The WAY of WISDOM
EXPLORING THE BOOK OF PROVERBS
There are three books in the Bible that have come to be called wisdom literature, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job. For this month, let's explore the book of Proverbs and see what God is revealing to us through this book.
The book itself mentions Solomon as its author but beginning from chapters 22 to 31, we find that there are other authors included in this collection of wise sayings and life lessons. The core theme of the book is WISDOM. In the introductory parts in chapters 1 to 9, we distinctly hear 2 voices depicted in the book. The voice of a father to a son and the voice of "Lady Wisdom". The book is addressed to a young man. The situations he will face while he is young receive much attention. These situations supply concrete examples from which all readers can apply lessons to their own lives. Anyone who is wise and who pays attention will benefit (1:5) from these instructions.
6 Ps of Proverbs
1. Picture of Wisdom
The reader of Proverbs must seek to understand the various types of people the book describes. The most obvious characters in the book are the wise, the fool, and the simple. Proverbs urges its readers to be wise, which means embracing God’s covenant and living out the covenant in everyday situations (compare 2:2; 10:1). The fool is the person who constantly opposes God’s covenant (1:7b). The simple is the person who is not firmly committed, either to wisdom or to folly; he is easily misled (14:15).
When we read Proverbs, it will be helpful to answer these probing questions:
(1) What virtue does this proverb commend?
(2) What vice does it disapprove of?
(3) What value does it affirm?
The word used in Hebrew that we translate as "wisdom" is the word "hokhmah".
When a person in the Old Testament demonstrated exceptional ability in a craft or art, that person was said to have what the Hebrew language calls hokhmah. English-speaking translators render it as “skill.” In Exodus 31:3-5, God filled a man named Bezalel with the Holy Spirit and with “skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts – to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship.”
Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts. - Exodus 31:1-5
KNOWLEDGE, UNDERSTANDING and WISDOM are three distinct things and yet they always work together. (illustration of a broken car engine and the skill of a mechanic)
Knowledge is information.
Understanding is comprehension.
Wisdom is application.
Without the foundation of knowledge and understanding, wisdom is hard to apply. But it is also true that knowledge alone is not enough. We can have all the information we can have but without wisdom, knowledge is not power.
When we read the book of Proverbs it will feel like God is giving us the tools for shaping, building and engineering his raw material given to us - our very lives. So let me offer this meaning of Godly WISDOM:
- the proper application of knowledge and understanding to choose the right course of action for the desired result; the skill in the art of godly living
2. Purpose of Wisdom
The goal of the book of Proverbs is stated right at the beginning (1:1–7): to describe what wisdom is and to help God’s people become wise. Wisdom is founded in the “fear of the Lord,” and it enables believers to express their faith in the practical details of everyday life.
Proverbs 1:2-7 ESV
2 To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, 3 to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; 4 to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth— 5 Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, 6 to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles.
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
The bottom line is that those who fear the Lord - those who revere and obey Him - who listen to Him - who are humble enough to submit to Him and follow His instructions - are the ones who are wise and will continue to live in wisdom. (E.g. Adam and Eve and our constant decision making everyday to make a choice to obey or disobey God.)
OBEDIENCE to GOD = WISE
DISOBEDIENCE to GOD = FOOLISH
3. Pursuit of Wisdom
The entire theme of the book of Proverbs is this: pursue wisdom. With the tone of a father giving instructions to his sons, Solomon writes:
Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention…. Do not forsake my teaching…. Get wisdom, get understanding…. Do not forsake wisdom…. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost you all you have, get understanding…. Accept what I say…. I guide you in the way of wisdom.
- Proverbs 4:1-11
Verse after verse, the message is the same. Seek wisdom because it pays:
Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who embrace her; those who lay hold of her will be blessed.
- Proverbs 3:13-18
4. Provider of Wisdom
As with most things of value, however, wisdom is elusive, and it seems to be in short supply. Some people are crafty and shrewd, others are well-informed and highly educated, but few of us manifest the quiet depth of wisdom. Godly wisdom does not come from merely just being highly educated; it does not come with age; nor does it come automatically with experience.
Which is better?
LIVE & LEARN vs. LEARN & LIVE
There are three ways we can learn or gain wisdom:
- Your own experience (mistakes, wrong decisions, trial and error)
- Others' experience (others who have gone before us)
- The Wisdom of God - the Bible
“Where then does wisdom come from? Where does understanding dwell? It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing, concealed even from the birds of the air. Destruction and Death say, ‘Only a rumor of it has reached our ears.’ God understands the way to it and he alone knows where it dwells, for he views the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens. When he established the force of the wind and measured out the waters, when he made a decree for the rain and a path for the thunderstorm, then he looked at wisdom and appraised it; he confirmed it and tested it. And he said to men, ‘The fear of the Lord – that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.’”
- Job 28:12-28
For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.