The Lost Art of Listening

The Lost Art of Listening

My son, hear the instruction of your father,
and do not forsake the law of your mother.
Proverbs 1:8

We live in a world that was birthed in the bed of rebellion.  From Eve’s rebellion in the Garden to the murder of Abel by his brother Cain, we see the sin of rebellion, the open, hostile, rejection of authority, as one of the bedrocks of human existence.

But it’s beginning is far older than the book of Genesis.  For it was rebellion that caused the Lord to banish Satan and his followers from heaven and cast them down to the earth (Isaiah 14:13-15).  That’s why Satan is known as the “god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4) and the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2).  In fact, Satan even boasted of this when he tried to tempt Jesus by offering to give Him “all the kingdoms of the world” if He would just “worship before me” (Luke 4:5-6).

And what is at the root of all rebellion?  Pride.

It was pride that brought low mighty King Nebuchadnezzar and drove him out into the fields, living on all fours and eating grass, humbled like an animal (Dan. 4:33).  It was pride that led Pharaoh to vainly fight against the Lord and not only see the destruction of all Egypt, but of his own house and family as well. It was pride that almost kept Naaman from being healed of leprosy (2 Kings 5;11) and pride that saw Haman hanged on the gallows he prepared for Mordecai (Esther 7:10).  And it was the sin of pride that led Peter to foolishly exalt his commitment to Jesus as greater than the other disciples when he said, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be” (Mark 14:29).

But the Lord says He hates “pride and arrogance and the evil way” (Prov. 8:13) and that the prideful are so enamored with themselves they do not “seek God” nor is God “in any of their thoughts” (Psalm 10:4).  They are clueless, self-deceived, and so inward-focused they can see nothing but themselves.  They have themselves become the center of their self-created universe, the most valued and important thing in their lives, and their personal happiness and pleasure is the all-consuming passion of their short, sad lives.  But the Lord promises to humble the man who exalts himself (Matt. 23:12) and to bring to nothing the one who arrogantly smirks at both God and others (Isaiah 2:11).

The future of the proud and rebellious is indeed bleak.


Rebellion and Our DNA

But we are a people that see pride and rebellion as one of the core values of our society.  We spend countless hours watching movies and sitcoms that are saturated with the theme of pride.  Our popular music exalts self to the point that we have elevated self-indulgence and narcissism to an art form.  Even in our churches we find the worship leader, our own version of a personal Christian rock star, gets more face time and notoriety than the Lord Jesus.

But it gets worse.

We, as a people, rebel against anything and everything.  Why?  Because rebellion is cool and popular and pride, the source of our rebellion, is deemed a virtue in our culture.  Just think, we rebel against our government and refuse to be “subject to the governing authorities” as commanded in Scripture (Rom. 13:1-4).  In fact, our nation was founded on rebellion and we wear that rebellion as a badge of honor and celebrate it each July 4th as a national holiday.  We rebel against our employers, miserly giving as little as possible yet demanding they pay us all the more, always grumbling and never content with our wages.  And we do this in direct contradiction to the Word of God (Col. 3:22-25).  We even rebel against the authorities placed over us for our own good: our teachers, law enforcement personnel, older siblings, and even pastors and ministers.

And, most importantly, we rebel against our parents, or any person who loves us yet dares to place upon us expectations or standards we disagree with or that stifles our drive for independence.  And this rebellion begins almost as soon as we learn to walk.

It seems like everywhere in our culture parents are portrayed as “out of touch old fogies” or “old fashioned geezers” or “ignorant killjoys” that won’t let their children do anything they want to do.  And the children are often seen as the ones who have it all together, the ones who alone can think rationally and have their emotions in check, and the ones who can see the big picture and not get sidetracked on issues that don’t really matter— like respect, obedience, diligence, commitment, honesty and hard work.

After all, the last thing our children want to do today is ask their parents for advice or follow their instructions.  But that’s the exact admonition the Lord gives us in the Proverbs.


Learning How to Listen and Obey

Consider the words from a loving father to his naive, impressionable son:

Proverbs 1:8 – My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother.

In this Proverb we find the father, as head of his home and family, imploring his young son to listen and hear the law and wisdom of his parents in order to protect him from the evil and hurts in this world that want to ruin the young man’s life.  And how do we know this? Because all fathers want to keep their children from stepping on the same land mines they did.  All fathers want to protect their children from suffering the same hurts or making the same mistakes they did when they were young and simple-minded and thought they knew everything.  All fathers want their sons to learn from their own mistakes and not have to repeat them over and over again.

