The Path to Death | Proverbs 5:1-6

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My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge. For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. (Proverbs 5:1-4 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

The book of Proverbs is entirely about helping us become wise people. Wisdom is an important quality to seek because it is the skill of living life well. Throughout our lives, we will encounter plenty of difficult situations, and wisdom gives us the ability to navigate through them in the best ways possible. Wisdom, therefore, is extremely practical and useful for everyone.

But Proverbs is clear that true wisdom can only be found by fearing the LORD. Many people make some wise decisions, but they can never be wise until they are guide by their fear of God. This fear, of course, is not the same as being face-to-face with a starving lion; rather, fearing the LORD means understanding that God, as God, knows far more and far better than I ever could. Trusting God is the consequence of fearing God.

We now begin a topic that Solomon will continue to address into chapter seven: the Adulteress. In Proverbs, the Adulteress (or Forbidden Woman) is the poetic personification of sexual immorality. She is a seductress with lips of honey and words as smooth as oil. She seems tempting for the moment, but ultimately, she follows the path to death and delights in pulling others down with her. The message of this text is clear: sexual immorality is a life and death affair. Will we embrace wisdom or follow sin into the grave?

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Proverbs 5:1-6 and discuss the following.

  • Which verses stood out most to you as you read Proverbs 5:1-6 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is? What do they teach you about Jesus?
  • Who is the Forbidden Woman (aka the Adulteress)? What does she represent? What is sexual immorality according to the Bible?
  • Solomon speaks of the Adulteress having lips dripping with honey. Why do you think sexual sin is so alluring? How does sexual immorality ultimately lead to death? How have you experienced the destruction of sexual immorality personally? What steps do you take to guard your heart from falling into sexual sin? If you are a parent, what steps are you taking to help your child avoid the Adulteress?

 PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.

The Heart of Wisdom | Proverbs 4:20-27

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Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23 ESV)

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

The book of Proverbs is all about learning to live wisely. Unfortunately, biblical wisdom is a term that most people are pretty unfamiliar with, so it is important to know that wisdom is the skill of living life well. Living wisely, according to the Bible, means being able to navigate through life’s twists and turns in God-honoring ways. Wisdom, therefore, is incredibly valuable for everyone.

And graciously, God invites everyone to get wisdom. In fact, God promises that wisdom will be given to everyone who asks Him for it. The problem is that most people are not willing to humble themselves to ask God for wisdom. They refuse to trust and submit themselves to God; instead, they rely upon their own understanding. God calls this foolishness, the opposite of wisdom, and it is also a refusal to fear, love, and honor God.

Within our present verses, Solomon dives into wisdom’s heart. While we have already been given the command to write these words of wisdom on the tablet of our hearts, he now commands us to keep (or guard) our heart vigilantly because from it flow the springs of life. Solomon gives this command because he knows that our heart is the core of our identity. If our heart is wise, our actions will be wise, but if our heart is foolish, everything we do will be foolish.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Proverbs 4:20-27 and discuss the following.

  • Which verses stood out most to you as you read Proverbs 4:20-27 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is? What do they teach you about Jesus?
  • What does the Bible mean when it refers to the heart? Why is the heart important? Why does Solomon tell us to guard it vigilantly?
  • How do the verses surrounding verse 23 teach us to guard the heart? How do the Scriptures guard our heart? How do our actions impact (positively or negatively) our heart? In what ways do you guard your heart with what you say, what you see, and where you go?
  • Why is it impossible to keep your heart with all vigilance? How does the gospel guard our hearts?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.

The Path of Wisdom | Proverbs 4:10-19

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But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. The way of the wicked is like the deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.  (Proverbs 4:18-19 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

Proverbs is a book of ancient Hebrew wisdom that is still infinitely applicable for us today. Because wisdom is the skill of living life well, Proverbs repeatedly pleads for us to seek after wisdom. Living wisely means that we understand how God has designed the world to function. Of course, we must also be careful to remember that in this life the blessings of wisdom are generalities. Sometimes a wise person dies young or suffers poverty simply because the world is broken by sin. Fortunately, for God’s people, every blessing of wisdom will ultimately be fulfilled in eternity.

But there is one more thing to remember before diving into our present text. Proverbs tells us that wisdom begins with the fear of the LORD. Fearing God means honoring and respecting God as God, and in order to do that we must understand also that we are not God. He is infinite, while we are finite. Therefore, fearing God means trusting that God knows better than we do. True wisdom cannot begin without this understanding.

