Proverbs 2 - Wisdom: A Blessing
Promise and Obligation
The road to wisdom knows no shortcuts, and much effort is required in order to become wise. But when you spend that effort you will be blessed. That is the message of Proverbs 2. This chapter deals specifically with the rules of the covenant which has two parts: promise and obligation – what else could this chapter be about?
We are promised the blessings of the covenant, and these blessings come to us in the way of obedience to the demands of the covenant. We read of these demands in the verses 1-4, where we find the condition: If you... The remainder of the chapter sketches the blessings which will then be received: Then you will... These blessings are described in five blocks. I list the beginning verses: 5, 9, 12 (read: then you will be saved from the way of evil), 16 (read: Then you will be saved from the loose women), and 20 (read: Then you will walk in the way of good men).
if . . .
then . . .
We will study this chapter more closely, starting with the verses 1-4. We find here an emotional appeal to do our utmost in the school of wisdom. Our best effort is required to learn to be wise and to receive the blessings promised. Much work needs to be done.
Certainly, searching for hidden treasure (v. 4) will cost a lot of sweat and energy. In today’s terms, think of the search for a new oil well. There is a beehive of activity – examination of the soil, analysis of soil samples, exploratory drilling, the building of a drilling rig. People will have – and are more than willing – to go to great lengths in order to find a productive oil well. Overtime is no problem when success seems around the corner; if necessary they will not hesitate to sacrifice a night’s sleep.
Gold fever – another illustration. People have been possessed by it, doing everything and anything to find gold.
In Israel, people hid their treasure in the ground. Think of Achan. Banks, vaults, and safes did not exist. The ancient East had its own methods of keeping things secure. Treasures were put in earthen pots, and these were hidden underground. In the parable of the talents, the man who received one talent hid it in the ground. Think also of the parable of the treasure in the field. Throughout the ages many treasures have been hidden in this way. Of course, the owner kept the place where he hid his treasure a secret, often also from the members of his own family. If such a person were to die suddenly, the secret would die with him. Therefore, it could well be worthwhile for the Easterner to go on a real treasure hunt; who knows where treasures could be hidden!
Such a comparison with the search for treasure is not only found in Proverbs 2; it is also found in Isaiah and Job. These passages deal with the riches which may be found and the effort which is required to find it. Proverbs 2 applies this to gaining wisdom. You will not become wise just like that; you must work hard at it and apply yourself fully to the task at hand. That is the condition stated here – a covenantal condition and a divine demand.
Joshua 7:20-22, 2 Corinthians 4:7, Matthew 25:14-30, Matthew 13:44, Isaiah 45:3, Job 3:21
The first four verses of Proverbs 2 contain a telling climax, showing mounting tension and increasing intensity.
My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you...
Wisdom announces, “Here I come; get to work and take hold of my words.” That is line one. Line two speaks even more forcefully; the words become words of command. The hearer cannot and may not get away from these words, spoken with such authority. Not only should you accept these words which come to you as commands, you must also take care of them. Do not stand there with your hands full, but find a safe storage place for them. Treasure them up, take them along as your spiritual luggage.
...making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding...
These words (= commandments) that you will accept and treasure are indeed worth it. They teach wisdom. You urgently need that instruction, and of course, you are willing to listen carefully. Notice the climax from the ears to the heart. Listening to these commands of wisdom cannot mean: in the one ear and out the other. It means: listening with the heart, listening with your whole being because a man’s heart devises his ways. And further, we are commanded to incline our hearts. That means much more than to notice something remarkable. It means that you are beyond the stage of merely noticing things, you have become actively involved. Not only is your heart open to wisdom, but you desire it. As it were, you bend forward to listen even more eagerly because you do not want to miss anything.
Verse 3 continues to speak of that involvement: "... yes, if you cry out for insight and raise your voice for understanding..."
Inclining becomes crying out, calling for something. And calling changes into searching and digging. The gold thirst gets a hold of us. We have discovered something of such great value that it no longer leaves us unmoved. We want to get at it at all costs: "... if you seek it like silver and search for it as hidden treasurers..."
That is the manner in which we must go after wisdom!
But now a practical question. Where are these words which come to us as commandments? Where do we need to search and dig at all cost? Well, they are contained in Proverbs, first of all in the introductory chapters. And after these preliminaries, the real work can begin, starting with chapter 10. That is the goal of our search; there is indeed much for us to put our teeth into, and that requires patience and persistence – reading and rereading, analyzing and mastering, reviewing and memorizing, working with this wisdom and applying it. Use a commentary; compare various translations. Use a pencil to underline – surely a good thing to do in your study bible.
