Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. 2 I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching. 3 For I too was a son to my father, still tender, and cherished by my mother. 4 Then he taught me, and he said to me, “Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live. 5 Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them. 6 Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. 7 The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. 8 Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honour you. 9 She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown.” 10 Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many. 11 I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. 12 When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. 13 Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life. 14 Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers. 15 Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way. 16 For they cannot rest until they do evil; they are robbed of sleep till they make someone stumble. 17 They eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence. 18 The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. 19 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble. (Prov. 4:1-19 NIV)
The Teacher refers back to a previous generation. The teaching of wisdom was something that was passed from generation to generation. It is important to pay attention to the previous generation because they have long life and experience, and we can all benefit from their experience. Much of the teaching in this chapter has already been given in the previous chapters. When something is repeated in Scripture it is an indication of its importance, but it also indicates that it is something we are likely to forget.
We are told again not to forget the sound teaching of wisdom. As the father warns his son, he shares with his son how his father had given the same warning. The father had not forgotten and, as he has lived with wisdom, he has learned from experience how it has guarded his life. These words have to be embraced by the whole heart and treasured.
There is a cost to getting wisdom and the young person is encouraged to gain wisdom, even if it costs them all that they have. This doesn’t literally mean paying out all the money that they have. The investment is in time and energy. It takes commitment to study God’s word. There are so many other things competing for our time. We can even feel that we are busy doing the Lord’s work and we do it all without ever listening much to what the Lord says in His word. We have to take hold of the word, get wisdom and guard it well. This indicates that a time investment is needed to explore God’s word. Wisdom repays the effort involved in getting her. If we cherish wisdom she will exalt us, if we embrace her she will honour us. Wisdom adorns a person with beauty. It is pleasant to be in the company of such people.
The father continues to teach in v10. It is important to note that the wisdom that is being handed on is the wisdom that was handed down by God and is being passed on to the next generation. The danger of wisdom not being accepted is very likely to happen. Think of how much wisdom the prodigal son rejected in his short journey away from home. The father here is seeking to lead the son along straight paths. The son is taught both by word and example. When we walk or run along the straight path we will not stumble or be hampered. Wisdom guides us and gives us the ability to make wise decisions.
Getting wisdom is an arduous task, but so is holding on to it. Wisdom is to be guarded and kept. There is always the risk of stepping onto the path of wickedness. We are to turn and walk away from the wicked act. Those on that path are not satisfied with their own evil, they have to encourage others to participate in their evil. Evil doing and violence is the food that they eat and the wine that they drink. They are sustained by their evil and they cannot sleep until they have accomplished their evil and made someone else stumble.
Wisdom is transparent, out in the open for all to see. It develops throughout a life lived in the fear of the Lord. It begins like the rising of the morning sun and beams to become the full light of day. By contrast wickedness is a deep darkness. It offers no wisdom or insight, the wicked don’t even know what it is that makes them stumble. These were the people who wanted others to stumble, now they stumble themselves. Not knowing or understanding the consequences of one’s actions is an essential component of sin and folly.
Lord our God, thank You for the wisdom contained in Your word. Help us to gain this wisdom and to hold on to it, so that our path will be the path of righteousness. Help us to see the danger and darkness in sin and give us strength and resolve to turn away from wickedness because we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.