SSL 5 - Proverbs 8:6-16 - PURSUING WISDOM
LAST WEEK: In Prov. 4:11-27, we heard Solomon give his son a lot of positive and negative counseling-many "do" and "do not" statements, telling him to choose the positive path of wisdom and avoid the negative consequences of wickedness. We learned that the Hebrew word for "wicked" (ra-sha) literally means the same thing as criminal, in this case a person adjudged guilty of evil. Solomon portrays those guilty of evil as conquered, addicted, and desperate. He concludes the section by comparing the path of the righteous to bright light and the way of the wicked to utter darkness. In his advice on telling his son how live, he emphasized three important aspects of living wisely: (1) the attitude of the heart; (2) the focus of the eyes; and (3) the direction of the feet.
THIS WEEK: In contrast to the evil woman Solomon warned his son against in Chapter 7, which we won't be covering, in Chapter 8 he introduces yet another woman who is depicted as wisdom personified. After the initial address, in vv. 6-11, "lady wisdom," as she's known, invites us to listen to her instructions on the basis of the great blessings it will bring, then in vv. 12-18, she will explain what wisdom has for us and what benefits wisdom gives to us. This is a very general explanation, but I think you'll understand as we move into the text.
Read Proverbs 8:6-9 - THE RIGHTEOUS CHARACTER OF HER SPEECH
6 Listen, for I will speak noble things; And the opening of my lips will reveal right things.
7 For my mouth will utter truth; And wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
8 All the utterances of my mouth are in righteousness; There is nothing crooked or perverted in them.
9 They are all straightforward to him who understands, And right to those who find knowledge.
v. 6: "Listen, for I will speak noble things; And the opening of my lips will reveal right things" - This is Lady Wisdom's invitation to "listen." Everything she says to us will "reveal the right things." What that means, for those of us who seriously want to listen and really desire the right things, Lady Wisdom has all the right answers. As we will learn from her, wisdom teaches (1) men to work hard and love their wives, (2) wives to love and honor their husbands, (3) children to obey their parents, (4) business owners and managers to be just and equal to their employees, (4) employees to work hard, (5) citizens to pay taxes and respect their leaders, and (5) leaders to remember who rules them! It endorses gracious speech, kindness to animals, support for the poor, saving money, and giving honor to the aged. In contrast, it condemns sexual immorality, drunkenness, religious hypocrisy, gossiping and slandering, backbiting and lying, abortion, gambling, and foul speech, etc.
v. 7: "For my mouth will utter truth; And wickedness is an abomination to my lips" - Wisdom is gloriously pure, without deceit or lies, unlike any other source of information available to us. Wow! If you're tired of hearing the rants and raves of the scoffers and fools of this world, turn off your TV and turn your mind and thoughts to the source of true wisdom, which is right at hand in God's revealed Word and its unadulterated words of truth and wisdom. Here, right off the bat, the lady tells us that wisdom is as simple as loving truth and hating wicked thoughts and deeds. Wisdom teaches you the knowledge and skill of sound speech. It can give you the correct words of truth to answer those who ask you questions, and it will guide you to speaking the right words at the exactly right time. Just as important, Wisdom also assures us of what we WON'T hear when God speaks to our hearts by His Holy Spirit. We are told that wickedness is an abomination to the lips of wisdom. When we listen to the Lord as He teaches us the Word, we can be assured that we will NOT hear anything wicked. In fact, this actually helps us to know when the Spirit of God is speaking and when He is NOT speaking. If we hear something wicked, it is NOT the Spirit of God offering His wisdom to us. Too often people make really foolish decisions when they think they've heard God. But if they are led to do something ungodly, something wicked, something that's unscriptural, it's NOT God speaking. We are much more likely to be receiving God's wisdom when we are taking the time to read, think, and meditate on God's Word than in doing anything else.
v. 8: All the utterances of my mouth are in righteousness; There is nothing crooked or perverted in them" - The words, "In righteousness," indicate the doctrine that declares the perfect infallibility of God and His Word and appears here as a statement made by Wisdom. To us, this means that God is speaking to us in this passage as wisdom personified. With this, God is calling out to men and women everywhere to listen and to open their hearts to receive the wisdom that God wants to grant to us. Wisdom is waiting for us here at the church, at home, in the workplace, in the traffic lanes of life, and anywhere else we choose to listen. But the question should rightly be asked, "Can we trust what Wisdom says to us in any and all situations?" Well, my Bible declares that, "All the utterances of my mouth are in righteousness!" So that's the answer for us. Wisdom cannot lie to us, cannot mislead us, will not deceive us! Therefore, every utterance, every word from the mouth of God given in wisdom is righteous. What's even better is what she says next: "There is nothing crooked or perverted in them." Crooked here means to twist something and refers to people who are cunning and crafty, devious people who twist the truth to mean what they want it to mean. Very simply, God does not work like this-not ever!
