2 To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; 3 To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; 4 To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion. 5 A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: 6 To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.Proverbs 1:2-6
Proverbs chapter one starts out by telling us what the purpose of the book is. Let’s look at these opening phrases quickly with the understanding that they could each warrant a more in-depth look later.
To know wisdom and instruction
You are invited to come to the book of Proverbs without having infinite knowledge, understanding and wisdom. One of the purposes of the book is so that you can learn these things. Take time to study the book over and over. Like many skills in life, you learn even more when you practice what you learn and then come back to read the source material over and over.
To perceive the words of understanding
The book of Proverbs will help the reader have discernment. That is, to judge well and correctly. The book is full of topics which the writer, Solomon, is teaching us to perceive and understand: finances, human emotions and personalities, casual and intimate relationships, how to parent our children and how to be a good child.
To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice …
Having a good teacher does not mean that every student is going to learn in the same way. Some students may not pay attention or have no interest in the topic being taught. I’m sure we’ve all met young people who struggle in some areas of school but excel in other subjects. Solomon is teaching us that we should become students of wisdom, justice, judgment and equity.
That word receive in verse three is a generic word meaning to get, obtain, fetch. But it can also mean to seize by force. Throughout the book you will see this word used telling the reader that learning the truths of the book doesn’t happen casually. You must work to obtain this information.
Another way this particular word is translated is marry. I love the idea of obtaining this instruction and holding onto it for a lifetime.
To give subtilty to the simple
A naive person does not have to remain that way their whole life. One of the purposes of the book of Proverbs is to help people grow in wisdom. Approach this wonderful book with some humility and a willingness to learn. Proverbs doesn’t want to beat you up with your ignorance, it wants to help you to grow in wisdom and in knowing how to deal with the world.
Maybe you no longer consider yourself a young person. It is not too late for you to learn God’s wisdom as taught in His Book. Start now and ask God to help you learn through the book of Proverbs. Its purpose is to teach, not to beat you over the head for your ignorance. Though it does seem to step on my toes quite often when I realize that I have done many of the foolish things that it is trying to steer us away from.
To give knowledge and discretion to the young man
When is the best time to plant a tree? Twenty years ago. When is the next best time to plant a tree? Right now.
There is no better time to start learning the principles of Proverbs than as a young person. But if you have missed that opportunity, start now. Don’t put off learning the wisdom of God’s Word because you are no longer young.
Don’t believe the lie that says “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” That is not true with dogs nor with humans. Sometimes people stop learning as they get older because they have chosen not to learn; not because they are incapable of it. It is true that it may take longer to learn new information, but it isn’t true that it is impossible. Be open to the fact that God’s Word has something to teach you. That is one of the purposes of Proverbs.
To understand a proverb …
The whole verse is: “To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.”
Allow me to paraphrase.
To discern a proverb (teaching, parable, aphorism, similitude) and the puzzle within it (the meaning). To understand what those who are skilled in a subject are trying to teach; even the riddles and hidden meanings.
This book works on the assumption that you can learn how to be wise and discerning. Not everything will make complete sense the first time you read through, but it will become clearer and clearer with time. Allow God’s Word to permeate your thinking. And, as it concerns every day life and your interaction with other people, there is no better part of God’s Word to study than the book of Proverbs.