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The Beginning of the Beginning

The Beginning of the Beginning

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,
But fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 1:7

Everything has a beginning, a first start, a genesis. Everything begins somewhere.  And according to the Proverbs, there’s a beginning to knowledge, wisdom and instruction— and that glorious beginning is called “the fear of the Lord” (Prov. 1:7).

But what does it mean to “fear the Lord”?  What does that look like in real life?  If “God is love” as the Scriptures say (1 John 4:8), how are we to fear His love?  Or His mercy?  Or His grace?  Or any other aspect of His character?  How can the fear of the Lord be the beginning of anything but a dysfunctional relationship with Someone whom we’re frightened of and cower in His presence?  Fear is not a pleasant emotion that draws us closer to the one we fear.  So why would the Lord tell us that the fear of Him is the very starting point of knowledge and wisdom?  It would seem to me that love would be the beginning of our relationship with the Lord— not fear.


What Does Fear Really Mean?

And that’s the main question, isn’t it?  What do we mean by “fear”?

Our English definition of fear reads like this: “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or is a threat.”  Fear is also described as the “anticipation of the possibility that something unpleasant will occur.”  You know, the fear of financial ruin, the fear of heights, the fear for one’s safety, or the fear of speaking in public.  There are countless ways to describe fear as an unpleasant emotion caused by the possibility of something bad happening to us.

But in the Scriptures, fear has an additional connotation.  To “fear the Lord” means to “honor, respect, and be in awe” of Him in addition to the idea of God Himself being “an awesome, terrifying and fearful thing.”  In other words, the “fear of the Lord” means to show profound respect while recognizing that the object of our fear is “awesome and terrifying and fearful” and can bless or crush us at any time, for any reason, at His own whim, without recourse.  He is, after all, the Creator, the Highest Authority, the Sovereign One, and we are mere mortals, just dust and ashes.

Having a healthy “fear of the Lord” should motivate us to please Him in all we do.  Why?  Because we will someday have to give an account to Him for what we’ve done, good or bad or indifferent, while living our lives on this earth (2 Cor. 5:10).  He will be our Judge, the final Arbiter of our fate, and He will judge us according to His infallible standard of righteousness and holiness and not by our lukewarm platitudes designed to excuse our apathy.

And this, my friend, should give us great pause.


The First Door Opened

If you remember, the final promise made to us in the preamble to the Proverbs reads:

A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel, (why) to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles (or, dark, hidden sayings)” (Prov. 1:5-6).

And what’s the first enigma, the first strange, dark saying we are to understand?  What door has the promise of wisdom opened to us first?  Simply this, it’s the importance of the “fear of the Lord”— or more literally, “the fear of Jehovah” (Prov. 1:7).  But why?  Because this “fear of the Lord” is the foundation upon which our future relationship with God is formed.

Remember, the word fear is like a two-edged sword.  On one side of the blade is engraved the words “Respect, Honor, Awe, and Reverence” while the other side reads “Fright, Terror, Dread, and Great Fear.”  They’re both part of the same sword, and they’re both key attributes of the character of God.  And they’re not contradictory in nature nor mutually exclusive.  God is both merciful and just.  He is ever forgiving yet ultimately holds us accountable for our sins.  And He is loving, gracious and good and incredibly fearful and terrifying at the same time.

So the first enigma we’re to understand is the seemingly illogical one that states the fear, both defined as profound reverence and terrifying dread, of the Lord is the beginning, the inception, the starting place of knowledge, discernment and insight into the things of God.

And that’s a good thing.

You see, we have this nagging tendency to view the God revealed in the Old Testament and Jesus as two totally different beings.  The Old Testament God seems fearful, terrifying, capricious and often unapproachable.  We see Him coming with fire, thunder and lightning on Mt. Sinai to the point the Jews quaked in fear like the cowardly lion did when meeting the Wizard of Oz.  The Old Testament God is seen as the God of curses, judgment, plagues, and wrath while the New Testament God, Jesus, is viewed as loving, patient, forgiving, and full of mercy and grace.  Jesus understands us and He’s like us in many ways, or so we’d like to think.  He’s approachable and not judgmental, like a close friend or a best buddy.  We can do anything we want and He will just smile and wink and turn a blind eye because He loves us and only wants to make us happy.

The Old Testament God?  Not so much.


See One, See All

But they’re actually one and the same. “He who has seen Me,” Jesus said, “has seen the Father” (John 14:9).  Or, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30).  So for us to create our view of Jesus as some cosmic sidekick or good buddy and ignore the very fact that He is God, Sovereign over all, the Creator (John 1:3) and Sustainer (Heb. 1:3) of everything, is to open a door that will lead us away from wisdom and into the murky waters of self-deception.  Why?  Because we tend to love the Jesus we’ve created in our own image and fear the God of the Old Testament who we don’t fully understand, nor really want to.  Why? Because we don’t like fear.  Not one bit.

Fear causes us to have to watch what we say, to guard our hearts, and to constantly be aware of the sin in our lives.  Fear makes us feel uncomfortable, troubled, because of the object of our fear.  We fear the Law Enforcement Officer when we see his blue lights in our rear view mirror because of what pain we know he could cause us by writing a speeding ticket.  We fear our boss when we stand outside his office door, nervously knocking, knowing he wants to see us immediately and we haven’t a clue as to why.  We fear the IRS when we open their letter that questions some fuzzy deduction on our tax return we didn’t really feel so good about when we filed it last April.  And why?  Because these objects of our fear have some element of power over our lives, some control, that can bring us some pain.  And there’s not much we can do about it but complain.

And because we fear what the officer or our boss or the IRS can do to us for our non-compliance to what is required, we give them great respect and honor their authority.  Why?  Because we don’t want to make things worse for ourselves, we don’t want to make them mad.  We fear their authority and the power they have over our lives.  So we put on our Sunday smile and treat them as nice as humanly possible, careful to never defend ourselves or demean them for doing their job.

“Oh, excuse me officer.  I’m so sorry I was speeding.  Thank you for the ticket.  Have a great day.”
“Sir, is there something you wanted to see me about?  Is there something I can do to help you?”

And we answer all their questions and suffer through all their demands with a polite, “Sir” and “Yes, Sir” regardless of how we feel.  Why?  Because they have the power, for that moment at least, to cause us happiness or pain, to make us rejoice or suffer.  And it’s their power, by virtue of their position and authority that we respect and fear, even if we don’t respect the individual person holding that position.


Fear is the Beginning

If that is true of a simple highway cop and a $60 speeding ticket, how much more so if the object of our fear is the Lord Himself?  There’s no “Jesus we like because He cuts us slack for our sin” and “God we don’t like because He’s such a stickler for right and wrong.”  Or, “Jesus we love because He loves us but God we don’t like to hang around Him much because He’s always reminding us of how poor we are doing in this life of holiness.”  There’s not a choice.  You can’t be on one team and not on the other.  Jesus and the Father, the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament, are one and the same.  Identical.  Of the same essence.  And we are to love, not just the Son but the Father also, and we are to fear both Father and Son.  It’s a two way street.  Love and fear flow both ways.

