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.