In Proverbs 4 the Lord reveals to us some promises that come with wisdom. They are simple, direct, pointed promises, and each has a condition that must be met. Fulfill the condition, receive the promise. Refuse the condition, and you walk away empty handed and promise free. It’s that simple.
The Proverb begins with the father once again giving sage advice to his young children. Watch how this unfolds.
Proverbs 4:1-2 – Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, and give attention to know understanding; (why) for I give you good doctrine: (therefore) do not forsake my law.
The father then reminds his children about his own upbringing and the words his father told him that he is now passing on to his own children. He says:
Proverbs 4:3-5 – When I was my father’s son, tender and the only one in the sight of my mother, he also taught me, and said to me: “Let your heart retain my words; keep my commands, and live. Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.”
Get Wisdom! Get Understanding!
The point the father is trying to impress on his beloved children is the importance of getting wisdom and understanding. In fact, you can almost feel the urgency in the father’s words: “Get wisdom! Get understanding!” (Prov. 4:5) Later, he adds, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding” (Prov. 4:7).
Wisdom (ḥoḵmāh) is defined as “skill, experience and shrewdness; with the beginning of wisdom and the supreme wisdom being to properly fear and reverence God.”1 Understanding (biynāh) means “comprehension and discernment, which is accompanied by righteous actions and it carries a strong moral and religious connotation.”2 So when the father says “in all your getting, get understanding” (Prov. 4:7), he is imploring his children to add righteous actions to their reverence and fear of God. It’s not a theological point to be debated. It’s not a mere mental exercise. It’s living in real time a life that corresponds to a reverence of God. Like Jesus later said, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). Great question. How would you answer Him?
The First Promise
Then comes the most exciting part of these few verses. Wisdom is now personified as a woman and each of these promises about wisdom (her) is connected with a condition that must first be met. There are three do’s and one don’t. Let’s look at the don’t first.
Proverbs 4:6a – (condition) Do not forsake her (wisdom), and (promise) she will preserve you.
To forsake (ʿāzaḇ) someone is to “leave, neglect, or abandon” them, usually for someone or something else.3 And the idea associated with the word translated preserve (šāmar) means “to keep watch, to guard, to watch over carefully like a mother over her young child.”4
So the first promise from wisdom is that if we do not abandon wisdom or neglect the wisdom found in God’s Word, then wisdom will guard our life and watch carefully over us like a loving mother to her cherished young child. Wisdom will become our protector, our safety, and our security in troubling times of trials and temptations and persecution. She will preserve our life during the attacks of the enemy and reveal to us what is true and trustworthy. And in doing so, we will be strengthened against the schemes of our enemy who speaks to us lies disguised as truth (John 8:44).
Wisdom will also protect us from falling prey to our own ideas about things. She will help us bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5) so we won’t confuse our selfish, carnal thoughts and feelings about ourselves and others and vainly think they come from the Lord. If we hold on to wisdom and do not abandon her to our own self-centered sense of right and wrong, then she will guard us against the temptation of trying to create God in our own image by believing He thinks and feels like we do.
And nothing could be further from the truth. Why? Because He doesn’t. God doesn’t live in our box.
As the Lord says in Isaiah:
Isaiah 55:8-9 – “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
I think that should settle it, don’t you?
There are three more promises granted to those who embrace the conditions associated with wisdom. We’ve only looked at the first one, the don’t.
Tomorrow we’ll continue with the three do’s.
- Baker, W., & Carpenter, E. E. (2003). The complete word study dictionary: Old Testament (p. 337). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
- Ibid., 130.
- Ibid., 819.
- Ibid., 1171.
Today, I am amazed at how Proverbs 18 shines a light on the current situation in this country. Just turn on the news and you’ll find the truth of Proverbs 18:2 splattered all over your screen. Does this sound familiar?
Proverbs 18:2 – A fool (dull, stupid, arrogant) has no delight (pleasure, desire) in understanding, but in expressing (venting, revealing, disclosing) his own heart.
We watch these pundits shoot their mouth off about any and everything that comes into their minds as if it dropped from the lips of God. As if they, and they alone, had the keys to all truth. They consider themselves wise in this age because of the platform we’ve given them. That’s right, we’ve elevated them to where they are by giving heed and importance to the words that come out of their mouth. We, by our continued involvement in watching them vent the foolish bile that flows from their heart, have given credence and credibility to what they say. If we watch and listen to them, their platform inevitably grows. And if we turn away from their foolishness, they will soon be gone. We hold the power to their influence in our lives, not them. Maybe it’s time we began to use it.
This proverb sums up their life and motivation quite well. Their delight is not in understanding the issues of today or the truth of those issues. Their delight and pleasure come from venting what they think or feel or what seems right in their own eyes. They tirelessly promote their agenda and twist the facts to support their talking points. They assume that they alone are the standards of truth and we are too simple to understand the facts ourselves. We obviously need them to tell us what to think and what to do. Yet we forget the Proverbs call these type of people fools— dull, stupid, and arrogant.
