Sunday 19 July 2020
Ps Ben Hooman
Please put a marker in your Bible at Proverbs chapter 3, 8 and 9, as we in a new series called, ‘Wisdom’, wisdom in doing life here and now. We’re going to look together at what the Bible has to say on practical issues like friends, family, words, work and wealth. But all things always has a beginning. What is the beginning of wisdom and what is this wisdom?
Scripture: Proverbs 8:1-11, 9:10-12
The book of Proverbs is concerned with wisdom: wisdom for life. So, let us begin with a simple definition of wisdom. Wisdom is the skill you need for putting together a successful life. It is not simple knowledge. It is possible to have great knowledge and not to be wise. Sometimes we call it life skills.
We are talking here about the skills of building friendships, raising children and managing money. We are talking about the ability to speak in a way that builds others up, and about what it takes to be effective in your work. So, this series will be very practical.
The Bible is full of wisdom for life. It shows up all over the Bible. Jesus spoke about a wise and foolish builder.
“And everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who build his house on the sand” (Matthew 7:24-27)
He spoke about a rich man who God said was a fool:
“But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be? So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God.” (Luke 12:13-21)
But in the Old Testament, there is a series of books that are called the wisdom books of the Bible. They are the books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon are referred to as wisdom books, because they focus on the skills you need to put your life together.
Since the book of Proverbs may be new to some of you, I want to begin today by making three observations about the book of Proverbs: Proverbs are proverbs, Proverbs assume a relationship, and Proverbs point to Jesus.
- The Proverbs are proverbs
The book of Proverbs gets its name from the fact that it is a collection of wise sayings or proverbs. These proverbs describe the normal pattern that prevails in this world.
The proverbs are not promises and this is a very important distinction to make. So, for example, when Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it,” that does not mean that good parenting guarantees godly children.
The proverb describes a normal pattern. It does not promise a particular outcome. Or to take another example, the book of Proverbs says, “A gracious woman gets honour, and violent men get riches” (Proverbs 11:16). Now clearly, this is not telling us to go and pursue violence in order to get money. Proverbs is describing the normal pattern of life, and the sad reality is that, in this fallen world, large amounts of money are amassed be men of violence.
The point of the proverb is to tells us that, even in this fallen world, one gracious woman (singular), who clearly cannot match the strength of violent men (plural) gains something more valuable than money. She “gets honour.” So, grace that looks so weak in this world, gets more than violence that looks so strong.
So, remember that the Proverbs are proverbs! They describe the normal pattern that prevails in this world. That’s foundational for understanding this book.
- The Proverbs assume a Relationship
“My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom, and inclining your heart to understanding.” (Proverbs 2:1-2)
“My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.” (Proverbs 3:1-2)
The words ‘my son” occur 23 times in the book of Proverbs. Many of these proverbs would have been spoken first by Solomon to his son Rehoboam (Proverbs 1:1).
“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” (Proverbs 1:8)
But this book is more than the wisdom of Solomon. Proverbs is in Holy Scripture because it is the Word of God. God breathed out these proverbs through Solomon, just as He breathed out the Psalms through David, or the book of Romans through the apostle Paul.
So, what we have here is God speaking to His own children; a relationship is assumed. Our loving Father is calling His children in Jesus Christ to walk in the paths of wisdom.
- The Proverbs point to Jesus
“Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice?” (Proverbs 8:1)
In the verses that were read from Proverbs 8, wisdom speaks as a person. But whose voice is this? In the New Testament, our Lord Jesus Christ is described as the wisdom of God:
“And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God.” (1 Corinthians 1:30)
“…Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3)
“We preach Christ crucified, [and] to those who are called, Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:24)
So, when we read in Proverbs that wisdom calls, we are to understand that the voice of the Son of God is calling out to us. He is calling out to us to follow wisdom which means to follow Jesus Himself.
Notice where wisdom takes her stand. She stands “at the crossroads” and beside the gates in front of the town:
“On the heights beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the end of the portals she cries aloud” (Proverbs 8:2-3)
In our modern terms, wisdom calls out at the shopping mall and the workplace. You arrive at the shopping mall, and you hear a voice calling out to you. “Before you go in there, come over here, I have something that you will need.” You get on the train or taxi to head into work, and a voice calls out to you, “Before you get into all that you have to do. I have something you will need at work today.”
Wisdom is presented as a person who calls out to us. And this person is offering something of great value. What she offers is more precious than gold or silver:
“Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire, cannot compare with her.” (Proverbs 8:10-11)
God has given us more than wisdom in a book. He has given us His Son, who is wisdom in the flesh. And to all who are in Christ, God gives the Spirit of wisdom, the Holy Spirit, so that through the Spirit of wisdom, we may come to know the Lord better.
