Learning from the Proverbs

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We’re going to spend some time working our way through the Old Testament book of Proverbs. Proverbs is a collection of the wise counsel of Solomon, wisdom from which I feel we should all benefit.

Let’s begin with Proverbs, chapter one, verses 1 through 7.

Proverbs 1:1-7
1 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:
2  for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight;
3 for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair;
4 for giving prudence to those who are simple*, knowledge and discretion to the young—
5 let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—
6 for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools** despise wisdom and instruction.

*Simple – gullible, without moral direction and inclined to evil
**Fools – morally deficient

In these first few verses Solomon identifies himself and defines the purpose for his writing: to teach, to pass along knowledge, understanding and wisdom and to establish the source of all knowledge and wisdom; God.

Solomon believed that learning was an essential element of the fulfilled life. Knowledge, he reasoned, would lead to a greater understanding, which would, in turn, lead to prudent behavior. He taught that it was important to learn discretion early and to listen with an ear toward learning so that wisdom could both be understood and practiced.

He also believed that reverence and awe of God was foundational for anyone seeking to be learn, grow and become wise.

The word “listen” is found 23 times in the 31 chapters which  comprise the book of Proverbs. The word “understand” is found 32 times.

It’s significant that Solomon stressed the balance between knowledge and understanding. We’ve all known people with a great deal of knowledge and very little ability to apply what they knew. In fact, one of the great detriments of the age in which we live and our culture is that we have access to so much knowledge while at the same time abandoning the values which enable us to use knowledge wisely. Sadly, we are not the first culture to go down this road and all which have chosen this course have eventually fallen.

You can turn on the news on practically any given day and find someone spouting volumes of information without, apparently, a shred of wisdom as to how to properly apply that information. Instead, we hear lots of nice sounding platitudes and catch phrases which do little to mask the total lack of moral clarity of the speaker. For example, it is pointless to rant about justice and fairness if you are unable to discern that mankind is incapable of achieving such an ideal. Yes, we should aspire to justice and fairness, but we should also be wise enough to recognize that justice and unfairness will always be with us. This is what Solomon was teaching when he spoke about profound gullibility and moral bankruptcy.

Throughout the book of Proverbs Solomon returns to this theme time and again; stressing that knowledge must be applied with understanding and wisdom.

We have all done unwise things. We’ve all said and done things we have regretted and wish we had handled differently. However, we are foolish (morally deficient), when we continue to make the same unwise decisions and choices over and over again.

If we seek wisdom I believe God will grant us wisdom. If, on the other hand, we willfully ignore the wise counsel of God’s Word and of those whose lives demonstrate wise choices, we should not be surprised that our path is more difficult than we might have imagined or preferred.

 

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