Many people have enriched their lives through the study of these proverbs, and have developed the art of living further. As a result, they were able to cope better with life. And do not forget the preventive effect of these proverbs. They can teach you how to prevent evil. Thus, in the end, wisdom gives most gain!
In this way, these verses in chapter 2 (1-4) relate to the whole of Proverbs. And yet there is more; these verses relate to all of Scripture. Our God is gracious and gives in abundance. Therefore we have a Bible rich in its variety: history, poetry, prophecy, archival documents, wisdom literature – various genres and styles. Therefore we confess about the Bible: all that man must believe in order to be saved is sufficiently taught therein. The whole manner of worship which God requires of us is written in it at length.
God wants to give us so much; He wants to make us rich. Therefore we are commanded to dig for treasure by means of intensive Bible study, individually and together with others. Read a good book instead of watching TV. The apostle James teaches us that if any of us lacks wisdom, he must ask God. But such a prayer is not a magic trick; it is not a formula which will give the desired result immediately. Such a prayer will ask for a blessing over the use of the means which the Lord has given us in order to become wise.
Proverbs 2:1-4, James 1:5-8
From the Confession:
Belgic Confession Article 7
Wisdom: The Blessings
Searching for the treasures of wisdom will be blessed. You discover that you grow in insight and wisdom, in the art of living and in piety. You will be overjoyed when you notice that growth, when you are able to deal with problems in ways which were at first beyond you. It is, indeed, a wonderful experience when you discover that you understand things and that you are not easily led by others. Let us have a closer look at the blessings which are promised in Proverbs 2:5-8 to the treasure hunters for wisdom.
...then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and preserving the way of His saints.
We become living, practical Christians who through wisdom receive help and protection. We learn to be just and loyal to God in the middle of our everyday activities. To live means to go along a certain course, along the way. Confident in the confession: My LORD and my God, Thy faithfulness is my shield and buckler.
The next passage:
Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will watch over you; understanding will guard you...
We begin to experience the joys of a life in God’s covenant – responding to His expectations, doing the right thing, acting as we ought to. We become cautious and sensible, and we learn to consider things in a fruitful, mature manner. We become christian personalities, not easily confused. We become at ease.
Yet there is more.
...delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech, who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness, who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil; men whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways.
When we take hold of wisdom, we also have a better defense against evil people with wrong ideas. The Israelite was warned against false prophets and wrong teachings. Today we undergo the bombardment of the constant stream of information in the media. We are exposed to all sorts of things, including clearly evil things which we should not follow but oppose. How do you distinguish? Through wisdom which protects us against the evil way, the crooked path, the dark alleys of false teachings. Wisdom prevents us from walking the erratic course of those who have no direction, fluttering from one philosophy to another and tasting all sorts of ideologies and movements which claim to show the way, but not THE way.
Another area in which we urgently need the blessings of wisdom is the area of sexuality. We read on.
You will be saved from the loose woman from the adventuress with her smooth words, who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God; for her house sinks down to death, and her paths to the shades; none who go to her come back nor do they regain the paths of life.
If one thing is clear it is this: sexuality is too strong for fallen man. Who can control it? History tells us the story of imbalance, of extremes which follow each other: either a prudishness which hides everything, or a shameless openness which allows the most perverse actions. Who will be able to cope with sexuality in a way which is balanced, controlled, with proper enjoyment. The following chapters of Proverbs will deal with it in even greater detail.
Sex is not a key to paradise; sex is not the end – the end point is the new heaven and the new earth. The many magazines and the recipe books for the bedroom clearly demonstrate the needs and the distress, but offer no solutions. Indeed, how necessary is the instruction of true wisdom; an affair leads to death. These verses sound an urgent warning against this. He who thinks to reach out for life, is tragically mistaken.
So you will walk in the way of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous.
For the upright will inhabit the land, and men of integrity will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.
Concern yourself therefore with wisdom. Your efforts will be richly rewarded: you will find the right way – the way, the truth, and life. You will find the kingdom of the Son of God’s love. That kingdom has the future, it promises the land to the believers and the earth to the meek. Already today we may look around us and say, “People, this land is our land; indeed this very earth will be cleansed from all that does not belong there. That is the promise we have for eternity.”
Therefore, get to work. Search for the sources of the wisdom that saves. Without any doubt you will find it and gain understanding. And at the same time you are living towards the future of Christ. Paul puts it in these words:
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
Proverbs 2, Psalm 37:27-29, Psalm 91:4, Matthew 5:5, Philippians 1:9-10