Jesus is not only forgiving, but also commands us unquestionably, just like the Father.  His words to the woman caught in the act of adultery were first forgiving: “Woman, where are those accusers of yours?  Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.”  And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you.”  And then commanding: “Go and sin no more” (John 8:10-11).  Again, love and fear flow both ways.

One final thought.  For those who still see Jesus as always loving and God as always judgmental, consider this from the Revelation:

And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!  For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Rev. 6:15-17).

Did you catch that?  They were begging the rocks and mountains to fall on them in a vain attempt to hid from the “wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:17).  That’s Jesus, by the way.  The wrath of Jesus.


Fear Only One

Which brings us back to the Proverbs.

The fear of the Lord, and not of anything else, is the beginning, the source, the starting place of all knowledge, wisdom, insight and discernment.  It’s our profound respect and honor, based on Who He is as our Sovereign Creator and Lord, that opens the doors of deeper understanding into the things of God.  And it’s our fear and terrifying dread of His authority and judgment that prompts us to live a life worthy of being called His children and joint heirs with His Son (Rom. 8:16-17).

Believe me, fear is a healthy emotion to have towards the Lord.  Why?  Just look how Jesus addressed the subject of fear in the life of a Believer.

“And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:4-5).

And who do you think Jesus was talking about?  Who has the power to cast one into hell?  Satan?  Nope.  It’s only God Himself.  And it’s a fear of Him alone that opens the door to the deeper truths of the things of God.

Remember, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7).

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Getting Serious

1.  Have you ever thought of Jesus as Someone you could trust, Someone you wanted near you but not God the Father?
2.  When you pray, do you pray to the Father or to the Son?  Or do you pray to the Holy Spirit?  Or do you simply use the generic phrase, Lord?  And why do you think you choose to pray to the One that you do?
3.  Does the thought of having fear for the Lord make you feel uncomfortable?  Does is seem unnatural, maybe out-of-character?  If so, why do you think you feel that way?
4.  When you read the statement, “the fear of the Lord” is your first thought of profound respect and honor or do you think more of dread and terror?  Does the phrase “fear of the Lord” have a positive meaning to you or a negative one?  And why is that?  What about your perception of God leads you to that conclusion, either positive or negative?
5.  On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate God’s wisdom in your life right now and in your decision making process?  What was it yesterday?  Are you growing in the wisdom of God?  And, if not, why?


Next Step Challenge

Take your Bible and do a search of the Proverbs and pick out all the times the phrase “fear of the Lord” is used and write down the references.  What is the Lord trying to say to you in these passages?  What definition of “fear” is being used?  Is it terror and dread or profound respect and honor?  Or is it both?  And how does each passage now read once you understand the meaning of the word?

Now do look at the following passages and try to determine, in context, the definition of fear?  How does that change, if at all, the meaning of what is being said?

1 Samuel 11:7 – So he took a yoke of oxen and cut them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the territory of Israel by the hands of messengers, saying, “Whoever does not go out with Saul and Samuel to battle, so it shall be done to his oxen.” And the fear of the LORD fell on the people, and they came out with one consent.

2 Chronicles 17:10 – And the fear of the LORD fell on all the kingdoms of the lands that were around Judah, so that they did not make war against Jehoshaphat.

2 Chronicles 19:19 – And he commanded them, saying, “Thus you shall act in the fear of the LORD, faithfully and with a loyal heart.”

Isaiah 33:6 – Wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times, and the strength of salvation; the fear of the LORD is His treasure.

Acts 9:31 – Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified.  And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.

Do you have the fear of the Lord?  If so, what is that like? How has it changed your life and your understanding and love of the Lord?  And if you don’t, why?  Doesn’t not having the fear of the Lord bring you fear?

It should, you know. It really should.

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Riddles and Dark Sayings

Riddles and Dark Sayings

A wise man will hear and increase learning,
and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,
to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles.
Proverbs 1:5-6

We are now ready to close out the preamble to the Proverbs, and Solomon does that in a surprising way.  Proverbs 1:5 tells us one of the primary purposes of this book, and of wisdom itself, is to allow to us “hear and increase learning (or, to receive teaching, insight, instruction)” and to “attain (or, get, buy, possess, no matter the costs) wise counsel (or, wise guidance, direction, or good advice).”

But we already know that. What we don’t know is why?

Why do we need wise counsel?  What’s the purpose, the pay-off, for us in real time? What’s out there that is so important we’re supposed to learn, to understand, to have insight into?  What about the last part of this passage?  What about the “riddles and dark sayings”?  Because it seems the “wise man” and the “man of understanding” will “hear and increase learning” and “attain wise counsel” for only one reason: “to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles” (Prov. 1:6).

And what does that mean?


The Climax of the Definition of Wisdom

Remember, a truly wise man is not one who has already attained wisdom, but one who’s keenly aware that he hasn’t, and is desperately striving forward to be more like Christ, or to “press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (Phil. 3:12).  He’s one who’s not satisfied with the spiritual status quo and is not content with his Bible College Diploma signifying he has learned all there is to know about Christ and His Word.  No, the wise man longs to dig deeper, to pray harder, to speak louder, to shine brighter, and to love more intensely than he thought humanly possible.

And to this “wise man”, to the “man of understanding”, comes one of the greatest blessings of all.  He, by virtue of the wisdom given him by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, will learn to “understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles” (Prov. 1:6).  To him, the doors of the deeper truths of the things of God are opened and he is graciously invited to come and dine.

We know the meaning of proverb, but what’s an “enigma”?  And what’s all this about the “words of the wise and their riddles”?

An enigma (mĕliytsah) is translated as “a person or thing that is mysterious, puzzling, or difficult to understand.”  Admittedly, it’s a difficult word to translate in this Proverb.  It can also mean “a riddle” or “a symbol or parable” or “a discourse requiring an interpretation” or simply as “a figurative and involved discourse” and is closely related to the phrase “riddles” or “dark sayings.”  Therefore, when rendered together, it means something obscure in meaning, or some truth that is difficult to uncover and understand.

How do we know this?  By looking at the meaning of “riddles” or “dark sayings.”  The word translated here is hiydah and means “difficult questions, perplexing sayings, a statement with a double meaning, or dark and obscure utterances.”  They seem to be speaking about truths that are not laying on the surface for everyone to see.  They’re more hidden, like buried treasure, that only the diligent, or wise, will know to dig for and value when found.

