What Wisdom Requires: Meditation on Proverbs 1 and 2

Yesterday morning the lead pastor of my church challenged us to read Proverbs over the next month, one chapter a day. We’re in the middle of a series about how to discover God’s will, and the key point from yesterday is to look for principles in the Bible, not just promises. (Audio from yesterday’s sermon is available here, for more context — great teaching in there.) Proverbs is a natural place to start, when looking for general principles in God’s word; it’s almost too easy, they’re everywhere. That’s what Proverbs is about — distilled wisdom for living well.

So I read Proverbs 1 last night, and Proverbs 2 this morning, and then Proverbs 1 again, because I’m compelled by the last section of chapter 1, verses 20-33. Wisdom is here personified as a woman, walking through the city and shouting out against people who have rejected her teaching. She is blunt; she is not kind. She tells the people who don’t care about her that they have made their own beds, and they will most assuredly lie in them, and then she will laugh at them — she will mock them in the midst of their disasters, because they didn’t ask her for help when they could have. On the contrary, they scorned her.

Yeowch. And yet, Wisdom is not laughing at people who have never heard of her. She isn’t withholding her knowledge from people and then kicking them when they’re down. Wisdom speaks in the open, she’s in the city streets where everyone can hear her. She tried to reach the foolish; she told them they were on a bad course, and they were the ones who didn’t listen.

Wisdom is shown as a stern teacher, but not an uncaring one. She has much to give, but she refuses to coddle. She is in no way co-dependent. She doesn’t chase people who are not paying attention to her. She will gladly teach you, but you have to want her teaching. You have to pay attention to her. You have to seek Wisdom, or she won’t seek you.

In short, Wisdom requires you to grow up. She makes you take responsibility for your own life. She will generously teach you everything she knows, if you want her and you seek her.

Proverbs 2 continues the same idea, this time in the guise of a father or teacher speaking to his son or student. Verses 2-4 instruct the son in how to gain wisdom — turn your ear to it and apply your heart, cry out for understanding, seek it with as much diligence and passion as though you were hunting for treasure. In other words, care about this deeply and seek it energetically. Understand that wisdom is greatly valuable, and treat it that way. The son is urged to care about wisdom and pursue it, and the rest of the chapter is about the great rewards and benefits of doing so.

The larger principle I see here is that whatever you want in life, you need to set your heart on gaining it, take responsibility for seeking it, point your own intentions and efforts toward it. God can help you gain any good thing, anything which helps you and brings honor to him, but you have to want it. You have to be intentional about it. Jesus said it like this: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7; Luke 11:9) You ask, you seek, you knock. Great things are promised, but we have to make the start. Seek God, set your heart on something good, and start pursuing it.

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