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Bible Thought

Proverbs 2:1-9: If … Then

1 My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly. He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints. Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path.

Proverbs 2:1-9

I remember back in the 1980s when I first started playing with computers we had to write into memory any program that we wanted to run. I would play with friends’ computers that would hook directly into a TV as a monitor, but there was no storage for programs. (Later we bought a Commodore 64 with a cassette tape drive. Ahh, the good old days.)

When writing BASIC programs I learned about If-Then statements. The concept is still used in programming today. But we also see this idea in many other areas of life. In Proverbs chapter two there is a list of If-Then promises.

If …

Solomon says to his son—which can be interpreted as anyone who will listen—that there is a result to paying attention to his words. In this case, he is making an argument for heeding wisdom. Wisdom is often personified in Proverbs as it is here.

… you will receive my words

As we saw from chapter one, this is the idea of seizing the information given. Not just casually watching from the sidelines, but jumping in and actually trying to learn.

We need to become students of God’s Word and the wisdom He imparts. Don’t just allow Bible teaching to come to you, go out and find it. I’ve heard it said of language learning, “no one can teach you a language. You have to learn it.” I think that can be applied to learning God’s Word too. There are plenty of teachers, but until you are ready to receive (grab hold of) wisdom from God, then you won’t reap the benefits God’s wisdom offers.

… and hide my commandments

What do pirates do with their treasure? They bury it and hide it. At least that is what we’ve been led to believe. That is exactly the idea of this word hide. It is to esteem something valuable enough to store it up and hoard it.

I understand this is Solomon speaking here, but I think the example is that we should value God’s commandments enough to hide them and place great value on them.

How do we hide God’s commandments? Spend time in His Word and learn what He has already said. Sometimes people are looking for a “clear word from God.” If you haven’t been paying attention to what God has already clearly said in His Word, then it will be very difficult for you to know whether it is Him leading you or your own fleshly desires.

Verse two is a continuation of that thought of leaning in and paying attention.

… you will cry after knowledge and understanding

Understanding and knowledge are various aspects of the wisdom that is being taught here. Get the attention of knowledge (discernment) and understanding (practiced wisdom, skill). Cry after it. Lift up your voice in search of it. Again, don’t just allow it to causally pass by, but lay hold of it as a treasure.

… you seek wisdom as if it were silver and a treasure

You have been given an invitation to obtain a great treasure. Many people will throw the invitation away thinking that it doesn’t apply to them. Or, they will think that it is too good to be true. What we are told to do in Proverbs is to seek out, request—even demand—this treasure of wisdom.

Do you desire wisdom enough to look for and cry after it?

All of this speaks to the fact that wisdom (knowledge and understanding) can be had by those who seek it. This book exists so that you can gain this wisdom. The book assumes that you can learn. You don’t have to know everything to embark on the pursuit of wisdom. It is something that you can gain skill at by practicing.

Then …

Whenever I read the word if I immediately start looking for the then that goes with it. Here is the beautiful then.

… you will understand the fear of the Lord

This word understand is to perceive, discern, have insight. All things that can be improved with practice. And, we are told that we can discern—understand—the fear of the Lord because of seeking wisdom like a precious treasure.

So, what is the fear of the Lord? This certainly deserves being fleshed out in more detail, but Hebrews 12:28, 29 gives us an example of why to fear God. It is because He is a consuming fire. Fire can be beautiful, perform work, and be generally helpful. Without fire we would not have the technology and society we have today. But fire is also something that can incite terror.

Fearing God has an element of terror, but also healthy respect. It is not just one or the other. But both. And, so much more.

While explaining the fear of God may be difficult to do in a few words, spending your life searching for wisdom will help you understand the concept of the fear of the Lord.

… and you will find the knowledge of God

This word find in Hebrew is very much like our English word today. It can mean to casually stumble onto something. Or, it can mean to discover something that you have been searching for diligently. And I think both can apply here.

When you diligently seek for wisdom as a hid treasure, you will uncover more and more understanding about God and His ways. This may be in a very deliberate area where you were seeking insight. Or, it could be that you were looking for one thing and God brought some other truth across your path.

Someone who rejects God will find it very difficult to to have an understanding of God and His Word. They are not seeking God and His wisdom, therefore they won’t even know what they have found when they stumble upon a truth lying in plain sight.

I trust God will grant you understanding and knowledge of Him as you study and obey His Word.

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Bible Thought

The Purpose of the Book of Proverbs

To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion. A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: 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.

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Bible Thought

Interesting Words in Proverbs

As I introduce a new series on the book of Proverbs, I thought it might be helpful to define some of the words found often in the book that I think are interesting.

I am posting this at the beginning of a 31-day series of posts on Proverbs. I will update this post as I go through the month. Therefore, you might want to come back to this one when the month is over to see the updates.

Wisdom

The words wisdom, wise, wiser, and wisely are found 119 times in the book of Proverbs. The vast majority of the time it is a Hebrew word that can also be translated as skill.

What does wisdom (typically thought of as applied knowledge) and skill have to do with one another? They are both learned. I think this is one of the biggest lessons of Proverbs: you aren’t expected to know everything, but you can acquire wisdom by applying the principles found in the book of Proverbs and the rest of the Bible.

Scorner

Scorner is not a word we use regularly today, but we have all experienced the actions of a scorner. The base word means to talk arrogantly, to boast, to mock, and (my favorite) to make mouths at.

You probably never did this yourself, but you may have seen this in school. The teacher tells another student to do something they don’t want to do and the student turns around to his friends and mimics the teacher talking with a mocking smirk or head wag. That is exactly the idea of this word scorner: to move the lips mockingly.

Sluggard/Slothful

This word is interesting in that, in the Bible, the underlying Hebrew word is only ever found in the book of Proverbs. It means lazy, slothful, sluggish.

This is not talking about someone who is taking a day off. But it is a descriptive word meaning someone who is like this as

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Bible Thought

Proverbs 16:6 Mercy and Fear

Proverbs 16:6

By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil.

While God is a God of justice, He is also loving. His Word encourages us to treat one another with mercy in correction. We often want to focus on the “truth” part of the verse and give the statement, “truth hurts” while unkindly raking someone over the coals. However, along with truth in correction there should be mercy.

The second part of the verse will help answer a lot of questions in a Christian’s life.

Last week an unsaved neighbor wandered into the church at the end of a seminary class and wanted to know what the chapter and verse were for why we should wear ties during classes (he was eavesdropping while the pastor was reading the rules to the students). Of course there is not a chapter and verse for the tie issue, but it is a rule in the seminary and there are verses which say we should obey the authority over us (Romans 13:1; Hebrews 13:17).

If we lived in the fear of the Lord, striving to please Him with an honest respect and reverence, we would not care about a chapter and verse for every little rule. The Holy Spirit would be allowed to guide us and give us a spirit of obedience and meekness.