And according to the Proverbs, this is the climax, the zenith, the pinnacle of wisdom.  It doesn’t get any better than being able to understand the mysterious, puzzling, profoundly deep things of God that change us forever.  After all, “as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts” says the Lord (Isa. 55:4).  And maybe, just maybe, we can catch a fleeting glimpse of just how high His thoughts are.  What an incredible blessing!  Tell me what compares to having the “mind of Christ”? (1 Cor. 2:16).


Ears to Hear

Jesus hinted of this when He used the cryptic phrase, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” before speaking profound truth to only those who were able to receive it— and not to everyone.  These words were not FPC, or “For Public Consumption.”  They were only for those who understood the implications of what the Lord was saying.  We would call those the wise, those who could understand His parables, His stories with their hidden meaning, and the mysterious, deep, dark sayings of the Lord.

Let’s look at a few of these.

When talking about John the Baptist, Jesus said he was the greatest man who ever lived and the last of the Old Testament prophets (Matt. 11:11-13).  And then He threw the crowd a curve.  He said, “And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come” (Matt. 11:14).  Note the if in His statement.  Not everyone was willing to receive John as coming in the spirit of Elijah.  Why?  Because according to Malachi in the last two verses of the Old Testament, Elijah was to come as the forerunner of the Messiah, the Christ (Mal. 4:5-6).  But John was the forerunner of Jesus.  So if they received what Jesus said about John, they would have to conclude that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, the Holy One of Israel.

But not everyone was willing to do that.  Therefore, the truth He uttered was not for everyone, but only for a few.  For the chosen, the elect, the ones with believing hearts.  Hence Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him (not everyone else) hear” (Matt. 11:15).

And again, when Jesus preached arguably His most powerful and far reaching parable about the sower and the seeds, He ended it by saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Mark 4:9).  Why?  Because this parable deals with true salvation and the deception of non-saving faith.  It paints a vivid picture of those who are holding on to traditions or the teachings of men and are enamored with Christ for a short while, compared to what true salvation looks like.  And it always involves fruit, and not mere profession (Matt. 7:15-20).  It’s an utterly profound teaching that not everyone would receive, let alone understand.  It’s for the few, the chosen, the elect, the ones “who have ears to hear.”

We see these cryptic, mysterious, dark sayings of Jesus when He spoke about life in the Kingdom (Matt. 13:9).  He also used these words after confronting the Pharisees regarding their religious and spiritual hypocrisy (Mark 7:16).  And when He told His disciples the true costs of discipleship: “So, likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33), He ended that teaching with the same puzzling words, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Luke 14:35).  But puzzling to whom?  Obviously not those who have ears to hear.  No, it’s the others, the masses, the everyone else.

And if that wasn’t enough, Jesus ends each of His seven letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3 the same way: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22).  If there was ever a book of the Bible full of enigmas, riddles, and dark sayings, it would be the Revelation.  Wouldn’t you agree?


Back to the Dark Sayings

Which brings us back to the Proverbs.

We have been given, as a great and precious gift, the privilege of being able to understand and comprehend the deeper things of God, the sometimes confusing, puzzling, and mysterious aspects of His being.  He has granted us, as mere mortals, insights into the Eternal.  And these great insights, the things “many prophets and righteous men desired to see, and did not see” (Matt. 13:17) have been given to each of us by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, who is the Sovereign One Himself. With wisdom, the very wisdom of God, we can now “understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles” (Prov. 1:6).

All we have to do is use what is now ours.  As Einstein once said, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with the problems longer.”  In other words, I do the work. I put in the time. I stay focused and committed until I find the answer.  And the same can be said regarding wisdom and the child of God.

Just as long as we use what is now ours to use.


Do Not Forsake Your Inheritance

One of the most tragic stories in all of Scripture is the account of Esau trading his blessed inheritance for a bowl of stew— for one meager can of Dinty Moore stew (Gen. 25:33-34).  How could he do such a thing?  Same way we do.  How could he have been so short-sighted, foolish, and just plain stupid?  Same way we are.  And we do it all the time.

Solomon has told us one of the blessings of wisdom, of knowing the Lord in an intimate, personal way, is that by virtue of God’s wisdom imparted to us, we become wise.  That only makes sense.  And one of the blessings of being a wise man is to be able to understand and discern the wondrous and mysterious things in the Word of God that reveal God Himself to us.  And that’s our inheritance, to have the indescribable privilege of calling Him “Abba, Father” and of Him seeing us as His children, His sons, as part of His family (Rom. 8:15).  But there’s more.  Our blessed inheritance means we are also heirs— “heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17).

What compares with that?  And what would you trade for your inheritance?

If you say ” absolutely nothing”!  Great.  But our lives and our affections often tell a different story.  For we do what we want to do and serve who we want to serve.  Jesus put it this way, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21).  And if we treasure our life in the here-and-now and what this fallen world thinks of us or promises to give us, then our hearts have drifted far from the inheritance that’s ours and the Kingdom which is our home.  Wisdom no longer is our desire and the “dark sayings” of the Lord remain dark, hidden, and concealed by a veil of our own apathy.  How sad.  How utterly sad and heartbreaking.

We have a promise and an inheritance.  So beware lest you fall into the same trap as Esau and forfeit everything for eternity because we wanted something that tastes good right now.

The spiritual life with Christ is a marathon, not a sprint.  Be committed for the long haul and strive, with all you are, to be a wise man that understands what others call “riddles, an enigma, and dark sayings.”

And be this kind of man, even if you stand alone.


Final Question

The promise sounds appealing, wonderful in fact.  But where do we begin?  What’s the first step?  It’s one thing to talk about the blessings of wisdom and then dangle them out in front of us like a carrot before a horse.  But it’s quite another to provide us with a roadmap, a guide book of some sort, maybe an instruction manual to point us in the right direction.  Otherwise, you leave us hanging, frustrated by seeing the goal and having no clue how to get there.

But there’s good news.  For the Proverbs state the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” and then contrasts that with “but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7).  We just need to figure out exactly what the “fear of the Lord” means and we should be on our way.

After all, as Julie Andrews sang in the Sound of Music, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”

And for us, that beginning is the “fear of the Lord.”

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Getting Serious

1.   When was the last time God spoke to you and revealed something He had previously kept hidden from you?
2.   Do you know why He kept that part of Himself from you?  Was it Him?  Or was the reason something in you?
3.   Do you believe it’s actually possible to have the kind of relationship with the Father that He would be pleased to share His heart with you?  Does your faith stretch that far?  Or, do you think that is just an unobtainable goal?
4.   If you answered, yes, to the last question, what do you plan to do about it?  Are you willing to put in the time and effort to have that kind of relationship with the Lord?  Do you know how to begin?  Do you know, right now, of anyone who God does share His heart with?
5.   On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate God’s wisdom in your life right now and in your decision making process?  What was it yesterday?  Are you growing in the wisdom of God?  And, if not, why?


Next Step Challenge

Take your Bible and look up every time the Lord spoke the words, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” and write them down.  Then, spend some time reading them in context and see what the Lord is trying to say when He spoke those words.

