Never has our world been more in need of wisdom , and never has it been more foolish than now. I say this as we have now more people inhabiting this planet than ever before in history. The night before last as I was writing this the world clock on the internet stood at over 7.2 billion people . Roughly 360 000 people were born on that day and roughly 148 000 died on that day .
The Industrial Revolution of the 1800’s brought about a tremendous change in world population. Whereas it had taken all of human history until 1800 for the world population to reach one billion, the second billion was achieved in only 130 years (1930), the third billion in less than 30 years later (1959), the fourth billion in 15 years (1974), and the fifth billion in only 13 years (1987). During the 20th century alone, the population in the world has grown from 1.65 billion to 6 billion! In 1970, there were roughly half as many people in the world as there are now.
From these statistics we see that as more and more sinners are born, the potential for more and more foolishness exists! Crowds are not known to be wise . We see it in the Bible in Jesus’ day , as fickle crowds shout “Hallelujah” at the beginning of the week and “crucify Him” at the end of the week. We see it in our own day, as crowds are manipulated . We see that dictators ( i.e. one man!) hold entire nations captive. We see how ungodly role models in the film and music industry hold the minds of many people captive . We have eyes to see , but we do not see; we have ears to hear, but we do not hear. Brothers and sisters , we need God given wisdom in these days as we come to the end of 2014. We need to be careful to come to right conclusions as to what we observe . We need to be careful as to who we uncritically listen to. We need God’s wisdom for these days and for such wisdom we must turn to God’s word , and especially we must turn to the book of Proverbs, which is classified as ‘ wisdom literature’ of the Bible .
The theme of Proverbs is found in Proverbs 1:7 : “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge. Fools despise wisdom and instruction.“
A proverb is a timeless truth in the form of a simple illustration that exposes a fundamental reality of life. The book of Proverbs is probably the most practical book in the Old Testament teaching us to think and act wisely in all sorts of situations . This includes instruction on wisdom and folly, the nature of righteousness and wickedness ; it deals with the use of the tongue, with pride and humility, with marital relations and family, with laziness and work, poverty and wealth, friends and neighbors, anger and strife, life and death and so on . Proverbs touches upon every facet of human relationships, and its principles transcend the boundaries of time and culture.
Wisdom as a Treasure
Chapter 2 speaks about the blessings that wisdom brings into our life. Here Solomon speaks to “his son” – perhaps Rehoboam who became his successor. Solomon was privileged to have received a heart and mind and understanding of knowledge and wisdom from God (2 Chronicles 1). He was able to write down God’s thoughts for our benefit under the supervision of the Holy Spirit , and so when he writes to his son, by way of application we know that God also speaks to us here as His children. It is not Solomon’s own wisdom that is dispensed here . No! He speaks of a wisdom that is from God , and as such it is absolutely true, infallible , and precious, profound , leaving us to search and meditate and mine into its depths .
The difficulty of obtaining wisdom 2:1-5
But here is the problem. Wisdom does not come easy or naturally. Even though wisdom shouts at us from every street corner (1:20), by nature (i.e our sinful nature fuelled by pride and self- centeredness) we are not inclined to listen to wisdom (1: 24). By nature we are inclined to folly. By nature we are inclined to be simple (see 1:22) .
The person who wants wisdom has to work hard to obtain it, in the same way in which a miner searches for silver and gold (2:4). The ear has to be trained to hear and distinguish true wisdom. The heart must be inclined to understanding (2:2). This takes discipline . We must never assume that what we hear and see is truth . It needs to be analyzed in the light of the wisdom from God - the Word of God. In this regard we note that wisdom requires prayerfulness – “yes , if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding …” – that is prayer ! Wisdom does not come through common sense or through academic pursuit. There are many ‘educated fools’ that have a technical understanding of things, but who are not truly wise. True wisdom begins with an understanding of God’s revelation to us , prayerfully digested – studying that which the Bible reveals, and then praying over that truth, seeking true understanding. Charles Bridges in his commentary on Proverbs says  :
“Without this spirit of prayer, there may be attention and earnestness, yet not one spiritual impression upon the conscience, not one ray of Divine light in the soul. Earthly wisdom is gained by study; heavenly wisdom by prayer. Study may form a Biblical scholar; prayer puts the heart under a heavenly tutorage, and therefore forms the wise and spiritual Christian. The Word first comes into the ears; then it enters into the heart; there it is safely hid; thence rises the cry, the lifting up of the voice…. We look for no other inspiration than Divine grace to make His Word clear and impressive. Every verse read and meditated on furnishes material for prayer. Every text prayed over opens a mine of “unsearchable riches,” with a light from above, more clear and full than the most intelligent exposition.
