by Frank Luke
Human Need Being Addressed [FCF]: Because of their fallen state, people must seek wisdom for a fulfilling life.
Big Idea: Wisdom comes from God alone.
Proposition: Because wisdom alone can bring fulfillment and wisdom comes from God, we must seek God to be fulfilled.
Text: Proverbs 1
Turn with me to Proverbs 1. The book of Proverbs comes just after Psalms, so it will be slightly past the middle of the Bible. Solomon wrote most of the book. In the ancient world, they sought wisdom the same way we seek entertainment. They knew that being entertained for their whole life led to nothing. Wise people often collected their wisdom in books for those who came after them. Egypt left several examples such as Instructions of Kagemni.
Jewish wisdom literature is very different than Greek philosophy, which was developing at about the same time. Unlike the Greeks, Hebrew wisdom literature skips debating why we should be moral. The reason is stated and never turned over. One doesn’t seek wisdom for the sake of society or your family or fear of reprisal. Yes, bad choices bring bad consequences, but the law is followed because it comes from God, the source of all things good. If God gives wisdom, it must be good. And now, Proverbs 1.
If you could ask for anything in the world, what would it be? Money? Health? To be the perfect spouse? Or more likely, that your spouse be the perfect spouse? Solomon was given this chance and choose wisdom to rule righteously. God was very pleased (1 Kings 3:9). God not only granted the request for wisdom, He gave Solomon wealth, success, and power. His wisdom was greater than any one alive in his time, and his fame spread across Asia and Africa.
Solomon left his wisdom in the book of Proverbs. This isn’t a theoretical discussion of philosophy. Nor is it a book on ethics. It is a practical guide on righteous living. Those who follow it find success in business, family, community, worship, and relationships.
Today, we will talk about the aims and goals of wisdom. Life would be very different for us if more people sought wisdom. If we seek wisdom, we can change the direction of human history and bring more people to the Lord.
Point I: The Foundation of Knowledge (1-9)
There’s a story about a proud young man who came to Socrates asking for knowledge. He walked up to the muscular philosopher and said, “O great Socrates, I come to you for knowledge.”
Socrates recognized a pompous numbskull when he saw one. He led the young man through the streets, to the sea, and chest deep into water. Then he asked, “What do you want?”
“Knowledge, O wise Socrates,” said the young man with a smile.
Socrates put his strong hands on the man’s shoulders and pushed him under. Thirty seconds later Socrates let him up. “What do you want?” he asked again.
“Wisdom,” the young man sputtered, “O great and wise Socrates.”
Socrates crunched him under again. Thirty seconds passed, thirty-five. Forty. Socrates let him up. The man was gasping. “What do you want, young man?”
Between heavy, heaving breaths the fellow wheezed, “Knowledge, O wise and wonderful…”
Socrates jammed him under again Forty seconds passed. Fifty. “What do you want?”
“Air!” the young man screeched. “I need air!”
“When you want knowledge as you have just wanted air, then you will have knowledge.”
Ironically, the seeker’s first instruction in wisdom was that he wasn’t ready for it. Knowledge and wisdom don’t just come because we sort of want them. We can’t want them just to be better than the next person. We must want wisdom because it is the right thing to want. We must want wisdom because it will make us better than we are. It does not care about making us better than the Jones.
The book of Proverbs opens with a statement of what it means to teach. Solomon wants us to know wisdom and instruction. He wants us to have discernment. To receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice, and equity. He wants us to grow in learning, prudence, discretion. He wants us to grow from gullible to wise. This is the first thing we see about wisdom; it is not selfish. Solomon does not want to keep his wisdom to himself. He wants to share it. The more wisdom is spread, the better life will be for all.
Many of the sets of proverbs are introduced by “my son.” The teacher wants us to think of ourselves as his children as he gives wisdom. Hopefully, we will listen to a father more than we will a friend. A father seeks what is best for his children in the long run. A father cares more about true benefit than about fun for a moment.
Let us notice something else. God wants us to be wise. This is Scripture. That means that God inspired it. If God inspired Solomon to write a book about the benefits of wisdom and how to gain wisdom, then we know that God wants us to be wise and benefit from wisdom.
Verse 7 says that fearing the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. This is the foundation of the entire book of Proverbs. Fear the Lord. Notice that it is not the end of knowledge. It is only the beginning. There is a long way to go from just fearing the Lord. But every journey has to start somewhere.
