To know wisdom and instruction,
To perceive the words of understanding,
To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity;
To give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.
As we dig deeper into the Proverbs we quickly come across a few arresting verbs: know, perceive, receive, and give. And, of course, we see the corresponding nouns associated with each of these verbs. In Proverbs 1:2-4 we find:
To know wisdom and instruction,
To perceive the words of understanding,
To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity
To give prudence to the simple (and to give) to the young man knowledge and discretion.
Notice, if you will, the natural progression of action. To know, then to perceive something, then to choose to personally receive and embrace what we now know and perceive, and finally to share, to give what we have now received to someone else.
But what does it mean to perceive something or someone, maybe a new truth or a deeper understanding of a known truth? And how does someone then receive that true or understanding to themselves that they have just perceived? What does that process look like? And how does that exchange actually happen? And finally, ultimately, to whom do we give what we have received? And what specifically do we give them?
The answer is found in the nouns connected with our actions, our verbs.
But let’s begin by looking at the four verbs.
From our previous studies we determined that to “know” (yada) means we are “to know something in a completed sense, to know everything and to know fully, to learn to know; it means to know by intimate experience or expression; to choose, to approve, to love, to embrace, to desire, to place one’s favor upon.” It’s a deeply personal kind of knowledge forged by one’s choice, affection, conviction and experience. And Proverbs 1:2 says we are to “know” (yada) in an intimate, personal way, both “wisdom and instruction”— wisdom being more than the raw accumulation of facts but the ability to properly apply those facts and convictions, reinforced by our choices and experiences, in order to determine what is the right and God-honoring course of action. And instruction is defined as “correction, discipline, and chastening, as a loving father disciplines his own son.”
In essence, God has provided for us in His Son both the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:30) and the steady hand of correction and discipline to make sure we know (yada) God’s Word and how to apply what we know (yada) in our everyday choices that will either bring Him glory or disrepute. Therefore, if you find yourself convicted and troubled by the words you read, rejoice!— for that’s God’s very intention. After all, the Lord only chastises those He loves as a father disciplines his own son.
My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor detest His correction; (why) for whom the LORD loves He corrects, (to what extent) just as a father the son in whom he delights (Prov. 3:11-12).
Next, we are to “the words of understanding” (Prov. 1:2). To perceive (biyn) is “to discern, to observe, to have insight into, to consider diligently.” It involves more than mere head knowledge. To perceive is to have a truth suddenly become alive and real to you. It’s like our blinders are removed or the fog clears and we can see God’s Word, the “words of understanding” clearly, and then exclaim, “Geez, it was right before my eyes all the time and I just didn’t see it. How could I have been so blind?”
And what do we now see with 20/20 vision? The “words of understanding” or literally the “words of comprehension, discernment, righteous actions with a strong moral and religious connotation.” In other words, we now see clearly the holiness of God. We comprehend our sinfulness and God’s perfection and His wonderful gift of grace. By virtue of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit we now have discernment to be able to choose what is “true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy” (Phil. 4:8) and not follow our lusts or waste our lives living for the things that won’t last. And we can now clearly choose to ” walk in the Spirit, and not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16).
What a blessing it is to be able to perceive the things of God and then have the freedom and ability to choose to follow Him, no matter what.
But knowing, even to the point of having an “a-ha” moment when you perceive, deep down, something overwhelming and potentially life-changing, is not enough. You have to then choose to receive, or “to take in, to lay hold of, to seize, to get or fetch, to acquire by any means possible” what you now comprehend in a deeper fashion. Just knowing truth won’t cut it, you have to voluntarily choose to move from where you are to where the truth takes you. You have to open up yourself, make yourself vulnerable, humble yourself, and receive the “instruction (or, discipline, correction, chastening) of wisdom” (Prov. 1:3).
It’s like salvation. Just knowing facts about Jesus won’t bring you into eternal fellowship with Him. You must receive Him into your life on His terms, which are all or nothing. You must die, you must be crucified with Him, and He must live within you and through you (Gal. 2:20). You must follow His path, the narrow gate, and not the wide road of your own choosing (Matt. 7:13-14). He must be Lord, and not just your personal Savior that you can call on whenever you need Him to get you out of a jam (Rom. 10:9). He is not your co-pilot, He is God Almighty, Creator of all, and Sovereign in all things.
If just knowing were enough Satan would spend eternity in heaven. After all, he knows as fact what we believe on faith. He knows Jesus died and was raised from the dead. He was there, he saw, and trembled. But Satan refuses to do the one thing that comes with receiving Jesus on His terms, and that is to bow his knee in submission to Christ and declare Him as Lord (Phil. 2:9-11). And this is all part of receiving Christ on His terms.