Everyone in life is walking down one of two paths: the path of wisdom or the path of folly (or foolishness). The path of wisdom leads to life and being blessed by God, while the path of folly leads to sin and death. Within these verses, Solomon will present for us again the two roads set before us. Although we can continue to discuss the benefits of wisdom, ultimately we must choose to begin obeying God, to begin walking down His path.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Proverbs 4:10-19 and discuss the following.

  • Which verses stood out most to you as you read Proverbs 4:10-19 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is? What do they teach you about Jesus?
  • Why does Solomon speak in past tense in verse 11? How does this encourage us to obey God’s Word? How have you practiced obedience lately?
  • Why does Solomon say that our steps will not be hampered when we follow the path of wisdom? How does obedience to God’s commands lead to true freedom? How is sin’s promise of freedom a lie?
  • What is the significance of using light and darkness in verses 18-19 to describe the two paths? Why is the path of foolishness shrouded in darkness? How does the metaphor of dawn’s light describe the Christian’s sanctification?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.

The Blessing of Wisdom

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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. (Proverbs 3:13-14 ESV)

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. (Proverbs 3:17-18 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

Proverbs is generally divided into two main sections. Chapters 1-9 are the introduction, and chapters 10-31 are the actual collection of proverbs. These nine chapters continue to teach us that wisdom does not come from the proverbs themselves. Wisdom comes from God. The proverbs teach us what wisdom looks like and to turn to God. But wisdom itself only comes from the hand of God.

Let us also remember that wisdom is applied knowledge, the skill of living life well. When we talk about wisdom, it has its root in knowledge and understanding, but wisdom is primarily about living well. When you make good decisions and life goes well for you, you are living in wisdom. And true biblical wisdom is only found in knowing God.

Today we will view the blessings that wisdom has for those who find her. In these verses, 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 towards the LORD.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Proverbs 3:13-35 and discuss the following.

  • Which verses stood out most to you as you read Proverbs 3:13-35 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  • Verses 13-18 describe the riches of finding wisdom. How does someone find wisdom? Why does Solomon consider wisdom to be of greater worth than gold or jewels? Do you agree? How have you been blessed by wisdom in life?
  • In verses 19-20, Solomon claims that God founded the world by wisdom. What does this mean?
  • Solomon urges us to do good to our neighbors when we are able. What does this look like practically? How does this relate to what Jesus claims are the two greatest commandments?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.

Trust in the LORD | Proverbs 3:1-12

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Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

Being a piece of the Bible’s wisdom literature, the book of Proverbs is all about wisdom. Of course, we first need to know what wisdom is before we can study a book of wisdom. Biblically, wisdom is applied knowledge that gives you the skill to navigate through life’s twists and turns well. Just as a craftsman must develop the skill of his work, so wisdom is a skill that enables us to live life well.

The single most important lesson that Proverbs teaches us about wisdom is that begins with the fear of the LORD. This type of reverential fear comes from understanding that God is God and we are not God. And while that sounds elementary, our hearts tend to believe the exact opposite. Until we realize that God knows far better than we do, we can never have true wisdom.

As we enter the third chapter of Proverbs, we are presented with six sets of commands and blessings. These commands urge us to seek wisdom and apply it to how we live our lives. The blessings that follow are abundant. They promise favor, longevity, and prosperity. Of course, we must understand that these promises are generally true in this life, but they will be fulfilled completely for all eternity.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Proverbs 3:1-12 and discuss the following.

  • Which verses stood out most to you as you read Proverbs 3:1-12 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  • Verses 5-8 call us not to be wise in our own eyes but to trust the LORD with all our heart. Would you say that you trust the LORD with all your heart? In what areas of life do you lean on your own understanding instead? Why?
  • Solomon makes many bold claims of how we will be blessed by wisdom within these verses. Are these blessings guaranteed? Do these verses teach a prosperity gospel?
  • The author ends this section by discussing the importance of the LORD’s discipline. Why is the discipline of the LORD good for us? What might His discipline look like? What are examples of God’s discipline from your own life, and what did it teach you?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.

