Last week we began our new study of Solomon?s book of Proverbs. I hope that you walked away from our study thinking to yourself, ?Those ancient wisdom sayings of Proverbs are more relevant to my life today than anything being offered by the authorities and experts of our own day.? I say, ?I hope you walked away with that insight?? because it is absolutely true. The reason it is true is because the book of Proverbs is God?s wisdom for living life, not the wisdom of the world. The wisdom of God is like God?s character and nature?it is unchanging. Scripture says, 29?He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind.” (1 Samuel 15:29 NIV)
How unlike the wisdom of the world is the wisdom of our God! Have you noticed how the wisdom of people vacillates and varies with each new generation or even from year to year? Let me give you an example.
During the first half of the 1900?s there was a book written by Dr. John B. Watson that gave parents everything they needed to learn about raising kids. Dr. Watson?s book was called, Psychological Care of Infant and Child. Dr. Watson suggested that parents never hug or kiss their children and never allow them to sit on their lap. Watson?s thinking was that children would drown in what he called, “Mother Love” if parents showed them too much affection. Let me read you a quote from Dr. Watson. He writes, “If you must, kiss them once on the forehead when they say good night. Shake hands with them in the morning.” Dr. Watson felt that children need to be taught that it is a cruel and harsh world. I praise God that this cold, business-like approach to raising our kids is not the normative teaching today.
In 1946, a young doctor who had graduated from Yale, won a gold medal in the 1924 Olympics, and was practicing pediatrics at the time that he released a new book called, Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care. The book was revolutionary. It was a total 1800 different approach from Dr. Watson?s book. Many of you who are seated in this sanctuary were raised by parents who read, Dr. Spock?s Baby and Child Care. The book has been translated into more than 39 languages. Needless to say, the book swept the country and eventually the world. It has sold over 50 million copies, second only to the Bible in sales. Dr. Spock urged parents: ?Trust yourself. You know more than you think you know.? Critics of Dr. Spock say that he was encouraging parents to raise permissive kids, but one thing cannot be debated?Dr. Spock changed the minds of millions of parents concerning how to raise their kids.
What?s interesting is that Dr. Spock, though recognized as the authority on parenting and with all the fame that he achieved, changed his own mind about much that he had taught when he was younger. He had been steeped in the teachings of Sigmund Freud and Charles Darwin while at Yale and Columbia, but as he grew older he saw their teachings, teachings which shaped his own beliefs, as contributors to the problem and not part of the solution.
Dr. Spock, who wasn?t a member of any church and who tried to escape his strict upbringing, said later in life that America was suffering from ?moral blindness.? In an article called, ?The Baby Doctor: Benjamin Spock on Darwin and Morality,? Dr. Jerry Bergman writes,
Dr. Spock concluded that the moral blindness that produced many of our modern social problems was the direct result of modern secular teachings resulting from Darwinism, Freudianism, and other humanistic philosophies. In Spock’s own words, the major reason for our most serious social problems was the weakening of the influence of religion that resulted especially from the influence of Darwinism and our increasingly secular society? Dr. Spock realized that many of the movements with which he had once agreed had caused an enormous amount of harm in our society. As a result of his insight, he admitted that he had ?come full circle, in the end, to a feeling that it is crucial, in all issues, to consider the moral dimension? when trying to solve social and societal problems. The major source of morality in the West, he realized, was the Judeo-Christian heritage, which has been seriously undermined by Darwinism, Freudianism, and the secular humanistic philosophies taught in our schools and by society as a whole. (Spock and Morgan, 1989) (Dr. Jerry Bergman, The Baby Doctor, Benjamin Spock, On Darwin and Morality. IMPACT No. 356 February 2003)
Human wisdom changes. Opinions change, scientific discoveries are replaced by new discoveries, and worldly wisdom shifts like the rising and setting of the sun. True wisdom transcends the ages and spans the various cultures of the world, but where can we go to find such wisdom? That is a great question.
Today we are going to take another step in our study of Solomon?s Proverbs. During our time together today I want us to seek to understand ?What is wisdom?? ?What do we need to do to acquire wisdom?? and ?Where does this wisdom reside??
Let?s begin our study by taking a look at Proverbs 1:1-5. Turn there with me in your Bible and let?s read together.
1 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: 2 for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; 3 for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; 4 for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young?5 let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance?(Proverbs 1:1-5 NIV)
? What is wisdom?? The word, ?wisdom,? found in Proverbs 1:2, is the Hebrew word for ?skill.? The word is used to describe skill in war or in technical work. It is also used to describe wisdom in administration, prudence in religious affairs, and in ethical and religious matters. When wisdom is used in connection with God, we learn that He alone knows it, gives it, and shows its secrets. When the word is used in conjunction with people we learn that acquiring wisdom is of primary importance and its most basic starting point is to fear God ? to know YHWH, the Holy One. Wisdom for people is of infinite and inestimable worth.
