As we turn our attention back to the book of Proverbs we move into the father?s fifth lesson for his son. This lesson is unique from the standpoint that it is really a lesson that Solomon?s dad, King David, had shared with him when he was young. Now Solomon is passing it on to his son. As we get into our Scripture for this morning we will see that Solomon is urging his son to pursue and acquire wisdom at all costs.
Solomon heeded his father?s advice when he was a young man. He is a wonderful example of how godly wisdom will bless our lives, protect our steps, and empower us with insight, leadership, and discernment that is beyond our abilities. When Solomon first became King, as the successor of his father King David, he was visited by God in a dream one night. God told Solomon, ?Ask for anything you want and I will give it to you.? Turn with me to 1 Kings 3 and let?s read what took place.
5At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, ?Ask for whatever you want me to give you.? 6Solomon answered, ?You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. 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?? 10The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11So God said to him, ?Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. 13Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for?both riches and honor?so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. 14And if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.? (1 Kings 3:5-14 NIV)
The same story is repeated in 2 Chronicles 1:7-10. What an incredible experience it must have been for Solomon to have God show up and say, ?Anything you ask and it is yours!? What would we ask God for if we were given a blank check? For many of us it would be exactly what God told Solomon He would give him because he did not ask for them?wealth, a long life, and vengeance against Solomon?s enemies. For most people today we would not hesitate to ask God to make us rich, to give us good health, to make us famous, or to give us a long and prosperous life. Yet how many people do you know who have these things and they still are not content, they still cannot find the happiness that they long for in life? These things were given to Solomon, but they were not his priority. Solomon desired God?s wisdom first and foremost.
Solomon, as a young man, was a great example of a person who had their priorities in place. Solomon, as an older man, is a tragic example of what can happen if we allow our pursuit of wisdom, our relationship with God, to become a past time. We can?t afford to arrive at the conclusion that we have become wise because of our past track record. Neither can we become so busy that we put our pursuit of God and His wisdom on the back burner while we pursue lesser things. As an older man Solomon?s priorities got shifted, he was led astray by the very things that he counseled his son to avoid. Solomon?s pursuits ruined his life and led to the destruction of the nation. The lessons that were passed along to Solomon by his father, David, were forgotten and the lives of many were affected as a result. Our pursuit of godly wisdom must be a life-long passion, a first priority, or we will suffer the consequences of living a foolish, misguided life.
As we come to our Scripture for today in Proverbs 4:1-9 we need to hear the wisdom of the ages being passed from generation to generation. At the same time we need to hear the call to pursue this wisdom with all of our heart and then pass it on. In Proverbs 4:1-9 we read,
1 Listen, my sons, to a father?s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. 2 I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching. 3 When I was a boy in my father?s house, still tender, and an only child of my mother, 4 he taught me and said, ?Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live. 5 Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. 6 Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. 7 Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. 8 Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. 9 She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor. (Proverbs 4:1-9 NIV)
As I mentioned earlier, this is the father?s fifth lesson given to his son on the importance of wisdom for his life. If, when we read the Scripture, you felt like we were reading some of the same material that we?ve studied earlier then you are exactly right. Repetition is a key to learning. We need the same lessons over an over again if we are going to maintain our focus and passion in seeking to learn and obey godly wisdom. The foundation of each of these lessons is the importance of wisdom, specifically the wisdom of God for living life, experiencing the contentment and happiness that only God can bring, and for protecting us from the destruction that accompanies a life lived foolishly, in contradiction to godly wisdom.
With each lesson Solomon desires to lay a foundation, the foundation of the wisdom of God, as well as direct the lessons to situations and scenarios that the young man will experience as he grows and matures. Let?s turn our attention to verse 1. Read along with me.
1 Listen, my sons, to a father?s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. (Proverbs 4:1 NIV)
I want us to notice something very important within this verse. Solomon urges his sons to ?pay attention and gain understanding.? This is such an important phrase for us to understand because God?s lessons come to us each and every day?if we are paying attention. For many of us, we have to learn the same lessons over and over again because we are not paying attention.
