for gaining wisdom and instruction;
for understanding words of insight;
for receiving instruction in prudent behaviour,
doing what is right and just and fair;
for giving prudence to those who are simple,
knowledge and discretion to the young –
let the wise listen and add to their learning,
and let the discerning get guidance –
for understanding proverbs and parables,
the sayings and riddles of the wise.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,(Prov. 1:2-7 NIV)
but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
No one ever said life would be easy! Wrong! Quite a few people implied that it would be easy once we came to know Jesus. Life with Jesus is not easy, life is not easy. There may be times of cessation from the spiritual warfare, but the complexities of dealing with circumstances and people feels like making your way through a minefield. Not that other circumstances and people are always the problem, most of the time it is me. Is there any help to show us how to navigate through life in as wise a way as possible? Proverbs contains guidance to help us cope with life and find our way through the maze of this world. Proverbs is practical wisdom, showing us what we can do to get on in this puzzling world without losing our way and ending in disaster.
Many neglect the book of Proverbs, perhaps because it lacks the great salvation themes of election, redemption and covenant. The Teacher is concerned with people as plain, ordinary individuals who live in the world, and with the wisdom and folly of their attitudes and actions in the common things in life.
The Teacher (I have deliberately avoided debates about the author, because that gets us into multiple authors, editors and compilers. I’ll just use the term Teacher to refer to the person who is teaching) is setting out to teach us wisdom. Very basically wisdom is skill for living. It teaches us how to act and what to say in different situations. Wisdom helps us to try and avoid problems and provides us with the skill to handle them when they do come. Wisdom also helps us to understand what others are saying to us. Proverbs is practical help from God for weak people like us stumbling through daily life. It is God’s counsel for the perplexed, His strength for the defeated, His warning to the proud, and His mercy for the broken.
Whatever stage of life we find ourselves at, the book of Proverbs is for us. For the simple and the wise. The simple are those who are young and just beginning to learn. The young have started their studies and the Proverbs can help provide discretion. Young children can often get their parents into trouble when they repeat something they have heard in the home. It can be embarrassing, and we all been there. We once were out visiting with non-Christian friends. We sat down together for lunch and as we were all starting to eat, our daughter said, ‘daddy we didn’t pray’. Thankfully, the friend understood and asked me if I would like to pray. A few years later we would have expected a little more discretion. Yes, we always pray before we eat, but we have to respect the home of the person that we are in.
Those who are older, the wise, they too are to listen and add to their learning. No matter how old you are, you have not heard it all. We never fully arrive at wisdom in this life. As we live in this world, wisdom is not so much a destination as a journey. If, even for a moment, we think we have arrived at wisdom, we prove we have abandoned the journey.
Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.(Prov. 19:27 NIV)
Later the book will introduce the fool to us. The difference between the fool and the simple is that the simple are teachable.
Where do we begin our quest for wisdom?
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.(Prov. 1:7 NIV)
There is no wisdom without God. The wise must be open to God in their lives. The fool has no place for God.
The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.(Ps. 14:1 NIV)
Lord God as we begin our study into wisdom help us to see that this begins with You and that You will always be at the centre. Help us to fear Your name in the sense that we should. That we bow down to worship You and that we serve You with our full heart, mind and strength, because we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.