-Introduction: Knowledge is knowing the facts, wisdom is knowing how to accurately apply those facts into real life situations. In other words, wisdom is the outworking of what we understand to be true. We cannot have wisdom without knowledge, but we can certainly misuse our knowledge if we don’t apply wisdom. This is the primary motif of Solomon, as well as some later parts with Agur and Lemuel, as they write the Proverbs of Scripture. This compilation is put together, most conclude, in the early days of Solomon’s kingly reign some 1,000 years before the time of Christ Jesus, making it 3,000 years old or so. The wisdom purposes include, but are not limited to, teaching young people, women, leaders, and all people in general how to have a disciplined and prudent life by doing what is just, right, and fair. This book instructs in Divine wisdom, which comes from the Almighty God. One important point to remember here as we start is that these proverbs are general truths, not exact promises, in our interpretation of its principles. They are time-honored guidelines that will usually produce, but not guarantee, the intended and recommended results for mankind. The wide-ranging themes deal with family life, self-control, relationships, resisting temptation, business matters, our speech, knowing the fullness of God, truth, success, wealth and poverty, morality, and especially wisdom. The book is written stylistically in poetic form (usually in couplet form), but also incorporates the devices of brief parables, antithesis, comparison, and personification. They contain a holy mixture of common sense and timely warnings against evil. These meditations are intended to draw people into a closer walk with God. The word proverb comes to us through the Hebrew word meaning “to rule or to govern.” These principles are designed to give us Divine guidance in handling the issues of our lives as reminders and admonitions. It all begins with the knowledge and understanding of the Holy, which comes through our reverent fear of Him. Therefore, the key verse in this work is Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The structure breaks down as thus: Chapters 1-9 deal with wisdom for young people (Solomon speaks to his son), Chapters 10-24 deal more with wisdom for all people in general, and Chapters 25-31 deal specifically with wisdom for leaders.
(Ideas extracted from “New American Standard Bible: Life Application Study Bible.” Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI, 1995, pgs. 1050-1051)
-Chapter 1: Solomon, the son of the King David, who was given the eternal promise of rule over Israel through the Messiah, Jesus Christ (2 Samuel 7:8-29), begins the Proverbs. He was known as the wisest of all men (1 Kings 3:6-15; 4:29-34). He begins with the purpose of his work, “To know wisdom and instruction, to discern the sayings of understanding, to receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice, and equity.” He wants to give “prudence to the naïve,” along with knowledge and discretion. He tells us right off the bat that a wise man will listen carefully and keep increasing his learning. He offers that a man of understanding will be quick to acquire wise counsel for comprehending a proverb, a figure, and the words of the wise and their riddles (Proverbs 1:1-6).
-Next, he goes right to the heart of the matter as a believer in Yahweh, the God of all things, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction (Proverbs 1:7).” Later in Scripture, Jesus also tells us what value it is to absolutely respect the power and authority of God (Matthew 10:28). This fear will eventually lead one to repentance, forgiveness, and redemption through faith. Love, perfect love which casts out all fear, becomes the final result when we as believers go through this salvation process (1 John 4:16-18). This is our hope and expectation now and forever with our LORD.
-The enticement of sinners now becomes the theme as Solomon speaks to his son as perhaps a young father. He beseeches his son to hear his instruction and not forsake his mother’s teaching. These things are a “graceful wreath to your head and ornaments about your neck.” He warns not to consent to the temptations of evil people when they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood, let us ambush the innocent without cause; let us swallow them alive like Sheol, even whole, as those who go down to the pit; we will find all kinds of precious wealth, we will fill our houses with spoil. Throw in your lot with us, we shall all have one purse.” Solomon displays his wisdom in telling the young man to NOT go in the way with that caliber of foolishness. In fact, he says, “Keep your feet from their path.” Why? Because their feet run towards evil and they are violent propagators of disaster. They will eventually destroy themselves in their folly (Proverbs 1:8-19).
-Wisdom, on the other hand, shouts in the street and lifts her voice up in the square meeting place of the town at the noisy streets and the entrance gates. She utters her sayings, reminding simple ones to quit being naïve, stop scoffing, and cease from hating knowledge. Solomon teaches that when we turn to wisdom’s reproof, the Spirit will be poured out on us, and the LORD’s words will become known. Wisdom calls, but people often refuse her. It stretches out its hand, but too few pay attention. People routinely neglect its council and do not want its reproof for disciplined correction. Because of this, wisdom will laugh at all calamity due to the careless ones. She will mock when the dread comes, since people resisted her. Dread will come as a storm and calamity as a whirlwind, but this does not have to be. We can avoid the distress and anguish of foolishness. It’s our choice. Not just this, but God, in His wisdom, will not answer when ones that resist wisdom call. These will seek diligently, but they will not find due to their arrogance against the truth. They hated knowledge and choose not to fear the LORD. They refused wisdom’s counsel and spurned its reproof. Because of this, these will eat the fruit of their own way and be satiated with their own devices. The waywardness of the naïve will kill them and the complacency of fools will destroy them. On the other side, the intelligent listeners to the words of wisdom will live securely and be at ease from the dread of evil (Proverbs 1:20-33).
-*Application* How ya living? This was a popular mantra from a summer I spent playing baseball in upper state New York. It’s a question worth thinking about. We can spend our time foolishly neglecting the knowledge, understanding, and wisdom that God so abundantly offers, or we can embrace it through the respectful fear of Him. A lot of people in our world today can’t even bring themselves to accept the fact that God exists, let alone serve Him. This is complete and utter foolishness (Psalm 14:1). Fact is, I can observe many over the course of nearly 50 years and see that these proverbs are more than generally accurate. People who do foolish things, end up dealing with the tragic consequences. People that have a healthy respect and admiration for the LORD end up being blessed with security and peace of mind. If we are having trouble avoiding trouble, we need to check our wisdom level.
Verses to Memorize: Proverbs 1:7, 33