Remember?

So here we have the father speaking to his son, to “My son”— and pleading with him to “hear the instruction of your father” and not to “forsake the law of your mother” (Prov. 1:8).  This plea is not generic, but a deeply personal and passionate plea coming from the lips of a loving father to his naive, gullible young son.  So much so the phrase “My son” is used almost twenty times in the Proverbs alone. 1

And what’s at the core of the plea?  To “hear” or “listen” to someone wiser than yourself.

The word translated “hear” is shama and means more than just letting sounds bounce off your ear drums to cause a recognizable vibration.  It means to “listen” or “hearken” and to “obey” what has been heard. It’s a two-fold definition.  It means to both listen and obey.  Not one or the other.  But both.

But to “listen and obey” what?  The “instruction (or, discipline, chastening, and correction, with the imagery of a father disciplining his son that he loves) of your father.”  The command is to “listen and obey” what the father has to say.  The word for instruction is the same word we find in Proverbs 1:2, 3, 7.  It’s the same instruction that “fools despise” in Proverbs 1:7.  It’s the same instruction God promised the book of Proverbs to reveal (Prov. 1:2).  And it’s the same instruction given us by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

But note this, listening without obedience is still disobedience.  For the son to listen to the instruction of the father and not obey that instruction is the same as not listening at all. It’s nothing more than pride and rebellion and a forsaking of the “law of your mother” (Prov. 1:8).


To Forsake is to Abandon

The word “forsake” means to “leave alone, ignore, or abandon.”  And the word for “law” is torah and is a general term for “instruction and direction” either from God or man.  So the command is to listen and obey the instruction and discipline of your father and not to ignore or forsake the directions of your mother.  Both parents are in play here.  Both are important.  Both are involved in shaping the character of the young man.

And the son’s only job in all of this is to not play the fool but “listen and obey” the words of the two people who’ve loved him more than anyone else on the face of the earth.  He’s to embrace and not forsake the directions given him by his parents, the very ones who have sacrificed their lives to give him life and a future.  And part of their instruction is to impart the wisdom they have accumulated over the years making many of the same mistakes they are hoping to keep their son from repeating.

It’s classic Parenting 101.


The Lost Art of Listening

But one of the great tragedies facing the young son is that there is so much noise surrounding him that it makes it difficult, if not impossible, for him to hear the needed words of wisdom.  And it’s the same for us today.  Everywhere we go we’re surrounded by noise.  The radio is constantly playing in the car even when we’re not conscious of it. It’s a natural force of habit when we drive.  We have the sound of the television playing in the background even when we’re not watching it or know what’s on.  It’s just there.  Always.  Just a constant hum of music and dialogue.  And when we walk, run, sit, or wait in line, we instinctively cram in our earbuds to drown out the sounds of reality for the noise of our own choosing— as if the latest song is more important than people and the activities of life all around us.

Listening and hearing is rapidly becoming a lost art and the consequences for the Church and the Believer are horrific.  Consider the importance of being able to hear and listen and ultimately obey the Word of God:

Proverbs 2:1-2, 5 – My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom (to listen and hear), and apply your heart to understanding (to obey)… then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.

Romans 10:17 – So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

John 10:27-28 – “My sheep hear My voice (to listen), and I know them, and they follow Me (to obey).  And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”

What does this say about those who don’t hear His voice?  What about those whose lives are so filled with the noise and chaos of this life the very voice of Jesus is drowned out?  What about them?

And then over and over again we find this admonition from the Lord Jesus, in both the Gospels and the Revelation:

“He who has an ear to hear, let him hear!” 2

Remember finally, the Lord is not One who is loud, brash, boisterous or pushy and demands to be heard.  He’s actually quite the opposite.  After the Mount Carmel experience, He revealed Himself to Elijah at the mouth of cave, not in the “great and strong wind” that “tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces” (1 Kings 19:11).  Nor was He found in the mighty “earthquake” or even in the consuming “fire” that passed in front of Elijah— but in a “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12) that refused to compete with any of these things.  A voice so small and so still that you could easily miss it if you weren’t listening closely.  A voice that still speaks today if we would only take the time to shut out the noise of the temporal and listen intently to the voice of the eternal.

