God is Wise

 

Week of June 29, 2014

 

Bible Verses:  Proverbs 2:1-6; 3:5-7.

 

The Point:  God will give me wisdom when I humbly seek it.

 

Understanding the Fear of the Lord:  Proverbs 2:1-6.

 

[1]  My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, [2]  making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; [3]  yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, [4]  if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, [5]  then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. [6]  For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;

 

[1-6]  “The person who has chosen the path of wisdom is now told what he may expect along its way. The chapter begins with a series of conditional clauses. If is found three times, but is implied eight times in verses 1-4. The corresponding then is found in verse 5. We soon discover that wisdom is a product of both intense personal discipline [1-5] and God’s grace [6]. God’s wisdom comes only as a gift, but He does not give it if we will not seek it. When we seek God’s wisdom and He extends it to us, we enjoy the benefit of protection from the evil way [7-11], protection from the evil man [12-15], protection from the evil woman [16-19], and the provision of God’s goodness [20-22]. The first of a series of conditional statements is given in verse 1. These conditional statements lay out what is required of us if we are to discover the fear of the Lord [5]. To possess the fear of the Lord is to operate with a Biblical worldview. The fool operates without an accurate view of the world in which he lives. He is trying to live in God’s world without God. He is out of touch with reality. The first steps toward embracing reality are laid out before us in these conditional statements. The first requirement is that we receive the sayings of the wise. Here, the wise one is cast as parent and the learner as my son. This surely applies to our familial relationships, but may also apply to other relationships among God’s people as He directs His counsel to us through them. To receive is to recognize that you do not possess something you need. Humility is what is called for here. Someone else knows something I do not know and that I need, therefore I must humble myself and receive it. This is the most basic posture required to begin to embrace reality. The humanistic notion that all I must do is look within myself is worse than nonsense; it is demonic [James 3:15]. This first conditional statement teaches me who I am – I am a person who needs God’s counsel [Prov. 10:8; 13:10]. In addition, we must treasure the commandment of God if we are to discern the fear of the Lord. If the first conditional statement taught me who I am, this one teaches me what to value. Treasure has the idea of hiding or concealing something of value for the purposes of protecting it. The one who understands the hard realities of this life values God’s word and treasures it away in his heart [Job 23:12; Ps. 119:11; Prov. 7:1]. The good news is that God reciprocates and stores up His wisdom for the one who values His word enough to store it away. This treasuring away of God’s word implies advance preparation – a consistent study of God’s word so that its wisdom is readily accessible when needed. The first two lines of verse 2 form a synonymous parallelism, the second line restating and emphasizing the first. Making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding are figures employed to describe obedient attentiveness. To make your ear attentive is to tune your ear to hear and obey God’s commands. The ear is the pathway of ideas, it must be guarded cautiously. To incline one’s heart is to extend it, to bend it purposefully in a certain direction. The heart is the center of who we are. It describes our intellectual and reasoning abilities [3:3; 6:18,21; 7:3], our emotions [13:12; 15:15,30], and our will [11:20; 14:14; 28:14]. The result is a picture of stretching out your entire being to God and His word [Josh. 24:23; 1 Kings 8:58; Ps. 119:36]. If I am to function wisely and successfully in God’s world, it will require knowing who I am, what to value, and who to listen to. Wisdom only comes to those who seek it. Wisdom calls to us [1:20; 8:1,4]. But, I also must call out to God for wisdom [James 1:5]. This call is described in verse 3 with two verbs, call out and raise your voice. Both verbs describe the desperate pleading of one who understands their lack of resources to deal with their need [Prov. 21:13]. Both imply that wisdom does not come quickly or easily. There will be times when wisdom seems far away. Discovery of wisdom takes sustained diligence and an expenditure of much energy. The cry is for insight or discernment and understanding. These two terms are synonyms (not only of each other, but of wisdom), but only in this verse do they appear in synonymous parallelism. A fourth requirement of a Biblical worldview is knowing what to ask for. Notice how the writer piles one intense verb upon another in describing the quest for wisdom: receive … treasure [1], making … inclining [2], call out … raise your voice [3]. To these six he adds two more verbs in verse 4: seek … search. These verbs speak of the passion of the search underway. The metaphor only adds to the inherent strength of the verbs. The discovery of silver and hidden treasure is the goal. Hidden treasure refers to something of such rare value that it is shielded from the public view. The fifth and final requirement for attaining a Biblical worldview is in knowing what to give my energies to. The series of conditional clauses in verses 1-4 now culminates with then in verse 5, being given the result of fulfilling the conditions of diligent search. The outcome is the fear of the Lord and the knowledge of God. To possess the fear of the Lord is to embrace reality. It describes a Biblical worldview. It defines the perspective of the person who has come to see that the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein [Ps. 24:1]. It describes an informed and appropriate perspective of who God is and who I am before Him. The knowledge of God describes the great desire of God for His people [Hosea 4:1,6; 6:6]. The Hebrew word for knowledge describes an intimate knowledge of the object involved; it is knowledge gained through personal and experiential relationship. God desires, above all else, that we would know Him deeply and personally, more even than He desires our multiplied sacrifices [Hosea 6:6]. This kind of intimacy with God is the end goal of God’s redemptive plan for man [Hab. 2:14; Isa. 11:9]. The fear of the Lord and the knowledge of God are often found as the twin towers of true religion [Isa. 11:2; 58:2], describing the poles of awe and intimacy which God desires. Verses 5-8 form an interesting parallel with verses 9-11. Both begin with Then you will understand [5,9], the object of the first being the fear of the Lord and of the second righteousness and justice. Both then follow with an expression of motive signaled by the word for [6,10], the first motive being the Lord gives wisdom and the second wisdom will come into your heart. Two identical Hebrew words are used in both: guarding … watching [8] and will watch … will guard [11]. These parallels reveal that when one truly seeks wisdom he will find God and, when one seeks God, he will gain wisdom. The pursuit will require discernment, the ability to look at two things and distinguish the differences. The arrival of knowing God and acquiring wisdom requires choices, sometimes difficult choices. These choices must be based upon the revelation of God, not personal whim. The reason one finds God when he seeks wisdom is that only God can dispense true wisdom. Notice that what verse 5 describes as being found is in fact given. Wisdom is a gift of grace. No amount of human effort can acquire it. Our diligent search is required, but is not efficient apart from God’s grace: the grace both to seek and the grace to discover. That the Lord is the sole and only source of true wisdom is emphasized in verse 6. Not only is God the sole source of wisdom, but He only dispenses it in one way: the words of His mouth. We must remember: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God [Matt. 4:4]. Ultimately, wisdom is not a matter of discovery, but of revelation.”  [Kitchen, pp. 57-61]