As Forest Gump would say, “Stupid is as stupid does.” But is he talking about us? Or them?
Toxic Verbal Waste
The words that come out of a fool’s mouth are designed to stir up fights and foster controversy. There’s no value in speaking truth unless it pushes forward the agenda. Consider the following:
Proverbs 18:6 – A fool’s lips enter into (to go in, to bring) contention (strife, controversy, quarrels, disputes), and his mouth calls for blows (strikes, or a slap to correct insolent behavior).
That’s exactly what happens with the media today. They pour out the anger and hatefulness in their heart, criticizing everyone and everybody who does not think like they do, and create contention for the sake of stirring up controversy. But, as the Proverbs say, what they need is a punch in the mouth, a fist in their face, a belt in the chops. A classic John Wayne moment.
But maybe we need the same thing. Maybe we need a slap in the face for listening to the dribble that comes out of their mouth. Maybe we need a wake-up call. Maybe we need someone to slap us back to reality. Maybe we’ve become just as arrogant and stupid as they are by listening to the arrogant and stupid things that come out of their mouth. Maybe we also delight in contention, quarrels, and strife.
Maybe we’re no better than they are. Maybe we’ve got blood on our own hands.
Our Addiction to Gossip
Those who spend their life speaking ill of another become addicted to the sin of building themselves up by tearing someone else down. Proverbs 18 speaks to this also.
Proverbs 18:7 – A fool’s mouth is his destruction (ruin, terror, downfall), and his lips are the snare (bait, trap, lure) of his soul.
The more a man verbally tears down another, the more his entire being become enslaved to the sin of gossip. Having a bitter and quarrelsome attitude becomes part of their DNA. Words of praise and adoration are foreign to them. But mocking words of sarcasm and condemnation become second nature. They take over their being. They are now the fruit of their hearts. They possess their soul.
Do you know why a steady diet of gossip turns into an eating disorder? The Proverbs do.
Proverbs 18:8 – The words of a talebearer (liar, gossip, slanderer, one who murmurs and whispers about others to attack them verbally) are like tasty trifles (to gulp, swallow greedily), they go down into the inmost body.
Those who are honored and exalted by their ability to gossip and slander another, much like the media today, become addicted to that sin. They are in the limelight only because of their ability to verbally attack another, with false innuendos and half-truths. They gulp and swallow greedily for another tasty trifle, some shared falsehood, about someone else. And they hunger for some unsubstantiated rumor they can use to malign their character and murmur behind their back.
Welcome to Western Media in 2017
Come on, aren’t you tired of it? Haven’t you had enough?
Then no longer go to these fools for the facts. There are hundreds of alternative news sources that report truth, and not agenda. The problem is that they are not as well known and CBS, ABC, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, FOX, and the others. You may actually have to do some digging on your own and then practice biblical discernment. You may have to work for a change and not fall back on what is easy and spoon fed to you from your sofa. You may have to pay a price to know truth, and not the politically correct agenda that our culture is being indoctrinated with.
Remember the truth. Remember where the truth can be found. And cling, like a drowning man to a piece of driftwood, to the truth. The only truth.
Proverbs 18:10 – The name of the LORD is a strong tower (an elevated place of strength and truth); The righteous run to it and are safe (inaccessible high).
Do you realize the elevated place of strength where the name of the Lord is proclaimed and the righteous run to for safety, may be the pulpit? For the pulpit is to proclaim the truth, God’s truth, and cannot fall prey to the trappings and changing opinions of this world. And those who run to it are safe. Why? Because God’s truth never changes and never fails. And from the pulpit, God has ordained His truth to be proclaimed and His name magnified.
Something to think about, isn’t it?
These are just a few of the encouraging truths found in Proverbs 15. I pray they will be a blessing to you today.
Truth One: God is Sovereign
In your times of trouble, remember these encouraging words:
Proverbs 15:3 – The eyes of the LORD are in every place (He is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and so much more), keeping watch (beholding, guarding as from a high tower) on the evil and the good.
After all, He is sovereign. And nothing catches Him by surprise. As someone once said, “Has it ever occurred to you that nothing ever occurs to God?” Rest in this truth today.
Truth Two: Actions Matter
How important is prayer and a life of striving to live righteously before Him? It’s the key to becoming the beloved and delight of the Lord. Consider the following:
Proverbs 15:8 – The sacrifice (offering) of the wicked is an abomination (disgusting, unclean, wicked, horrendously offensive) to the LORD, but (by contrast) the prayer of the upright (straight, just, pleasing, in a moral and ethical sense) is His delight (pleasure, will, deemed acceptable).
It gets more intriguing.
