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The Essence of Wisdom

Proverbs: Wisdom for God's Life in the World  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  47:34
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Introduction:
If you have your bibles let me invite you to open with me to the book of Proverbs chapter 1.
Last week we introduced the book of Proverbs by considering the background of the primary author, Solomon, son of David, King of Israel.
If you missed that, I highly encourage you to go back and listen so that you can be caught up with our study…
This week we progress through what is considered to be the Pre-amble of the book.
a Pre-amble is an introductory section designed to help you to understand what is to come.
In this preamble we have been given:
the type of work that this is - proverbs
the author - Solomon
And now we turn our attention to the purpose for which it was written.
Verses 2-6 give us the reason that Solomon composed this work.
And thus, verses 2-6 are very helpful for helping us understand why proverbs has been preserved for us to read now 3,000 years later.
Verses 2, 3, 4, and 6 all begin with a hebrew preposition which just means “to” or “towards” or “ until”...
If you are wondering why we chose to study proverbs as a church… this paragraph will point you “to” the goals for the book and our study.
Imagine asking Solomon the question… Why did you write this?
Proverbs 1:2–6 ESV
2 To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, 3 to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; 4 to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth— 5 Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, 6 to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles.
Lets pray
Listen to what commentator David Hubbard says about this paragraph.
“Chock full of meaty morsels about wisdom, this paragraph is designed to whet the appetite of even the most casual reader. Its synonyms, piled one on another, are calculated to show wisdom’s well-stocked pantry, They are an instance of the use of repetition by Hebrew authors to expand, reinforce, and enrich the meaning of a concept. It is their accumulative force that conveys the teacher’s intention, more than the precise nuance of each term, though each word adds something to our understanding of wisdom.” - David Hubbard
Verses 2-6 provide for us 9 distinct terms which are not exactly synonymous with wisdom, but rather they illuminate different aspects of what wisdom means.
Verses 2-6 also provide for us two distinct audiences for which this book was written.
The challenge is this, how do we draw out all these nuanced ideas and truths in one sermon?
From the distinctions in each word used, I want us to walk away with 7 truths about wisdom.
These are introductory truths, so no single one will be covered in great depth, but they are present here in the preamble precisely because we will see them fleshed out in detail as we progress throughout the book.
So lets begin with the first phrase:
“To know wisdom”
Firstly, the verb “to know” in Hebrew often carries with it a more intimate knowledge then our typical use of the word.
When we use the word “knowledge” we tend to think only in terms of intellectual ascent to particular facts.
Hebrew on the other hand uses the phrase “to know” when it refers to the intimacy that a man and woman share on their marriage night.
To know someone or something goes beyond intellectual ascent... to something deeper and more profound… something that is internalized. Something that becomes a part of you, not just something external to you that you acknowledge.
We understand the distinction even in our use of the word “knowledge”
I know about the president of the united states, but I do not know him.
Some of you in this room have been coming to our church for sometime and you know a good bit about God, but you do not know God.
Similarly, you can know a lot about Wisdom. You can know what is wise and what is not wise....
But we are approaching the book of proverbs with a reverent desire not just to know about wisdom, but we want to know wisdom.
We want to be so joined with wisdom and for wisdom to be such a part of who we are, that wisdom is the natural response to our everyday life.
But that begs the question, “what exactly is wisdom?”
The hebrew term for wisdom is hokma”
I only tell you that because, there are some confusing instances where our english Bibles use the english word “wisdom” to translate other similar hebrew words, but in doing so we can miss some of the nuance.
“Hokma” is first noun the author uses in this preamble. Later in the book, its the only term used when wisdom is personified as a person who calls out for you to follow and urges you to turn away from foolishness.
The author wrote proverbs so that we might know Hokma… so that we might know “wisdom”
But what exactly is “Hokma”?
Let me give you some definitions from a few scholars and then let me give you my own shortened definition.
“Wisdom is the totalizing concept that seeks to bring all of life’s activities into harmony with God’s created order.” - Van Leeuwen
“In proverbs, wisdom mainly denotes the skill to navigate through the maze of life so that one conducts one’s life to the greatest benefit to oneself and the community; it is the way of eternal life.” - Bruce Waltke
“Wisdom is the broadest, most inclusive term available to depict the combination of observation, obedience, careful planning, prudent conduct, and sensitivity to God’s will.” - David Hubbard
Now here is my shortened definition in the form of our first truth.

