The Blessing of Wisdom | 3:13-35

Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,
and the one who gets understanding,
for the gain from her is better than gain from silver
and her profit better than gold.
She is more precious than jewels,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
those who hold her fast are called blessed.

The Lord by wisdom founded the earth;
by understanding he established the heavens;
by his knowledge the deeps broke open,
and the clouds drop down the dew.

My son, do not lose sight of these—
keep sound wisdom and discretion,
and they will be life for your soul
and adornment for your neck.
Then you will walk on your way securely,
land your foot will not stumble.
If you lie down, you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
Do not be afraid of sudden terror
or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes,
for the Lord will be your confidence
and will keep your foot from being caught.
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to do it.

Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again,
tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.
Do not plan evil against your neighbor,
who dwells trustingly beside you.
Do not contend with a man for no reason,
when he has done you no harm.
Do not envy a man of violence
and do not choose any of his ways,
for the devious person is an abomination to the Lord,
but the upright are in his confidence.
The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked,
but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous.
Toward the scorners he is scornful,
but to the humble he gives favor.
The wise will inherit honor,
but fools get disgrace.

Proverbs 3:13-35 ESV

 

Here we will view the blessings that wisdom has for those who find her. In these verses of Proverbs, wisdom is described as being better than gold, jewels, or anything else we could ever desire. This is because God built wisdom into the foundations of the earth, so that when we find wisdom, we walk away from sin and to-wards the LORD.

A BEATITUDE OF WISDOM // VERSES 13-18

This small poem is a beatitude, a statement of blessing. Most famously, Jesus began His Sermon on the Mount by pronouncing a few of these, but they are certainly not exclusive to the New Testament. Psalm 1 opens the Psalter as a beatitude.

But if a beatitude is a statement of blessing, we must then ask the question: What does it mean to be blessed? Today, it seems as though blessed typically means little more than lucky or fortunate. Biblically, however, being blessed means have the grace (or unmerited favor) of God. The blessing of God involves giving to us what we do not deserve (grace) and withholding from us the punishment that we do deserve (mercy). Blessings, therefore, are not tied to the circumstances of life. Being blessed is not a statement of circumstance; rather, it is a statement of fact that transcends all of life’s circumstances. Thus, even in the midst of the direst suffering, the Christian can boldly proclaim that he is blessed!

As we continue to study this text, we must keep in mind that this passage revolves around how we are blessed for finding and obtaining wisdom. Notice then what Solomon says about wisdom. He describes her as better than silver, gold, and jewels. She freely gives long life and peace. “Nothing you desire can compare to her” (v. 15). This statement rightfully sums this entire passage. There is nothing that we can desire that compares to finding God’s wisdom, which of course can only be found by finding God Himself. Finding wisdom means finding God.

Do you truly believe that there is nothing that compares to finding wisdom? Nothing is a gigantic word. It means that there is no monetary amount that could sway us from pursuing wisdom. There is no gift pleasant enough to be given. There is no happiness to be found that compares. This idea is similar to the question commonly posed regarding heaven. The question asks whether we would choose to live in a heaven complete with endless pleasures, infinite possibilities, no pain or suffering, but also no God, or would we choose to live in the lowest hell, as long as God never left us? If we are honest, we would typically choose the first. To desire God above anything that this world could give us takes a supernatural working of the Holy Spirit within us. We cannot desire God in this way on our own. We must pray daily for God to give us a delight and a passion for Him and His glory.

It’s good to have the things money can buy, provided you don’t lose the things money can’t buy. What good is an expensive house if there’s no happy home within it? Happiness, pleasantness, and peace aren’t the guaranteed by-products of financial success, but they are guaranteed to the person who lives by God’s wisdom. Wisdom becomes a ‘tree of life’ to the believer who takes hold of her, and this is a foretaste of heaven (Rev. 22:1-2). (Wiesbe)

WISDOM, CREATION, & JESUS // VERSES 19-20

Here we learn that God used wisdom to create the world. What exactly does this mean? I think it means that wisdom is etched into the building blocks of creation. Because wisdom is the skill of living life well, wise living generally results in our life being better than if we lived foolishly. Wisdom works out in life because God ingrained wisdom into the universe. When we live by wisdom, we go with the grain of creation. Going against wisdom is, therefore, like attempting to swim upstream. Can it be done? Yes, but typically with great difficulty. God has ingrained wisdom into the foundation of the world, so when we trust in the LORD, not our own understanding, submitting to Him, we swim downstream. We live with the grain of creation. This does not mean that things will always go well. To keep with the river analogy, swimming downstream doesn’t mean that we won’t kick a rock or be bitten by a snake or get tangled in tree limbs. But generally it is much easier (and wiser) to swim downstream rather than upstream. This is how wisdom operates.

It is also important to take a moment to address the theological nature of these two verses. Many people see in these verses a parallel between Solomon’s description of wisdom and how Jesus’ role in creation is described in John 1:3 and Hebrews 1:2. Take a moment to read through these two verses and refresh yourself with their portrayal of Christ.