The word that is used here in verse 1 for ?pay attention? is found 8 times in the book of Proverbs. There is no question that the father is urging his son to learn from the lessons that are being offered to him. The Hebrew word for ?pay attention? means, ?to hear, be attentive, or heed.? The word conveys to us the activity of hearing and obeying. To ?pay attention? to God means that we not only ?hear? what He has to say, but we follow hearing with obedience. There are other places in the Hebrew Bible where we find this same word. Let me show you a couple of places where the word appears so that we can understand the two pronged meaning of the word. Turn with me to 1 Samuel 15:22-23 and we?ll see our first example.
Saul was the first king of Israel. While he was king he was instructed to attack the Amalekites because of the way they treated the Israelites when they came out of slavery in Egypt. Saul was instructed to destroy everything, but he didn?t follow God?s instructions. Saul spared King Agag and the best of the livestock, but that was not what God had told him to do. When Saul was confronted he made excuses about why did other than what God had told him to do. He was going to use the livestock as a sacrifice to God, but that was not what God had told him to do. Now, in 1 Samuel 15:22-23 we read about God?s response to what Saul?s excuses. Read along with me.
22But Samuel replied: ?Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.? (1 Samuel 15:22-23 NIV)
The word ?heed? here is the same Hebrew word that we find in Proverbs 4:1. Obedience is better than religious rituals, obedience is better than pious excuses, and it is better than giving God lip service, but allowing our hearts to be far from Him.
The second place that I want to show you this morning is found in Isaiah 48:17-19. The people of God had not listened and there was a big price to pay for their unwillingness to listen to God. They did what they wanted, they did what they thought was best for them, but they did not do what God desired for them. God says,
17 This is what the LORD says?your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ?I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. 18 If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea. 19 Your descendants would have been like the sand, your children like its numberless grains; their name would never be cut off nor destroyed from before me.? (Isaiah 48:17-19 NIV)
Notice that some of the very things that are promised in Proverbs 4, for those who live according to God?s wisdom, are mentioned here in Isaiah 48. God says in Isaiah 48 that if they had only listened their ?peace would have been like a river,? their ?righteousness like the waves of the sea,? their descendants would have been more numerous than the grains of sand, and they would not be destroyed. That is ?if? they would have listened, if they would have paid attention, if they would have obeyed. Can you see how important it is for us to pay attention to God when He gives us lessons? Lessons in how to live wisely, how to live godly lives, regardless of what popular opinion would have us do, or what conventional wisdom would suggest.
Remember that this lesson is being taught not in the halls of higher learning, not in some prestigious Ivy League school, or any school for that matter. These lessons of wisdom are being taught by a father and mother to their son. Later on they became a kind of curriculum for the training of young people, but they originated in the home. I?m so glad that all of us can gain from studying these life lessons, but we must remember that the first nine chapters are put in the mouths of parents and offered to their children. Let?s take a look at the kind of relationship that was shared by the parents with their children. Read along with me in verse 3.
3 When I was a boy in my father?s house, still tender, and an only child of my mother (Proverbs 4:3 NIV)
In Proverbs 4 we can get a snapshot of the Hebrew home. The son is ?tender.? The word means, ?soft, weak, or tender.? The word paints a picture for us of a child who is vulnerable, his character is pliable, moldable, and he is vulnerable to negative influences. Isn?t that true of young people still to this day? There are so many influences, so many shaping forces present in our society that will, without a thought, bend them and twist them into a mangled mess if there is not someone to intervene. This is nothing new my friends. Young hearts have always been easily influenced, but God in His Providence has supplied gracious but firm hands by way of a loving mother and father to shape the child according to God?s Word and His ways.
So we have the nature of children. Young, easily influenced, desperately needing the guiding and shaping hands of their parents to instill within them the wisdom and discernment necessary to avoid the pitfalls and destruction of life lived apart from the authority of God.
We also have here in verse 3 an insight into the demeanor and style of training given by the parents. Solomon says that he was ?an only child of my mother.? In writing this Solomon says that he was Bathsheba?s only child. Bathsheba had a child before Solomon was born, but he had died when he was an infant. Along with pointing out that he was an only child Solomon is trying to convey an additional message to his readers. Let me show you what I am talking about. The Hebrew word that is used here means ?only one, solitary, or unique.? It is the uniqueness that I want to focus on for a moment.
In Genesis 22:9-12 we read about the story of God calling Abraham to take his ?only? son Isaac up to Mt. Moriah and to offer him as a sacrifice there. Read along with me.