v. 9: "They are all straightforward to him who understands, And right to those who find knowledge" - All God's utterances-as revealed in His Word-are straightforward. In the vernacular of our day: "God shoots straight with us." The idea behind God's Word is total honesty. It also has to do with the fact that God is someone who is incapable of being perverted or being partial or selfish in His judgment. Something we all need to grasp is that God is ultimately worthy of all glory, and what He does by and through us is ultimately to display His own glory. But we need to notice that our ability to see God in this way is only "straightforward to him who understands." This means that to understand what God is saying to you and to me, we need to have godly discernment that moves us past our fleshly, human wisdom. In this context, human wisdom is irrelevant. We all see people in the media and elsewhere with liberal, secular humanist values and ideas who don't understand God at all. The fact is that they are blind to the true nature of God. This understanding comes to us-Christian believers -from the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds. Without the Spirit's working in us, we will never understand. Our minds and hearts are perverted and twisted by sin. It is only when God's grace is manifested in us that we are transformed, so that our sinful natures no longer dominate our thinking. Here it is: God is freely offering His wisdom to us every day in the countless situations where we truly need to apply it. The truly wise man (or woman) is the one who submits himself (or herself) to God and learns to listen...really, seriously, conscientiously listen!
LADY WISDOM SAYS 1: If you ever expect to walk in God's wisdom you must learn to listen. God is calling out to men and women everywhere to listen and to open their hearts to receive the wisdom that God wants to grant to us. Wisdom is waiting for us here at the church, at home, in the workplace, in the traffic lanes of life, and anywhere else we choose to listen.
LADY WISDOM SAYS 2: Before we can have godly discernment, we must move past our own human wisdom. In God's context, human wisdom is irrelevant. In order to understand what God is saying to us, we need to have godly discernment. To accomplish this, we must listen to God through
His word and listen to godly people whose values and opinions we trust.
Read Prov. 8:10-11 - THE INESTIMABLE VALUE OF KNOWLEDGE AND WISDOM
10 Take my instruction and not silver, And knowledge rather than choicest gold.
11 For wisdom is better than jewels; And all desirable things cannot compare with her.
v. 10: "Take my instruction and not silver, And knowledge rather than choicest gold" - Speaking here, Lady Wisdom informs us that her instruction and knowledge are much, much more valuable than silver and gold. So ask yourself how valuable is wisdom? You can't find any quotation for it on the New York Stock Exchange. It's not mentioned in the commodities market or in the international currency exchange markets either. So just how valuable is wisdom? Well, as we read on in our Proverbs study, we'll learn its value is so great that it's beyond comparison to the valuation of worldly things like silver and gold. Solomon uses this comparison in value as a frequent theme in Proverbs. He knew firsthand that most people wanted to earn a lot of money and amass great wealth, along with the power and influence that comes with it. More than any man of his time, he learned that God's wisdom was something so valuable that you couldn't buy it with money, but that it's free for the taking. The truth here is that men and women who completely focus their lives on the attainment of wealth never have time for God's wisdom.
v. 11: "For wisdom is better than jewels; And all desirable things cannot compare with her" - Next, the Lady tells that wisdom is even better than jewels, which refers to valuable gemstones like rubies, emeralds, and diamonds. The Hebrew word used here for jewels (mippeni-nim) indicates cut stones that would have been set in some kind of precious metal. This brings to mind the display of the English crown jewels you can see in the Tower of London. These too have zero value when you compare them with God's wisdom. The value gained from Wisdom comes simply from seeing things the way that God sees them and with it, knowing how to make decisions that please and honor Him. Look at the second phrase, "all desirable things cannot compare with her." Focus on the word "all." This means if you took all the things of this world that people consider valuable and pile them all up into one massive heap, they would be worthless compared to God's wisdom. People of this world put great delight in the things they consider to be valuable. They covet these things and spend a great part of their lives trying to acquire them. The problem, the huge error here, is that none of these temporal things are as valuable to anyone's life as knowing God. They don't add up to a happy, joyful, and spiritually prosperous life in this world or to an eternal life spent with God in heaven.
LADY WISDOM SAYS 3: The value gained from God's wisdom comes simply from seeing things the way that God sees them. God's wisdom enables us to make decisions and choices in life that please and honor Him. God will reward us with a happy, joyful, and spiritually prosperous life in this world and to an eternal life spent with Him in heaven.
Read Prov. 8:12-16 - WHAT WISDOM HAS AND WHAT WISDOM GIVES
12 I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, And I find knowledge and discretion.
13 The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverted mouth, I hate.
14 Counsel is mine and sound wisdom; I am understanding, power is mine.
15 By me kings reign, And rulers decree justice.
16 By me princes rule, and nobles, All who judge rightly.
v. 12: "I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, And I find knowledge and discretion." - The word "prudence" may properly be defined as wisdom applied to practice; and wherever true wisdom is applied to a situation, it always leads to actions that are accomplished by the most godly means. In other words, wisdom dwells with prudence. Wisdom is found in those who don't make "snap" judgments and decisions but exercise sound discretion to arrive at the most prudent decision or solution. They stand back to carefully consider a situation long enough to ask questions and most important, to include God and ask Him for discernment about what they are seeing and compre-hending. We never make wise decisions when we react in haste. We must stop and take time to investigate the situation and the people involved. And when we're walking in God's wisdom, prudence guides us to use sound discretion. If you remember from an earlier proverbs lesson, sound discretion is the ability to differentiate between the subtle differences in things in order to arrive at the best solution or choice. Closer, careful examination will reveal the difference, and the difference often makes all the difference!