Do you understand His message and the implications of what He is teaching?  Do His words have any impact in your life right now?  Is there something He is trying to say to you when you read His words?

Do you have ears to hear?  And, if so, do you hear what He is saying to you right now?

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Are You a Wise Guy?

Are You a Wise Guy?

A wise man will hear and increase learning,
and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,
to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles.
Proverbs 1:5-6

As we learned from our last study together, Solomon has some pointed words to say to the simple and to the impetuous young men. Remember?

To give prudence to the simple (and to give) to the young man knowledge and discretion (Prov. 1:4).

But he also has much to say to those who lived on the other end of the continuum: the wise, the learned, the men of understanding who seek wise, Godly counsel.  You see, Proverbs is a book given to us through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16) and is for all of us: the young, the old, the dedicated as well as the apathetic, the hot, the cold, and the lukewarm (Rev. 3:15-17), the theologically trained and the ones who only know one thing, “that though I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:25).  It’s for everyone.  And regardless of our sinful, broken past or our life of privilege and opulence, the wisdom of God revealed in the Proverbs calls each of us, no matter who we are, wherever we are, into a deeper relationship with Him.

And in the closing two verses of the preamble to this grand gift to us, Solomon lets the pendulum swing hard to the other side and turns his attention to the opposite of the simple and naive.  He now addresses the wise and astute, the ones who should know better, who do know better, and shows us how to understand the book we are now reading.

Let’s take a look at what Solomon had to say to those who live on the other side of the spiritual track.


The Wisdom of the Wise

In Proverbs 1:5-6 we read:

A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel, to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles.

As you can see, Solomon is addressing two categories of people in this passage: a wise man and a man of understanding.  But who are these people and what about their character draws us to them?

The term wise man is used to describe “one who is skilled or experienced.”  The Proverbs expand this definition by showing a wise man is one “who continues to learn and is teachable (Prov. 9:9, 13:1), is one who heeds and accepts a rebuke (Prov. 9:8, 15:31), and one who speaks properly (Prov. 14:3, 15:2, 16:23).”1  But there’s much more.  For Solomon continually contrasts the life of the wise man with the not-so-wise man to show us the inevitable results of the choices we make.  For example:

Proverbs 3:35 – The wise shall inherit glory, but shame shall be the legacy of fools.

Proverbs 10:8 – The wise in heart will receive commands, but a prating fool will fall.

Proverbs 10:14Wise people store up knowledge, but the mouth of the foolish is near destruction.

Remember, a wise man is only wise because he has received the wisdom from God that makes him wise.  His wisdom does not come from within himself, or from some university degree, or his apparent success in this world.  Scripture tells us that all the wisdom this world can offer is “foolishness (or, moronic, folly, absurdity) before God” and will soon fade away (1 Cor. 3:19).  It means nothing.  Zilch.

Proverbs 1:5 begins by telling us the “wise man will hear (or, listen, be attentive, understand, obey) and, as a result of hearing, increase (or, to do again, to add, to continue) learning (or, receive teaching, insight, instruction).”  The wise man thirsts for more, wants more, craves more.  He will not be satisfied with trifle tidbits of information designed to placate his curiosity.  He’s inquisitive, with an insatiable appetite for more than what he’s already received.  “If there’s more to Christ than I know right now, I want it!  And I won’t be satisfied with anything less.”

The wise man, the one filled with the wisdom of God, with Christ Himself (1 Cor. 1:30), will hear, listen, understand, and then obey what he receives from the Lord.  He will be loyal and trustworthy, faithful with the small, what he now has, knowing Christ will soon reward him with greater truths (Luke 16:10).  And the more he sees of Jesus, the more he understands about Jesus, the more he lives in the unbroken presence of Jesus, the more he wants Jesus.  Nothing else matters.  Nothing else can satisfy.

This wise man will hear from the Lord and then increase or continue in what he has learned.  He wants to know more, to experience more, to understand more.  He will study the Scriptures to “present himself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).  He will diligently memorize Scripture in order to “hide God’s word in his heart, that he might not sin against God” (Psalm 119:11) and he will work hard to grow in the wisdom God has provided him (Prov. 9:9).


A Man of Understanding

A “man of understanding” (biyn), on the other hand, is a man of “comprehension and discernment, one who exhibits righteous actions with a strong moral and religious connotation.”  He’s a man who strives after the things of God and who can discern the difference between, not only the “good and the bad”— but also the “good and the best.”

And it says “a man of understanding will attain wise counsel” (Prov. 1:5).  The word attain means to “get, buy, possess” at all costs and is reminiscent of the Kingdom parables spoken by our Lord.  Remember?  A man finds a treasure hidden in a field and joyfully goes and sells all he has to purchase the field (Matt. 13:44).  Why?  To attain the treasure, no matter the costs.  Again, a merchant seeking beautiful pearls finds what he’s looking for and sells all he has to buy the pearl, the object of his search and obviously the passion of his life (Matt. 13:45-46).  Why?  Because he would not let anything keep him for attaining the pearl, even if it costs him all he has.  And so it is with the “man of understanding” when it comes to getting wise counsel.

The phrase “wise counsel” means wise “guidance, direction, or good advice” and the importance of that virtue is taught many places throughout the Proverbs.  For example:

Proverbs 11:14 – Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.

Proverbs 12:15 – The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.

Proverbs 13:10 – By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom.

Proverbs 20:18 – Plans are established by counsel; by wise counsel wage war.

Proverbs 24:6 – For by wise counsel you will wage your own war, and in a multitude of counselors there is safety.

As you can see, a “man of understanding” seeks the wise counsel in order to learn from others who have also received the wisdom of God.  Why?  Because they lead to collective wisdom, for no one man can know everything there is to know about all things.  After all, “he who walks with wise men will be wise” (Prov. 13:20) and “a wise man is strong, yes, a man of knowledge increases strength” (Prov. 24:5).  Need we say more?


Riddles and Dark Sayings

But what about the last part of this passage?  What about the “riddles and dark sayings”?  It seems the “wise man” and the “man of understanding” will “hear and increase learning” and “attain wise counsel” for only one reason: “to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles” (Prov. 1:6).

“But what’s an enigma and the words of the wise and their riddles”? you ask.  Great question.  And one we will look into next time.

Until then, enjoy some wise sayings from our own culture.

“Two minds are better than one.”
“Many hands make light work.”
Or, how about this one: “When spider webs unite they can tie up a lion.”

Adveho quis may.
Come what may.

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Getting Serious

1.   How would you describe your quiet time with the Lord?
2.  Do you have a special place where you meet daily with the Lord?  Does He meet you there?  And, if so, what is your time with Him like?
3.  Do you have a group of fellow believers who speak wisdom into your life?  If so, how did you meet them?  How has your intimacy and trust with them grown over time?
4.  If you don’t have those in your life who can offer you wise counsel, why?  And, are you a person who is in a position to offer wise counsel to others?  If so, how did that relationship come about?  If not, why?
5.  On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate God’s wisdom in your life right now and in your decision making process?  What was it yesterday?  Are you growing in the wisdom of God?  And, if not, why?


