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.
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.
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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When we look at the warnings from the Lord found in the first chapter of Proverbs, we are naturally drawn to the almost prophetic words of Forrest Gump.
“Stupid is as stupid does.”
To put it in the words of Solomon:
“How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity?” – Proverbs 1:22.
Or, “How long, you simple (foolish, simpleminded, stupid, naive, moronic) ones, will you love simplicity (what is foolish, simpleminded, stupid, naive, moronic)?”
Great question. But what is the object of this question? What exactly are the stupid ones loving stupidly? What can we learn about the wisdom of God from what is being said here? If you want to know more, then keep listening.
The following is a study on Proverbs 1:20-33.
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In our study on Spiritual gifts, the question before us is this: Why does the Holy Spirit give us His gifts? What’s the point? How does giving us gifts, that we don’t believe we have, benefit Him?
The answer is found in 1 Corinthians 12:7. Here it says: But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all.
Got that. But what does this verse really mean?
The word manifestation means “expression, to make visible or observable.” Think about that. The “expression” of the Holy Spirit, or the way the Holy Spirit expresses Himself is “given to each one for the profit of all.” Or, the way the Holy Spirit makes Himself “visible or observable” is by the gifts He gives to “each one for the profit of all.”
Do you see how important these gifts actually are? And what specific gifts are we talking about?
To continue in context: for to one is given the (1) word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the (2) word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another (3) faith by the same Spirit, to another (4) gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the (5) working of miracles, to another (6) prophecy, to another (7) discerning of spirits, to another (8) different kinds of tongues, to another the (9) interpretation of tongues – 1 Cor. 12:8-10.
And this is only the beginning. There is so much more to learn. Are you interested? Then keep listening.
The following is a study on 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.
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My son, if sinners entice you,
Do not consent.
The Nike slogan, Just Do It, was reportedly coined in 1988 in an advertising agency meeting and was inspired, according to Dan Wieden, by convicted killer Gary Gilmore’s last words before he was executed by a firing squad at the Utah State Prison on January 17, 1977. And this classic slogan, Just Do It, has been the most recognized and successful trademarks in the history of athletic footwear.
The loving father in Proverbs 1:10 is also coining a phrase for his naive and inexperienced young son in regards to sin. And just like the Nike slogan, the father’s words are crisp, pointed, and direct. “My son, if sinners entice you, Do Not Consent.” Or, to put it in Nike terminology: Just Don’t Do It.
Don’t Give In. Don’t Give Up. Do Not Consent. Just Say No. Just Don’t Do It.
Do Not Consent
This is one of the classic statements in Scripture regarding man’s free will. For decades, for nearly a century in fact, there has been much debate regarding the Sovereignty of God versus the Free Will of Man. This debate has basically centered on the question of “Where does the Sovereignty of God end and the Free Will of Man begin? Or, “How can God be sovereign in all things yet give free will to men?” For to us, seeing only what fallen men can see, sovereignty and free will appear contradictory. Like polar opposites. Different sides to different coins.
And this is never more true than in trying to understand the doctrine of salvation.
Does God, as the Scriptures teach, “choose us in Him and before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4) and then give us faith to place in Him based on His choice of us and not our choice in Him? In other words, was Jesus truthful when He said “you did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain”? (John 15:16). Or do we, by carefully examining the claims of Christ, freely choose Him as our Savior and, in doing so, secure our salvation by our own free will? Does the gift of salvation come by our choice in Him or by His choice of us? And if the latter, what is that choice based on? Our merits? Our future potential? Maybe our standing in the community? Or maybe it’s our ability to comprehend and understand all the facets of the atonement and therefore choose, based on our own inherent intellect, to believe His claims about Himself and place our faith in Him?
That all sounds good. But none of it is really true, no matter how true it may seem to us.
The Scriptures teach that God is sovereign in all things (Psalm 115:3), including our salvation. After all, He is God. And as God, He alone is omniscient (all knowing), omnipresent (all present) and omnipotent (all powerful) and can do whatever He pleases, without having to give account to anyone, especially you or me. So God can “have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion” (Rom. 9:15). It’s His choice, His will, and it’s not based on any inherent merit of the ones who are blessed to be the recipients of His gift of grace. Romans 9:16 continues, “So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.” That’s right. It’s God and God alone who is sovereign in salvation, and not the other way around. No matter how good that might make us feel about ourselves.
But some of us, with a fallen sense of justice and fair-play, will reason and ask, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” (Rom. 9:19). Or, why does God hold us accountable for not believing in Him when He is the one who chooses those who believe in Him in the first place? That doesn’t seem fair.”
And, to be quite honest, it doesn’t.
But God never answers this question in Scripture. Instead, He chastises us for even asking it. Why? Because the very question itself calls into question and impugns the character of the Father who chose us in Him in the first place.
You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? (Romans 9:19-21).
In actuality, the Scriptures teach that God’s choice of us in Him was based on “His good pleasure” (Eph. 1:5, 9) and nothing more. He chose us simply because He wanted to, because He could. He chose us in Him because, for some reason we can’t fully understand, it pleased Him. And that fact alone should be reason enough to surrender our lives to Him in wonder and awe.
But salvation and election are subjects we’ll discuss at another time. For now, let’s look at our “free will” in regards to sanctification. Or, to put it another way, how our “free will” determines what we do with the gift of salvation once we possess it.
Salvation and Sanctification
Seeing there is much debate about God’s sovereignty and our free will in regards to salvation, we’re going to look at the time in our spiritual lives where it’s all free will. Where everything is our choice, and by those choices we either bring honor or disrepute to the name of Christ. And that time is after salvation, after the Holy Spirit has come to reside within us, after we’ve become the “new creation” in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).