Truth #1 To Know Wisdom is to Know How to Live in God’s World God’s Way

The most helpful text that contributed to my understanding of “hokma” in proverbs actually comes later in Proverbs chapter 8.
Proverbs 8:22–31 ESV
22 “The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old. 23 Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. 24 When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. 25 Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth, 26 before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world. 27 When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, 28 when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, 29 when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, 30 then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, 31 rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.
Wisdom is the stuff by which God created our world.
Its the fabric of the way things work.
Its the equation by which we live for God’s glory and for our good and for the good of those around us.
When we walk in wisdom we walk according to God’s design for creation… his intent for life, abundant life, eternal life.
When we walk contrary to his design we walk the way of a fool… we walk the way of death.
So in the broadest since.
Truth #1 To Know Wisdom is to Live in God’s World God’s Way
having now introduced the concept of wisdom… now the author applies layers of interrelated terms that helps us understand what wisdom includes and what striving for wisdom means.
Proverbs 1:2 (ESV)
2 To know wisdom and instruction
Proverbs is not shy about what it will take for you to become a wise person.
The obvious assumption of the book is that it is not our natural demeanor or disposition to walk in wisdom.
The force that is always pulling at our souls is one of foolishness, not wisdom.
The curse of sin in the world corrupted humanity first and foremost.... we are born foolish… not wise.
Wisdom, therefore, is a process of undoing what we naturally are.
We need “instruction.”
But that word for “instruction” conveys more than just “verbal communication of concepts.”
The word “instruction” here is the Hebrew word “musar” and it is can also be translated as “discipline, chatisement, warning, or training.”
One commentator writes this,
“The hebrew noun “musar” and the verb “yasar” have the double meaning of ‘instruct-reprove’ and ‘chastize-beat’” - Bruce Waltke
So this word conveys not just the kind of instruction you get from a text book, but the kind of instruction you get from a good whoopin.

Truth #2 Wisdom Requires Instruction that Confronts and Corrects

From the very first sentence of the preamble of this book… the author is warning you…
That if you want to proceed.
If you want to be a wise person who benefits from God’s wisdom rather than the destruction of foolishness…, You better prepare your heart and mind to be told when you are in the wrong.
Wisdom is impossible for us unless we are willing and ready to come to terms with and be chastised for our foolishness.
Hebrews 12 is commentary on this concept from Proverbs.
Hebrews 12:7–11 ESV
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
If you want to be wise you need to invite this kind of instruction into your life from God and from God’s people.
How does God discipline us in every day life? God corrects us, through good Christian friends who love us enough to warn us when we are choosing a foolish path.
You need wise people in your life who love you enough to expose your foolishness in a spirit of gentleness.
Otherwise, you will live as a fool.
Fools are always either ignorant or worse tolerant to their own foolishness and they are always too arrogant to receive instruction that would suggest otherwise.
Christian if you are in this room and you know you are making decisions that are contrary to God’s way in God’s world… I can almost guarantee you that one sure sign of your condition… is that you will find yourself avoiding the people that you know will tell you the truth.
Seek wisdom… seek instruction that corrects.
This is a theme we will come to time and time again throughout the proverbs.
Truth #2 Wisdom Requires Instruction that Confronts and Corrects
Proverbs 1:2 ESV
2 To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight,

Truth #3 Wisdom Requires Mental Understanding of Words

That may seem simplistic, but perhaps so simple that we ignore it.
God gave us a book.
This book contains words.
The words contain wisdom.
If you want to be wise, you have to understand the words.
In order to understand the words you have to read the words.
If you don’t understand what you read… you have to work hard at reading the words, thinking about the words, and internalizing the words.
Wisdom is walking in God’s world, God’s way…, but how do we know what God’s way is… we know God’s way through God’s words.
Why is the man happy, blessed, and prosperous in Psalm 1?
Psalm 1:2–3 ESV
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
Wisdom will not come to you apart from your reading, studying, learning, and understanding the words from God we have been given.
The words of insight are the tools we use to live wisely....
, therefore if you want to enjoy the benefits of wisdom this year…
then you need to give yourself to the hard work of understanding the words of insight.
In fact, this emphasis on the understanding of words is emphasized again in verse 6 forming a kind of literary sandwhich between verses 2 and 6.
Look at verse 6.
Proverbs 1:6 ESV
6 to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles.
Again the emphasis is on the careful meditation upon different kinds of literature inspired by God in order to come to an understanding of God and life in God’s world.
I will offer a shameless plug here…
Take advantage of the many opportunities in our church to study the word:
take advantage of community group
take advantage of the SRCC Training Classes starting up in a couple weeks.
The more you are immersed in the word of God, the wiser you will be.
Truth #3 Wisdom Requires Mental Understanding of Words
verse 3
Proverbs 1:3 ESV
3 to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity;
The word instruction is repeated here again, but this time a new hebrew word for wisdom is used.
This time the word is “sekal” - the nuance is that this is the kind of wise choice or action that brings about the desired result.
It is a beneficial decision.
It is to have success because of your understanding and wise choice.
This is why, your english version translates it as “wise dealing”… its the kind of wisdom in your dealings that bring about good results for yourself and others.

