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In Search of Wisdom: Life-Changing Truths in the Book of Proverbs

In Search of Wisdom: Life-Changing Truths in the Book of Proverbs

by Joyce Meyer


Learn More | Meet Joyce Meyer

Proverbs 1

Proverbs 1 begins by mentioning the seven foundational principles listed in the introduction to this book. Then, verse 7 ends with the statement “but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The NIV footnote for Proverbs 1:7 says, “The Hebrew words rendered fool in Proverbs, and often elsewhere in the Old Testament, denote a person who is morally deficient” (emphasis mine). Proverbs includes many references to foolish people, so I encourage you to keep this definition in mind as you read through this book.

If I were to write my own definition of a fool, it would be this: A fool is morally deficient, hasty in making decisions, and too quick to speak without thinking. He is probably not prudent with finances and makes poor decisions in all areas of life. He thinks more highly of himself than he should. He is probably lazy and does not exercise self-control. He has an attitude of entitlement, thinking he should be given what he has not worked for or earned. I am sure he lacks appreciation and is ungrateful. He most likely murmurs and complains regularly. He gossips, falls in with bad company, and has no reverential fear and awe of God.

PARENTS CAN BE SOURCES OF WISDOM

Proverbs 1 continues by urging children to listen to the instructions of their fathers and not to forsake the teaching of their mothers (v. 8). Many of us would not have been wise to heed the advice we received from our parents if they were walking in the ways of the world and were ungodly. That was the case with me, but thankfully my real Father—my heavenly Father—has taught and continues to teach me how to live. I am learning more and more all the time about the wisdom of listening to Him.

If you had good parents who truly loved you and the Lord, I hope you will rejoice, because you had a gift that many people don’t have the opportunity to benefit from or enjoy. Young people commonly go through a phase when they feel certain their parents are totally out of touch with reality and know absolutely nothing of relevance. Of course, this is wrong thinking that hopefully will be corrected in a short period of time, because a wise person learns everything possible from wise, godly people, especially older ones. The longer we live, the more experiences we have; therefore, the more we know experientially. Experiential knowledge is not the same as factual knowledge, and it leads to wisdom, not simply to information.

Do you listen intently when
those who are older and
have more life experience
than you do offer advice,
or do you merely assume
they cannot relate to you
because of their age?

Most parents have done certain things right and certain things wrong. They have experienced the results of wise and unwise decisions, and they deeply desire to help their children avoid the mistakes they have made. Solomon says the teaching of our parents can be viewed as a fine piece of jewelry to adorn our necks (v. 9). Or, if you prefer, a prized possession for which we should be thankful.

THE ENTICEMENT OF SINFUL PEOPLE

Many good people have been ruined by the influence of sinful people around them, and Proverbs urges and warns us to not fall into their trap. The writer says, “If sinful men entice you, do not give in to them” (v. 10). Verses 10–15 teach us that the ungodly don’t give up easily. They keep enticing by telling lies and promising rewards that actually are a myth. They try to make us believe that if we take advantage of others to serve ourselves, we will gain all sorts of valuable things. Those of us who have experience with sin know for certain that wrongdoing does not bring anything valuable. We can hear the father’s pleading heart in verse 15 when he says, “My son, do not go along with them, do not set your foot on their paths.”

How good are you at saying no to things that look exciting and enjoyable when you know that God does not approve of them? These are sinful enticements, and Satan works through sinful people to draw godly men and women away from the right (godly) path onto the wrong (ungodly) path. These people may be such experts in convincing others to follow them that even the godliest individual may drift onto the wrong path in life and not even know how it happened. This is the reason 1 Peter 5:9 instructs us to resist the devil at “his onset,” meaning when he first begins to lead us astray (ampc).

Jesus says that if our eye causes us to sin, we should pluck it out of our head. And if our arm causes us to sin, we should remove it from our body because “It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matthew 5:29–30). In this current, so-called modern age, do we deal harshly enough with sin, or do we compromise and assume casual attitudes toward sin, believing that God’s grace will cover us because He is good?

Sometimes, out of loneliness, Christians become involved with certain people and realize they simply don’t have peace about those relationships. Many times this is because those people want to tempt us to sin or to draw us away from God. It is easy to make excuses and justify wrong behavior, but there is no true justification for doing what we know God would have us not do.

Sinful people rush to evil, and “they are swift to shed blood” (v. 16) but “they ambush only themselves!” (v. 18). This is a powerful thought. It emphasizes the biblical principle that people reap what they sow (Galatians 6:7). No one can sow evil and reap good.