And when we hear Him, when we hear Him unmistakably break through the noise and clatter of our lives and speak to us today, our only response is to obey.  To listen and obey.  Just like the wise and loving father implored his young son to do.

Proverbs 1:8 – My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother.

After all, nothing else really matters, does it?

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Getting Serious

1.   Has God ever spoken to you?  And, if so, what was that like?  How did that happen?  What did God tell you when He spoke into your life?  And what have you done in response to that event?

2.   Has God ever convicted you of something in your life that you’ve refused to change or correct or surrender to Him?  If so, what was that?  How did He communicate His will to you and why have you refused to obey Him?

3.   Are there areas in your life that reek of rebellion?  Are there areas that you have defiantly refused to give over to Him?  If so, why?  What are you waiting for?  And if not, is it because you view your disobedience in much softer, generic, PC terms than rebellion?  But does your terminology slight-of-hand make your rebellion less of a sin?

4.   Do you obey your parents in all things?  How about your husband?  Your employer?  The government?  How do you view the authority of the church, your pastor, elders and ministers?  Is the Lord trying to speak to you in any of these areas?

5.   On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate God’s wisdom in your life right now and in your decision making process?  What was it yesterday?  Are you growing in the wisdom of God?  And, if not, why?


Next Step Challenge

Take your Bible and look up the following phrase “He who has an ear, let Him hear” in the Gospel accounts.  Read them in context to determine what Jesus was speaking about when He made that all-important, yet somewhat cryptic statement.

What does “He who has an ear, let him hear” really mean?  Was Jesus speaking to everyone?  And, if not, who was He speaking to?  And what was He saying to them?  What was He trying to emphasize?  Can you see a pattern in any of this?  And, if so, what is that pattern?

And what does it mean for you today?  Do you have “ears to hear”?  Are you listening?  And if so, what is He saying and what are you prepared to do about it?

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Notes:

1. Proverbs 1:8, 10, 15; 2:1; 3:1, 11, 4:10, 20, 5:1, 5:20; 6:1, 9, 20; 7:1; 19:27; 23:15, 19, 26; 24:13, 21; 27:11; 31:2.

2. Matthew 11:15; 13:9, 43; Mark 4:9, 23; 7:16; Luke 7:8, 14:35; Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22.

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The Life of a Fool

The Life of a Fool

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,
But fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 1:7

In the Proverbs we are presented with the contrast between two types of individuals: the wise man and the fool.  We’ve already seen how the “wise man will hear and increase learning” and how a “man of understanding will attain wise counsel” (Prov. 1:5).  And now we’re introduced to the man who lives at the other end of the spectrum— the fool.

But what is a fool?  And what is it about a fool that compels him to “despise wisdom and instruction?” (Prov. 1:7).


The Fool Defined

When we use the term fool today we think of someone who acts unwisely or imprudently, maybe a silly person who tries to dupe, trick or prank us.  We often equate the term with being stupid, simple or naive.  But the word, as used in the Proverbs, has a much sinister meaning.

In Proverbs 1:7 the Hebrew word for fool is eviyl and means “foolish in the sense of one who hates wisdom and walks in folly by despising wisdom and morality.”  It describes one who “mocks when found guilty, one who is continually quarrelsome and one who is licentious in his behavior.”

After all, the Proverbs say that “fools hate knowledge” (Prov. 1:22) and “fools die for lack of wisdom” (Prov. 10:21).  The heart of a fool, the very center of their being “proclaims foolishness” (Prov. 12:23) and it’s against their very nature, in fact, “it is an abomination to fools to depart from evil” and do what is right (Prov. 13:19).  Fools “mock at sin” (Prov. 14:9), and their mouth not only “feeds on foolishness” but “pours forth foolishness” like a flood (Prov. 15:2, 14).

Therefore, one who lives and thinks this way would naturally despise any “wisdom and instruction” that points out the errors in their actions or lifestyle.  Why?  Because “the foolishness of a man twists (or, perverts) his way, and his heart frets (or, is enraged) against the Lord” (Prov. 19:3) and the “way of a fool is right in his own eyes” (Prov. 12:15).  Plus, you can “grind a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his foolishness will not depart from him” (Prov. 27:22).  Their foolishness is embedded in their nature, it’s part of their DNA, it’s in the marrow of their bones.

