Proverbs: the wisdom of God
The Bible Book of Proverbs is not merely a collection of witty remarks. It is a treasure-chest of spiritual wisdom. The words were spoken by Solomon, ancient King of Israel, but in common with the rest of Holy Scripture, they are from God Himself. After all, Solomon himself requested God’s wisdom in order to rule the people of Israel and he was given “a wise and understanding heart” (1 Kings 3:12). Many of the words he spoke were a goad to careful thought (Ecclesiastes 12:9-12).
Proverbs 1 sets the scene:
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.
The verbs in this opening section reward careful attention: know, perceive, receive, give. As readers, we are to come to know God’s wisdom and instruction (that is, warning). We are to understand or discern the words of understanding: they are God’s words, and as such they are of His understanding. These Proverbs help us to come to grips with what His wisdom means in daily life. But that requires us to receive them with the right attitude – a humility of mind. We are to receive the warning of wisdom, that is, being prudent or circumspect. And these words give good sense and discretion to the silly and foolish, and a plan to guide the steps of the young along the tortuous paths of life.
These are some of the ideas underlying the first few verses of the Book of Proverbs. They underline the nature of Divine wisdom – it is a practical help for daily life, to guide us towards God and His ways. But that is not all: Proverbs shows the humble attitude required in order to gain Divine wisdom. The truly wise will not consider they ‘know it all’ already. Rather, they will be willing to learn from God: “A wise man will hear, and will increase learning” (Proverbs 1:5). And attitude, in coming to God, is very important. For “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7).
Tragically, while Solomon was world-renowned for his great wisdom in judging his people, it seems he failed to apply it to his own life. Let us not make the same mistake. Rather, we must follow Solomon’s son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He applied that wisdom in every aspect of his life, to the point where he embodied it in his every action. That is why he described as “Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24).