9When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, ?Abraham! Abraham!? ?Here I am,? he replied. 12?Do not lay a hand on the boy,? he said. ?Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.? (Genesis 22:9-12 NIV)
Now we know that Isaac wasn?t Abraham?s only son. He had a son born before Isaac, Ishmael, who was born to Hagar. Isaac was Abraham?s only son born to Sarah, but he was his unique son in that he was the son promised by God whom God would use to accomplish His purposes in redemptive history.
The same word is used by David in Psalms 22:20 and Psalms 35:17, but here the word is translated as ?precious.? Turn with me to these verses and let?s take a look.
20 Deliver my life from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. (Psalm 22:20 NIV)
17 O Lord, how long will you look on? Rescue my life from their ravages, my precious life from these lions. (Psalms 35:17 NIV)
This word ?precious? is a beautiful description to show us the meaning of the word found in Proverbs 4:3. Solomon?s mother cherished her son, he was unique to her, and she loved him with a special love. We who are parents today need to view our children, each of our children, as unique creations of God. We don?t raise kids with a ?parenting manual? bought from Barnes and Noble, with a cookie cutter approach handed down by some authority, or according to Dr. Spock or Dr. Phil. We are to prayerfully consider the uniqueness of each of our children and encourage, teach, love, and discipline them accordingly.
God?s Word is our textbook in instilling within our children discernment, wisdom, and a moral foundation. Along with these our children need to learn to pray in order to know the ?how? of applying God?s Word to the situations and struggles they will face in life.
We are much more than coaches or reservoirs of truth?we are lovers of our kids. Each of our children needs to feel that they are their mom and dad?s ?beloved??the only child, precious in their mom or dad?s eyes, rather than just another child.
As we move on in our study I want to shift our focus from the nature of a young person and the demeanor of the parents to the urgent call of the parents to ?get? wisdom. Read along with me from Proverbs 4:4-5.
4 he taught me and said, ?Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live. 5 Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. (Proverbs 4:4-5 NIV)
The dad says to ?lay hold? of his counsel to get wisdom, to get understanding. What does it mean to ?lay hold? of something? How do you grab on to lessons? I?m so glad you asked. The Hebrew word for ?lay hold? is ?tamak.? The word means ?to grasp, hold, or to be held.? The King James Version of the Bible translates the word, ?retain.? Let me show you some of the places where the word appears in other places in the Old Testament and you can get a better idea of how to ?hold on? to wisdom.
8 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. (Psalm 63:8 NIV)
21 For a man?s ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all his paths. 22 The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast. (Proverbs 5:21-22 NIV)
To ?lay hold? is an action that takes place, not a mind-set. You can see from the two verses we just read that we are faced with a choice?either we will lay hold of wisdom which is truly clinging to the Lord and His Word or sin will lay hold of us and hold us in its grasp. There is no other choice.
Practically speaking, for you and me to lay hold of wisdom we must lay hold of God?s Word. Read it, pray over it, meditate upon it, and recite it to ourselves throughout the day. It is truly remarkable how God will bring His Word to mind when we face situations in life.
Connie and I were discussing Proverbs this past week when she told me a story. When she was in college her voice teacher was a lady named Mrs. Engelman. Connie said that Mrs. Engelman would repeat herself over and over again as she would listen to Connie sing. She wanted Connie to work on certain aspects of her voice and she sounded like a broken record as she corrected and taught Connie during her lessons. Connie said that after she got out of college and began working with other voice students that she found herself repeating the lessons Mrs. Engelman?s had given to her over and over again as she worked with other students. Mrs. Engelman?s lessons were not in vain?the repetition of her correction and teaching took root and has helped to shape Connie. And so it is for those who will stay in God?s Word for those who will lay hold of God?s wisdom.
Let?s take a look at the last part of our lesson. Read along with me from Proverbs 4:6-9.
6 Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. 7 Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. 8 Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. 9 She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor. (Proverbs 4:6-9 NIV)
For those who desire godly wisdom more than anything else there are benefits that they will enjoy that can?t come in any other way. I want to mark these for us this morning. Take a look at these four verses with me and you can follow along.
Do not forsake wisdom She will protect you
Love her She will watch over you
Esteem her She will exalt you
Embrace her She will honor you.