The word is used 149 times in the Old Testament, but the first place where it appears is Exodus 28:3. Take a look there with me.
1?Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, so they may serve me as priests. 2Make sacred garments for your brother Aaron, to give him dignity and honor. 3Tell all the skilled men to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron, for his consecration, so he may serve me as priest. 4These are the garments they are to make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a woven tunic, a turban and a sash. They are to make these sacred garments for your brother Aaron and his sons, so they may serve me as priests. 5Have them use gold, and blue, purple and scarlet yarn, and fine linen. (Exodus 28:1-5 NIV)
The same word that we find as the foundational word in Proverbs is used here in Exodus 28:3. God gave the men who would make Aaron?s garments wisdom, skill, so they would be able to make the clothing as God desired. This is key for us. The men could make priest?s clothes for Aaron and his sons, but God didn?t want just any clothes, He had specifics in mind for the clothes He desired for the priests.
So it is with life, the way we are to relate to one another, and the way in which we conduct our daily affairs to His glory and not just any way that we please. Proverbs teaches us about the ways of the wise and the ways of the fool. As we learn more about wisdom today you will see that those who are wise are more than smart, more than educated, more than experienced?they are seeking God?s ways above all else, for every decision of their life. They want to apply themselves to their education as God desires instead of just sliding by. They raise their kids seeking God?s counsel. They manage and distribute their resources according to God?s principles instead of Madison Avenues. They honor their father and mother, not because of any good they may have done, but because this is God?s wisdom for the parent/child relationship. The wise remain sexually faithful to the husband or wife God has given them, regardless of the latest teachings of society, because this is God?s wisdom for husbands and wives. The wise are given the insight to avoid those who will lead them into destruction and ruin because they are seeking God more than they are seeking pleasure, popularity, or getting ahead. The wise accept discipline and correction because they know that they do not possess complete knowledge about life and they need the help of those God has placed into their life. The wise are wise only because they are seeking to walk in God?s plan for their life.
On the other hand, the fool of Proverbs is the person who laughs at any notion that they need God. The fool is led around by his or her desires, what feels right, what their heart tells them, and what they want instead of what God wants. They flare up and get mad at anyone who would try to correct them. They take advantage of others if it will benefit them in any way. They don?t honor anyone who won?t cater to their every whim. Sexually they are a disaster as they run after whoever will give them a moments pleasure. Financially they are a wreck as they use any means necessary to get ahead and never give a thought to blessing others. They don?t honor their father and mother; as a matter of fact Proverbs teaches that the fool brings grief to the heart of their mom and dad.
Whether we are wise or a fool can be ascertained by answering one simple question: ?Do we fear God or not?? To fear God means that we honor Him, we revere Him, above all others. It means that we understand that He alone is Sovereign, Omniscient, Omnipresent, Omnipotent and worthy of our worship and allegiance. It means that we recognize that He holds our life in His hands. It means that we acknowledge that He alone holds comprehensive knowledge about life and our life specifically. This is what it means to reverence, or fear God. The wise fear God?the fool does not.
Let?s try and find the answer to our second question this morning. ?What do we need to do to acquire wisdom?? First, we must recognize that we are not the well of wisdom. If a person believes that he or she is all wise then there is no need for them to seek any wisdom outside of themselves. For those of us who know that we are ignorant about life, the Bible is clear as to what we need to do to acquire wisdom. As I mentioned earlier we must humble ourselves before God and confess our ignorance. Charles Spurgeon once wrote, ?The doorstep to the temple of wisdom is a knowledge of our own ignorance.? We don?t know everything. One thing I am learning is that the older I get the less I truly know. When I was younger I thought I knew it all, but I had no clue as to all that there is to know. Now I know, and I know with certainty, that I don?t know much of anything. This doesn?t cause me any stress or anxiety because I know James 1:5 to be true. Turn there with me and you can gain some much needed reassurance for living wisely as well.
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5 NIV)
Everything we lack He will supply if we will go to God and ask Him for the wisdom that we need concerning the situation or decision we must make. This should really give us great confidence. God not only possesses all wisdom, but He invites us to come to Him to gain His wisdom. When we go to Him, James tells us that He will give us His wisdom generously.
King Jehoshaphat was a wise king when he found out that the allied forces were bearing down upon the people of Judah to overtake them. When he learned that the enemy was coming he didn?t charge full speed ahead, he called all of the citizens together to seek God. Turn with me to 2 Chronicles 20:12 and let?s read about his conversation with God.
12 O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” 13 All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the LORD. (2 Chronicles 20:12-13 NIV)
That is wisdom my friends. As a result of Jehoshaphat calling out to God for direction?He received wisdom and the enemies plans were thwarted. You and I need, desperately need, to go to God for every decision, for every hurdle, every situation that comes our way. We are not just in need of wisdom when we find ourselves in trouble, we are in need of wisdom when supposedly great opportunities present themselves?we are in need of God?s wisdom at all times.