Truth #4 Wisdom Has Communal Consequences

In this case those benefits or wise dealings are listed.
For your dealings to be in righteousness - Means that you are doing what is correct, what is honest, what is right, what is loyal to the community, what contributes to well-being.
For your dealings to be in the realm of justice - means that you make good judgments, good decisions in regard to what brings benefit to everyone involved in a particular situation.
For your dealings to be in equity - means that you deal fairly with others. You have integrity with all people.
You want a wise judge in the court room.
You want a wise teacher in the class room.
You want a wise doctor in the ER.
You want a wise police officer when he arrives to a call.
You want a wise parent who teaches their children.
Our wisdom or lack thereof effects the people around either positively or negatively.
“Sekal” is the ability to make decisions that lead to beneficial results for ourselves and for our loved ones.
If you are a careful reader of the Hebrew bible, this word would be a familiar one.
Genesis 3:6 ESV
6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
The failure of eve was a failure of “sekal”..
She made decisions based off of what she thought would bring her beneficial results...
but she made decisions based off of her own manufactured version of wisdom, not Gods wisdom.... and the consequences were immeasurable for the world as we know it.
Solomon knew his Bible well
The word usage here is no coincidence.
A failure to receive instruction in “sekal” in “wise dealings” has catastrophic effects on those around you.
Your children will suffer if you do not receive instruction.
Your significant other will suffer if you do not receive instruction.
Your employees, your bosses, your friends, your neighbors, your family will suffer if you refuse the instruction necessary for “wise dealings”
You are never an independent actor in life.
You are never a totally isolated decider between foolishness or wisdom. Someone is always impacted either positively or negatively by your wisdom or by your foolishness.
Truth #4 Wisdom Has Communal Consequences
Moving to verse 4
Proverbs 1:4 ESV
4 to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth—
First lets look at the two new words “prudence” and “discretion”
Prudence differs slightly from the words previously discussed.
The word translated “prudence” here - carries with it the idea of being cunning or scheming.
One commentator writes this,
“Prudence may not quite catch the sharp edge of the Hebrew word “ormah” which conveys ideas like shrewdness, cleverness, cunning, even to the point of deceit.”
The word is coupled with the word “discretion.” The word used here carries with it the idea of strategizing or planning for something.
In Proverbs 12:2, a form of the word is used, but translated “evil devices”, but here in verse 4 the word is portrayed positively.
Both words prudence and discretion then are wisdom-like words but specifically wisdom in the planning, strategizing, and scheming, presumably to evade or overcome some kind of enemy.
These words assume that wisdom is not a peace time pursuit.
It is a war-time pursuit that requires the reader to be innocent as a dove, but wise as a serpent.

Truth #5 Wisdom Prepares and Plans for Enemy Assault

The need for prudent planning and discretion in scheming becomes clear in the book of the proverbs especially in light of the many enemies of wisdom.
Just a few verses later in verse 10, we are warned against sinners who will entice us.
Proverbs 1:10 ESV
My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.
Later in chapters 5 and 7, foolishness is personified as a temptress standing on the corner and wooing passers by into her chamber.
In Proverbs 5:8, the author says don’t even go near the door of her house if she allures you away from God’s way in God’s world - that is sex inside the confines of the marital covenant. .
In other words, plan, scheme, strategize, be prudent and have discretion even when it comes to the path that you take to walk home if it means saving you from decisions that lead to death.
Choose a path that doesn’t pass by the temptress.
True wisdom is understanding that we always have an advancing enemy alluring us with words like,
Did God actually say you shall not eat of any tree in the garden?…You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…”
Wisdom prepares for that kind of attack And plans for overcoming it.
Holiness is an intentional and active pursuit… It is not achieved through passivity.