She will set a garland of grace on your head and
present you with a crown of splendor
If we will not forsake wisdom, if we will love wisdom, esteem wisdom, and embrace wisdom then we are told that wisdom will protect us, watch over us, exalt us, honor us, and crown us with grace and splendor. What a wonderful promise!
Some of you might be wondering if it is true? Will God really protect us? Don?t you see people every day who are seeking after God that suffer? Absolutely! As you go through God?s Word and read about the men and women who pour their hearts out in service to the Lord you will find men and women who suffered. Tears spotted Jeremiah?s scroll as he wrote about his sufferings in Judah. Prison cell doors echoed in Paul?s ears as he wrote to the Church in Philippi. David was on the run from King Saul, hiding in a cave, as he wrote the opening words of Psalm 57.
1 Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed. (Psalm 57:1 NIV)
Stephen was stoned to death, Peter was crucified upside down, and do I even need to mention that the One who took off His royal robes of splendor and majesty to come and save us?He was beaten, mocked, His body ripped to shreds, and then nailed to a tree.
So what kind of protection does wisdom provide? How does wisdom watch over us? Scripture teaches us that wisdom, obedience to God, is not a shield from suffering, but that it is a shield from sin and destruction. There are two ways that wisdom will protect us and watch over us. First, godly wisdom will protect us from falling into sin. If we will live according to God?s Word then we will avoid so many heartaches that are brought about by living life as we want to live, by living life according to what we feel instead of by His Word. Godly wisdom will provide a way of escape for you and me. Take a look at 1 Corinthians 10:13 with me.
13No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV)
If you and I will live by God?s wisdom, then, when sin knocks at our door, His wisdom will counsel us that destruction lies beyond the enticing appeal of sin?s offer.
The second way that wisdom will protect us and watch over us is that godly wisdom gives us the assurance that all of life has its purpose. This gives us great hope. We are not the victims of our situations; we are living under the watchful eye of our Sovereign God. Let me show you two instances of this protection against hopelessness, fear, and despair. In Psalm 23:4 David writes,
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4 NIV)
In Psalm 9 we learn that those who know, those who are intimately acquainted with the Lord will trust in Him rather than throw in the towel. Read along with me from Psalm 9:10.
10 Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you. (Psalm 9:10 NIV)
What is the key to unlocking the benefits of wisdom in our lives? That?s a great question. The key is found in verse 7.
7 Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. (Proverbs 4:7 NIV)
Though it costs you everything?get it! There is no price too high to pay?get it! There is no sacrifice too great to make?get it! Get it! When you are tired and weary?get it! When you have bills to pay and you wonder if you are going to be able to make your rent?get it! When your marriage is having problems and you think you would be better served doing something else?get it! When your friends entice you or your schedule is loaded with responsibilities?don?t neglect it, get it! Get it! Get wisdom! Gain understanding! You and I can get it by getting into His Word regularly, consistently, persistently, and with passion.
Once you get it then pass it on. Oh how the world around us is yearning for truth, for something to be able to hold onto. Pass it on. Oh how our children are crying out for a foundation, for some stability, for some sense of purpose. Pass it on. Don?t hold it to yourself?pass it on.
For you to ever come to know and walk in God?s wisdom you must first come to know Jesus Christ. John Piper has written such a powerful little paragraph about the need to know Jesus if we are ever going to come to know wisdom. He writes,
Finally, there is one last, absolutely essential thing to do if you would “get wisdom”: you must come to Jesus. He said to the people of his day, “The queen of the south will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold something greater than Solomon is here” (Matthew 12:42). What an understatement. Greater than Solomon indeed! Solomon spoke God’s wisdom. Jesus is the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24, 30). Others had spoken truth; he is the truth. Others had pointed the way to life; he is the way and the life (John 14:6). Others had given promises, but “all the promises of God find their yes in him” (2 Corinthians 1:20). Others had offered God’s forgiveness; Jesus bought it by his death. Therefore, in him are “hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). To know and love and follow this Jesus is to own the treasure of ultimate and eternal happiness. Therefore, the command, “Get wisdom” means first and foremost “Come to Jesus! Come to Jesus!” in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom. (John Piper, Bethlehem Baptist Church, May 24, 1981)
Won?t you welcome Him into your heart this morning? Won?t you bow before His throne of grace and mercy and cry out to the Lord this very day?