But what do we receive when we receive the “instruction of wisdom”? Solomon begins to expand our understanding of all that comes with God’s wisdom by using the terms, “justice, judgment, and equity.”
Justice is defined as “righteousness, or what is right, just or normal” with God. It means having a “right relation to an ethical or legal standard, to be right or straight.” In essence, it’s understanding the commands and laws of God and then choosing to align our life, both internal and external, to be in obedience to the Word of God. It’s the desire, and the ability to now choose to serve Christ and not our flesh or the god of this fallen world. And this ability to live according to our new nature found in Christ is just another gift given us by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 5:17).
Remember the words of Jesus: “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). Great question. Because now, through the Holy Spirit we have the ability, the freedom, and the power to choose to obey Christ. We can live, as the Proverbs promise, a life of justice, being in a “right relation” to the commands and person of Christ. All we have to do is choose what is right, choose the straight and narrow path. And it’s just that simple.
Hard? You bet. But simple, nonetheless.
Next, we choose to receive in our lives the instruction, correction, and discipline of judgment. This word denotes the “act of deciding a legal case in a court or in litigation before judges.” It deals with the “ability to make a correct judgment on human actions.”
Whoa. Hold on right there. One of the sincerely held convictions of our fallen, politically correct culture is to not judge. You don’t judge me and I won’t judge you. It’s the old “don’t ask, don’t tell” mantra” In fact, these words of Jesus, taken totally out of context, are proclaimed as absolute truth by those who reject the rest of His words as truth: “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt. 7:1).
So how can a Believer receive the “instruction of judgment” and still find favor in the eyes of the world? You can’t. Get used to it and resolve yourself to a life of turmoil and tribulation and persecution if you choose to live in the center of His will. In fact, embrace the trials you’ll face. Why? Because Jesus promised great blessings to those who suffer persecution for His name sake. Remember? “Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:12).
Plus, we’re promised “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). There’s no way around it. It’s a given. Done deal. The only way to escape persecution is to not desire to live Godly in Christ, which produces it’s own set of horrific consequences. Trust me, you don’t want to go down that path.
So with wisdom comes the ability to see what is right and wrong, good and evil, true and false. The “instruction of judgment” means being able to discern genuineness from hypocrisy, good fruit from bad fruit, true prophets from false prophets, in others as well as within ourselves (Matt. 7:15-20). And, as you would imagine, this aspect of wisdom can bring with it the unintended consequences of being called judgmental, unloving, a hater, bigoted, narrow-minded, and much more. Hence, the warning from Jesus about suffering persecution for His name’s sake.
Finally, we receive in wisdom, in Christ, the “instruction of equity.” But what does equity mean? Equity is defined as “evenness, fairness, uprightness, straightness, smoothness, and points to what is just, correct, right and fair in speech or actions” (Isa. 33:15). It’s dealing with others as you would have them deal with you (Luke 6:21). It’s being fair, honest, noble, and upright in everything. In a word, it’s the overflow of a life found “in Christ”.
But what about the fourth verb? What about the command to give?
That’s a rather complex subject dealing with what we’re to give and to whom? And that’s a topic we’ll look at next time in Four Verbs, Part Two.
1. Where are you in the process of obtaining wisdom?
2. Have you passed from simply knowing (yada) to now perceiving something deeper in the Word of God?
3. Has God begun to speak to you in a personal, profound way through His Word and the Holy Spirit? Have you ever had a rhema, a word from Him meant only for you? And if so, when was that? And what did He say?
4. Do you remember when you received Jesus as Lord? What was that like? And what has your life with Him been like since that momentous day?
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? Is He more real to you today than in the past? And, if not, why not?
Next Step Challenge
Since receiving the wisdom of God is tied to receiving Christ Jesus as Lord and the Holy Spirit coming as the guarantee of your future inheritance in Him (Eph. 1:3-4), write down your salvation experience. Include the time when you knew regeneration took place and your life was now hid in Him (Col. 3:3). Include also your spiritual journey since salvation.
What have you learned from your walk with Him about wisdom? Have you personally experienced the process outlined in Proverbs 1:1-4 about knowing, perceiving, and receiving? What was that like? What was the actual context in which God revealed to you His wisdom? What was the outcome of that encounter?
And if you haven’t experienced any of this with the Lord, why? Is the problem with Him? Does He show favoritism or partiality and is withholding something from you that He’s freely giving to others?
Or is the problem you? And, if so, that’s a sobering thought, isn’t it?