Acquire Wisdom, Keep Your Heart Pure

Acquire Wisdom, Keep Your Heart Pure

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

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. 

Sources Cited 

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

2 Ibid 

Wisdom 101’s Syllabus

Wisdom 101’s Syllabus

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

I doubt I’ve ever fully appreciated the book of Proverbs more than now as I’ve undertaken the task of teaching it in a Bible class. The reason for this, I suppose, is that I always viewed Proverbs as a group of wise sayings that one could visit and choose from as you might items on a buffet. “Yes, I will take a side of the ‘virtuous woman’ with ‘train up the child,’ please.” But it is an anthology about wisdom whose contributors include Solomon, Agur (Proverbs 30.1), and King Lemuel (Proverbs 31.1). Moreover, we know scribes during the reign of King Hezekiah took proverbs attributed to Solomon and added them at that later date (Proverbs 25.1). So, the book of Proverbs came together over an extended period. Yet, we know that by the time scholars translated Proverbs into Greek for its inclusion within the Septuagint, it was in its present form.  

Despite being an anthology, the compilers have done a marvelous job fleshing out two “characters.” One character, whom we must pursue, is “Lady Wisdom.” The other character we are to shun, “Lady Folly.” (Is she Lady Wisdom’s doppelgänger in the original sense of that word? An evil counterpart?) The ultimate form of “Lady Wisdom” is King Lemuel’s mother, the woman of virtue. However, there is a question about whether this woman is real, like Bathsheba, if Lemuel is a pseudonym for Solomon or a metaphor for the woman who embodies all Lady Wisdom’s traits. Solomon’s section treats his audience as a son, so we get the idea that Lady Wisdom is like that ideal woman for whom a young man should pine. How much more thrilling, then, when one catches a glimpse of the beautiful Lady Wisdom as she calls out in the streets or lifts her voice in the square (Proverbs 1.20). It is evident that the authors don’t anthropomorphize wisdom with every usage of that virtue, but enough to conceptualize wisdom as God’s companion, His daughter, perhaps, with whom we must also associate ourselves.  

Given this elaborate backdrop, the first six verses of Proverbs 1 strike me like a collegiate syllabus. Professor Solomon enters the classroom and passes out his plan for the material he will cover during his course. Wisdom 101. It is a level one class since it is  “To give prudence to the naive, To the youth knowledge and discretion” (1.4 NASB1995). So, there are no prerequisites for this “class.” Even so, enlightenment is granted even to the more learned by the assistance of the one giving them wise counsel (1.5). But the authors outline their intentions. Their “purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, help them understand the insights of the wise…teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, and to help them do what is right, just, and fair” (Proverbs 1.2-3 NLT). After one has learned the basics, he will “receive guidance by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables, the words of the wise and their riddles” (Proverbs 1.5-6 NLT). 

I will be honest with you. I didn’t always pay attention to the syllabus when I was a student earning my degree. I’d hear my classmates talking about a due research paper. When I protested that the professor had said nothing in class about a term paper, my friends pointed me back to the syllabus, where the professor had given details of the assignment in black and white. My previous problem of not appreciating the book of Proverbs likewise extended from my failure to read Solomon’s syllabus in the first chapter. It is not just a collection of pithy sayings. God introduced me to the most remarkable woman whom I could ever hope to meet. And if I play my cards right, I will make her my companion also. Along the journey, I will become a better person and, subsequently, a better person to others. Eventually, I will even stand in a position to help guide others through life. Not bad for a book of poetry.