John 1:3 | All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Hebrews 1:2 | But in these last days he has spoken to us by his son, whom he anointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

Jesus was the one through whom the Father created the world. The terminology between our present text and these two verses is quite similar. But does this mean that Jesus is the personification of wisdom in Proverbs? Is Lady Wisdom, in effect, Jesus? I would answer, no. Throughout church history, many theologians have fell on both sides of this issue, so I do not believe either answer is a matter of heresy. But I do believe that Jesus should not be completely equated with the personification of wisdom in Proverbs. The danger comes, I believe, from potentially equating wisdom to Jesus instead of simply Jesus to wisdom. Or we could say it like this: Jesus is wisdom, but wisdom is not Jesus. Jesus is certainly the perfect embodiment of wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:23-24), but wisdom itself is not Jesus. Similarly, we know that God is love, but love is not God. God perfectly embodies love and He give definition to what love is, but love is not to be equated with being God. Love is only a fragment of God’s character, and wisdom is only one attribute of Jesus. So the danger of equating wisdom to Jesus is that wisdom is not the fullness of Christ’s person.

Let us never fall into the trap of reading Jesus into an Old Testament text before we learn what the text originally meant. Jesus perfectly fulfills everything in the Old Testament, but in order to properly understand those fulfillments, we must first know what they meant. Therefore, I think the safest interpretation of these verses is that God embedded wisdom (one of His many attributes) in the fabric of created order, so that if we live by wisdom, life will generally go well for us because we are submitting to God’s design. In light of the gospel, we now look to Jesus as the perfect embodiment of what it means to live a life of godly and biblical wisdom.

THE PEACE OF WISDOM // VERSES 21-26

These verses describe the blessing of peace that flows from possessing wisdom. Verse 23 speaks about God keeping us on the right path, which we discussed last week and will discuss again in two weeks, so I will not go into more detail here. Next, blessing that we find is that wisdom drives out our fear and inspires confidence in the LORD. One of the most frequent commands throughout the Bible is do not fear. That command is so prevalent because we need it. We tend to be filled with anxiety, worry, and fear. To truly not fear, we must understand the confidence of the LORD. The only reason we have for not being anxious is because we trust in God. Having our confidence in the LORD is the only way that we can drive out our anxieties and fears. Psalm 3:5-6 describe this notion by saying, “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.” Even with enemies surrounding us, we can rest knowing that God is our help and aid. 1 John 4:16-18 goes even further for explaining how we are to kill our fear:

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love cast out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

Notice perfect love casts out fear by removing punishment. How does punishment have to do with the general sufferings of the world? I believe it goes back to the discipline of the LORD as we discussed it last week. Because we know that Christ absorbed all punishment for our sins on the cross, we know that God is for us, not against. We never have to worry about God being against. We know that God only has love, grace, and mercy for us. Looking to the cross, we can hold firm to the truth of Romans 8:28. The gospel reveals God’s marvelous love for us, and that love dispels our fears and anxieties, granting us the peace of God that we find here in Proverbs.

CLOSING WARNINGS // VERSES 27-35

Here we have five commands for how to live in wisdom, each beginning with “do not.” They start simply enough and gradually increase in intensity. Verse 27 tells us to not withhold good from those to whom it is owed. This is probably specifically speaking to the context of debt. If you have the money you owe to someone, give it to them. Be honest and pay when you can.

Then we are told not to plan evil. This goes one step beyond withholding good. Wisdom teaches us that we wrestle enough with sin as it is, we certainly have no need to add intentional sins on top of our unintentional sins. This leads into a warning against picking fights with men for no reason and then finally not to envy men of violence. Why is violence mentioned here? Although all sin bears the consequences of being rebellion against God, violence is unique in the hardness of heart that is required to perform it. Sure violence happens as a result of extreme emotions, but when a man is known for being violent, there is significant hardness that typically occurs first. In this way, violence is often presented as representative of the most extreme, conscious-searing sins.

Verses 32-35 expand upon the command not to envy the violent person. Each verse offers a contrast between blessings for the wise man and curses for the foolish man. Let us take time to focus predominantly upon verse 34 because wisdom and folly ultimately are matters of pride and humility but also because the New Testament quotes it twice. Both James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 cite the Greek version of this verse.

1 Peter 5:5-7 | Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

Here we see the confidence of God being brought back into the picture. The humble does not have the pride to pile up his anxieties and cares upon himself, but rather he freely surrenders them over to the LORD.

James 4:6-7 | But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit to yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

I love that James quotes this verse and then immediately commands us to submit ourselves to God and resist the devil. The fight to choose wisdom (aka trusting God) over foolishness (aka leaning on our own understanding) is warfare. The only way to fight for wisdom is by submitting ourselves to God. The only way to conquer Satan and our sin is by realizing that we are incapable of defeating them and that we need the grace and mercy of God. The only way we find life as Christians is by first losing this life, by dying to ourselves daily. We will never receive wisdom until we ask for it because asking for it is a humbling task. Asking for wisdom is an act of submitting to God. And we will never keep wisdom if we stop asking for it.

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