The Benefits of Wisdom
Sunday School Lesson for January 1, 2004
Focal Teaching Passages: Proverbs 2:1-6; 3:1-8
The second chapter begins with a
listing of the responsibilities of the “son” in regard to the
acquisition of wisdom. We will see that even though wisdom is God’s gift to His
children (2:6), there are specific things that each believer must do in order
to set the stage for its reception and cultivation. Note that the structure of
this section is in “If . . . .Then” form (cf.
2:1, 5). This indicates that a choice is
being set before the son. He can either “go the way of Wisdom and find life,
true love, and most importantly God, or he can turn his back on her and find
only bitterness, isolation, and death” [Garrett, 74]. There are profound consequences
for one’s choice.
The one who would desire wisdom
- Be diligent to “receive” and “treasure”
the “sayings and “commandments” of their parents (v. 1).
This means that one must recognize the divinely crafted structure of
authority and instruction—the family.
Here is it assumed that within the context of the family the parent
will provide God-honoring instruction for the child that will set him on
the path of righteousness. The child has the corresponding responsibility
to submit to and accept such teaching. Thus, wisdom does not come from
“free speculation, but [from] treasuring and exploring received teachings
so as to penetrate their principles” [Derek Kidner, Proverbs, vol. 15, TOTC,
- Make their “ear attentive to wisdom” and their
“heart to understanding” (v. 2). Here the “heart” and the “ear”
are presented metaphorically as organs of understanding. The one desirous
of wisdom must receive the teachings of his parents, “commit them to
memory, and focus all his attention on them” [Garrett, 75].
- Ask God for “discernment” and “understanding”
(v. 3). Here we see that the child
has the responsibility to “cry” out and “lift” the “voice”
to God for divine assistance in the gaining of wisdom. In other words,
prayer plays an essential role in the development of Godly character,
particularly in the attainment of wisdom.
- “Seek” and “search” for wisdom as one
would look for “silver” and other “hidden treasures” (v. 4).
That is, wisdom must be counted as infinitely valuable and, therefore,
worthy of persistent pursuit throughout one’s life.
The promise contained in this
section is that when (“if”) one fulfils the obligations associated with
spiritual wisdom, God (“then”) will move to grant it in abundant
measures. The true seeker of wisdom
will, with God’s help:
- “discern the fear
of the Lord” (v. 5)—First, he will come to be in reverent awe of the
Author of all wisdom. The child of God who diligently seeks after the Father’s
wisdom will first learn to worship Him for who He is.
- “discover the
knowledge of God” (v. 5)—Secondly, in the atmosphere of worship and
adoration, the child will come to know God in a deeper and more intimate
way. This represents life’s
In verse 6, yet
another promise is provided to the seeker of wisdom. This declaration supplies
us with the true source for all wisdom and knowledge. It is the “Lord” alone who “gives
wisdom.” It is from “His mouth” that both “knowledge and understanding”
spring forth. When His children cry out for wisdom, God hears and faithfully
answers their pleas (cf. James 1:5).
One: We have
learned so far that wisdom has its source in God alone. More specifically, it
comes only in a relationship to Him that is based upon trust, faith, and
submission to His Word. To apply this point, think specifically about the
connection between . . .
- Revelation (God’s Word) and wisdom
- Submission to authority and wisdom
Two: To stress and
apply this point further, reflect upon the fact that this passage teaches by
implication that wisdom does not come to those who are passive; to those
who sit and wait for it. Rather, it comes to those who are active in
seeking and praying for it and conforming their lives
to God’s Word.
This passage presents the blessings or rewards associated
with Godly wisdom. However, like the previous passage, it also lays out the
specific responsibilities borne by the seeker of wisdom. Another way to view
these verses is to see them as setting forth the wonderful benefits of trusting
fully in the Lord [David
Atkinson, The Message of Proverbs, BST, 63]. Indeed, the person
who is wise in the eyes of God is the one who readily relies upon His goodness,
mercy, and providential care.
