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The Pursuit of Wisdom (2:1-11)

Proverbs  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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In our study of Proverbs so far, we have established that the goal of the sage is to offer wisdom. The foundation of this wisdom is found in fearing God. In fearing God we are acknowledging that the source of all wisdom is from God, but the question remains, how do we go about obtaining wisdom? Two weeks ago, we offered a few practical areas in which we can acquire wisdom: observation, instruction, and experience. Each of these are helpful in acquiring wisdom but any lesson obtained through these methods must be filtered through God’s Word. Therefore we come to realize that God and His Word are the ultimate source of wisdom, and He desires to give it to those who seek Him for it. But what does it look like to seek for wisdom? What do we obtain when we reach it?
If/Then, Condition/Result. This chapter is set up as a rather large if/then statement. If you do this, then this will be the result. The young man is facing two major temptations. He is tempted to join this young gang that offers wealth, power, and comradery. He is as well being tempted to follow the prostitute who offers what appears to be uncomplicated sexual pleasures. The young man does not see that making a decision in favor of either of these temptations will eventually lead him to destruction.
The young man is offered an option. He can follow wisdom or folly. This chapter outlines what will happen if he follows after wisdom. If he pursues wisdom then he will acquire a couple of things and be delivered from the destruction of the two temptations. The if statements make up the first four verses and it is to those we look this morning. The then statements make up the rest of the chapter and we will consider those in more depth next week.
Purpose Statement: [God has set the condition that we are to pursue wisdom.] We must acknowledge the true source of wisdom and then pursue it with the intent of laying hold of it and applying it.

Receive wisdom (2:1-2).

Lay hold of wisdom. While the word in the ESV is receive, there seems to be a more active element in this context than what we might typically sense in the word receive. When we think of receive, we likely have a more passive quality in mind. We may imagine someone extending something to us, and we simply open up our hands and receive it. Instead, this word, lah, carries the connotation of take, lay hold of, snatch away.[1] Receiving wisdom requires more than placing ourselves in opportune moments to be the passive recipients of wisdom extended. Instead, we are to actively pursue and take, grasp, or seize wisdom.
Imagine with me for a moment. We are having a church fellowship. Chocolate covered, chocolate chip brownies were brought by one of our more godly saints. Prior to anyone even going through the line, a number of dessert brutes start ravaging the dessert table. Linda, sensing my potential devastation at the loss of one of these divine brownies, pushes through the throng and grabs the single remaining brownie and stores it in the kitchen for my later arrival and her duly deserved praise. As I arrive, she wipes blood from the scratches in her forehead and hands me the brownie, and I receive it. Note the contrast between taking and receiving. I did nothing but opened up my hand to something graciously extended to me. In contrast, Linda and the other dessert warriors took a piece (or pieces or trays) of dessert. At the end of the day, we both ended up with dessert, but I received and they took.
When it comes to wisdom, we are to be characterized more by actively taking than we are in simply receiving. Of course our concept of receiving ought to as well be part of our journey in wisdom, but we fail to sense this Proverbs urgency and active pursuit if we simply wait for wisdom to be delivered to us.
Treasure wisdom. The word translated treasure in this passage is only used 36 times in the Old Testament. In , Jochebed gave birth to Moses and hid him for three months because she wanted to save him from Herod. The word translated hid in this passage is the same as our word treasure in . Because Jochebed treasured Moses, she protected and hid him.
On a few occasions the word is translated stored.[2] The closest parallel to this verse is the ESV’s translation of , “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” So then, we ought to best understand the intent here to be that because we treasure wisdom, we actively store it up to protect and save it for later use. A practical example of this could be someone who organizes and collects passages or quotes or helpful articles for later use. Instead of reading something and moving on, they acknowledge the potential value in that resource and store it up. It may not be pertinent in that present moment, but they value wise statements and store them for later use.
Make your ear attentive to wisdom. Meditate on wisdom. Hear, be attentive, heed. “This root denotes the activity of hearing, emphasizing either paying close attention or obeying (heeding). Compare it to šāmaʿ (a nearly identical synonym) and ʾāzan “to give ear,” and ʿānâ, “to respond.”[3] It is true that Scripture often considers hearing in reference to the physical ability to hear, but it much more often relies on the figurative meaning for hear. Hearing, of course, assumes the ability to actually physically hear, but it as well implies the choice and intention of heeding and obeying. In the same way that a parent questions a child when they don’t obey and asks, “did you hear me”, God has an expectation that our hearing the truth is accompanied by receptivity and obedience.
Incline your heart to wisdom. Be open to wisdom. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament defines this word as “extend, stretch out, spread out, turn, incline, bend.”[4]
Literal. When understood or translated as stretched out, the context is primarily literal. Moses “stretched out” his hand over the waters of Egypt (), over the land of Egypt (), toward heaven (; ) and over the Red Sea (, , ) (TWOT).
Figurative. It is more often used in a figurative sense, but the literal sense offers us a great image for the figurative. In the same way that Moses extended himself (and his staff) over the water and toward heaven, we are to extend our hearts, minds, and loyalty to God and his commands. Instead of relying on my own “leaning on my own understanding” we are to lean on and towards God’s truths and his way of thinking. “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain” ( ESV). So then, figuratively, I turn from resting or relying in my own thinking or the world’s thinking, and I embrace God’s wisdom. tells us to “trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”
This can work itself out in a lot of ways. We tend to default to thinking through our problems void of biblical study or biblical counsel. We can tend to look for counsel from unbelievers. Our reading too often consists of books, articles, and blog posts that fail to view life through the lens of Scripture. In each of these instances, we rest in or lean upon something other than God’s Word and His counsel.