“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.” (Ephesians 1:17)
If we put these things together, we see this: We gain wisdom through the Word as we walk with Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Do you see that wisdom, as the Bible describes it, is for disciples only? In fact, walking the way of wisdom is another way of describing what the New Testament calls a life of discipleship. It’s following Jesus Christ who is wisdom in the flesh.
To follow Jesus is to pursue wisdom. To pursue wisdom is to follow Jesus. Proverbs describes what this looks like. It lays out the life to which wisdom calls us: The life of a disciple of Jesus.
So, in this series we are going to look at what it means to follow Jesus. What it means to follow the way of wisdom in regard to your friendships, family, words, work, and wealth.
Now we want you to be motivated for this journey. Some of you may be asking, ‘What’s in this for me? Why should I be interested in this?’ That’s a good question.
The Bible makes it clear that the path of following Jesus (i.e. the path of pursuing wisdom) is often costly. It tells us that the gate is narrow, and the way is hard, and that those who find it are few,
“For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it is few” (Matthew 7:14)
But then, it gives us the incentive that this way does lead to life. We often understand these words to mean that living a godly life in this world is hard, but the payoff is that there will be great reward in heaven. And of course, that is wonderfully true.
But, the book of Proverbs draws out another truth that we need to grasp: Those who walk the path of godly wisdom will be blessed in this life, as well as in the life to come. We see this again and again in the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ. He says to his disciples that some of them have left homes and family and field to follow Him. But He says that no one who has done that will fail to receive a hundred-fold now, and in the age to come eternal life.
“Jesus said, ‘Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for My sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, ….and in time to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30)
Let us go back to Proverbs 3: Now remember that these are proverbs, not promises. Look at the normal pattern that prevails in this world.
“Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her.” (Proverbs 3:13-15)
That is quite a statement. And we might righty ask, “Why is wisdom of such value?” And the answer is given to us in the following verses.
What Wisdom brings
- Long Life
“Long life is in her right hand …” (Proverbs 3:16)
Everyone understands that if you eat a proper diet your will enjoy better health than if you live on junk food. That doesn’t mean that if you eat vegetables and tomatoes, you will never have cancer. But the general principle that a good diet and proper exercise will bring better health is beyond dispute.
The same principle that applies to your body also applies to your soul. There are healthy and unhealthy ways to live in regard to the soul. It makes a difference, especially over time. Peter says:
“For whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good, let him seek peace and pursue it.” (1 Peter 3:10-11)
The principle is very simple: there is a healthy way to live and there is an unhealthy way to live. Wisdom will show you how to live a healthy life. If you want to be healthier, study the book of Proverbs. You will gain wisdom from the Word as you walk with Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Some of us could be living in a way that is much healthier because there are patterns of conflict that have robbed us of peace. Christ Himself is calling us on to the way of wisdom.
- Riches and Honor
“Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.” (Proverbs 3:16)
Again, remember that this is a proverb not a promise. We are talking here about the normal pattern that prevails in this world. Settle that description in your mind.
“Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce;” (Proverbs 3:9)
This is not saying, ‘give money to God, and he will make you rich.’ But would it surprise you that when a person honours God with their money, God often trusts them with more. Why would He trust you with more if you kept what He gave you already for yourself?
Matthew Henry says, “Those that do good with what they have shall have more to do more good with.”
Would you like God to trust you with more? Study the book of Proverbs. You will gain wisdom from the Word as you walk with Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said;
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
- Joy and Peace
“Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” (Proverbs 3:17)
If you seek wisdom and pursue her, you will have greater joy and greater peace. Are you looking for greater joy and peace in your life? Study the book of Proverbs. You will gain wisdom from the Word as you walk with Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Long life; Riches and honour; Joy and peace. No wonder Proverbs says ‘get wisdom’!
“She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed.” (Proverbs 3:18)
When you read that word we immediately think of when we looked at the Beatitudes. Jesus opened His ministry in exactly this way;
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven,” (Matthew 5:3)
Then He spoke the words that we refer to as the Beatitudes. There we have ten verses. Here we have thirty-one chapters on what a blessed life looks like, and how we can pursue it. Each week in this series we will see how the blessing of God comes to those who walk in the way of wisdom, or to put it another way, to those who follow hard after Jesus Christ.
We are going to look at how the blessing of God may be increased in our lives and how we may enter in the wisdom of God in regard to the most practical areas of our lives. But in the time that remains this morning, we will look at where wisdom begins. So please turn back to Proverbs 9.
The beginning of Wisdom
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10)
What is your first reaction to ‘the fear of the Lord?’ Maybe you will say, “I don’t want anything to do with fear. Doesn’t the Bible say that fear has to do with punishment and perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18)? I want to hear about love, I don’t have to hear anything about fear.”