Proverbs 15:9 – The way (path, journey, manner of life) of the wicked is an abomination (disgusting, unclean, wicked, horrendously offensive) to the LORD, but (by contrast) He loves him who follows (to chase, run after, pursues) righteousness (blameless in conduct, integrity).
Note the distinction. The difference between becoming His delight or being horrendously offensive to the Lord is the condition of your heart. Wickedness brings pain and rejection. Living upright, holy and righteous, as He is upright, holy, and righteous, bring His pleasure and delight. And He loves the one who pursues, in both actions and attitude, His righteousness. You see, actions do matter.
And just in case you’re not yet convinced your actions and attitudes have eternal consequences, look at who gets their prayers heard:
Proverbs 15:29 – The LORD is far (distant, remote, far away) from the wicked, but (by contrast) He hears (to listen, have regard for) the prayer of the righteous (just, those blameless in conduct both morally and ethically).
God hears the prayers of those who live like Him. But for the wicked? He’s moved on, out of town, not interested. That’s scary.
Truth Three: We Don’t Have All Day
Looks like it’s a choice we make to determine which team we want to play on: the righteous or the wicked. I don’t know about you, but my desire is to live righteously for Him and to become His delight. Is that your desire also? Are you chasing after Him in hot pursuit? Then let’s get to it. We don’t have all day.
Maybe this will give you something to shoot for this week. After all, nothing else really matters, does it?
In my devotional time today in Proverbs 5, I discovered some words of wisdom I would like to share with you:
Proverbs 5:1-2 – My son, pay attention (listen carefully, give heed, obey) to my (not the world’s) wisdom; lend (extend, stretch out) your ear to my (not the world’s) understanding, (why) that you may preserve (watch, keep, guard) discretion, and your lips may keep knowledge.
The Proverbs are all about wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. And the key to living in these blessings is to forsake the wisdom of this world, which is moronic (mōría) at best, and embrace the wisdom that only comes from God (1 Cor. 3:19). It’s a daily choice, sometimes an hourly choice, we can make.
So how ’bout it? Are you up for the challenge?
And one more:
Proverbs 5:21 – For the ways (path, journey of one’s life) of man (each man, you and me) are before the eyes of the LORD, and He (the Lord) ponders (to make level, to weigh, to guard or watch carefully) all his (each man, you and me) paths (goings, the circle of a camp).
Did you catch the meaning of this proverb? Our life’s journey, our life’s choices are laid out before the Lord. Nothing is hidden from Him. He sees all. Everything. Good and bad.
Is that a good thing that nothing is hidden from God? Or not such a good thing? That depends on your view of God as your Father.
What is Your Heavenly Father Like?
There are two ways to look at this proverb. And they are basically determined by our perception of what God the Father is like and how we choose to interpret the word, ponder (pālas). One way is to focus on the part of the definition that means “to make level, to weigh.” The image would be of a large legal scale, with our actions on one side and God’s righteousness on the other. We would then see God as a great Judge with a mighty hammer waiting for us to cross the line, to do something disappointing to Him, something embarrassing to His character. And once the scale becomes unbalanced towards our sin and not His righteousness, WHAM! – down comes the hammer. In essence, “All our lives are before the Lord and He is waiting, just biding His time, until we mess up. And when we do, geez, out comes His iron fist.”
This is a picture of an abusive father who is head over a dysfunctional family. This is not what our God is like.
The other way to view this proverb is to focus on the other meaning of the word, ponder. That would be to “guard or watch carefully.” Now we see the Father as a caring, careful Parent who wants to make sure His beloved children are safe, protected, and not somewhere where they could get hurt. He’s waiting everyday at the bus stop for them to arrive home. He’s sitting in the stands watching every soccer game they play to make sure they don’t get hurt. He’s hands on, proactive, and always involved. And our blessing comes from knowing our lives are always “before the eyes of the Lord.”
This is a picture of a good father who lovingly leads a wonderful family. And this, my friend, is what our God is like.
Rejoice today that your life is hidden with Christ (Col. 3:3) and the very hairs on your head are numbered (Matt. 10:30), and not simply counted. And know how much your loving Father can’t keep His eyes off you— His beloved child.
Rest in that today.
Why is Diligence Such a Neglected Discipline Today?
Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation,
I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith
which was once for all delivered to the saints.
There seems to be a difference between those whom God uses in a mighty way, and the rest of Christianity. It’s not their skill or education that makes them most likely to succeed in the kingdom of God. It’s certainly not their pedigree or upbringing that matters. For 1 Corinthians teaches that “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise” (1 Cor. 1:27). God can take anyone, of any background and experience, and turn them into a D.L. Moody or a Billy Graham.
It seems the single attribute that separates those who serve Him with reckless abandon and those who just go through the motions, is commitment. Or, to use the words of Jude, being very diligent.