Next Step Challenge

Take a sheet of paper and write down 5 people you know to be wise and ones you would trust to receive counsel from.  What about their lives leads you to trust them?  What character traits do they possess that you admire the most?  What single thing in their life speaks loudest about their relationship with Christ?

Do you have the same character traits in your life that you admire in theirs?  If not, what are you prepared to do about that?  Are you willing to humble yourself before the Lord and ask Him to change you into the person He wants you to be, no matter the costs?  Have you asked Him for His wisdom, for His Son, and have you received Him on His terms?

Finally, make a list of 5 people you would never go to for wise advice.  List the reasons why.  Then compare the two lists and see which one most describes your own character traits.

Is the news good or bad?  And what are you prepared to do about it?

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1. Baker, W., & Carpenter, E. E. (2003). The complete word study dictionary: Old Testament (p. 336). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.

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Four Verbs, Part One

Four Verbs, Part One

To know wisdom and instruction,
To perceive the words of understanding,
To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity;
To give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.
Proverbs 1:2-4

As we dig deeper into the Proverbs we quickly come across a few arresting verbs: know, perceive, receive, and give.  And, of course, we see the corresponding nouns associated with each of these verbs. In Proverbs 1:2-4 we find:

To know wisdom and instruction,
To perceive the words of understanding,
To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity
To give prudence to the simple (and to give) to the young man knowledge and discretion.

Notice, if you will, the natural progression of action.  To know, then to perceive something, then to choose to personally receive and embrace what we now know and perceive, and finally to share, to give what we have now received to someone else.

But what does it mean to perceive something or someone, maybe a new truth or a deeper understanding of a known truth?  And how does someone then receive that true or understanding to themselves that they have just perceived?  What does that process look like?  And how does that exchange actually happen?  And finally, ultimately, to whom do we give what we have received? And what specifically do we give them?

The answer is found in the nouns connected with our actions, our verbs.

But let’s begin by looking at the four verbs.


To Know

From our previous studies we determined that to “know” (yada) means we are “to know something in a completed sense, to know everything and to know fully, to learn to know; it means to know by intimate experience or expression; to choose, to approve, to love, to embrace, to desire, to place one’s favor upon.”  It’s a deeply personal kind of knowledge forged by one’s choice, affection, conviction and experience.  And Proverbs 1:2 says we are to “know” (yada) in an intimate, personal way, both “wisdom and instruction”— wisdom being more than the raw accumulation of facts but the ability to properly apply those facts and convictions, reinforced by our choices and experiences, in order to determine what is the right and God-honoring course of action.  And instruction is defined as “correction, discipline, and chastening, as a loving father disciplines his own son.”

In essence, God has provided for us in His Son both the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:30) and the steady hand of correction and discipline to make sure we know (yada) God’s Word and how to apply what we know (yada) in our everyday choices that will either bring Him glory or disrepute.  Therefore, if you find yourself convicted and troubled by the words you read, rejoice!— for that’s God’s very intention.  After all, the Lord only chastises those He loves as a father disciplines his own son.

My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor detest His correction; (why) for whom the LORD loves He corrects, (to what extent) just as a father the son in whom he delights (Prov. 3:11-12).


To Perceive

Next, we are to “the words of understanding” (Prov. 1:2).  To perceive (biyn) is “to discern, to observe, to have insight into, to consider diligently.”  It involves more than mere head knowledge.  To perceive is to have a truth suddenly become alive and real to you.  It’s like our blinders are removed or the fog clears and we can see God’s Word, the “words of understanding” clearly, and then exclaim, “Geez, it was right before my eyes all the time and I just didn’t see it.  How could I have been so blind?”

And what do we now see with 20/20 vision?  The “words of understanding” or literally the “words of comprehension, discernment, righteous actions with a strong moral and religious connotation.”  In other words, we now see clearly the holiness of God.  We comprehend our sinfulness and God’s perfection and His wonderful gift of grace.  By virtue of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit we now have discernment to be able to choose what is “true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy” (Phil. 4:8) and not follow our lusts or waste our lives living for the things that won’t last.  And we can now clearly choose to ” walk in the Spirit, and not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).

What a blessing it is to be able to perceive the things of God and then have the freedom and ability to choose to follow Him, no matter what.


To Receive

But knowing, even to the point of having an “a-ha” moment when you perceive, deep down, something overwhelming and potentially life-changing, is not enough.  You have to then choose to receive, or “to take in, to lay hold of, to seize, to get or fetch, to acquire by any means possible” what you now comprehend in a deeper fashion.  Just knowing truth won’t cut it, you have to voluntarily choose to move from where you are to where the truth takes you.  You have to open up yourself, make yourself vulnerable, humble yourself, and receive the “instruction (or, discipline, correction, chastening) of wisdom” (Prov. 1:3).

It’s like salvation.  Just knowing facts about Jesus won’t bring you into eternal fellowship with Him.  You must receive Him into your life on His terms, which are all or nothing.  You must die, you must be crucified with Him, and He must live within you and through you (Gal. 2:20).  You must follow His path, the narrow gate, and not the wide road of your own choosing (Matt. 7:13-14).  He must be Lord, and not just your personal Savior that you can call on whenever you need Him to get you out of a jam (Rom. 10:9).  He is not your co-pilot, He is God Almighty, Creator of all, and Sovereign in all things.

If just knowing were enough Satan would spend eternity in heaven.  After all, he knows as fact what we believe on faith.  He knows Jesus died and was raised from the dead.  He was there, he saw, and trembled.  But Satan refuses to do the one thing that comes with receiving Jesus on His terms, and that is to bow his knee in submission to Christ and declare Him as Lord (Phil. 2:9-11).  And this is all part of receiving Christ on His terms.

But what do we receive when we receive the “instruction of wisdom”?  Solomon begins to expand our understanding of all that comes with God’s wisdom by using the terms, “justice, judgment, and equity.”

Justice is defined as “righteousness, or what is right, just or normal” with God.  It means having a “right relation to an ethical or legal standard, to be right or straight.”  In essence, it’s understanding the commands and laws of God and then choosing to align our life, both internal and external, to be in obedience to the Word of God.  It’s the desire, and the ability to now choose to serve Christ and not our flesh or the god of this fallen world.  And this ability to live according to our new nature found in Christ is just another gift given us by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 5:17).

Remember the words of Jesus: “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).  Great question.  Because now, through the Holy Spirit we have the ability, the freedom, and the power to choose to obey Christ.  We can live, as the Proverbs promise, a life of justice, being in a “right relation” to the commands and person of Christ.  All we have to do is choose what is right, choose the straight and narrow path.  And it’s just that simple.