The Value of Wisdom | Proverbs 2

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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 our 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. (Proverbs 2:1-5 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

Primarily written by King David’s son, Solomon, the book of Proverbs is a unique one in the Bible. Most known for his wisdom, Solomon became wise through a supernatural blessing from the LORD. It should be no surprise then that Solomon is the primary author of this book of wisdom.

Thus far, we have studied the first chapter, which very nicely sets the stage for the remainder of the book. There are two big thoughts that we need to keep in mind going forward. First, we should also keep in mind the thesis of the book: the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom. Second, remember to pay attention for the main literary devices of these first nine chapter: paternal speeches (where Solomon speak to us like a father teaching his son) and Lady Wisdom’s poems (in which wisdom is personified as a woman speaking to us).

After hearing the first 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 with our whole heart.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read chapter 2 and discuss the following.

  • Which verses stood out most to you as you read Proverbs 2 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  • The first four verses encourage us to listen to, ask for, and seek after wisdom. Do you do that? Where should we listen to and seek after wisdom? How often do you ask for wisdom?
  • God uses wisdom to guard us against the consequences of sin. How does wisdom help us to defeat our sin? Why does Solomon mention the sin of adultery specifically?
  • This chapter promises many blessings for those who follow wisdom. How can these promises be true when many Christians suffer greatly?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.

Introduction

With Google and Wikipedia at our fingertips, knowledge and information have never been more accessible than they are today. I may have no understanding of quantum mechanics now, but give me twenty minutes online and I will return with the basic idea of what it is.

But for all of this information whirling past us at the speed of a scrolling thumb, we are none the wiser.

Wisdom, you see, is not knowledge. Though there is much relation between the two, it’s more by marriage than by blood. Knowledge means possessing information, and understanding is how we understand that information (of course). But what about wisdom? What exactly is wisdom?

That’s kind of a loaded question. Wisdom, after all, is notoriously difficult to put a set definition on. In the Bible, Solomon (Proverbs’ main author) was known for being one of the wisest men on the planet. He displayed that wisdom by almost sawing a baby in half. I promise, it’s not as bad as it sounds. You just have to read it in context. Elsewhere, wisdom is used to describe the skill of craftsmen. The men who intricately designed the Tabernacle and Temple were said to possess God-given wisdom for their task.

Much like a carpenter develops skill for working with wood and a painter for working with paint, so biblical wisdom is the skill of working through the complexities of life.

Do you need to win at Trivial Pursuit?

Give information a try.

Do you need to know how to lovingly tell a friend that their speech is becoming quite gossip-y?

Now that’s a job for wisdom.

Probably the most difficult aspect of wisdom is that it varies according to the circumstance. It is a skill, after all, and carpenters know better than to treat all types of wood the same. We, therefore, often find proverbs that appear to contradict one another within this book. But the proverbs themselves are not lifehacks. Proverbs points us to wisdom and describes its benefits, yet we still need wisdom to understand and apply them.

How then do we get wisdom if it is not enough to merely read Proverbs?

Wisdom’s beginning is the fear of the LORD (9:10). You cannot possess wisdom without fearing God. This is the primary message of Proverbs. Those who do not know God may behave wisely at times, but they cannot be wise. True wisdom comes from knowing that God is God and I am not God. It seems simple enough… until I catch myself in idolatry again. And again. And again.

Calvin said that our hearts are idol factories. We rarely ever truly revere God as God; instead, we continuously bow our hearts before lesser things, little G gods that will never satisfy. Our sin testifies that we do not actually fear God; therefore, our sin constantly proclaims our foolishness. Each time we sin, we temporarily live as if there is no God. We embody folly by sinning. We turn against the omnipotent and eternal Creator for instant gratification. There is no greater display of foolishness than sin.

Fortunately, once we realize that we are fools in need of wisdom, God promises to give it to us if we ask. James 1:5 says that “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” No strings attached, God promises to give wisdom to all who ask for it. We find the same idea in Proverbs 1:20-33 as wisdom personified cries out for whoever will listen to embrace her.

What a glorious truth! Wisdom will never be withheld from those who seek it. The key is understanding our need for wisdom. Asking God for wisdom is predicated upon the realization that we are fools. This act of humility is what keeps so many away from wisdom. By continuing to be wise in our own eyes, we cannot embrace God’s wisdom. Like the grace of Christ, wisdom is a free gift of God, but it requires submission to the LORD.

As we dive into Proverbs, will you forsake your own “wisdom” and embrace the wisdom of God?