But prayer must not stand in the stead of diligence. Let it rather give energy to it. The miner’s indefatigable pains; his invincible resolution; his untiring perseverance; seeking, searching for hidden treasures—such must be our searching into the sacred storehouse. To read instead of “searching the Scriptures,” is only to skim the surface, and gather up a few superficial notions. The rule of success is—Dig up and down the field; and if the search be discouraging, dig again. The patient industry of perusal and re-perusal will open the embosomed treasure ….Thus let us daily explore “the length, and the breadth, and the depth” of our boundless stores, until we be “filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:18, 19). This habit of living in the element of Scripture is invaluable. To be filled from this Divine treasury; to have large portions of the Word daily passing through the mind; gives us a firmer grasp and a more suitable and diversified application of it…
The mere reader often scarcely knows where to begin, and he performs the routine without any definite object. His knowledge therefore must be scanty and ineffective. Nor is the neglect of this habit less hurtful to the Church. All fundamental errors and heresies in the Church may be traced to this source—“Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures” (Matt. 22:29). They are mostly based on partial or disjointed statements of truth. Truth separated from truth becomes error. But the mind prayerfully occupied in the search of Divine truth, crying and lifting up the voice, will never fail to discern the two great principles of godliness: the fear and the knowledge of God. There is no … disappointment in this search.... Never has apostasy from the faith been connected with a prayerful and diligent study of the Word of God.
The Giver of wisdom 2:6-8
When you search after wisdom , you need to understand that it is only God that can give you true wisdom: “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding…” (2:6) Those who seek Him to them He gives sound wisdom (2:7). He protects those that seek to walk in integrity (2:7). Those that seek and fear the LORD (i.e. the saints - Heb. hasidim, loyal sons of the covenant) are guarded and watched over (2:8). The bottomline is this : Only through an intimate relationship with the LORD can a person be truly wise and experience the true blessings of wisdom.
The Fruit of Wisdom 2: 9 -22
Wisdom safeguards a person morally. When a person submits him or herself to God, the ways of the wicked will lose some of their attractiveness. The wise person will be able to understand the way of evil and where it leads to (2:12); the wise person will avoid men that engage in perverted speech (2:12). They will learn to avoid those that forsake the paths of uprightness and who walk in the paths of darkness (2:13). They will avoid those that who rejoice in doing evil or rejoice in the perverseness of evil (2:14) . They will avoid crooked and devious men. (2:15)
Verses 16-19 deal with a frequent theme in Proverbs - that of the ‘forbidden woman’ - the adulteress (2:16) who uses smooth or flattering words (see also 5:3). Nowhere is caution thrown to the wind more than in this area. How many young people are trapped in this moral swamp , and who have to go on living with regrets . Solomon clearly sees that this woman is outside the circle of his proper relations . The truth about this woman is that from God’s perspective she has left her “covenant companion” (2:17). She has forsaken her own marriage covenant (Mal. 2:14). Entering into a relationship with such a woman has devastating spiritual consequences. Parents do well to instruct their young ones in the danger of these devastating relationships (e.g. the letter from a pastor to his daughter as she enters into courtship ) and pray regularly for them that they may not fall into temptation !
This chapter ends by contrasting the ends of the wicked and the righteous (see 2:21-22).
This then is a call from the Word of God to examine ourselves at the end of 2014 . Which kind of wisdom do you choose to live by ? Do you live by your own sense of moral right and wrong? Do you live by instinct or gut feeling? Do you listen to others uncritically ? Do you perhaps not listen to anyone at all ?
The Word of God has been given to you as a source of true wisdom . But remember that reading the Bible is not enough . You must meditate upon the Word and make sure that you digest those truths and that you ensure that you live by them . Living by the truth is not easy , but it certainly ultimately pays handsome rewards as we are assured in the Scriptures that the upright will inhabit the land . The upright are those that fear the Lord ! Amen