Sinful people pursue “ill-gotten gain” (things they obtain through dishonesty), whether they steal possessions, money or investments, or ideas or intellectual property. Any kind of illegal gain eventually “takes away” their lives (v. 19). Just think about it. If people steal, they will probably go to prison, or at least feel crushed under the burden of guilt they carry in their hearts while pretending to be happy. They forfeit the life God wants them to have through their own foolishness. Material goods gained from sinful actions may seem appealing in the beginning but are ultimately empty and unfulfilling.

It’s important to realize that stealing is not limited to money, property, or possessions. People have also had their ideas or intellectual property stolen, and when someone commits plagiarism, they are stealing someone else’s writings.

Some inventors have even had their ideas stolen before they could apply for patents. For example, when you think of a sewing machine, the first brand name that probably comes to mind is Singer. This company has long been associated with sewing machines, and remains probably the most recognizable name in sewing today. But Isaac Singer actually stole the idea for the sewing machine from a man named Elias Howe. In 1854, Howe sued the company for royalties— and won. WISDOM CALLS OUT As we continue in Proverbs 1, wisdom begins to take on the qualities of an actual living entity, speaking and expounding on the benefits of listening to her. Of course, wisdom is God or God’s Word, but I like that it is presented as a person who Proverbs 1 5 is teaching us how to live. You will notice that wisdom is referred to as “she.” Throughout Scripture, aspects and attributes of God are described using both masculine and feminine terms. Here, wisdom is personified in a feminine way. When I read Proverbs 1:20–33, I see in my mind’s eye a picture of wisdom at the intersections of our lives, crying out, “Listen to me!” She “calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square” (v. 20). Then comes the question, “How long will you who are simple love your simple ways?” (v. 22). Today we might urge people to “simplify” their lives, but the Hebrew word used for simple in Proverbs carries a different meaning than the contemporary English word simple. To the writer of Proverbs, a simple person was “gullible, without moral direction and inclined to evil.”

These people did not listen to wisdom, and I am sure they were very dissatisfied with their lives. After beseeching the simple to listen to her, wisdom instructs people to “repent at my rebuke!” (v. 23).

How easy it is to quickly glide over those four words, but they speak volumes to us if we truly listen. Thank God for the gift of repentance. How marvelous it is that we may repent, which means to turn and go in the opposite direction and receive forgiveness and a new beginning. Wisdom does not rebuke us to make us feel guilty, but to urge us to make a positive change in God’s direction.

If we are willing to repent when we are rebuked (scolded or reprimanded), we will gain more wisdom and understand how to follow it. Wisdom reflects God’s thoughts and teachings, and it is something we should all desire because without God’s thoughts and understanding we will make many painful mistakes.

Wisdom also speaks to the mockers and asks how long they will delight in their mockery (v. 22). To mock is to make light of, to disregard, or to laugh at. We should never take any of God’s commands or principles lightly, disregarding them or joking about them. People who walk in the reverential fear of God will refrain from any kind of mockery.

I’m sure you can see as we begin our study of Proverbs that the seven key principles I mentioned in the introduction are indeed intermingled throughout this book. We learned that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and that it prevents us from sinning. Now we see that those who “delight in mockery” will only cease their ridicule if they have the reverential fear of God.

WISDOM’S RESPONSE TO THOSE WHO REFUSE TO LISTEN

Wisdom declares the future for those who refuse to listen to her, saying, “Since you disregard all my advice and do not accept my rebuke, I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you” (vv. 25–26). I realize this sounds stern, but it is what God’s Word says, and we cannot blame Him when troubles come because we have refused to listen to wise counsel. Many people who are not making good choices and living in obedience to God are not very interested in hearing about what the outcome of their current actions will be. In Proverbs 1:25–29, wisdom speaks plainly about what will happen to the simple who refuse to listen to her. She says that disaster will sweep over them, calamity will overtake them, and trouble will overwhelm them. Then, when they call on God for help, He won’t answer! He says He will not respond because “they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord” (v. 29).

This scenario describes what will happen to the unrepentant, but the person who listens to wisdom’s rebuke and repents has the opportunity for a new beginning. Thank God we can always begin again. No matter how we have behaved in the past, if we are sincerely sorry for our misdeeds and repent of them, God instantly forgives us and even forgets our sins completely (Isaiah 43:25; Hebrews 8:12). Even though God promises us total forgiveness and new beginnings, it is always better to do what is right to begin with. If we do, we avoid much guilt, confusion, failure, and misery.

Everything God tells us is only for our good. I urge you to believe that and decide to start really listening to His voice with the intention of acting on what you learn from His Word.

According to Proverbs, those who “eat the fruit of their ways” are warned once again that the “waywardness of the simple will kill them,” but whoever listens to wisdom (God’s Word) “will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm” (vv. 31–33). Wow! This is what we all want, and Proverbs 1 gives us the roadmap that will lead us straight to it.

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