Truth #5 Wisdom Prepares and Plans for Enemy Assault

in verse 4, we are also introduced to one of the intended recipients of the book.
Notice the way in which wisdom travels according to verse 3 and 4.
Proverbs 1:3–4 ESV
to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth—

Truth #6 Wisdom is both Received and Passed Down

This book was written so that wisdom might be received, but it was also written to help you give wisdom.
Two words are used parallel with one another - the simple and the youth.
Simple meaning easily persuaded, lacking wisdom, uncommitted to the ways of wisdom.
Youth of course being those who most naturally embody a lack of wisdom simply because no one is born wise.
Wisdom must be learned via instruction and experience.
So this book was designed to be passed down to our young people.
In fact, as we will see in a couple weeks, the whole structure of the book assumes that wisdom is passed down in the family unit from father and mother to son and Daughter.
10 of the lectures given in the first 9 chapters begin with some form of this saying:
Proverbs 1:8 ESV
Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching,
Wisdom is both received and passed down..
That means that throughout this series, you should be listening to the teaching and studying this book, not just for receiving wisdom for your own sake,
but rather you should also be studying this book for the sake of those around you who are in need of instruction.
That may be your own children, or a fellow church member, or perhaps a dear family member or friend.
God gives wisdom, but he often does it through the obedience of his people to teach and share wisdom with one another.
Read the proverbs and Listen to these sermons with an eye for how you can pass these things on to others…
but let me warn you… don’t read the proverbs and listen to these sermons ONLY for passing these things on to others.
No one truly graduates from the wisdom pursuit… which is why Solomon is sure to include a second audience.
This is not just written for the simple and the youth. Look at verse 5.
Proverbs 1:5 ESV
Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance,

Truth #7 Wisdom is Always Listening, Learning, and Submitting to Guidance

Solomon is clear.
Even the wise person needs to listen .
Even the wise person needs to increase in learning.
Even the one who understands needs guidance.
If you ever think that you are beyond guidance, then you are not a wise person.
If you think that you are beyond learning, then you have learned very little of the things of God.
If you rarely repent, then you need to repent.
I think one of THE most frequent themes in the book of proverbs that has humbled me and surprised me as been the theme of wisdom’s eagerness to submit to someone else’s guidance.
One of the most illuminating passages that we will look at comes in Proverbs 9.
Proverbs 9:7–9 ESV
Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.
Are you the kind of person who people are afraid to confront because of the abuse, injury, and hate that they will receive from you in response?
Or are you the kind of person who people are comfortable with confronting because of how you will appreciate being confronted, and how you will be thankful for the opportunity to grow in wisdom and learning.
Just this week, Drew confronted me on something that I had said off the cuff in a group setting. He explained to me how it was unwise and perhaps had some unintended consequences. I had made a mistake for sure...
And I am so thankful that Drew thought of me as the kind of man who would receive his reproof with thanksgiving rather than hostility. His comments will make me much more discerning and careful when I am to face similar moments in the future.
Yesterday, I made some unwise comments of a totally different nature and in a totally different setting, but this time God reminded me of how important my words are, and convicted me to the core.
If you are wondering if you are a wise person…
Ask yourself whether others would describe you as a person who listens, learns, and submits to the guidance of others?
Would someone describe you as always increasing in learning, or as someone who would rather always be the one giving out the learning?

Truth #7 Wisdom is Always Listening, Learning, and Submitting to Guidance

Ok so lets Recap:
7 Truths:
To Know Wisdom is to Know How to Live in God’s World God’s Way
Wisdom Requires Instruction that Confronts and Corrects
Wisdom Requires Mental Understanding of Words
Wisdom Has Communal Consequences
Wisdom Prepares and Plans for Enemy Assault
Wisdom is both Received and Passed Down
Wisdom is Always Listening, Learning, and Submitting to Guidance
Conclusion:
Perhaps you are overwhelmed now at the end of this sermon.
Perhaps you are overwhelmed by your own lack of wisdom, by your own pride and failures in wisdom that have had tremendous consequences for your life and the lives of those around you.
Perhaps such a message of about the essence and nature of wisdom does not encourage you at all, but rather it crushes you under the weight of regret.
Perhaps the Spirit brought you some conviction this morning as particular sins were exposed in your heart and mind.
If that’s how you feel, you are in a good place to receive the Jesus Christ that the proverbs point us to.
The message of the gospel is honest about your failures.
The message of the gospel akcnowledges whole heartedly that you are indeed foolish and that you have been foolish.
BUT that Christ came for you anyway.
Jesus came for a world that doesn’t look like the proverbs at all.
He came for a world that has rejected “hokma” all together and chose their own wisdom.
He came to take the just penalty for your foolishness through his own sacrificial death...
and he came to offer you a new life…
he came with an offer to become your counselor, but not one that sees you for an hour once a week.
He came to walk with you, join himself to you, and guide you in the way of wisdom.
if you are overwhelmed by your foolish past or your foolish present…, turn to the one who has been totally and completely wise on your behalf and who forgives you of all your foolishness....
Pray earnestly that he will help you to walk according to wisdom as Solomon so eloquently describes in Proverbs 1:2-6.
And then actually seek wisdom in all the ways and opportunities the Lord has opened to you.
Lets Pray.
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