Verses 1, 3, 5, 6a, 7
Here we find the requirements for
those who would become wise. As you reflect upon this list, make note of the
fact that the book of Proverbs presupposes that one’s devotion to wisdom is
inseparable from his devotion to God [Garrett, 79]. Those who remain wholly committed to God and His
Word will find true wisdom.
- “do not forget my
teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments” (v. 1)—Here the
focus is upon remembering and heeding the law of God as reflected in the
precepts and instructions of the parents.
- “Do not let kindness and truth
leave you; bind them . . , write them . . . .” (v. 3)—This is the responsibility of being a person of
exemplary inward character; a character expressed principally in the
display of love and faithfulness. The images of affixing these qualities
to one’s neck or inscribing them on one’s heart are “striking metaphors
for glorying in, meditating on and acting by these principles” [Kidner, 63].
Interestingly, the ancient Hebrews believed that a person’s throat housed
the very life of the individual. Therefore, “love and faithfulness are to
become part of the student’s heart and life” [Garrett, 80].
- “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not
lean on your own understanding” (v. 5)—Once more we see the critical
link between trusting in God and the development of wisdom. The verse
makes it clear, from the negative point of view, that to trust in the Lord
means not to depend upon one’s own resources. Rather, the “total
personality is to be committed to God’s care” [Garrett, 80].
- “In all your ways acknowledge Him . . . .” (v.
6a)—To “acknowledge” the Lord means more
literally to know Him. The Hebrew term implies the “richer content
of being ‘aware of’, and ‘having fellowship with’” [Kidner, 64]. Thus, in every area of
life, the believer is to recognize, appreciate, and treasure the knowledge
and presence of God.
- “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord
and turn away from evil” (v. 7)—In other words, wisdom is not to be
defined horizontally (according to secular or humanistic
standards), but vertically (according to God’s Word). Biblical wisdom, then, is radically
different from man-made wisdom or mere intellectual superiority. It is based upon a relationship of trust
and faith with the living God. In addition, the wise person will reverence
and worship the Lord and literally run from wickedness when tempted.
Verses 2, 4, 6b, 8
Now the rewards of the life of wisdom are enumerated:
- “length of days
and years of life, and peace . . . .” (v, 2)—Here we see that fullness
of life and wholeness of soul, or well-being (the meaning of the Hebrew
term “peace”), are the direct
results of the pursuit of Godly wisdom.
While this is not meant to suggest that all wise people without
exception will live long lives, it does mean that, however long one’s life
is, it will be lived to the maximum.
- “favor and good
repute in the sight of God and man” (v. 4)—The life of wisdom will result
also in the pleasure of God and the respect of men. Being right with God
and right with men is the hallmark of integrity and the proof of real
- “He will make your paths straight” (v.
6b)—Trusting in God, looking to His Word for direction, and recognizing
His presence and Lordship in every arena of life (evidences of wisdom),
will result in the accomplishment of His will. That is, the application of
wisdom will help one reach God-honoring goals and objectives, and will
ensure that one has clear direction and purpose in life.
- “healing to your
body and refreshment to your bones” (v. 8)—The terms “body” and
“bones” represent the whole self or the total person. The promise
is that the possessor of true wisdom will be healthy and whole, particularly
with reference to their relationship with God. David Atkinson observes
that this does not necessarily mean that one’s “trust in the Lord will
ensure permanent physical health” . He explains:
It is to say that spiritual,
emotional and bodily well-being are all bound up
together: we human beings are psychosomatic-spiritual unities. It is also to
say that walking in God’s way is to walk the way of wholeness for the whole of
our being .
One: Think about some of the practical ways you
can encourage your students to place more of their trust in the Lord. As the passage suggests, this may be
accomplished by relying less on other things.
Two: In the light of verse 6, how
would you counsel someone who was seeking to “know God’s will” for their life?
That is, how can a person find meaning, direction, and purpose?
Three: If “peace” (v. 2), “healing”
(v. 8), and “refreshment” (v. 8) are the benefits of wisdom, what can we
say about those whose lives are constantly in turmoil and disarray?