 

Trust in the Lord:  Proverbs 3:5-7.

 

[5]  Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. [6]  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. [7]  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.  [ESV]

 

[5-7]  “We come now to perhaps the most familiar and best loved verses in all of Proverbs. Here, too, we encounter an exhortation and, then, a promised reward. Like the last exhortation/reward [3-4], the exhortation here is given in three lines. The first line calls us to trust in the Lord with all your heart. This trust is the sense of security and safety that comes from being under the care of another more competent than ourselves. This trust is to be total: with all your heart. The heart represents the totality of one’s inner being: mind, emotions and will. Everything we are and all we have must be rested upon the lord as our security. The second part of the exhortation is cast negatively: we are not to lean on our own understanding. The root of the verb means to support yourself on something, to lean with your entire weight upon something. We are not to take our own understanding as buttressing support. Understanding is a word that is generally given a positive spin by Solomon, but here is seen negatively. Here it is that human wisdom worked up from our natural selves as compared to the divine wisdom that God gives to those who seek Him. This does not mean to imply that there is nothing to be trusted in ‘common sense’, but simply that you do not use it as your sole, or even primary, support in life. Rather, we should bank our all on God and the wisdom of His ways. His ways are above ours [Isa. 55:8-9; Rom. 11:33-34], and must be chosen when they seem to contradict our earthly, human wisdom. The third line of the exhortation is found in verse 6: In all your ways acknowledge him. The verb acknowledge means simply ‘to know’. Such knowledge is more than acquainting yourself with God, but describes a deep experiential knowledge. The fact that this is to be in all your ways (see with all your heart [5]) drives deeper still the level of intimacy intended. Finally, the reward is stated: he will make straight your paths. The straight paths of the wise contrast with the crooked or perverse ways of the wicked [Prov. 2:13,15; 3:17; 10:9]. The reward is more than the promise of simple guidance. It includes the removal of obstacles [Isa. 40:3; 45:13] from the path of the wise and the surety of arriving at one’s destination. When you abandon yourself to God in trusting obedience finding your entire support in Him and striving in every avenue of your life to know Him more intimately, He guarantees that the path before you will be clearer and smoother than otherwise it would have been, and that He will keep you in His will. Again, we meet an exhortation and its reward in verse 7. Note the connection with the preceding verse: the one who is wise in his own eyes is the one who leans upon his own understanding. We are called to recognize that wisdom does not come from within, but from without – from God [Prov. 2:6]. Fools say, ‘Just let me think! I can figure this out if you will just give me time!’ God says, Never be wise in your own sight [Rom. 12:16]. Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him [Prov. 26:12]. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! [Isa. 5:21]. God honors and helps the one who admits he does not have the wisdom he needs and who seeks it from Him [James 1:5]. The opposite of being wise in one’s own eyes is fearing the Lord. This is the theme of the book of Proverbs. When we put God in His rightful place and reverence Him appropriately, we will turn away from evil. One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless [Prov. 14:16]. To love God is to hate what He hates [Ps. 97:10; 119:104,128; 139:21]. The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil [Prov. 8:13]. By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil [Prov. 16:6]. You cannot love and fear God and turn toward evil. To turn toward evil is to belittle God and hate Him.”  [Kitchen, pp. 76-78]

 

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.         Note the “if … then” structure of 2:1-5. The writer uses eight verbs to tell us what to do in order to receive the gift of God’s wisdom [6]. List the eight verbs and their objects. What observations can you make from these conditional statements concerning God’s wisdom?

 

2.         The fear of the Lord and the knowledge of God are often found as the twin towers of true religion describing the poles of awe and intimacy which God desires. We must seek to hold these two poles together in our Christian lives. Proverbs 2:1-5 teaches us that these two things are the result (then) of the conditional statements in 2:1-4. What is the connection between the eight verbs and their objects that you listed above and growing in the fear and knowledge of God?

 

3.         Note the threefold exhortation (positive – negative – positive) and the promised reward in 3:5-6. What does it mean: to trust in the Lord with all your heart; to lean not on your own understanding; to acknowledge God in all your ways? What is God promising us by saying that he will make straight your paths?

 

4.         How do the exhortation and reward given in verse 7 help us to understand better verses 5-6? How does fear the Lord and turn away from evil relate to having your paths straight?

 

References:

Proverbs, Charles Bridges, Crossway.

Proverbs, Duane Garrett, NAC, Broadman.

Proverbs, John Kitchen, Mentor.

Proverbs, Tremper Longman III, Baker.