The setting of the Proverbs is with Solomon, the wise king of Israel, sitting with his son and teaching him how to have a good life. In our first lesson we noticed that Solomon gave the reasons why his son should listen to his wise teachings. Godly wisdom is practical, enlightening, moral, and brings answers to difficult situations. But the good life begins with the fear of the Lord. Solomon is going to explain more about the need to fear the Lord as we look at various topics in the Proverbs. But Solomon tries to make an important impression on his son that nothing else can be taught about having the good life until a fear of the Lord is instilled in the person. Solomon describes to his son the two paths in life.
The Path of Sinners (1:9-19)
To summarize, Solomon tells his son that people are going to ask him to run along with them in their activities. The path is described as fun. Your peers will make the case that these acts will cause us to have great wealth. Commit these acts and you can receive a portion of the spoils. The other enticing call from these people is that you can be one of them. “Throw in your lot with us…” (1:14). Essentially, “join with us and let’s go pick on some weakling.”
But we warned about the outcome. Their invitation will be enticing but open your eyes to the end result. You are ambushing your own lives. You are putting your lives in a trap, essentially, you are throwing your life away. I am always amazed at people who cry out about how young a person is when a crime is committed. They say that they it is too harsh to put them in prison for 30 years when they are only 19. They are losing most of their life span. This is exactly what the Proverbs say, however. If you want to run with these kinds of people, you are surrendering your life. You are throwing your life in the trash and you are simply hurting yourself. It may look fun to join with these people, but the end result must be seen. “Such is the end of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the lives of those who get it.”
It is interesting that Solomon begins with violence, murder, and robbery. But we must remember that a useful form of argument is to consider the most extreme and realize that all situations that are not as extreme are also part of the author’s argument.
The Path of Wisdom (1:20-33)
The other life path is the way of wisdom, which is a less traveled path. How often people ignore wisdom! Notice that wisdom cries aloud in the street, desiring to instruct people in the way of better living. Yet people ignore wisdom. People mock wisdom and hate knowledge through their actions. Wisdom is available, according to verse 23, but unfortunately we often do not respond to biblical wisdom. “But since you rejected me when I called and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand, since you ignored all my advice, and would not accept my rebuke…” (1:24-25).
The problem is that wisdom is like hurricane insurance. Once the hurricane comes, you cannot go buy insurance to replace all that was lost in the storm. You must have the insurance before the storm comes. Wisdom follows in the same way. Wisdom will not be there when disaster strikes. “I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you—when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you” (1:26-27). Notice that disaster is going to come in life. Unplanned circumstances and events will come upon you. We all think that everything will happen in life exactly as we plan. We did not plan to have a child with a disability, a genetic disorder. We are going to get blindsided by life’s circumstances. If we have been traveling down the path of sinners, then disaster is going to happen.
Every person will find themselves in a time of need during disaster. But you cannot go get wisdom then. It is too late. “Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me” (1:28). We must have biblical wisdom instilled in our minds before the time of calamity comes. Notice again how Solomon put wisdom and knowledge together with the fear of the Lord: “Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord…” (1:29). To not fear the Lord and let him being the ultimate priority and spirituality as our decision maker, then we are rejecting wisdom and will not have the good life now. “Since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.” Those who listen to the wisdom of God “will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”
Transition: Since wisdom is glorified and needs to be found if we are going to live the good life now, Solomon will now explain how to attain wisdom.
Applying ourselves to learning (2:1-2). Solomon tells his son to listen and learn. Verses 1-4 are one sentence giving the conditions needed to “understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” The first two verses require us to listen and learn. As we noted last Sunday, we must put ourselves in the position of learning. We need to see our position before God, stop thinking we know all that there is to know, and be ready to learn from the wisdom of God. Proof that we do not have a learning attitude is our refusal to study the word of God. Our inability to read the Bible daily and to study the Bible regularly reveals our arrogant attitude that we do not need the wisdom of God. We have to let the word of God sinking into our hearts, causing us to change our lives, if we are going to find the good life now.
Work to find wisdom (2:3-4). Solomon also says that we have to put in the work to find wisdom. Wisdom is not simply going to land upon us from the clear blue sky. Wisdom comes from listen to the wisdom and experiences of others. Wisdom comes from putting the work into the word of God. This is why the fool finds trouble. The fool has neither the discipline or the patience to pursue wisdom. The person who thinks they can receive all they need to know from Sunday morning worship is very wrong.
What we learn is that wisdom comes from God and not from the world. “For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (2:6). “Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul” (2:9-10). Why do we think we will find wisdom from any other place when God keeps crying out to come to him to find knowledge and understanding? “To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness…” (Ecclesiastes 2:26). James said similarly, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). God gives wisdom. This is why Solomon told his son that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge (Proverbs 1:7).
1. Greed is a trap. Greed is a tremendous trap that we must prepare to fight. Solomon points out that people engage in violence and bloodshed because of greed. We may not be tempted to lead a life of violent crime. But we need to see that the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil. As parents we need to make sure that we are not teaching our children to be focused and driven for wealth. An obsession about wealth and money, either in the form of desiring much or as a scrooge, teaches our children that money is extremely important. Decisions made simply on financial merits are dangerous to our souls and communicate to our children that these are things that matter most. Solomon is trying to teach us to not fall into the trap of letting wealth be our criteria for decisions.
2. Wisdom is available, if you will work for it. We have to desire the wisdom if we want to receive it. To have the good life now will not just simply happen by accident. James says that we need to pray to God without doubting to receive wisdom. The writer of Ecclesiastes says that we need to live a life pleasing to God and God will grant us wisdom. Solomon has taught his son in the Proverbs that we must place ourselves in a position to learn and work to find the wisdom of God.
3. Which path will you choose? Finally, Solomon says there are two paths in life that can be followed. One is the way of sinners and the other way is the path of wisdom and righteousness. People will try to encourage us to go down the path of sinners so that we can have a feeling of acceptance and belonging. Notice that there is not a third option. We cannot decide that we do not want to put the work in to obtain wisdom, but we do not want to be fools in this world either. There are only two paths. If we are unwilling to submit to God and seek out His wisdom, Solomon calls us fools going down the path of sinners who will have their lives taken away.