If you have endured a religion or upbringing based on fear and you may say, ‘I had enough of that when I was young, I don’t want anything to do with it now.’
If that is what you feel, I am asking you to suspend your judgment for a moment to look at the good that is promised here and see if you may discover something wonderfully new.
- Where Wisdom begins
Here we are told that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It is the beginning of following Christ. It is the beginning of discipleship. All the blessings of wisdom, that is life, health, trust and peace, have their beginning in the fear of the Lord.
But before we look at what the fear of the Lord means, I want us to see the good that it brings into our lives.
- Where strength begins
“By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil” (Proverbs 16:6)
It is through God’s love and His faithfulness in the sending of His Son that our iniquity is atoned for. But look at the second part of that verse. Remember that in Proverbs, God is speaking to His own children.
If you are a child of God, you will have a desire in your heart to turn away from evil. When you see a sin in your life, you say ‘How can I get rid of this?’ You know that time won’t do it. Your experience tells you that your own effort won’t do it. And fear won’t do it either: Fear can restrain sin, but it cannot overcome the pull of sin in your heart.
But here we are being told that the fear of the Lord will make it possible for you to overcome the power of particular sins and temptations in your life. By the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil.
Moses said to the people, “The fear of the Lord will be with you to keep you from sinning,” (Ex 20:20 NIV). There’s a great verse for us right here and now! The fear of the Lord will keep you from sinning (see also Jeremiah 32:39, 40).
- Where life begins
“The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death” (Proverbs14:27)
Whatever this ‘fear of the Lord’ is, it is something that you want more of in your life. It is the beginning of wisdom. It will give you strength in your struggle to overcome sin. And it is a fountain of life!
So, what is this ‘fear of the Lord?’ Let me give you this definition: To fear the Lord means, so to love Him that his frown would be your greatest dread and His smile would be your greatest delight.
That’s what the fear of the Lord is. It’s what captivates the heart of someone who has really come to love the Lord. It’s when you come to place with God that we often have in human relationships; when you tremble to hurt someone you love more than you can even put into words.
There is a fear that love removes, and there is a fear that love brings. The fear that love removes is the fear of punishment. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
The fear that love brings is fear of wounding the one we love so much. “The child of God has only one dread – to offend His Father; Only one desire – to please and delight in Him.”
Where do you get this fear of the Lord? How do I come to the place where I so fear the Lord that His frown in my greatest dread and His smile is my greatest delight? In one of the Psalms David says to God:
“But with you there is forgiveness, that You may be feared.” (Psalms 130:4)
You might expect David to say, ‘With you there is forgiveness and that takes fear away.’ But that is not what he says. With you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared! ‘Lord, your forgiveness came at such a cost that I would tremble to sin against this kind of love.
The fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom is birthed at the cross when, as a forgiven sinner who knows the grace and mercy that are yours in Christ, you say, ‘how could I ever resist a love like this?’
In the coming weeks we will discover what wisdom for life looks like in relation to friends, family, words, work and wealth. We will come to the book of Proverbs knowing that Christ is our wisdom; that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him.
Jesus Christ is the friend who sticks closer than a brother. Therefore, He will give you the wisdom you need to be a good friend to others.
Jesus Christ is bringing many sons to glory. Therefore, He will give you the wisdom you need for raising your children.
Jesus Christ speaks words of life. Therefore, He will give you the wisdom you need to speak words that will be life giving to others.
Jesus Christ fulfilled all the work that the Father gave Him to do. Therefore, He will give you the wisdom you need to fulfil all the work God has given you to do.
Jesus Christ gave Himself freely for us. Therefore, He will lead you in the wisdom you need to decide what you should give.
I want to challenge you today to begin this day by crowning Jesus Christ as the Lord of the whole of your life. Be done with giving Christ a slice of the pie of your life. As the best-known verse in Proverbs puts it,
“In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths,” (Proverbs 3:6)
Make a fresh commitment. To walk in the way of wisdom, to follow hard after our Lord Jesus Christ. So, to love Him that His frown will be your greatest dread, and His smile your greatest delight.
Begin at the cross: Take in afresh that the Son of God loves you and gave Himself for you; that with Him there is forgiveness. And let His mercy birth in you the fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom; the beginning of discipleship; the beginning of life.
Let us pray:
Father God you are wisdom and all wisdom is in You. Does not wisdom call, does not understanding raise her voice? It is the voice of the Son of God! Thank you for the Spirit of wisdom, the Holy Spirit and through the Spirit we know you better. Let us be Your wisdom in flesh as we do life in You here and now on earth. All in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.