And the name of that process is called sanctification, or the process whereby we learn to grow and live holy and perfect, “just as our Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).
It is clear that after salvation our free will kicks in to the point that sanctification is almost always according to our choices, our decisions, and our free will. God has saved us and has gifted us with Himself, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, who empowers us with the ability to walk Godly in Christ and, because of that ability and power, He expects us to live that way. We now bring him Glory by choosing to “walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).
In fact, we see time and time again in Scripture how our free will is involved with the process of sanctification. For example.
Romans 12:1-2 – I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And (you) do not be conformed to this world, but (you) be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
James 4:7 – Therefore (you) submit to God. (you) Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
2 Timothy 2:22 – (You) Flee also youthful lusts; but (you) pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
Joshua 24:15 – “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, (you) choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
As you can see in these passages there is an individual, personal, free-will choice each of us must make in order to live according to the Spirit within us and not according to our fallen flesh.
It is never more true than in the verse in Proverbs we are looking at today.
Just Say No
Proverbs 1:10 says, “If sinners entice you” or if sinners try to draw you away and compel you to sin, your immediate, knee-jerk, emphatic response is to stand firm and say, No. You do not consent. You do not give in. You do not go along with them. With steeled determination and resolve you dig in your heels and say, No. You remain steadfast. Solid. Unmovable. You defiantly refuse to yield, no matter what the consequences or costs. You yield not one inch. Not one word. Not for one moment.
Your answer is, No.
Why? Because you walk in the Spirit and not according to the flesh (Gal. 5:16). You’ve decide to follow the Lord in all things, for you do what Christ commands (Luke 6:46).
This is what the Church calls mature salvation or being “sold out” to Jesus. But Biblically, it’s just the normal, everyday life of a Believer. Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing noteworthy. The default position for the Believer in Scripture is to not consent to sin. Ever. Under any circumstance. No matter what our friends or family or fellow church members may say otherwise.
The bottom line is that you and I have to be the ones that don’t consent. We have to take responsibility for our spiritual life and actions. We have to take responsibility for the time we spend on the trinkets and toys of this culture versus the time we spend with the Lord. We’ve got to man-up and be the ones who take responsibility for the words that come out of our mouths or the things that we see with our eyes or what we allow our hands to touch. It’s our responsibility to live according to the Christ who gave His life for us.
After all, Jesus said, “Why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).
So what are we do? When we’re enticed by our flesh, or by the world, our lust, pride, or by everything in us that wants to do evil, how do we respond? Do we look and wait for God to grab us by the arm and forcefully remove us from our temptation while we kick and scream like a spoiled child who can’t get what he wants? Or do we take responsibility for our own actions, and do not consent, do not give in, no matter how painful that may be?
This is what makes a Believer in Christ pleasing unto the Lord. It’s saying “no” to us, and “yes” to Him in all things. It’s dying to self and living to Christ. Remember?
Galatians 2:20 – I have been (what) crucified with Christ; (to what extent) it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live (how) by faith in the Son of God, who (1) loved me and (2) gave Himself for me.
Matthew 16:24-25 – Then said Jesus unto his disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him (1) deny himself, and (2) take up his cross, and (3) follow me. (why) For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life (how) for my sake shall find it.”
Remember, “When sinners entice you, do not consent” (Prov. 1:10). Do Not Consent like Eve did in the garden and plunged all mankind into sin (Gen. 3:6). Do Not Consent like David did while looking lustfully at a woman who was the wife of a close friend (2 Sam. 11:2-4). And Do Not Consent to pride like Moses did and forfeited his chance of entering the Promised Land (Num. 20:11-12).
Instead, be like Joseph who did not consent to sin, even when enticed by the wife of Potiphar (Gen 39:8-9). Or like Job, who was severely tried and tested, as much as any man, yet did not sin by blaming God for his suffering (Job 1:22, 2:10). Remember, we cannot be forced to sin and then try to blame our sin on God (James 1:14).
It’s our choice. The responsibility is in our hands.
And as Martin Luther said, “Here I stand, I can do no other.”
I pray this can also be said of you and me and the church today.
1. When was the last time you gave into sin? Did is just come upon you and catch you off guard? Or did you have the opportunity to say, no, but chose to do otherwise?
2. What prompted your decision? And what was the result? Did the sin satisfy? Was it all worth it in the end? Were there any residual effects to your giving in to temptation? Any blessing you lost?
3. How long was it before you asked for forgiveness? Did you ask immediately? Did you wait a while? Maybe a day or two? Maybe longer?
4. And, if you did wait to ask the Lord for forgiveness, why was that? What was your motivation? What were you thinking? What were you trying to gain? Were you, in some way, trying to punish yourself for your sin? Did you think, maybe, the Lord wouldn’t forgive you until some time had passed? Was there another reason for your delay?
5. On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate God’s wisdom in your life right now and in your decision making process? What was it yesterday? Are you growing in the wisdom of God? And, if not, why?
Next Step Challenge
Take your Bible and look up the examples we talked about in this chapter of those who yielded to sin and those who stayed firm. What can you learn from their stories of success and failure?
Eve – Read Genesis 3:1-19.
Moses – Read Numbers 20:7-13.
David – Read 2 Samuel 11:1-12:25.
Job – Read Job 1:6-2:11.
Joseph – Read Genesis 39:1-23.
Do you see yourself in any of these accounts? What would you have done differently if you found yourself in the same situation or facing the same temptation?
And what are you doing now when temptation comes your way?