- JRM Sydney
The WAY of WISDOM Part 2
Unlike other books of the Bible, Proverbs contains no direct information about the people to whom it was originally written. It doesn’t mention the Hebrew nation, its culture, customs, laws, or history. The Old Testament books of law and history require us to draw timeless principles from words written to people living far away and long ago; the book of Proverbs, however, is timeless and universal. The wisdom of Solomon and the other sages requires no translation; the truths apply to all people living everywhere at any time. Even so, we must consciously exchange our twenty-first-century worldly filter for the worldview of the Hebrew God. PROVERBS was written to help us make the most out of life and for us to make wiser decisions and have fewer regrets.
Last time we have identified three characters described and/or addressed in the book of Proverbs: The Wise (embracing God’s covenant and living out the covenant in everyday situations (2:2; 10:1); The Foolish (the person who constantly opposes God’s covenant (1:7b); and The Simple (the person who is not firmly committed, either to wisdom or to folly; he is easily misled (14:15). It's amazing that we can still very much identify these three characters and can relate with them in our generation.
In the past three Sundays, we have looked at the dimensions of WISDOM through Proverbs and three concepts stood out: “hokhmah”
- skill; - proper application of knowledge; competence with regard to the complexities and realities of life
- a listening heart; discernment of right and wrong; good or evil
Humility vs. Pride
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding”. - Prov. 9:10
We can further define Wisdom as knowing the right thing to do; the right time to do it; and the proper way of doing it. We understood that wisdom does not come from merely just being highly educated. It does not necessarily come with age and does not necessarily come with experience. WISDOM belongs and comes ultimately from God. And like any good character; WISDOM can be developed and grow over time. God calls us to that process - to that PATH, PRIORITY and ultimately the PERSON of Wisdom.
1. The PATH of WISDOM
Proverbs 4:10-19 NIV
11 I instruct you in the way of wisdom
and lead you along straight paths.
12 When you walk, your steps will not be hampered;
when you run, you will not stumble.
13 Hold on to instruction, do not let it go;
guard it well, for it is your life.
14 Do not set foot on the path of the wicked
or walk in the way of evildoers.
15 Avoid it, do not travel on it;
turn from it and go on your way.
18 The path of the righteous is like the morning sun,
shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
19 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know what makes them stumble.
The Bible depicts living life like walking a path. It is pictured out as a journey, and on this journey, God's purpose is to mold us and grow our character. The writer of the Proverbs exhorts us to be careful and be watchful of the steps we make and the path where we choose to walk. CHARACTER is built through the accumulation of these small steps and choices we make each and every day. Generosity or Greed does not grow overnight; so is Pride or Humility. E.g. Corrupt politicians did not just immediately become that.. Somewhere along their growing up years, corruption has already been taking root in their hearts through the unhealthy and greedy steps and choices they were making.
What kind of steps are you taking today? What choices are you allowing to shape your character for the future?
Where you are right now is not yet your destiny. GOD is calling us deeper still, higher still, further still in discovering His rich wisdom. He calls us to walk the Path of the Righteous and shun away the Way of the Wicked. In our lives we will always face a crossing - a decision making.. a choosing of path. The entire Bible emphasizes these two roads. Chiasms of our destiny. E.g. The Garden of Eden; Tree of Life or Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; Abel and Cain, Jacob and Esau; Life or Death; the Narrow Road or the Broad Road; The Wise Builder or The Foolish Builder; etc.
2. The PRIORITY of WISDOM
20 My son, pay attention to what I say;
turn your ear to my words.
21 Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart;
22 for they are life to those who find them
and health to one’s whole body.
23 Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
24 Keep your mouth free of perversity;
keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.
The key to life change is not the acts of the will, but the loves of the heart. - St Augustine
The instruction of the Father to the son in this passage is very straightforward.
Make WISDOM your PRIORITY!
How do we make that happen?
Key words in this passage are:
How are these words related? How can we use them to gain wisdom or avoid folly?
What is abundant in the heart will always flow out of our lives. The writer of proverbs used the word "spring" - not a pool or a dam... but a spring. Why do you think this is significant?
Whatever your heart has decided to be its ULTIMATE LOVE determines all the ways by which you will make decisions in your life.
E.g. When having money becomes more than just a good thing but THE ULTIMATE THING, you will make decisions that sacrifice everything else for the sake of money. Or when your children become the centre of your life; you will either over-control them or over-spoil them - both of which will ruin their lives. Or when your partner or your career becomes the ultimate of your life etc. all of which can be IDOLATRY.
If the HEART has DISORDERED LOVE, there will always be imbalance and dysfunction.
IF ANYTHING BUT GOD IS THE ULTIMATE LOVE OF YOUR LIFE; THE BIBLE SAYS, YOU WILL REMAIN A FOOL!
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. - Proverbs 14:12; 16:25; 21:2
Solomon began as the wisest man alive but ended up as a fool. What happened to Him?
He started out with God as his. ultimate love. But sadly, he did not continue on that path. His heart was divided and corrupted. God was no longer on the throne of his life.
26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.
27 Do not turn to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.
3. The PERSON of WISDOM
At the heart of every major religion is a leading exponent. As the exposition is studied, something very significant emerges. There comes a distinction, between the person and the teaching—Mohammed, to the Koran. Buddha, to the Noble Path. Krishna, to his philosophizing. Zoroaster, to his ethics.
Whatever we may make of their claims, one reality is inescapable. They are teachers who point to their teaching or show some particular way. In all of these, there emerges an instruction, a way of living. E.g. It is not Buddha who delivers you; it is his Noble Truths that instruct you. It is not Mohammed who transforms you; it is the teachings of the Koran that woos you.
By contrast, Jesus did not only teach or expound His message. HE WAS THE MESSAGE! He did not just proclaim a truth. He said, 'I am THE TRUTH.' He did not just show a way. He said, 'I AM THE WAY.' He did not just open up an entry. He said, 'I AM THE DOOR.' 'I am the Good Shepherd.' 'I am the resurrection and the life.' 'I am the I AM'"
Jesus did not offer bread to nourish the soul, He said He is the Bread. Jesus wasn't just a teacher of a superior ethic, He was the Way. Jesus didn't just promise eternal life, He said, "I am the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25).
WISDOM was responsible for the creation of all that there is (Proverbs 8). And yet WISDOM BECAME FLESH (John 1:1, Colossians 1). What becomes clear is that only Jesus is the true Revealer of the true God. That is, He is WISDOM personified. There could be no escaping what people saw. God revealed Himself in such a manner that there is no easy way out for any of us. We have to face it squarely—that Jesus was who He said He was and had been sent here by His Father.
There is no such thing as "many roads that lead to God." While other religions and teachers say: "Here is the way, walk by it." Jesus declared: "I am THE WAY, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). That is why Peter could courageously proclaim: "There is no salvation through anyone else; in all the world no other name has been granted to mankind by which we can be saved" (Acts 4:12, REB).
Martin Luther said: “We are on a downward spiral of self-centredness - we have no power of our own to change…" but thanks be to GOD! Wisdom has come to be THE WAY for us to be saved! When He said, "I am the Way" He also means "It is Finished!" "I have done it!" All we need to do is remain in Him!
Questions for Discussion:
How is Life a Path or a Journey?
How can we know that we are walking in the right path?
How important is Wisdom? Why should it be our Priority?
What are the ways according to this Proverbs, that we can ensure that we take heed and keep wisdom in our hearts?
How is Jesus the Perfect personification of Wisdom?
Discuss John 14:6
What practical ways can we apply based on this week's message?