To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding.
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.
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?