Before we leave here this morning I want us to take one more look at wisdom. The key word, as I mentioned before, is the Hebrew word that means ?skill.? In the book of Proverbs there are several different words that are related to wisdom. Each of them ties back in to our pursuit of wisdom and they enable us to live wisely, in godly wisdom. Let?s take a look at some of these words.
? First of all we have ?training,? ?instruction,? or ?discipline.? In the NIV the word is translated ?discipline? in verse 2. This word has tied to it correction and chastening. If you have ever been on an athletic field to watch practice then you?ve heard ?discipline.? The coach wants his players to learn the fundamentals of the sport and he will correct them over and over again to make sure they learn the important lesson. Heeding this discipline has everything to do with acquiring ?wisdom? in whatever field you desire to master.
? Secondly, we have ?understanding? or ?insight.? This word is much like discernment. It is used in Proverbs 1:2 where Solomon writes that the lessons in the book are for ?understanding words of insight.? One of the best examples of the use of the word is found in 1 Kings 3:9. Turn there with me and let?s begin in verse 7.
7?Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?? (1 Kings 3:7-9 NIV)
Solomon asks for the wisdom to ?distinguish between right and wrong.? That?s it! Wisdom is more than the gathering of facts. It is the ability to use wisdom in a godly way.
? A third related word in Proverbs is found in 1:3 where Solomon uses the phrase, ?prudent life.? It is interesting in verse 3 that the word is used in the same sentence with ?doing what is right and just and fair.? The same word is used in Isaiah 52:13 where Isaiah writes about the Messiah, 13 ?See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.? (Isaiah 52:13 NIV) Wisdom is to act righteously. It is to be rightly related to God and to those around us. Bruce Waltke says that ?righteousness is to put others at the advantage even when it disadvantages me.? That is a great definition and we see this righteousness most vividly in Jesus who suffered so that we might be made right with God.
? Fourth, in verse 4, we read, ?for giving prudence to the simple?? The word translated ?prudence? in the NIV, ?subtle, shrewd, crafty, sly, sensible.? C.H. Toy says that the word means, ?the power of forming plans.? It?s important for us to know that wisdom is a neutral word. You can be shrewd to the harm of others, you can be crafty and plan out your scheme to get what you want, or you can be wise and stay out of situations that will swallow you whole. Wisdom alone can be used for good or bad purposes. That is why we need more than knowledge or facts?we need God to impart His wisdom to us for each situation we face throughout our days.
Let me give you an example of the negative use of wisdom. Turn with me to Genesis 3:1 and we will see that Satan was wise in his own way. The same word that we found in Proverbs is used here in Genesis 3:1.
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1 NIV)
Satan was more ?crafty,? he is more shrewd and subtle than all of the animals the Lord God has made. You and I have great knowledge of this fact don?t we? You can see that wisdom can be wicked if it is not wisdom received and directed by the Lord alone.
? The last related word I want us to look at is the word in verse 4 translated, ?knowledge.? The Hebrew word means ?knowledge, understanding, or wisdom.? The word is used alongside the ?fear of the Lord.? This is the starting point of gaining knowledge. In a very real sense ?knowledge? is knowing the Lord. Let me give you an example of what I am talking about by turning to Jeremiah 22:11-16. Let?s read together about Shallum, the son of Josiah.
11 For this is what the LORD says about Shallum son of Josiah, who succeeded his father as king of Judah but has gone from this place: “He will never return. 12 He will die in the place where they have led him captive; he will not see this land again.” 13 “Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness, his upper rooms by injustice, making his countrymen work for nothing, not paying them for their labor. 14 He says, ‘I will build myself a great palace with spacious upper rooms.’ So he makes large windows in it, panels it with cedar and decorates it in red. 15 “Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? Did not your father have food and drink? He did what was right and just, so all went well with him. 16 He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 22:11-16 NIV)
We can see from this passage of Scripture that knowing the Lord is much more than having book or Bible knowledge of God?it is also doing what God asks, it is reflecting God?s character to those around us.
There is so much more that I would like to share with you, but the truth is that we could never exhaust the depths or heights of understanding the wisdom of Almighty God. The best that we can do is to keep pursuing God with all of our heart. It is not in pursuing wisdom that we will become wise, but it is in pursuing God that we will come to know God and allow Him to impart to us His wisdom, moment by moment, for each decision that comes our way. We must begin our pursuit of God with an embrace of His Son Jesus. By accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior we confess that we are not right, that we are sinners who are greatly in need. God will honor our confession with salvation, His grace. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1,
27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things– and the things that are not– to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God– that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:;27-31 NIV)
Jesus is the wisdom of God. Won?t you come to Him this morning and allow Him to forgive you of your sin so that He might come to live in your heart as the Wisdom of God?