LADY WISDOM SAYS 4: When we're walking in God's wisdom, prudence will guide us to use sound discretion. "Prudence" may be defined as wisdom applied to practice and the "sound discretion" that comes from it gives us the ability to differentiate between the subtle differences in things in order to arrive at the best solution or choice. Closer, careful examination will reveal the difference, and the difference often makes all the difference!
v. 13: "The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverted mouth, I hate" - Solomon told us at the beginning of Proverbs that, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge" (Prov. 1:7). If we truly fear God and give him the reverential honor and respect that He deserves, then we will hate all the things that He hates, and God hates all evil, yes? And if we are truly His, we will hate all evil. And since God hates evil, Lady Wisdom hates evil and
lists four things in particular that we should hate: (1) She hates "pride" - which is an inflated opinion of yourself and an attitude of superiority over others. Remember that God cast Satan out of heaven for pride. (1 Tim. 3:6). (2) She hates "arrogance" - it a self-important and conceited attitude which display contempt toward others. It is the opposite of loving people. (3) She hates "evil ways" - which is a lifestyle characterized by sinful living and behavior. (4) She hates a "perverted mouth" - which is contentious, critical, hateful, dishonest, and foul speech. Our speech should build people up, not tear them down. God's wisdom has zero tolerance for these things.
v. 14: "Counsel is mine and sound wisdom; I am understanding, power is mine" - In this verse, Lady Wisdom identifies four important aspects of wisdom: (1) "Counsel" - What is counsel? Simply advice. We need all kinds of advice, e.g., medical, financial, legal, and most of all, spiritual. The Psalmist says, "blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked" (Ps. 1:1). This is a person who uses godly wisdom to discern counsel that is wicked. Christians sometimes fall short on this point because they fail to even consider whether the counsel is either godly or wicked. They hear advice, listen to theories about their problems and may find themselves agreeing or disagreeing without considering the source. (2) "Sound Wisdom" - When something is "sound," it's whole and strong. From a worldly point of view, sound wisdom would be considered something that completely makes sense to us, as it relates to our senses. But a Biblical view of sound wisdom is based on the Word of God and covers what makes sense spiritually. (3) "Understanding" - Earlier, Solomon told us, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding" Prov. 3:5. This is the ability to see people, events, and situations as Gods see them and understand them as God understands them. As a practical matter, this is seeing the world from a purely Biblical perspective. I call it looking through God's lens. (4) "Power" - When we are walking in (1), (2), and (3), we have the might, strength, and power of God behind us. Ask yourself what can you accomplish when you have the power of God behind you?
LADY WISDOM SAYS 5: Christians sometimes fall short on wisdom because they fail to even consider whether the counsel they receive is either godly or wicked. They hear advice, listen to theories about their problems and may find themselves agreeing or disagreeing without considering the source. To the greatest extent possible, all of the advice we receive should come from God or godly people.
vv. 15-16: "By me kings reign, And rulers decree justice. 16 By me princes rule, and nobles, All who judge rightly." - Solomon is referring to Godly rulers like himself and his father, David. Great nations have great leaders, laws, and institutions. Their continuing greatness depends on upon civil rulers who have the wisdom to enact and enforce fair justice for every citizen. Their wisdom comes from their fear of God and the inspired instructions in the word of God. The founders of this nation-all godly men-are certainly one of the best modern examples of this principle. Leaders who attempt rule without godly wisdom frequently use fear as their primary tactic. We see this in our own democracy, don't we? Don't we hear politicians forecasting doom and gloom? The other dimension to this is our responsibility as Christian citizens and voters. Are we casting all of our votes with Godly wisdom? Should we be careful to put our support and votes behind national, state, and local government leaders who demonstrate Christian standards?
LADY WISDOM SAYS 6: The wisdom of great leaders who lead great nations comes from fear of God and the inspired instructions of his Word. The founders of this nation-all godly men-are certainly one of the best modern examples of this principle. As citizens and voters, are we casting our votes with godly wisdom. Are we being careful to put our support and votes behind national, state, and local government leaders who demonstrate Christian standards?
PRAYER: God, our Father in heaven and almighty creator, we thank You and praise You that we are able to gather together again in fellowship as a class to study, learn, and apply the truth of Your Word. I pray, God, that you will protect the health and wellbeing of every person here this morning. And as we take these first tentative steps to come together as a body, I pray that each one of us will be mindful and careful about the restrictions we need to observe in order to protect ourselves and those around us. I pray, Dear God, that You will use Your sovereign power over all things to bring an end to this pandemic, this real and dangerous threat that has claimed many lives right here in Baxter County, Arkansas. As we come back together and begin to really function as Your Church again, I ask, Lord God, that You would use Your Spirit to revive us...to give us a new beginning: That we will begin reaching the people of this community with the Gospel of Jesus Christ as we never have before. We are depending on You, Lord, to show us the way. I ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our precious Lord and Redeemer, AMEN.