Hard?  You bet.  But simple, nonetheless.

Next, we choose to receive in our lives the instruction, correction, and discipline of judgment.  This word denotes the “act of deciding a legal case in a court or in litigation before judges.”  It deals with the “ability to make a correct judgment on human actions.”

Whoa.  Hold on right there.  One of the sincerely held convictions of our fallen, politically correct culture is to not judge.  You don’t judge me and I won’t judge you.  It’s the old “don’t ask, don’t tell” mantra”  In fact, these words of Jesus, taken totally out of context, are proclaimed as absolute truth by those who reject the rest of His words as truth: “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt. 7:1).

So how can a Believer receive the “instruction of judgment” and still find favor in the eyes of the world?  You can’t.  Get used to it and resolve yourself to a life of turmoil and tribulation and persecution if you choose to live in the center of His will.  In fact, embrace the trials you’ll face.  Why?  Because Jesus promised great blessings to those who suffer persecution for His name sake.  Remember?  “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:12).

Plus, we’re promised “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12).  There’s no way around it.  It’s a given.  Done deal.  The only way to escape persecution is to not desire to live Godly in Christ, which produces it’s own set of horrific consequences.  Trust me, you don’t want to go down that path.

So with wisdom comes the ability to see what is right and wrong, good and evil, true and false.  The “instruction of judgment” means being able to discern genuineness from hypocrisy, good fruit from bad fruit, true prophets from false prophets, in others as well as within ourselves (Matt. 7:15-20).  And, as you would imagine, this aspect of wisdom can bring with it the unintended consequences of being called judgmental, unloving, a hater, bigoted, narrow-minded, and much more.  Hence, the warning from Jesus about suffering persecution for His name’s sake.

Finally, we receive in wisdom, in Christ, the “instruction of equity.” But what does equity mean?  Equity is defined as “evenness, fairness, uprightness, straightness, smoothness, and points to what is just, correct, right and fair in speech or actions” (Isa. 33:15).  It’s dealing with others as you would have them deal with you (Luke 6:21).  It’s being fair, honest, noble, and upright in everything. In a word, it’s the overflow of a life found “in Christ”.


To Give

But what about the fourth verb?  What about the command to give?

That’s a rather complex subject dealing with what we’re to give and to whom?  And that’s a topic we’ll look at next time in Four Verbs, Part Two.

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Getting Serious

1.  Where are you in the process of obtaining wisdom?
2.  Have you passed from simply knowing (yada) to now perceiving something deeper in the Word of God?
3.  Has God begun to speak to you in a personal, profound way through His Word and the Holy Spirit?  Have you ever had a rhema, a word from Him meant only for you?  And if so, when was that?  And what did He say?
4.  Do you remember when you received Jesus as Lord?  What was that like?  And what has your life with Him been like since that momentous day?
5.  On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate God’s wisdom in your life right now and in your decision making process? What was it yesterday? Are you growing in the wisdom of God? Is He more real to you today than in the past? And, if not, why not?


Next Step Challenge

Since receiving the wisdom of God is tied to receiving Christ Jesus as Lord and the Holy Spirit coming as the guarantee of your future inheritance in Him (Eph. 1:3-4), write down your salvation experience.  Include the time when you knew regeneration took place and your life was now hid in Him (Col. 3:3).  Include also your spiritual journey since salvation.

What have you learned from your walk with Him about wisdom?  Have you personally experienced the process outlined in Proverbs 1:1-4 about knowing, perceiving, and receiving?  What was that like?  What was the actual context in which God revealed to you His wisdom?  What was the outcome of that encounter?

And if you haven’t experienced any of this with the Lord, why?  Is the problem with Him?  Does He show favoritism or partiality and is withholding something from you that He’s freely giving to others?

Or is the problem you?  And, if so, that’s a sobering thought, isn’t it?

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Wisdom is a Choice, So Choose Wisely

Wisdom is a Choice, So Choose Wisely

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

The question often asked is how Solomon received the wisdom of God?  How did all that come about?  What was the experience like?  What was the process?

From the account in 1 Kings we find little to shed light on the specific details of that momentous event.  What we do see is Solomon overwhelmed with the responsibility of leading the kingdom he inherited from his father David and recognizing he is but “a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in” (1 Kings 3:7).  Then, in a marvelous way, God grants his request and gives him, not only a “wise and understanding heart” (1 Kings 3:12), but also throws in what Solomon didn’t ask for, “both riches and honor” (1 Kings 3:13) simply because He wanted to.

And from then on we see Solomon acting, sometimes, in the wisdom God gave him and, at other times, living like a rich, spoiled brat making “dumb as a brick” decisions for himself, his family, and the nation God trusted him to lead.

But how is that possible?  How can a man given the very wisdom of God make dumb, lousy, selfish decisions?  Didn’t God make Solomon a wise man when He gave him His wisdom?  Didn’t God just zap him, like He did Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus road, and turn him into something he wasn’t before?  Or maybe God simply enhanced the wisdom Solomon already possessed?  Maybe Solomon was already a wise man and God just gave him the 2.0 update?  Plus, when God gives you or me His wisdom, does that mean everything we do or say is wise and from God?  And if not, why?  How can we, like Solomon, be given the wisdom of God and then go around making lame, stupid decisions?  How is that even possible?


Solomon Was Not a Wise Man

Let’s nip this one in the bud right out of the gate.  Solomon was not an inherently wise man.  He was not one whose very nature oozed wisdom.  How could he be?  The decisions and choices he made as a father, husband and king are anything but wise and they reflect his true nature.  When Solomon relied on the wisdom of God, he made incredibly wise decisions— some of which we still marvel at today.  But when left to himself Solomon, like you and me, made decisions and choices according to his own nature, according to what he was made of on the inside.  And for Solomon, his nature was anything but wise.

Just think, how wise was it as a husband to have 300 wives and 700 concubines?  How wise was that?  Think of the infighting within his own family.  Think of how used and rejected his wives felt, not to mention the concubines.  And this selfish, unwise decision to marry so many women wasn’t a momentary lapse of reason for Solomon.  It wasn’t something he did and regretted later, vowing to never make the same mistake again.  This pattern of thinking was habitual, ingrained, and occurred over a 1,000 times.

Then you have the children.  Hatred, jealousy, bigotry, and bitterness was the rule of the day, so much so that the kingdom was irreparably torn in two after Solomon’s death by two of his own children.  What does this show us about Solomon’s nature and core values regarding his responsibilities of being a father?  Where’s the wisdom in any of this?

Finally, how did Solomon the spiritual leader do?  Horrible.  He allowed his many wives to desecrate the sanctity of his own home, the holiness of the Temple of God and the very nation by building altars to their foreign gods and bringing idolatry into the land.  How could Solomon allow this to take place under his watch?  How can one man be so wise and yet fail so miserably?  Solomon’s true nature reveals the carnality, apathy, and weakness of Solomon the man, and not the inherent wisdom often attributed to him.


