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Proverbs: The Book of Wisdom and Folly

 

“The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and discipline, To understand the sayings of understanding, To receive discipline that leads to insight, Righteousness, justice, and equity, To give prudence to the simple, To the youth knowledge and discretion; Let the wise man hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire guidance, To understand a proverb and an enigma, The words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge; Ignorant fools despise wisdom and discipline”

Proverbs 1:1-7

The book of Proverbs has been called a book of wisdom and folly. Wisdom is meant for us to use, and folly is what we are to avoid. The dichotomy between the two is great, but they consistently show themselves in every Christian life.

There comes a time when we must necessarily move away from our follies and seek wisdom. We will continue throughout our Christian walk moving through times of folly, but by gaining wisdom from the inspired and inerrant Word of God, those times should be fewer and fewer as we progress in holiness and obedience.

Wisdom, simply put, is knowledge applied. We gain knowledge through our reading of God’s Word. This process is not just merely reading the words in the Bible, but also praying, reading, and meditating on the words read. We pray for the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to what God is trying to tell us through His Word. We then read the text in a slow and deliberate manner in order to better absorb the material.

Then we meditate on the words, yet not in the sense that we clear our minds completely like the Eastern ways of meditation. In true Christian meditation, we fill our minds with the Words of God and mull over them in our heads several times, thinking of the context and trying to pull from the words some applications we can use.

“The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and discipline, To understand the sayings of understanding, To receive discipline that leads to insight, Righteousness, justice, and equity, To give prudence to the simple, To the youth knowledge and discretion; Let the wise man hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire guidance, To understand a proverb and an enigma, The words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge; Ignorant fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Prov. 1:1-7).

To know something is to have knowledge of that something. The only way we gain knowledge is by taking in some form of information and implanting that information into our minds. Repetition is key to gaining knowledge. Reading something like a passage of Scripture several times is the best way to implant knowledge into our minds. When the truth is implanted, we can better understand and draw out the vital information.

The verses above talk about attaining wise counsel. This process is also crucial in the search for wisdom. Many men before us have searched the Scriptures and have documented their findings. While not all agree exactly with one another, they are excellent resources to check the insights you think you have gleaned from the text.

There are a lot of quality commentaries on the market with pages of notes and information useful to check what you have learned. If the result of your study in a certain text does not align with several commentaries or commentators, then you are likely on the wrong idea path with that particular text.

We see here that a person who does not take instruction well or even despises instruction is called a fool. We can see that among many in our culture today. Instruction seems to be dismissed for the idea that critical knowledge will come to me eventually.

While that may be true, despising wisdom means you are not looking at the text in the right frame of mind. There is no humbleness in your process. You do not know everything, and thinking that you do in starting out will be a significant stumbling block to you gaining wisdom.

“My son, if you will receive my words And treasure my commandments within you, To make your ear pay attention to wisdom, Incline your heart to discernment; For if you call out for understanding, Give your voice for discernment; If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of Yahweh, And find the knowledge of God” (Prov. 2:1-5).

Hiding the commandments within us is the way to knowledge of God. Paul tells us to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may approve what the will of God is, that which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).

The will or knowledge of God is an experiential reality. We can only grasp His will when we experience His will for ourselves. Studying the sacred writings for ourselves is better than merely reading what someone else says about them and taking those insights for truth. The process of reading the Word will help you learn the text for yourself, but you cannot rest upon what some other mere mortal says. Your insights must also be experienced by you through the consistent working of the Holy Spirit.

This was the way of Puritan preaching: experiential preaching drove home the idea that the listener was to change something in his or her life after hearing the preaching of God’s Word.

This kind of preaching hits all of the components that make a person’s beliefs. Moral arguments are put forth and expounded on. Problems in the church body are raised and worked through. The preacher himself is held accountable for every word preached. Church members should even use God’s Word to check the man behind the pulpit and confirm that he does not lead anyone astray.

This phrase “Fear of the Lord” is used in the two sets of texts from Proverbs. Some think fear of the Lord is a bad or silly conviction. Why would we fear the God who created us? Yet we all should have a reverent fear of the Lord. Reverence means standing in awe: because He is the God that created us, He can destroy us at any given moment and would be entirely just to make such a decision. He orchestrates all things in this world for His glory and good.

But the fear of the Lord always comes before knowledge. If we do not fear the Lord, the God who made us, we will never gain the true knowledge that can only come from Him.

For further reading
Reformed Preaching by Joel Beeke
Proverbs by Charles Bridges
Studies in Proverbs: Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth by William Arnot
Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs - Reformation Commentary on Scripture by David Fink
Matthew Smith

Matthew Smith

Matthew Smith lives in McCune, Kansas, alongside his wife, Nichole, and their 9-year-old son. He experienced the regenerating working of The Holy Spirit after 32 years of disobedience, thanks to God’s grace. This transformation occurred through the expositional preaching of a faithful pastor, who shed light on God’s word, drawing Matthew to repentance. His life’s purpose now revolves around serving God and His people.

February 27, 2024

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