My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2 turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding– 3 indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 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. 7 He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, 8 for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. 9 Then you will understand what is right and just and fair– every good path. 10 For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. 11 Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. (Prov. 2:1-11 NIV)
It is important to notice not only what God has said but to notice how God is said. There is a structure to this chapter that is not so easily seen in the English text. A hint of a structure can be observed in that the chapter is divided into 22 verses (or lines). It does not form an acrostic as we will find in Chapter 31. However, in Chapter 2 there are six separate sections, the first three sections beginning with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet and the last three section beginning with the middle letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The structure would help the Hebrew reader to commit the teaching to memory. For English readers it helps us understand the meaning of the teaching.
Section 1 – 2:1-4 includes three ‘if you’ statements.
(1) v1 If you accept my words
(2) v3 If you call out for insight
(3) v4 If you look for it as for silver
Section 2 – 2:5-8 has a ‘then you’ statement.
V5 Then you will understand
Section 3 – 2:9-11
V9 Then you will understand
Section 4 – 2:12-15
V12 Wisdom will save you
Section 5 – 2:16-19
V16 Wisdom will save you
Section 6 – 2:20-22
V20 Thus you will walk
The flow of the whole chapter is, if you will do this, then you will understand, wisdom will save you and then you will walk in the wise way.
Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. We will look at the first Aleph passage today.
Section 1 first Aleph passage – ‘If you’ 2:1-4
The first three verses deal with the desire that we should have for wisdom. We have to accept the words of wisdom and store up in our hearts the commands. God’s wisdom teaches us that we should not lie, but sometimes we find it more convenient to lie. When we do that, we choose our own judgement over God’s judgement. For example, when we choose to break the law of the land, dismissing it as human laws. One example of this was observed when a church leader put together a song book without the appropriate copyright authority and the payment of royalties. When challenged he said that this was the worship of God and that they shouldn’t be charged for it in the first place. The person was exercising a superior attitude as if he wasn’t subject to the law of the land. The wisdom of God instructs to obey those who have been placed in authority over us. This example was a rejection of biblical wisdom and an elevation of personal wisdom. All of God’s wisdom has got to be listened to and stored in our hearts.
Listening and storing requires attentiveness on our part. In fact, we need to go further, we need to search and cry out in prayer to the Lord that He would teach us. We can memorise wisdom, we can memorise a catechism and those are good things to do, but we need further wisdom to know how it applies to our lives. Charles Bridges wrote a commentary on Proverbs in the 19th century. His comments on this chapter capture the use of study and prayer needed to hide God’s word in our hearts. The text of the commentary is available online. We must nurture the living active relationship that we have with the Lord if we are to be able to apply God’s wisdom to our lives on a daily basis. God has given us minds to think. He has given us wisdom to assist us in decision making and He has given us His Holy Spirit to empower and guide us. God does not relieve us of the responsibility of making decisions. Many Christians try to abdicate their responsibility to make decisions by using a kind of ‘lucky dip’ approach to discovering God’s will, such as opening the Bible at random to see what verse turns up. We should pray for wisdom and take responsible decisions, and if later we find we have further information then we adjust or correct those earlier decisions. We are in a living relationship with God and we trust God to give us wisdom and we challenge our own hearts by the word of God to ensure that we are not just making convenient decisions.
We must be active in seeking wisdom, applying our hearts to understanding. Neglect of God’s word is clearly a problem, otherwise the scriptures would not be so full of instruction for us to be people of God’s word.
Lord God help us to seek the wisdom that You have given in Your word. Forgive us for not reading Your word. Forgive us for being casual in our reading and failing to apply that word to our hearts. Forgive us for being merely academic in our study of God’s word and failing to be practical in our application of Your word to our lives. Lord give us wisdom to understand the importance of gaining wisdom, because we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.