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)
Yesterday we looked at the ‘if you’ statements in the first three verses. In v2-5 we see the outcome of accepting words of wisdom, pleading for wisdom and searching for wisdom. If you search for wisdom then you will understand the fear of the Lord and have knowledge of God. Wisdom is a gift from God. It is not something we gain by going on retreat, or by entering a religious monastery. Lady wisdom calls out in public as we saw in chapter one; this is not a secret, esoteric search. We are commanded to search after wisdom, but wisdom doesn’t come from inside of us, it is given as a gift from God. God gives through the teaching of His word. In giving this gift God uses the means of the Teacher.
There is also a pattern within v5-8 and v9-11. Following on from the ‘If you’ of v1-3, we have ‘then you’ and ‘for’ in v5-8 and v9-11. The young person learning would not have a text to take away with them. They would commit to memory the teaching and this structure served as an aide memoire.
The Lord gives success. This is not necessarily success in exams, in business, in wealth or in health. God gives us success in living life. God shields, guards and protects. The one who walks the path of wisdom is upright, blameless, just and faithful. That is the success in life that the Lord gives. It is much better to be upright, blameless, just and faithful before the Lord, than it is to be successful in schoolwork, in business or in health or wealth. Of course, if we are characterised by these virtues, we will apply ourselves to what God gives us to do.
These virtues come to us as we acquire wisdom, the fear of the Lord and the knowledge of God. It is the pursuit of these that ought to be our primary occupation.
V9-11 When God gives wisdom, we will then understand what is right, just and fair. We will be able to follow the good path in life. We live in a world that makes our choices more complex. What we can achieve in medicine, technology and data collection and manipulation creates a new series of dilemmas. However just because we can do a thing doesn’t mean that we should do it. These advances present us with choices. We can be advanced in science but lacking in wisdom. We also have choices between that which good and that which is best. We need discernment in life to make our choices. We need wisdom to know when to intervene, when to speak or when to be silent. We need wisdom to know what to say and how to say it.
The picture we have of someone who is right, just and fair is of an inflexible, austere character who appears to lack love but is all justice and righteous. That is not the characteristic developed by wisdom. Wisdom will be pleasant to our souls, it is a garland of grace and a necklace of beauty. If our sense of fairness, justice and righteousness makes us inflexible, rigid people we have not received wisdom. Wisdom puts us on a good and pleasant path, it is a thing of beauty that adorns our lives and builds godly character in us.
Wisdom enters our hearts and changes our hearts. We will have godly knowledge that does not puff up.
We can have knowledge of the Bible but lack wisdom. When we lack wisdom, we quite often speak out inappropriately. Wisdom teaches us discretion, so that we will know when it is appropriate to say, and what it is appropriate to say.
Wisdom will protect and guard us. We need to be protected from ourselves because we can very easily be rude, angry and ugly in what we say. Wisdom teaches us to be pleasant and discreet. This is what it means to be right, just and fair.
Lord teach us wisdom, help us in our pursuit of wisdom to know the fear of the Lord. Because we fear the Lord, our behaviour, our speech and attitude become important. Help us to seek the beauty of a life of obedience and faithfulness because we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.