William J. Stewart | Lessons from the Book of Proverbs
If the Almighty gave you a blank check, what would you do with it? Solomon was presented with that very scenario. After he became king of Israel, God appeared to him in a dream and asked, What shall I give you? (1 Kings 3:5) What would it be? Wealth? A long life? The honour of men? Victory over enemies? There are all kinds of things that a king would like to fill a blank check from God with. Solomon asked for wisdom.
And indeed, God gave him wisdom. 1 Kings 4:29-30 reveal that his wisdom excelled the wisdom of all those who surrounded him.
The book of Proverbs is a written record of the wisdom of Solomon. From start to finish, the wise king gives instruction to his son and all else who will hear the wisdom given him by God.
Today, we embark on a series of articles looking at the book of Proverbs.
Three text through the book specifically identify Solomon as the source of this writing (1:1; 10:1 & 25:1). The 31st chapter is attributed to king Lemuel. It is entirely possible this is a reference to Solomon, as Lemuel literally means “belonging to God.” As king of Israel, Solomon was the king belonging to God. In the 30th chapter of the book we find material that is not from Solomon, but from Agur the son of Jakeh, which had been declared to Ithiel and Ucal (30:1).
To Know, To Perceive, To Receive
To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding, to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity… (Proverbs 1:2-3)
Solomon will address wisdom throughout his collection of proverbs. Wisdom is essential. Among the words he shares with us about wisdom, we find this:
How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver. (Proverbs 16:16)
Gold and silver will corrode, they might get stolen, lost, or damaged. They are temporary. Wisdom will increase to more wisdom; wisdom prepares us for eternity.
Not only does he emphasize wisdom, but instruction. The Hebrew word for instruction is defined by Strong’s with words like chastisement, reproof, warning, correction, discipline. Several texts throughout the book will extol the benefits of instruction:
…the commandment is a lamp, and the light a law; reproofs of instruction are the way of life… (Proverbs 6:23)
The phrase in the later part of verse 2 is neat – “…to perceive the words of understanding.” The two key words in the text are related. The text could have rightly been rendered, “to understand the words of understanding.” Understand?
It deals with discernment, the ability to know what is right and wrong. Recall, this is the very thing that Solomon asked when the Lord appeared to him.
…give Your servant an understanding heart to judge your people, that I may discern between good and evil. (1 Kings 3:9)
All Christians are called to discern between good and evil (Hebrews 5:12-14).
These two things, wisdom and understanding, are linked together throughout the book (10:23; 14:33; 24:3; etc.). They are co-dependent. One cannot exercise wisdom without having understanding.
We need to know wisdom; we need to perceive the words of understanding; but it will all be for naught if we are not willing to receive the instruction of wisdom. We may know and understand the details of a pass in football, but unless we receive the ball, there is no touchdown. Knowing and understanding spiritual things, but not receiving them means no salvation!
Receiving demands action on the part of the receiver. We need to be willing to receive the things of God. Specifically, the writer speaks about “…the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment and equity…” God expects us to have a sense of right and wrong, and the sense to put it into practice.
To Give Prudence
There is a responsibility that comes with knowledge and understanding of God’s word – we are to share it. Those who are simple and young are specifically spoken of. Some are naïve or easily led away. Some are inexperienced. Whatever the case, we are charged with the duty of leading such individuals to the Lord. To make wise the simple (Psalm 19:7).
To Understand A Proverb And An Enigma
Wisdom, understanding, and perception are essential for us to understand this book. In fact, such are needed to understand some of Jesus’ teachings, and some of the prophets. A proverb is basically a parable or saying; an enigma is an interpretation or a figure. No doubt, some who heard the teaching of Jesus had no idea why He spoke about weddings, sowing seed, or servants. Others saw the spiritual lessons in what He taught. There is a certain level of spirituality that is necessary to comprehend some of what the Bible says.
Writing to the Corinthian church, Paul lamented:
…I could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ… (1 Corinthians 3:1)
May we be spiritual people, able to understand and willing to apply the things of God. May we not be wise in our own eyes, for we are warned:
…The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Psalm 1:7)