But there’s more to a fool than just a rejection of the truth found in the Scriptures.  The verse also states that fools “despise” both the “wisdom and instruction” of God.  And despise is a strong word.  It means to “hold in contempt, to deem insignificant, to show scorn or disrespect for someone or something.”  So putting this all together, Proverbs 1:7 reads like this:

The fear (or, awe, profound reverence, terror and dread) of the LORD is the beginning (or, starting point, inception, genesis) of knowledge (or, discernment and insight into the things of God), but (the contrast) fools (or, those who mock when they are found guilty in their sin, those who are licentious or who are promiscuous and unprincipled in sexual matters and live immoral lives) despise (or, scorn, disrespect, ridicule and view as insignificant and worthless) wisdom (or, the ability to discern and judge what is right, true, and lasting) and instruction (or, discipline, chastening, and correction, with the imagery of a father disciplining his son that he loves).

In fact, this truth is so important that Proverbs 23:9 restates it as such: “Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, (why) for he will despise the wisdom of your words.”


The Fool More Clearly Defined

But the Scriptures, especially the Proverbs, have much more to say about the fool.  In fact, the Lord gives us almost an entire chapter to show us, in graphic detail, the life and future of a fool.  Look what He says in Proverbs 26:1-12 and note the contrast between the wise and the fool:

As snow in summer and rain in harvest, so honor is not fitting for a fool.
Like a flitting sparrow, like a flying swallow, so a curse without cause shall not alight.
A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the fool’s back.
Do not answer a fool according to his folly, (why) lest you also be like him.
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.
He who sends a message by the hand of a fool cuts off his own feet and drinks violence.
Like the legs of the lame that hang limp is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
Like one who binds a stone in a sling is he who gives honor to a fool.
Like a thorn that goes into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
The great God who formed everything gives the fool his hire and the transgressor his wages.
As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.
Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?  There is more hope for a fool than for him.

And there’s so much more.


The Fool’s Pay-Off

Which brings us to the pressing question, Why?  Why would anyone willingly choose the life of what the Scripture calls a fool?  Why would anyone foolishly run down the path that leads to only hardship, suffering, and destruction?  What’s the upside, the advantage, the benefit, the payoff for choosing to live and think as a fool?  And since most of our culture has embraced foolishness, what makes the life of a fool so obviously appealing?

And this is where the problem lies.  It’s a problem of perspective and belief.

You see, our culture calls a “self-made man” a hero.  We applaud the antics of someone who calls his own shots, who’s a leader among leaders, who refuses to take “no” as an answer and cannot be deterred in his passionate quest for what he truly wants.  We want to emulate the person who bows down to no one, who can “give better than he gets” and who is committed and single-focused on his own agenda and way of seeing things.

These are the attributes that create the celebrated icons of our society.  These are the character traits that lead to success in this world.  And if you desire to live like your heroes, then these are the types of people you must become.

Yet these are also the traits and convictions that make someone a fool in the eyes of Scripture.  Just think about it.  Our fallen, prideful culture says that the most important thing in this world is “me”.  It’s my wants, my rights, my desires, my opinions, my future, my calling, my future, my happiness, my importance… or simply “me.”  And so the mantra goes: “If I can’t love myself then I can’t love others. I have to love me first.” Or, as Shakespeare put it, “To thine own self be true.”  But to think like that and especially to live like that makes you a fool in the eyes of the Lord.


The Heart of the Cross is Sacrifice

Why?  Because the heart of the Christian life, the essence of the Christian message, is about love displayed in sacrifice and service to others.  After all, didn’t Jesus say “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13)?

Then, if all this is true, why is the world almost irresistibly drawn to the lifestyle deemed as foolish by the Lord?  Why can they not see the error of their ways, the inevitable damning consequences of their selfish choices?  Why is the world so blind to the truth and why do they not only reject, but literally detest, the “wisdom and instruction” of the Lord?

The answer is found in the cross of Christ.

The greatest act of self-sacrifice known to humanity was displayed by Christ on the cross where He willingly died for the sins of others.  But this act of sacrifice and love, the agony of the ages, is considered to the lost, the unregenerate, the world, to those the Scripture calls fools, as foolishness to them.  In other words, the world calls the cross of Christ “foolishness” and therefore becomes a “fool” by despising the “instruction and wisdom” of the Lord. This is a tragic case of verbal gymnastics at its very best.