Request Wisdom (2:3).

Call Out. To request wisdom parallels “raise your voice”. The root word refers primarily to the proclamation of a specific verbal pronouncement or message. In the case of a message “it is customarily addressed to a specific recipient and is intended to elicit a specific response.”[5] The most prominent usage has to do with calling on the name of God. Usually, the context has to do with a critical need. For instance, after Cain killed Abel, man realized the full effects of the curse and began to call on God's name ().
This is the same appeal that James offers in chapter one. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting” ( ESV).

Pursue Wisdom (2:4).

Seek. Earnestly seeking for wisdom parallels searching for hidden treasure. The root word implies desire and portrays someone seeking earnestly something they believe to exists and have every intention of finding.
In Deuteronomy we find the first significant theological theme involving this root word. There are many blessings associated with Israel’s covenant relationship with God, but the primary stipulation or requirement is that they seek Him with all their heart and soul. “But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul” ().
Scripture offers us a couple helpful illustrations of such seeking. Job references those who mine for precious metals in the earth.
Man puts an end to darkness and searches out to the farthest limit the ore in gloom and deep darkness. He opens shafts in a valley away from where anyone lives; they are forgotten by travelers; they hang in the air, far away from mankind; they swing to and fro . . . that path no bird of prey knows, and the falcon’s eye has not seen it. 8 The proud beasts have not trodden it; the lion has not passed over it. 9 “Man puts his hand to the flinty rock and overturns mountains by the roots. 10 He cuts out channels in the rocks, and his eye sees every precious thing.
[Job then goes on to ask] where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? 13 Man does not know its worth . . . 16 It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir, in precious onyx or sapphire. 17 Gold and glass cannot equal it, nor can it be exchanged for jewels of fine gold. . . . 20 “From where, then, does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding? . . . 23 “God understands the way to it, and he knows its place. . . . he saw it and declared it; he established it, and searched it out. 28 And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’ ” ( ESV).
Woman lost silver coin. Luke as well reminds us of the parable Jesus offers. There was a woman who had only ten silver coins. She lost one them, and as a result she took the light and swept the entire house, seeking diligently until she found it ().
The Gold Rush. This same kind of seeking is what described the 49’ers in 1849 when gold was found in California. It is estimated that there were about 800 non-native population in California in March of 1848. By the end of 1849, was estimated to be 100,000. People all around the United States, and other countries as far away as China, Hawaii, Chile, and Peru. They left their families and homes, traveled the dangerous paths to California, borrowed money, mortgaged their homes, spent their life savings, all in pursuit of a dream to find wealth in the gold rush of 1849.
What was true of the woman who searched for her silver coin? What was true of the 100,000 people who gave up all they had to search for gold? They valued something of such worth that it justified and motivated a dramatic and sacrificial search. As Job tells us, wisdom is far more valuable and our pursuit of wisdom ought to be even more intense.


Christ is our wisdom. I desire for us to draw practical application in our pursuit of wisdom. We ought to pursue, study, and store God’s truths and helpful and practical sources of counsel and wisdom, but we must never separate this from a pursuit of Christ. Christ is our wisdom. “[E]verything we need to know about the Father and how to properly interpret reality and live to His glory is accessible to all believers in His Son. Matthew Henry comments, ‘The treasures of wisdom are hidden not from us, but for us, in Christ.’”[6]
Pursue wisdom. We must pursue the acquisition of wisdom, but before we do we must be correct in determining the source of wisdom. There are a lot of people feverishly pursuing wisdom but are looking in all the wrong places.
People can think that wisdom can be found within themselves.
People can think that wisdom can be ascertained outside of God.
People can want wisdom to be something that is passively received not actively pursued.
As well, we can at times search in the proper place for wisdom but mishandle it in some way.
People can have a tendency to acquire wisdom but then lose it to human logic or other sources.
People tend to receive the source of wisdom but not pay attention to it.
Therefore, we must acknowledge the true source of wisdom and then pursue it with the intent of laying hold of it and applying it.
[1] Walter C. Kaiser, “1124 לָקַח,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 481.
[2] ; ; ; ;
[2] ; ; ; ;
[3] Leonard J. Coppes, “2084 קָשַׁב,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 817.
[3] Leonard J. Coppes, “2084 קָשַׁב,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 817.
[4] Marvin R. Wilson, “1352 נָטָה,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 573.
[4] Marvin R. Wilson, “1352 נָטָה,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 573.
[5] Leonard J. Coppes, “2063 קָרָא,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 810.
[5] Leonard J. Coppes, “2063 קָרָא,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 810.
[6] “Christ is Our Wisdom.” (Ligonier Ministries, n.d.) Accessed February 2, 2018.
[6] “Christ is Our Wisdom.” (Ligonier Ministries, n.d.) Accessed February 2, 2018.
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