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.
The mind is where we begin. Before our conversion, our thoughts were directed by sinful hearts. Now they are directed by a regenerated heart, capable of loving God…and yet our minds need “renewed.”
Our thoughts involve four things, according to Dallas Willard:
1. Ideas: Patterns of interpreting reality. They may involve beliefs. They are shared by those who know. Examples are freedom, education, happiness, the American dream, progress, death, home, government, church, fairness, God, etc. We all have ideas of what these things are and should be. We cannot precisely define ideas: they are hard to pinpoint and yet we try to define them as a way to control them. For example, whoever can define “marriage” in our country can control who is allowed to be married. We are largely blind to our ideas; but exploring what we think of as “natural” or “obvious” shows us just where our ideas lie. Our idea systems need to be transformed. For example, if we once thought of “blacks” as people inferior to “whites,” this is something God must work on in us.
2. Images: Images are tied to ideas but are not abstract. They are concrete. Images evoke emotions. When we think of an idea, we have an image that runs through our head. Jesus chose one image–the cross–and made it the most powerful image in the world. Again, our images must be transformed.
Dallas Willard says, “When [Satan] undertook to draw Eve away from God, he did not hit her with a stick, but with an idea. It was the idea that God could not be trusted and that she must act on her own to secure her own well-being” (Renovation of the Heart, p. 100).
Part of spiritual formation is rewiring our minds to have new ideas and images of God too. The other two areas of thought help us to break the power of our toxic ideas and images.
3. Information: The first task of Jesus in the gospels, in his public ministry, was to proclaim to people the availability of entrance into God’s kingdom, to give them new information about eternal life in God. Jesus had to combat false information about God in his teaching and proclaiming. Just as Jesus gave us information about God, so we need to know who God is.
4. Ability to think: Dallas Willard defines thinking as “the activity of searching out what must be true, or cannot be true, in the light of given facts or assumptions” (Renovation of the Heart, p. 104). He says, “The prospering of God’s cause on earth depends upon his people thinking well” (p. 105). Today, we easily dismiss those who think about God as people disconnected from real life. But perhaps this is because we have not taken the time to think about how we think. We all think. And our minds are no less important than any other parts of us. Those who think this way are like the Khmer Rouge regime of Cambodia who produced the “killing fields,” where anyone with any sign of education, even those who simply wore glasses, were killed in the late 1970s.
Scripture uses the phrase “renewing of the mind” when it speaks of our mind’s transformation.
Romans 12:2: Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Ephesians 4:20-24: That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Note that in both passages, the renewing of the mind is contrasted with the sinful thought patterns of this world. It is combined with other acts of putting off the old self and putting on the new self. The renewing of the mind, then, can be thought of practically as changing our ideas and images with new information and the ability to think (with the assistance of the Holy Spirit).