It appears Jude had a different intention for this letter. He begins by saying he wanted to “write to you concerning our common salvation (Jude 1:3). But in the span of the same sentence, Jude pivots by saying something has changed. “I find it necessary (as the Holy Spirit changes his focus) to write to you exhorting (helping, encouraging) you to contend (strive, struggle) earnestly (not casually or haphazardly) for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). In other words, what began as a letter exploring the nature of our “common salvation” has now changed. The Holy Spirit is moving in a different direction.
It’s this new direction, the warning and rebuking of the apostates within the walls of the church, that gives Jude a special place in the New Testament. But we’ll talk more about that later.
The phrase Jude uses, very diligent, means “speed, haste, earnest in accomplishing something, zeal.”1 It implies someone who is totally committed or single-focused with tunnel vision aimed at completing the task set before them.
It’s a trait we honor in every area of life except the spiritual. Michael Phelps, for example, won more Olympic Gold Medals than anyone in history. Do you think he was able to accomplish that feat with a haphazard attitude towards his sport? Of course not. We applaud his commitment, his diligence, and the obvious sacrifices he made to achieve success in his field. But do we applaud the same in other Christians?
For some reason, we see diligence and commitment as a necessary element of success in every form of life except in our relationship with Christ. We admire those who make sacrifices to attain certain levels of success, like Michael Phelps, yet we assume the same is not required of us. When we study the lives of great men of God, we see that’s not true. Those who accomplished great things for God also sacrificed great things for God. They were very diligent about serving Him. As Jim Elliott said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”2
Plus, there are promises made, not to the casual believers, but to the one who seeks the Lord with his whole heart. Or, as Jude would say, is very diligent about the things of God. And each of these promises is conditional. They only belong to the diligent and committed, and not the casual or carnal. Consider the following:
Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the LORD with (condition) all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In (condition) all your ways acknowledge Him, and (promise) He shall direct your paths.
Note the conditions and the promise. If you want the promise, you must first meet the condition. You must be very diligent about the things of God. It’s Contract Law, 101.
Jeremiah 29:13 – And (promise) you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me (condition) with all your heart.
Again, note the condition and the promise. If you want to find God, you must meet the condition He sets for that revelation. And, as always, it’s “with all your heart.” Jude would call that being very diligent about the things of God.
No Pain, No Gain
We’re all familiar with the No Pain, No Gain mantra when it comes to working out or getting a graduate degree. It shows how much we’re willing to sacrifice to achieve our goals. The same is true with the things of God. For some reason, God seems to honor the fervent, the committed, and the diligent— and not the casual. And we do the same. What employee gets the raise and promotion? The one who works hard and is trustworthy? Or the one who shows up when it’s only convenient for him?
One final thought. Paul understood this principle in his life. Look at what he said about sacrifice and commitment:
1 Corinthians 9:24 – Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.
That’s run with sacrifice, commitment, diligence. It’s getting up early and training harder than the rest. It’s doing your best and giving your all to the race that’s set before you. In fact, Paul goes one step further:
1 Corinthians 9:27 – But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
By disciplining his body, Paul is saying “no” to the distractions, to the things that don’t bring him closer to his goal. In the spiritual life, we call this living with fervency, with total commitment. Or, as Jude says, being very diligent.
Examine your life today and ask the Lord what you’re wasting it on? And then burn those bridges and center your life on Him and Him alone. Run the race the Lord has set before you— and don’t get distracted and don’t look back.
Be very diligent in all you do for Him.
1. Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (p. 1307). Chattanooga, TN: AMG.
2. Jim Elliot (1927-1956) was a missionary who gave his life, along with four others, while trying to evangelize the Huaorani people, also known as the Auca, in Ecuador. He was 29 when he was martyred. This quote is from one of his journals, written on October 28, 1949.
Many of us make resolutions this time of year. It just seems natural. Maybe we want to lose weight, get out of debt, or finish a long neglected project around the house. But as a Christian, we want to somehow make our resolutions more spiritual. That also seems natural. So we often resolve something like this:
“I want to read my Bible more.”
“I want to pray more.”
“I want to share my faith more.”
“I want to love more, forgive more, worship more.”
“I want to live more like a Christian.”
“I want to know more of God and have myself conformed to the image of His Son.”
But the key to discovering the “abundant life” (John 10:10) Jesus spoke about is not in keeping resolutions, no matter how good they may be. It’s living a life of holiness. It’s practicing sanctification. It’s being set apart or consecrated unto God. After all, we belong to Him.
But sanctification never takes place unless we first understand the way God’s if / then promises work. The promise comes after the condition. The then follows the if. Consider the following:
Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.
(condition one) Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
(condition two) and lean not on your own understanding;
(condition three) in all your ways acknowledge Him,
(promise) and He shall direct your paths.
Want to know more. Then keep listening.
The following is a study on Proverbs 3:5-6.
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