Learn Wisdom's Benefits

Prov. 1:33; 2:5-12,16,20-22; 3:1-8

Wisdom’s Authoritative Invitation

Proverbs 1:20-3:8

 

Tom J. Nettles

 

I.                    The Fervent Plea of Wisdom [in consideration of the self-destructive pattern of unwise actions]

A.     Warning to heed instructions of wisdom 20-23

1.      at every conceivable place of distraction 20, 21 – One that gains wisdom and adheres to it knows that allurements thrive, not only in the secret recesses of perverse thoughts and private plots [from which Proverbs has many warnings], but in the public places of commerce and power. Worldliness likes to be ostentatious, and showy, and prideful. Wisdom, therefore must establish herself in the streets, the noisy streets, the city gates, and the markets. The Apostle Paul knew that Christians, in order to be in the world but not of the world, would necessarily carry on commerce with the “sexually immoral of this world, . . . the greedy and swindlers, [and] idolaters” (1 Corinthians 5:9, 10). Peculiarly gracious infusions of wisdom from above are needed for such normal, day-by-day living.

2.      wisdom initially corrects as it assumes our sinful recalcitrance 22, 23  

¨      The constant drag of the world and the deceitful power of indwelling sin often hinder us from a clear course of action according to revealed wisdom. The believer should never relax in his  war to mortify the flesh in his Spirit-led engagement against indwelling sin (Romans 7:23; 8:12-14)

¨      The writer, however, at this point seems to put an even more dangerous and sinister kind of resistance to wisdom into play. It is the haughty confidence of the scoffer and the self-righteous, self-sufficient fool of the world that he addresses. Wisdom poses a severe challenge that in all their worldly sophistication, such fools actually delight in scoffing and hate knowledge.

¨      They think they love knowledge, but they shove aside that knowledge that is true knowledge, the knowledge of eternal things and the saving mercy of the one true God. If they would turn and heed this reproof, then God would pour out his Spirit on them, as in the renewal of the Holy Spirit in Titus 3:5, 6.

¨      In giving the Spirit upon response to reproof, Wisdom is manifest through revealed instruction 23b

B.     Wisdom refuses to respond to desperate but self-centered pleading 24-30

1.      The saving words of wisdom’s call steadfastly and arrogantly rejected 24, 25 – Wisdom’s call, from the standpoint of the accomplishment of revelation and redemption, now comes through the message of the cross. The cross tells of sin, righteousness, and judgment; it pictures patience, lovingkindness, grace, and mercy; it calls for repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing more nor greater could be said. The gospel proclamation is imaged as a call, a stretched-out hand, and freely-given counsel. Rejection is pictured as a refusal to receive this message, a universal response of unheeding, and a scorn at the reproof implied in the cross.

2.      Refusing the only covert from the day of wrath brings from God all the elements of scorn toward those that have been scornful toward his remedy for the wages of sin and confident in their self-sufficiency. He is pictured as mocking them when terror strikes and laughing at their calamity. The fury and rapidity of descending judgment in distress and anguish will call forth no moments of tenderness or mercy—only distress and anguish, and that from God Himself. This coincides with what Paul described in Romans 2: 8, 9 : “But for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, [there will be]  wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil.”

3.      When that happens, a great change occurs in their attitude toward the proclaimer of the wisdom of the cross. Even as they refused the call of wisdom, they refused counsel and reproof, so their desperate call goes unanswered and there is nothing now to be found in all their seeing except the promised wrath for the unrepentant. Their change in status brings desperation but Wisdom’s mocking rejection bodes only ill cf. James 1:5-8; 4:1-4.

4.      Their search arises from self-interest and not for the knowledge and fear of the Lord: “They did not choose the fear of the Lord” (29) (cf. 1:7)

C.     The foolish reap results congruent with their folly 31, 32  Though the retribution is fearsome and merciless, Wisdom represents it as the perfectly just result of their folly of dealing scurvily with the Majestic, Holy Sovereign of heaven and earth. They will “have their fill of their own devices.” Their descent into the bottomless gulf is “the fruit of their way.” As warned in chapter 1:17, 18, they have “set an ambush for their own lives.”

