Proverbs: Buried Treasure
After Lady Wisdom’s first self-introduction, the “son” is addressed again. If you read chapters 1-9, every time you find the phrase “my son,” it notes the start of a new address.
My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
2turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding—
3indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
4and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
5then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
6For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
7He holds success in store for the upright,
he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
8for he guards the course of the just
and protects the way of his faithful ones.
Notice the progression in verses 1-4. The son takes a more active role in becoming wise.
From accepting his father’s words (v. 1)
to listening for it wherever it may be found (v. 2)
to calling out so it might find him (v. 3)
to searching as if for buried treasure (v. 4).
Then comes the turning point in verse 5: If this, then you will understand the fear of the Lord. We must always take ownership for the pursuit of wisdom, for the pursuit of God Himself. It begins with another’s instruction and ends in our passionate search for God, like we used to perhaps pursue other treasures.
God promises that our pursuit of wisdom will not be in vain. He gives wisdom, which is inherently tied to the character of the person. A wise person is upright, blameless, just, and faithful–just like God Himself.
9Then you will understand what is right and just
and fair—every good path.
10For wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
11Discretion will protect you,
and understanding will guard you.
But a wise person is only possesses these God-like characteristics because, in verse 10, wisdom enters the heart. If we keep in mind that wisdom is ultimately displayed in our lifestyles, we see a picture of spiritual formation here: God piercing the heart, changing us from the inside out, enabling us to exercise justice and right decision-making. Verse 11 is also important, and leads to what comes next. One of the byproducts of wisdom is protection. But from whom? From what? In verses 12-15, it is from wicked men; in verses 16-19, it is the adulterous woman. In the eyes of the father writing to his son, these are the two biggest temptations, the two potential sidetracks for his young son.
12Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men,
from men whose words are perverse,
13who have left the straight paths
to walk in dark ways,
14who delight in doing wrong
and rejoice in the perverseness of evil,
15whose paths are crooked
and who are devious in their ways.
16Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman,
from the wayward woman with her seductive words,
17who has left the partner of her youth
and ignored the covenant she made before God.
18Surely her house leads down to death
and her paths to the spirits of the dead.
19None who go to her return
or attain the paths of life.
The end result? A picture of what we see in Deuteronomy 28-30. If Israel remains faithful to keep the covenant, they remain in the land. If not, they will be kicked out in exile. So while Proverbs boils this down to the level of an individual, the context is that of the entire nation of Israel, called to be wise as God’s firstborn son (Exodus 4:22-23). It would be the responsibility of every Israelite to heed the message of Proverbs, though realistically, some would choose the path that led to exile, a forceful tearing from the land.
20Thus you will walk in the ways of the just
and keep to the paths of the righteous.
21For the upright will live in the land,
and the blameless will remain in it;
22but the wicked will be cut off from the land,
and the unfaithful will be torn from it.
1. We have a choice to listen to those who would instruct us in the wise ways of God.
2. This choice should lead us to an ardent running after wisdom. We cannot passively hear the sermons of pastors or the words of the Bible. Living in wisdom is our responsibility.
3. How tempted are we by those defined as wicked? To commit adultery with another person? Our desires betray the depth to which we have allowed God to pierce our hearts with wisdom.