Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent
Solomon begins chapter four by recalling his childhood and his parents’ lessons about living a godly life. Then he sets a good example for his students, addressing himself as their father. We understand this in the context of Timothy and Titus being Paul’s sons. However, this non-familial relationship does not preclude affection between teacher and student. On the contrary, Paul carried that burden for all the Christians under his tutelage (cf. 2 Corinthians 11.28).
Solomon tells us that wisdom and understanding are commodities that we can buy and sell (cf. Proverbs 23.23), similar to the “pearl of great price” mentioned in Matthew 13.46. As a result, our spiritual father leaves wise words to the student as a valuable heirloom. The main idea in Proverbs 4.6 is that proverbs are the way to become wise. Solomon once said that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. Solomon now instructs us on the first step we should take. Acquire. It is that simple. You must first identify wisdom. We’ve already accomplished this task by recognizing God’s Word as our primary source and our godly parents as our secondary source. (Tertiary sources are only permitted if they closely parallel the primary source.) Then you must go to any length to obtain it, even if it means selling everything we own (cf. Matthew 13.44-46).
Lady Wisdom will make you look good as a reward for your efforts (4.8-9). In his book, His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage, Willard F. Harley identified affection as a woman’s number one need. 1 Now, I understand that we can only anthropomorphize wisdom so far, but since Scripture depicts wisdom as a lady, we can see that she shares some characteristics with the fairer sex. One of the characteristics shared by Lady Wisdom and human ladies is the wish to be desired. That is analogous to affection in this context. Those who have read Harley’s book understand that the point is that couples can protect their marriages by meeting each other’s needs. When a husband shows affection to his wife, she gives him what he most desires from her. In this case, the young man’s affection for Lady Wisdom prompts her to lavish him with her beauty, which is essentially the third manly need identified by Harley (i.e., an attractive spouse). 2
The path of wisdom leads to enlightenment, whereas the path of righteousness adheres to what is good and right. If the young person continues on this path, he will not have to worry about getting lost or walking in the dark. He will not stumble and fall over an unexpected obstacle if he flies along his path. Nonetheless, Solomon issues a warning. He warns young men not to cross the course of the wicked. In verses 14 and 15, notice the expressions “do not enter,” “do not proceed,” “avoid it,” “do not pass by it,” “turn away from it,” and “pass on.” You’ve probably heard the phrase “evil never sleeps.” In verses 16 and 17, Solomon frames it in this manner. If one goes near the sinful path, he will encounter people who will not rest until they have done evil. And these shady characters are only out to corrupt you. So your options are binary (4.18-19). You will take either the lighted or the dark path. You can only find wisdom along the illuminated way.
Our Proverbs study has already discussed how obeying God leads to a longer life. Under Moses’ Law, this indeed means that they did not have their lives cut short by the death penalty, which God instituted for many offenses. Disobeying your parents? That’s a stoning! But we’ve also seen that sin can have physical consequences, some of which Solomon will discuss in the next chapter. However, wisdom is similar to physical nourishment. You cannot survive by eating infrequently and skipping meals most of the time. Wisdom is something that the student must constantly strive for. As an ileostomate and diabetic, doctors and nutritionists frequently advise me to divide my three daily meals into six smaller ones, with snacks in between. We must approach wisdom in the same way. We can say we don’t have time to read the Bible or listen to God’s Word, but we know that’s an excuse. We can find minutes throughout the day to read, study, and pray rather than being overwhelmed by a full plate three days a week for a couple of hours.
And we must guard our hearts as well (4.23). “Heart” does not refer to the organ that circulates blood but the location of our intellect, feelings, and will. Beliefs influence a person’s moral conduct, actions, attitudes, and goals. As a result, it should come as no surprise that Jesus later tells us that what comes from our hearts can defile us (Mark 7.20). We must practice self-discipline now that we are aware of the truth. Proverbs four’s final verses address training our heart, mouth, eyes, and feet. Why were those parts chosen? Consider how each is vulnerable to the devil’s three temptations: lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life (1 John 2.16).
However, by exercising “thought-control,” we take the first step toward being morally correct and honest. Is this why Paul tells us to focus our thoughts on certain things? (According to Philippians 4.8) This training will keep us on the path and out of the ditches. We must walk forward with our eyes straight ahead. Looking ahead implies that we will not allow sensual, earthly, selfish, or material temptations to cause us to lose sight of the true goal and focus on other things. Furthermore, we will only find extremism on both sides. So, like Josiah, we must follow God’s path without deviating to the “Left or Right” ( 2 Chronicles 34.2).
In chapter five, Solomon discusses the dangers of giving in to the body’s desires. We’ll look at this next week if the Lord allows.
1 Harley, Dr. Willard. “His Needs Her Needs List.” His Needs Her Needs, His Needs Her Needs, www.hisneedsherneeds.com/his-needs-her-needs-list.html.