D.     Conversely, those who listen to the reproof and instruction of wisdom live securely (33). “Without dread of disaster” must be understood in light of Paul’s confidence that “the Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever.” (2 Timothy 4:18)Paul was martyred, but still, though victim to the wrath of man, his death ushered him into the presence of the glorious triune God. The ultimate, infinite disaster is entrance into eternity in an unreconciled state. What a contrast to the one that looked forward to appearing before the righteous judge (2 Timothy 4:8) or that could say, “We have confidence before God,” and “We may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.” (1 John3:21; 4:17).

 

II.                 The Relation of Wisdom to its Humble Subject - Chapter 2

A.     Though wisdom is divinely revealed, it must be earnestly sought as infinitely valuable 2:1-6

1.      The writer identifies his words with divine wisdom  1, 2 in context. The writer of these words proceeds with the confidence that his instruction is in conformity with the revelation that produces knowledge of God and a reverential fear of Him. The emphasis in these two verses is on careful and attentive listening.

2.      These verses move the reader beyond a cordial receptivity toward instruction into an aggressive pursuit of knowledge  3, 4. One must “call out” for it, that is, seek it from credible and faithful teachers and from the source of wisdom, the word of God. As a greedy miser would seek for silver and hidden treasures, so must the one that sees the true and eternal value of wisdom yearn for it and put his energies into the paths where discernible increase in understanding lies in wait. This might involve all kinds of learning, but the following verses make it clear that all of this pursuit of understanding must take seriously that the “commandments” stand at the forefront of this quest. The greatest of these commandments is to love God with all the heart, soul, mind and strength.

3.      Thus, such vigorous pursuit must be done with a view of increased fear of the Lord and knowledge of Him with the confidence that he himself gives it  5, 6. James reminds us that in the pursuit of knowledge of all kinds, including a thorough acquaintance of the deception of our own hearts, God is the unwavering source of every good and perfect gift (James 1:16-18).The new birth itself comes from the Spirit’s application of the word of truth.; The writer does not hide the necessity of receiving all true understanding and knowledge unto godliness from the mouth of God Himself. This implies a consciousness of inspiration in his own work.

B.     Pursuit of wisdom panoplies its aggressor with virtues of excellence 7-10

1.      The Lord “stores up” these things; he guards, is a shield and he preserves and watches over those that seek wisdom from his mouth. This wisdom counteracts the intrinsic self-centeredness of our pursuits, warns us of destructive paths, and assures us of the lasting beauty of a true knowledge of the divine.

2.      Those that gain this knowledge, therefore, are described in light of certain characteristics. We are not to assume these qualities dwell in them naturally, but rather by grace. Those so blessed are regarded as “his saints” (8). Those, however that exhibit these qualities by divine grace will be marked by uprightness; they will walk in integrity because of their understanding of righteousness, justice, and equity. Peter described the life of moral excellence that flows from the provision of divine grace (2 Peter 1:3-8)

3.      Justice, righteousness, equity, because they are characteristic of the internal operations of the Holy Spirit in the new-born soul give a three-fold pleasure: a view of divine excellence, the practice of these qualities toward others, and the preservation of our own soul. “Wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul”

C.     Excellence in virtue delivers one from the destruction of evil  11-22

1.      delivered from the way of evil men 11-15

¨      True knowledge will increase one’s ability to judge and be discerning [discretion] when confronted with subtleties in the way of  a convincing rhetoric as a persuasive to evil [“perverted speech”].9

¨      The things that bring pleasure to the purveyors of evil are alien to the pleasures that come from a true knowledge of God. They rejoice in evil and delight in its perverseness. They are hostile to the straight and upright paths of godliness and despise the reality that God created them and all things with a specific purpose for the manifestation of his character. That their perversion of his way is called evil makes them insolent and more devious in their pursuit of their own destruction.