Wisdom is a Choice

The wisdom Solomon received from the Lord is the same thing you and I receive in Christ.  Solomon received wisdom but you and I receive Christ into our lives, “who became for us wisdom from God” (1 Cor. 1:30).  And then, once we’ve received Christ, it’s up to us to live and “walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).  Like with Solomon, it becomes a choice.  A simple, but difficult choice.

When we choose to live according to the new nature within us, according to the wisdom given to us by Christ and administered by the Holy Spirit, we will naturally make wise decisions.  Why?  Because we are “walking in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16) and have the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16).  But when we choose to go our own way, to call the shots as we see fit, or to live according to the flesh, we can expect our end to be the same as Solomon’s.  Remember, it’s a choice, the exercise of our free will: to choose either the blessings of a life of submission to Christ or the heartache of a life brought on by the rebellion of our flesh.

It’s a choice— your choice.  So choose wisely.

And once you’ve chosen wisely, your job’s not done.  You still have to act on that choice.  Look at the transition about wisdom in Proverbs 1:2-3.

To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding,
To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity.

First we are “to know” wisdom in Proverbs 1:2 and then “to receive the instruction of wisdom” in the next verse.  We go from knowing to receiving in the space of 20 words.  One is an understanding of something and the other is a choice, literally an action based on that choice— the receiving of something found only in Him.  We can “know” wisdom, or Christ, truth, right from wrong, good and evil, up from down, and all sorts of wonderful things, and yet still choose to live contrary to what we “know” and suffer, like Solomon, the horrific consequences of that choice.  Or, we can know the truth and choose the truth and be set free by the truth (John 8:32).  It’s really that simple.

Easy?  No.  Simple?  Absolutely.


Wisdom is a Gift

In other words, the wisdom Solomon received from the Lord is the same wisdom available to each of us today by the residing presence of the Holy Spirit.  And we already have in us, available to us, the same wisdom of God given to Solomon.  How?  By virtue of being “in Christ” who “became for us wisdom from God” (1 Cor. 1:30).  The key to living in the gift of wisdom already given us boils down to what we do with that gift?  Do we “receive (or choose to receive) the instruction (or, discipline, correction, chastisement) of wisdom” (Prov. 1:3) or do we hide it away and let it die from inactivity and lack of use?  Jesus said we are the “light of the world” and He commands us to place that light, our lives, including His wisdom and redeeming power and grace in us, like a lamp on the table for the whole world to see (Matt. 5:14-16).

Remember, it’s more than just “knowing”— it’s “receiving” and having the discipline (instruction) to obey what we’ve received.


It Comes in One Package

Plus, it all comes in one package.  Consider, for example, the passage in Galatians where it says the “works (plural) of the flesh are evident” (Gal. 5:19-21) and then goes on to list them, one by one: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, and the like.  But these “works” or “deeds” of the flesh are freestanding, independent, and are not part of a combined package.  You can have one or more of these but not necessarily all.  You can commit, for example, adultery but not murder.  Have hatred and selfish ambition, but not idolatry or sorcery.  Why?  Because the word “works” or “deeds” is plural, meaning many— that’s many individual works and not one work made up of many individual parts.  Do you see the difference?

But the “fruit” of the Spirit is just the opposite.  It’s singular, just one fruit, made up of a combination of nine different attributes: love (agape), joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).  You get one, you get them all.  They come in a package.  It’s all or nothing.

And this is how we receive wisdom from the Lord.  We receive Jesus, the one fruit, and all the attributes or the fullness of the Godhead that dwell in Him bodily.  And we, being “in Christ” are complete in Him (Col. 2:9-10).

So you and I have the same Spirit, the same wisdom, made available and given to Solomon.  All we have to do is rely on that wisdom, who is the residing presence of the Holy Spirit, for God’s wisdom to manifest itself in us.

Again, it’s just that simple.  Difficult?  Yes.  But simple, nonetheless.


So What Happened to Solomon?

The same things that happened to each of us when we received Christ as Lord and the Holy Spirit came to make us His home, or to abide, in us.  When He came, so did His wisdom.  It’s always there, always available, always ready.  Solomon received what we’ve received, but in part.  He received wisdom.  But we, on the other hand, have received Christ, who became for us “the wisdom from God” (1 Cor. 1:30)— but also so much more.

We just need, maybe even more than Solomon did, to rest in His wisdom and to “walk (think, live, and choose) according to the Spirit, (why) and you shall not fulfill (like Solomon) the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).

Are you ready?  Then let’s get started living in the inheritance and wisdom God has already provided us as “joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17).

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Getting Serious

1.  Did you ever wonder how Solomon was given the wisdom from God?  And, did you ever want to know how that same wisdom could be given to you?
2.  Did you ever think the wisdom given to Solomon was something only given to special saints and not to ordinary, everyday people like you and me?  And, if so, why did you think that?
3.  How does it make you feel to know, or at least to entertain the thought, that you already possess the wisdom Solomon had by virtue of the Holy Spirit living in you?  In fact, by being “in Christ” you possess much more than Solomon.  How does that make you feel?
4.  Let me ask this again: When was the last time God spoke to you through His Word?  What was that experience like?  How often does it happen?
5.  On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate God’s wisdom in your life right now and in your decision making process?  What was it yesterday?  Are you growing in the wisdom of God?  And, if not, why?


Next Step Challenge

Take your Bible and look up at least 25 passages where the term “in Christ” is used.  What do they say about your life right now?  For starters, you can begin with four verses from Romans provided below.

Romans 6:11 – Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God (how) in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life (how) in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:1 – There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are (what) in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

Romans 12:5 – So we, being many, are one body (how) in Christ, and individually members of one another.

And how will you let what you’ve learned change your life from this point forward?

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Jesus is Our Wisdom

Jesus is Our Wisdom

To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding.
Proverbs 1:2

We discovered yesterday, from 1 Corinthians 1:30, that Jesus “became for us wisdom from God— and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”  This verse clearly shows us Jesus Christ is, in Himself, the wisdom from God.  Jesus is all wisdom, complete in Himself, and if we desire more wisdom from the Father (James 1:5), He answers by revealing more of His Son to us.  We ask for wisdom, we get Jesus.  We look for wisdom, we see it in Jesus.  We want to know wisdom (Prov. 1:2), we must know Jesus, and none other.

The wisdom from God is found in only one person— and His name is Jesus.


To Know and Perceive Wisdom and Understanding

But the Proverbs begin by telling us the grand purpose of this book is “to know (yada) wisdom and instruction, (and) to perceive the words of understanding (Prov. 1:2).  What does that mean?

