The Value of Wisdom | Proverbs 2

My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it 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 in integrity,
guarding the paths of justice
and watching over the way of his saints.
Then you will understand righteousness and justice
and equity, every good path;
for wisdom will come into your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
discretion will watch over you,
understanding will guard you,
delivering you from the way of evil,
from men of perverted speech,
who forsake the paths of uprightness
to walk in the ways of darkness,
who rejoice in doing evil
and delight in the perverseness of evil,
men whose paths are crooked,
and who are devious in their ways.

So you will be delivered from the forbidden woman,
from the adulteress with her smooth words,
who forsakes the companion of her youth
and forgets the covenant of her God;
for her house sinks down to death,
and her paths to the departed; 
one who go to her come back,
nor do they regain the paths of life.

So you will walk in the way of the good
and keep to the paths of the righteous.
For the upright will inhabit the land,
and those with integrity will remain in it,
but the wicked will be cut off from the land,
and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.

Proverbs 2 ESV

 

After hearing the cry of Lady Wisdom, we arrive now at the second paternal speech in Proverbs. In many ways, Solomon repeats here Lady Wisdom’s plea for us to embrace her and become wise. The primary structure of this chapter involves if-then statements, wherein Solomon lists the blessings that will befall us if we seek after wisdom.

SEEK WISDOM // VERSES 1-4

Within these verses, we find three if-statements, which will later be followed by two then-statements (with two more benefits being listed as well).

The first statement (vv. 1-2) encourage us to receive the author’s words of wisdom and treasure them within our hearts. The word receive is significant because it implies so much more than merely hearing. Many will hear God’s wisdom and law, but few will actually listen to them. Few will ever take them to heart, treasuring them. Jesus says as much Himself (Matthew 7:13). If we are to become wise, we must make our ear attentive to it, and we must incline our hearts toward understanding.

The second statement (v. 3) involves actually asking for wisdom. This fits with the promise from James 1:5 that we have already discussed several times. God has guaranteed wisdom for us with only two conditions. First, we must understand our lack of wisdom. Second, we must ask for wisdom.

The third if (v. 4) urges us to seek after wisdom. Just as we would search out silver or hidden treasure, so we should hunt for God’s wise understanding. Comparing to wisdom to treasure is a wonderful analogy because it calls for us to view wisdom as being just as precious as piles of money.

As with any if-then statement, these clauses provide the conditions upon which the rest of the chapter is based. If we do not listen to, ask for, and seek after wisdom, we cannot expect to partake in the benefits that flow from living wisely. The triple repetition and increasing intensity (listen, then ask, then seek) are also significant because they emphasize the supreme importance of the task.

KNOWING GOD // VERSES 5-8

Verses 5 and 9 are the two main then-statements of the chapter, with each followed by verses explaining their importance. Here we learn that if we listen, ask, and seek for wisdom, we will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. Although we may expect Solomon to tell us directly that we will find wisdom, he instead states that we will learn to fear and know God. This is important because the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. True wisdom cannot exist apart from the knowledge and honoring of the LORD.

Verses 6-8 describe the benefits of knowing this God. He is the giver of wisdom. Not only does wisdom not exist apart from Him, but the LORD gives out wisdom to whom He wills. Knowledge, understanding, and wisdom are all gifts from the Creator of all things. He stores them up to give to those who walk in integrity and justice, to His saints.

Verse 7 also states that God is a shield for those who follow integrity, and verse 8 promises that He guards the paths of justice and watches over His saints. God’s protection is easy to believe in until suffering happens. God pledges to be a shield for His people, so why does it seem so often that God is not protecting us? We know that it is foolish to ask why bad things happen to good people because there are no good people, but why does God let so many bad things happen to His people, the ones that are righteous before Him in Christ?

Job, another biblical book of wisdom, is almost entirely devoted to answering this question. We see Job, a righteous man, lose his wealth, his health, and all of his children at the hand of Satan. And it was God who permitted Satan to strike Job! With forty-two chapters, we expect the book to provide answers, but it really just leaves us with another question: Who are we to question God?

But how can we reconcile this promise of protection here with God allowing harm to befall Job? Romans 8:28 assures us that God is working everything for the good of those who love Him. We may not see how that good unfolds, but we can stand firm knowing that if we are God’s people, there is no such thing as senseless suffering. If we truly belong to God, all trials and tribulations are ultimately for our good and His glory. We just don’t always know how.

GODLY LIVING // VERSES 9-15

The second then-statement is that we will understand righteousness, justice, equity, and every good path. We will not only come to know God and His wisdom, but our lives will begin to conform to His way.  Notice the way that wisdom, knowledge, discretion, and understanding are described as guarding us from sin. Because sin is the ultimate form of foolishness, we should not be surprised that wisdom guards us against sin.

But how does wisdom and its many relatives keep us from sin? Living wisely means that we will live with eternity in our minds and heart. Wisdom keeps us from living under our own instant gratification. Wisdom reminds us that sin may be pleasurable for the moment, but its end is death. Wisdom delivers us from evil by unmasking it. It reveals the lie of sin, the emptiness of turning away from God’s ways.

THE ADULTERESS INTRODUCED // VERSES 16-19

The final two stanzas of this chapter provide additional benefits of finding wisdom. The first is expressed here: we will be delivered from the forbidden woman, the adulteress. If wisdom unmasks the deceitfulness of sin, Solomon points out specifically that adultery will also lose its appeal. This is far from the last time that Solomon will address the lure the adulteress, so we will not venture as in depth here. God established sex to be the fun and fruitful privilege between a husband and a wife. This pattern for marriage is revealed in the second chapter of the Bible, and it is broken in chapter four. The sexual revolution is not new to humanity, and the presence of online pornography only continues to propagate the seduction to flee God’s concept of marriage. Although sex without a marriage covenant is appealing for the moment, it is ultimately, like all sin, death.

BLESSING OR CURSE // VERSES 20-22

The chapter closes with a final benefit of wisdom: “you will walk in the way of the good.” Ultimately, wisdom enables us to follow the path of God, which leads to eternal life with Him. Even if the wise suffer in this life and the wicked thrive, eternity will be on the side of the wise. All sin will be dealt with once and for all. For those who walk in wisdom, their sin put to death upon the cross of Christ. But for those who walk in their own way, they will pay for their own sin. They will be cut off from God for all eternity, doomed to the consequences of their foolishness.

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