Theme: Pillars of Wisdom
Lesson Text: Proverbs 2:12-22; 3:13-18; 13:20-25
Supplemental Texts: Psalm 119:97-104; Matthew 7:24; James 3:13-18
Aim: Reap the practical and spiritual rewards of a life of wise decisions.
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By Mark Scott
There is wisdom, and then there is wisdom. Some wisdom is from heaven, and some wisdom is from earth (James 3:13-18). On the first Palm Sunday, it might have seemed like people were expressing heaven’s wisdom, but within five days the earth’s wisdom seemed to have won out. Jesus’ six trials (three Jewish and three Roman) gave evidence that not all people experience the true reward of God’s wisdom. As we enter this Holy Week we must be careful of unjust accusations against our Jewish forefathers for missing Jesus. If we do not embrace the wisdom from heaven, we might miss him too.
Wisdom Guards You
Proverbs 2 traces the real value of godly wisdom. Solomon wrote, “Wisdom will save you” (keep, guard, and protect). This wisdom guards against the wrong men (vv. 12-15) and the wrong women (vv. 16-19). Fools are not gender-specific. We have already been introduced to wrong men (Proverbs 1:10-19). Their feet are swift to shed blood. This text describes them as being perverse in their words and as walking in paths that are crooked. Consider all the things they do wrong—left straight paths, walk in dark ways, delight in doing wrong, rejoice in the perverseness of evil, and are devious (twisted, distorted) in their ways.
Wisdom will also guard us against adulterous (strange or alien) and wayward (foreign) women. (See lengthy descriptions of such women in Proverbs 5:1-23; 7:5-27.) An adulterous woman is seductive (flattering, slippery, or smooth), she has left (forsaken) her husband, and she has ignored (forgotten) the covenant of marriage she made. The end result is a house that leads to death and a path that is ghostly (spirits of the dead). People that do not guard against her never return to their lives again and they never attain (regain) the paths of life (Proverbs 5:5-6; 7:26-27).
But wisdom is not satisfied with just helping us guard against the bad influences. It also helps us embrace the good (Proverbs 2:20-22). Wisdom helps us walk in the ways of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous. In doing so, we remain in the land of the living (i.e., being fulfilled in the Promised Land). In contrast, the wicked will be cut off (disinherited) from the land, and the unfaithful (treacherous) will be torn from it (rooted out of it).
Wisdom Blesses You
Some have found that while the Christian life is not easy, it is consistently best. God’s blessings are placed upon those who find wisdom and gain understanding. In fact the blessings of wisdom are compared to wealth, long life and happiness, pleasant ways (beauty and delight), and paths of peace.
Wisdom is spoken of in terms of financial gain. Silver, gold, and rubies are mentioned as metaphors of blessings. The right hand and the left hand are ways of speaking of God’s generosity toward us (Matthew 6:3). God blesses the wise with long life and honor. Solomon takes us back to Eden as a final blessing of wisdom. The tree of life is seldom mentioned outside of Genesis 2–3 and Revelation 22. But it does appear in Proverbs (11:30; 13:12; 15:4). If we take hold of wisdom contained in God’s tree of life (trusting in the goodness of God), we will be blessed beyond measure.
Wisdom Distinguishes You
The Jewish people loved contrasts. They were famous for saying, “On the one hand . . . on the other hand.” Contrasts frame up the subgenre of this section of Proverbs. The six proverbs in this section offer a thesis in the first line and the antithesis in the second line. It is like a protagonist fighting against the antagonist. For instance, walking with wise people makes one wiser still. It is called intelligence by association. On the other hand, if one spends time with fools, harm (the root word is the word for “evil”) typically results from such pooled ignorance.
In verse 21, trouble (once again the root is the word for “evil”) pursues (like a hunter pursuing an animal) the sinner. In contrast, the righteous are rewarded with good things.
The last four proverbs in this section deal with inheritance, the poor, discipline of children, and contentment. Following God’s wisdom in these areas will distinguish God’s people from those who follow the wisdom of the world. When God’s wisdom is not embraced, sinners will lose their wealth, injustice will reign, children will be left to their own devices, and contentment will be compromised. No wonder the writer of Proverbs says, “Get wisdom” (Proverbs 4:7).
Dr. Mark Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. He also serves as minister with Park Plaza Christian Church in Joplin.