2.      delivered from the wayward woman 16-19

¨      As the evil man has perverse speech, so does the forbidden woman. (16). Speech is set forth in both these instances of evil to manifest the importance of having established propositions from divine wisdom as matters of settled principle in the mind. From this source of truth and good, the false logic and deadly appeal of these lies may be dismantled.

¨      She violates her marriage vows as well as ignores the instructions that God has given about marriage and sexuality.

¨      She promises pleasure, but then deals out death, destruction of life, and an irreversible submission to perversity and unfaithfulness. “None who go to her come back.” What is lost there cannot be regained. Solomon expands instructions on the deceitfulness and even religious justification that often accompanies this allurement in chapter 5.

3.      establishes one in a stable life 20, 21

¨      If one can learn to discern the deceitful character of all speeches that seek to persuade that the path to fulfillment is in throwing off the yoke of God’s righteous requirements, he will discover what is truly good and will find delight in a course of righteousness. “Blessed are those that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

4.      Avoid final destruction 22 – These words, “cut off” and “rooted out” refer (1) to the execution of an offender [Lev 7:30} and (2) the expulsion of the entire people from the land [Deut 28:63]. Though loss of life or loss of land may be involved in Solomon’s warning here, the loss in which we are most deeply interested is the eternal loss of the loving and joyful presence of God in exchange for the eternal separation divine wrath. The chief concern is knowledge of God, fear of God, the covenant of God, and the goods spoken of are not mere possession of material security in the physical land, but wisdom, righteousness, and pleasantness of soul.

5.      Fulfillment of Psalm 1 – Surely Solomon could bear in mind the first Psalm, “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the day of judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”

 

III.               Truth held in Wisdom fosters kindness and humble submission

A.     Wisdom manifests itself in edifying human relationships 3:1-4

1.  The commandments must be kept from the heart, out of a love for the one that gives them. Ultimately, though Solomon is writing these and admonishing his child, all that he says is an application of the two great commandments toward God and neighbor as delineated in the 10 commandments.

2.  Obedience not only gives a long life, for it will not be squandered by dissipation, or by murder, or by execution, but will be prolonged by earnest labor and peace of mind. Peace of conscience also gives confidence as one approaches the day of judgment.

3.  Here Solomon emphasizes that from the heart comes true obedience. Jeremiah prophesied that due to the spiritual condition of the Israelites, in spite of their being the recipients of divine revelation and extraordinary providences to make them a peculiar people for himself, their steadfast love and faithfulness from the heart would only be secured when, as God said, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:33) What Solomon commends as giving true life and good favor before God and men will only be resident in the heart through an internal operation of grace.

B.     Wisdom trusts in the Lord as the Source of all Good  5-8

1.   These verses contain several phrases that point us to God as the source of both knowledge and moral power. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart,” “In all your ways acknowledge him,” Fear the Lord.” This shows that the way of life comes out of reverential, heart-felt submission to God as the source of all good the knowledge of whom is the greatest of all goods.

2.   These verses warn against making our personal knowledge and desire as the guide for true life. “Lean not to your own understanding,” “Be not wise in your own eyes.” “Turn away from evil.”

3.   This godward life has a promise. “He will make your paths straight,” and “It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” Certainly life here is more satisfying in the light of goodness, and righteousness, and the worship and knowledge of God. But also eternal life and resurrection means the ultimate healing of the body and the endless occupation of the full enjoyment of God forever.

 

IV.              Christological Deposit

A.     Christ is the Wisdom who both reproves us and pours his Spirit on us (Gal 3:10, 24; 4:4-6)

B.     He who refuses the call to come to Christ does so because he prefers evil (John 3:16-21)

C.     Christ and his righteousness is more to be valued than any earthly good (Phil 3:7-9)

D.     Faith in Christ provides all excellent virtues by which sin’s destruction is removed (2 Peter 1:1-11)

E.      He is provided to us from the munificence of sovereign grace in which the “manifold wisdom of God is demonstrated. (Eph 3:8-12)