Wisdom, as we know, is “the ability to discern or judge what is right, true, and lasting” and instruction means more than teaching or exhortation.  Instruction is “discipline, chastening, and correction, with the imagery of a father disciplining his son that he loves.”  Which brings us to the last half of this verse, “to perceive the words of understanding” (Prov. 1:2).

To perceive means “to discern, consider, understand, to be attentive or pay attention to.”  And “words of understanding” mean “words or speech of comprehension, discernment, righteous actions, with a strong moral and religious connotation.”  In other words, “to perceive the words of understanding” is not something to be mentally perceived or discerned, but to follow through with righteous actions, works, or deeds of strong moral and religious connotations that bring about God’s wisdom and the ability to choose what is right, true and lasting.  Do you see what the Lord is saying to us?

The purpose of Proverbs is for us to know (yada) by experience, or by doing, in an intimate, passionate way, the wisdom of God, or Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:30), and possess the ability to discern and choose what is right and Godly in any given circumstance.  The New Testament would call this sanctification (1 Thess. 4:13), having the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16), or “walking in the Spirit, and not according to the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).

Its purpose is for us to know wisdom, the wisdom found only in Christ (1 Cor. 1:30), and to be “complete in Him” (Col. 2:10).


Our Only Example During Temptation and Sin

But there’s another verse we find in Hebrews that gives us a deeper understanding of why Jesus “became for us wisdom from God” (1 Cor. 1:30).  And that’s found in Hebrews 4:15:

For we do not have a High Priest (Jesus) who cannot sympathize (or, feel deeply, be affected or touched with the same feelings as another, to have compassion for someone by experience) with our weaknesses (or, feebleness, lack of strength, frailty), but was in all points (or, each, every, the whole, in totality, lacking none) tempted (or, tried, tested) as we are, yet without sin.

This tells us that Jesus, our wisdom from God, was tempted in every way we have been tempted, yet was able and willing to discern what was right, best and true, and then was disciplined enough to chose the right path and not sin.  And because He was tested in all ways like each one of us, He is our faithful High Priest that goes before us “perceiving the words of understanding” (Prov. 1:2) and showing us, by example, how to live victoriously by knowing (yada) and following the wisdom of God.

Let’s flesh this out a little bit.

Was Jesus ever tempted by pride?  Are you?  Then so was He.  Why?  Because every temptation you have faced, or will face, He has already faced and walked in perfect holiness and unity with His Father.  And we are to follow His example.

Was Jesus ever tempted sexually?  Have you been tempted that way?  Then so was He, as uncomfortable as that might make us feel, yet without giving into sin.  So when you feel overpowered by porn or sexual temptation, know that Jesus faced the same temptation and resisted so as not to sin.  And if we keep our eyes on Him and follow His example, we shall also walk away from our temptation victorious.


New Testament Examples

Jesus lived His life in perfect harmony with the Father, just like He desires us to do.  How can we do that?  By following His example, by taking His yoke upon us and learning from Him (Matt. 11:29).  He showed us, in the pages of the Gospels, example after example of how to “know wisdom and instruction (and how) to perceive the words of understanding” (Prov. 1:2).  If we are faced with a situation Jesus was also faced with, we go to the account of how He dealt with it in the Gospels and learn from Him.  As faithful disciples, we mimic our Master.

For example, how do we handle it when someone abuses us and demands something they don’t rightly deserve?  What did Jesus do?  He “turned the other cheek” (Luke 6:29) and “walked the second mile” (Matt. 5:41).  Get the point?  Or what are we to do when we feel betrayed by someone we trusted and are tempted to harbor hate for them in our heart?  What did Jesus do?  In the upper room, Jesus washed the feet of Judas, remember? (John 13:5).

But what happens when we’re faced with a temptation not recorded in the Gospels?  We know Jesus was tempted in all ways just like we are (Heb. 4:15), yet not everything Jesus said and did is recorded for us in the Gospels (John 21:25).  We know almost nothing about His life as a young man, for example.  So where do we go to learn what Jesus, our wisdom from God, would do in a particular situation we face today that is not mentioned in Scripture?  Where do we go to find the wisdom from God?  We go to the Proverbs.

You see, the Proverbs give us the wisdom from God, what Jesus would do, in situations and circumstances Jesus faced while on earth but were not left as an example for us in the Gospels.  The Proverbs fill in for us what the Gospels left out.  Let me give a couple examples:

Peer Pressuree:  Do you face the temptation to compromise in order to be accepted by your peers?  If so, you can be sure Jesus faced the same temptation.  Yet, how He dealt with that temptation is not recorded for us in the Gospel accounts.  So where do we go to find what Jesus would do and what we should do when faced with peer pressure?  In the Proverbs.  If you struggle with peer pressure and want to know what Jesus did when He was faced with peer pressure, go to Proverbs 1:8-19.

But there’s so much more. How about:

Sexual Temptation:  See Proverbs 5:1-11.
Pride:  Proverbs 11:2, 13:10, 16:18, 29:23.
Financial Obligations:  Proverbs 6:1-5.
Adultery:  Proverbs 6:20-35.
Porn:  Proverbs 7:6-23.
Business Practices:  Proverbs 11:1.
What Should I Look for in a Wife:  Proverbs 31:10-31.

And the list goes on.

When you hold the Proverbs in your hand to read, don’t treat them like ancient writings from some old sage who can’t relate to what you’re going through. These Proverbs are the words and examples and wisdom of Christ.  They’re His example to us of how He, as the wisdom from God, was able to live victoriously in this world of sin, yet without sinning.  They’re His answer to our temptations not specifically addressed in the Gospel accounts.  And they’re His incredible gift to each of us.

So embrace them, cherish them, love them, and know (yada) them.  Why?  Because they are our way “to know wisdom and instruction, (and) to perceive the words of understanding” (Prov. 1:2).  After all, Jesus did say:

“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39).

Did you catch that?  Jesus said all Scripture, both Old and New Testament, speaks or testifies of Him.  And that includes the Proverbs.

But that’s a subject we’ll address tomorrow.

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Getting Serious

1. Does it seem strange to you to think Jesus was tempted in the same way as you?
2. Do you have the view of Jesus as some super-human that lives above the cesspool you and I find ourselves in and is somehow not tempted in the same way we are?
3. Did it ever occur to you that the entire Scriptures, both Old and New Testament testify about Jesus? Did you ever consider the fact that He can be found on every page, in almost every verse?
4. When was the last time God spoke to you through His Word? What was that experience like? How often does it happen?
5. On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate God’s wisdom in your life right now and in your decision making process? What was it yesterday? Are you growing in the wisdom of God? And, if not, why?


Next Step Challenge

Take your Bible and, using the examples above, outline the specific situations addressed in the Proverbs.  List them on a sheet of paper along with the Scripture reference just like the examples above.  What do they tell you about Jesus and His Word?  What have you learned about the true purpose and meaning of the Proverbs?

And how will you let what you’ve learned change your life from this point forward?

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