“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore, get wisdom.” Proverbs 4:7 Wisdom is the moral of each vignette in every chapter of Proverbs. At first reading, gaining wisdom and knowledge seems an easy task. Wisdom seems a rational response, especially when compared to the consequences of stupidity. Summarily, wisdom brings rewards, and the failure to use wisdom brings disaster. Simple, easy lessons. So why did God see the need to write 31 poetic chapters on wisdom?
When teaching concepts, the master teacher knows the how to get students involved in learning: use a protagonist to hook the student into a story; use strategies to increase memorization such as rhyme, mnemonic device, and visualization; define key words in context, and then have the student substitute this new concept into familiar surroundings (to make the teaching relative). I see the Master Teacher at work in just these three chapters in Proverbs. He presents vivid stories that illustrate the wickedness and terror awaiting us in the absence of wisdom and understanding. Since I love a mystery, these imaginations get my attention! Clashing villains and heroes start my heart racing, adrenalin pumping, and the fight or flight response that makes my body want to run for cover. My mind frantically looks for a way the protagonist may avoid or escape what lies in wait. For example, in Proverbs 2:15 we follow the deceitful woman down the street with her glittery eyes and swishing hips, promising a delightful evening. Then just when our hero is about to enter the darkened house, the Specter of Death or ghosts of the dead appear, too late for some, but hold back the one who elects self-preservation. You can almost hear the frightening cries of the foolish who went into the house where their flesh and their body are consumed. Surely this macabre story should be enough reason to listen to Wisdom.
And yet, how many will go down those darkened stairs into the lair of the wicked even knowing their end is imminent? Ignorance is not always at fault. As God points out in the Proverbs, Wisdom can be rejected. Proverbs 5:12-13 says, “How I have hated instruction, and my heart despised correction! I have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined my ear to those who instructed me!” The story above hearkens to a flashback earlier in the life of the doomed. An admonition that could have led to a better choice. Here we have the father reminding his children to keep remembering his wise words on how to avoid trouble. Before standing at the door of temptation, Wisdom is listening to and obeying our parents’ on how to read social cues and environmental clues that danger is afoot. Again, these lessons may be simple enough said, but we are all foolish at one time or another. So, our heavenly Father not only gives sound advice, He strengthens us with His presence. Though the teacher and the parent impart words of wisdom, God promises to stay with His children to keep them safe. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your path.”
And like the ‘happy ever after’ ending to the story, bliss and blessings abound for the one who finds Wisdom – length of days, promotion, riches and honor, sleep that is sweet, grace and the crown of glory, peace, and a pleasant life. Thankfully, the living Word of God is not an anthology of fairy tales or TV episodes in a series of increasing confusion where good becomes evil and evil becomes good. God’s Wisdom teaches us how to assess the world in which we interact with a righteous perspective and to respond with spiritual truths, grace. and love.
To keep us from just thinking that Proverbs tells exciting stories, the Master employs use of the emotional crescendo of a persuasive speaker, shouting out the importance of Wisdom. “Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forsake her… Get wisdom and in all your getting, get understanding…Keep her, for she is your life.” (Proverbs 4:5-13)
Dear God, give us the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the courage to guard our hearts against the foolishness and deceitfulness of this world. Thank You, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Father, for loving us enough to teach us divine wisdom and spiritual understanding so that we might enjoy the benefits of Your promises and be gracious to others. Thank You, Lord Jesus Christ, who knew all our temptations and failures and loved us still. Amen.