process of development. This is consistent with the seed nature of the Kingdom of God.

Proverbs 2:7 through Proverbs 2:9 (NKJV) 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.

Let's look at some of the phrases in this scripture now.

Stores up wisdom for the upright. God has wisdom for the righteous. This also reveals that we must seek what God has for us-in this case it is wisdom. God has wisdom for you but are you looking for it. Note also that God has wisdom to give to the righteous. This is the wisdom that comes from God and should not be mistaken for the wisdom that exists in the world. See the definitions of wisdom given previously.

He is a shield to those who walk uprightly. God shields those that are righteous. The word walk implies a path or mode of life.

Guards the paths of justice. Ensures that justice is done.

Preserves the way of His saints. He protects the paths of His saints. What path are you on such that God would protect it? What goals do you have such that God's protection of the way to those goals would produce the fulfillment of the goal?

Understand righteousness, justice, equity, every good path. The benefits of wisdom are that you will grasp righteousness as opposed to living according to a set of predefined rules. You will also understand justice according to God's Way. The word equity basically means something that is even or spread out and by implication it means something that is right. Wisdom will also enable you to understand the right thing to do.

Proverbs 2:10 through Proverbs 2:11 (NKJV) When wisdom enters your heart, And knowledge is pleasant to your soul, Discretion will preserve you; Understanding will keep you,

Proverbs 2:20 (NKJV) So you may walk in the way of goodness, And keep to the paths of righteousness.

Wisdom at the core of your being will result in your protection from the evil or ungodly way. Examples of this are illustrated in Proverbs 2:12-19. We can be protected by discretion, which comes from the Lord. God protects us with the gift of wisdom. We can resist sin with the gift of wisdom along with the fear of the Lord.

Wisdom, which must be sought after, will enable us to live the godly Way.

Proverbs 2:21 through Proverbs 2:22 (NKJV) For the upright will dwell in the land, And the blameless will remain in it; But the wicked will be cut off from the earth, And the unfaithful will be uprooted from it.

The idea here is the same as the rest of the chapter. The land could be thought of as righteousness to which the paths of righteousness lead. Those who are upright will remain in the place of God or the Kingdom of God. Those who are not righteous will not enter into the Kingdom of God. This could also be an allusion to the last day when there is the great separation.

Land is often used to illustrate a destination as in the Promised Land. Our destination is ultimately the Kingdom of God, which we must seek (See Matthew 6:33).

Summary

Wisdom is something that is more than merely the ability to make the right decision. Making a decision presupposes a certain disposition or mindful state. Our mind could be thought of as a black box that processes the information given to it and then produces a result or an answer. The characteristics of that black box would be the moral, ethical, and spiritual makeup of an individual. It is through those characteristics that information is perceived and processed and a result is produced.

So true wisdom comes from God and is much more than mere mental exercises. True wisdom is discernment and also discernment from a spiritual perspective. True wisdom can only come from knowing God since wisdom comes from God. With wisdom is understanding and knowledge.

Wisdom must be sought after and it requires effort to maintain. It isn't something that you will receive one day and coast the rest of your life with it. It requires work to obtain and work to possess. Again, the key to wisdom is to know God. With wisdom we will be able to discern according to God's Way. Wisdom will protect you from doing evil (or unrighteousness). It will protect you from the traps to sin, such as protection from the adulteress.

We also saw how the fear of the Lord is related to the pursuit of wisdom and how it is an integral part in "doing the right thing." The fear of the Lord is the awesome respect that we have for Him. It is the response obtained from realizing who God is and who you are in relation to Him. The fear of the Lord comes from the revelation of God's might and power and your dependency on Him, and therefore total helplessness without Him.

We also saw how important and valuable wisdom really is to us. It is like a treasure that we should pursue to acquire. Consider the following scripture.

Proverbs 4:7 (NKJV) Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.

Wisdom is the most important thing. Remember that to seek wisdom is to seek God because true wisdom comes from God and is key to knowing God. Therefore, seek the true wisdom from above, which comes from God. Know God and understand God with the wisdom that is perfected in you. Allow the wisdom of God to guide you in your pursuit for a righteous life and protect you from sin. Amen.

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