When the Bible speaks of fearing the Lord, it refers to having awe and reverence for Him. It is not referring to fear as in being afraid of God. We are to be amazed by God’s greatness and His majesty! If a person has the other kind of fear with God, it likely means that something in their life needs to be corrected. That is the conviction of the Holy Spirit seeking to bring you to repentance. If you feel that kind of fear, you need to figure out why. You need to find out why and correct it. But, on one hand, be glad that you feel it. It means that God hasn’t given up on you.
Wisdom begins with the fear of and trust in God. At the daily level, it means making wise choices between good and evil behavior. Such wisdom is to be desired above all else to live a full and godly life.
Wisdom comes from both mother and father. It does not care which head holds it, as long as it is shared. Wisdom gained from parents is like jewels around your neck.
Point II: Warning to Stay Away from Wicked Men (10-19)
This is the first set of wise teachings. Fearing God is the beginning; it is the foundation. This is the beginning of the journey. “Stay away from wicked men. They only lead to ruin.” Solomon is even helpful enough to give us a description of how they act. They want to shed innocent blood. They want to lie in wait and ambush them. And the reason they want to do this is simple. They want easy money. In Proverbs, Solomon teaches about two things that lead to ruin when you run after them: easy money and easy sex. Later he will talk about the consequences of nonmarital love. Here he talks about those who pursue ill-gotten money.
The wise student will not even walk with them for a moment. He keeps his feet out of their path. Like Psalm 1, the man who does not walk with the wicked is blessed.
These wicked men, like gangs today, are sowing their own ruin. They think they are making easy money, but they are destroying their own lives. They think they are ambushing someone else, but they are ambushing themselves. Those who gain by violence lose their own lives. Like Jesus said, “what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” (Mark 8:36).
Point III: The Consequences of Not Heeding Wisdom (20-33)
In these verses, wisdom takes the form of a woman. Certainly no chauvinism here on Solomon’s part. Wisdom is not limited to men. She rebukes the simple, not those seeking wisdom, not the son from the prior verses, but the wicked men who tried to lure him away from his parents’ teachings. She describes the just end of such people.
Be very careful about something I told you earlier. If God is working on your heart for you to seek wisdom, do it now. God only waits so long. After a time, he gives a person up to their own selfishness. He lets them sow their own sin. And when they reap the harvest from that sin, they will find it is a bitter fruit. And wisdom feels no pity for those who have reaped their own ruin. Wisdom laughs at those who thought they knew better than she. But they didn’t and now have a whole heap of trouble.
Now they regret their actions, but it is too late. They will have to live with the consequences of their actions. Wisdom laughs at them in their destruction. They had their chance to listen and threw it away. They didn’t accidentally lose the chance. They threw it away, willingly.
They hated knowledge and choose to not fear God. Wisdom told them they were doing wrong and offered them a chance to repent. They refused. So now they have to satisfied with the consequences and live off of those. As they now see, every action has a consequence. Bad actions lead to ruin and destruction.
Even complacency leads to destruction. It isn’t enough to not pursue the evil. One must seek the goodness of wisdom. Proverbs 1:33 says, “But he who listens to me shall live securely And will be at ease from the dread of evil.” This is wisdom making her case again for the benefit of those who will listen.
There comes a time when God’s patience runs out. But as long as you live, you can receive God’s wisdom. Once you are dead, there is no more time.
Wisdom, the love of God and doing His will, gives us better lives. And being wise brings more people to the Lord.
Conclusion: The Secret of Life
Last week we talked about how the secret of life is “fear God and keep His commandments.” That is the same thing we have today in our search for wisdom. You could say the secret to a great life is attaining wisdom. As we have seen, wisdom starts when you fear God. But it doesn’t end there.
Do you fear God? Do you hold Him in awe and reverence? Do you want Him to be Lord of your life?
We know that God wants to bless us because He gave us instructions on gaining wisdom and living a blessed life. He wouldn’t waste time with it unless it were important. Wisdom is not just knowledge but the godly application of knowledge to the problems you face.
Do you need wisdom? The rabbis of Jesus’ day had a saying, “If you have wisdom, what then do you lack? If you lack wisdom, what then do you have?” With wisdom, everything is good. Without it, all the money in the world can’t make your life any brighter. Come to God for wisdom and find a whole new world opening up for you.
Please visit Frank Luke’s Blog where this sermon is also posted.