1 Corinthians 1:18 – For the message (or, preaching, power, wisdom and instruction) of the cross is foolishness (or, moronic, absurdity, folly) to (who) those who are perishing (the lost, the unredeemed, the world), but to us (the elect, the redeemed, the children of God) who are being saved it is the power of God.

But there’s more. Read on.

1 Corinthians 1:19-31 – For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”  Where is the wise?  Where is the scribe?  Where is the disputer of this age?  Has not God made (what) foolish the wisdom of this world?  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the (what) foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.  For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.  For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.  But God has chosen (His action) the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen (His action) the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen (His action), and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, (why) that no flesh should glory in His presence.  But of Him you are (what) in Christ Jesus, who became for us (1) wisdom from God—and (2) righteousness and (3) sanctification and (4) redemption— that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”


It’s More than Mere Semantics

But this is much more than mere semantics.  These words have eternal consequences.  If you live in the world and believe this is your Best Life Now!, you will see the wisdom of God and the sacrifice of Christ as foolish or moronic.  But if you live in the Kingdom of God, you will understand that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom but fools”, those who reject the gospel and all it entails, by their very nature, “despise knowledge and instruction” of the Lord (Prov. 1:7)

So which are you?  A fool in the eyes of the world for believing in the cross of Christ or a fool in the eyes of Scripture who rejects the very truths of God?  The choice is yours.  And the consequences of your choice are eternal.

So choose wisely.

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Getting Serious

1. Do you remember the time when you played the fool for the world and all it promised you?  What was that like?  Did the world deliver on its promises?  Or were you left disappointed and empty-handed?

2. What was it like for you when you began to understand the cross of Christ for what it truly is?  How did you pass from viewing it as mere foolishness to understanding and embracing it as the power and wisdom of God? (1 Cor. 1:18).  Can you describe that experience?  Have you had that experience?

3. Can you list a few examples from your own life when you despised the “knowledge and instruction” of the Lord? (Prov. 1:7).  Are their things in His Word that you disagree with or refuse to accept and obey? And, if so, what are they?  Do you see these instances as areas where you are despising God’s knowledge and instruction?  And if so, does that make you a fool?

4. What changes are you committed to make to align your life with the eternal, infallible wisdom of God?  Have you identified areas that need addressing?  And are you fervent enough in your faith to address those areas in your life, no matter the costs?  And if not, does that also make you a fool?

5. On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate God’s wisdom in your life right now and in your decision making process?  What was it yesterday?  Are you growing in the wisdom of God? And, if not, why?


Next Step Challenge

Take your Bible and look up the following verses in the Proverbs that deal with the contrast between the wise and the fool.  Do a word study and define some of the terms used to make sure you have a complete understanding of what the Lord is saying in these passages.  Then ask yourself a few questions.

Proverbs 14:33 – Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding, but what is in the heart of fools is made known.

Proverbs 17:16 – Why is there in the hand of a fool the purchase price of wisdom, since he has no heart for it?

Proverbs 18:2 – A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart.

What do these verses mean to you?  Can you see yourself in any of these warnings and contrasts?  And if so, in what way?  What does it mean when it says, “he has no heart for it” (Prov. 17:16).  Do you have a heart for God’s wisdom?

And what does it mean to be a fool today?  Do you know anyone the Scripture would deem a fool?  Do you have any of those traits in your own life?  And if so, what are you prepared to do about it?

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Are You a Wise Guy?

Are You a Wise Guy?

A wise man will hear and increase learning,
and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,
to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles.
Proverbs 1:5-6

As we learned from our last study together, Solomon has some pointed words to say to the simple and to the impetuous young men. Remember?

To give prudence to the simple (and to give) to the young man knowledge and discretion (Prov. 1:4).

But he also has much to say to those who lived on the other end of the continuum: the wise, the learned, the men of understanding who seek wise, Godly counsel.  You see, Proverbs is a book given to us through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16) and is for all of us: the young, the old, the dedicated as well as the apathetic, the hot, the cold, and the lukewarm (Rev. 3:15-17), the theologically trained and the ones who only know one thing, “that though I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:25).  It’s for everyone.  And regardless of our sinful, broken past or our life of privilege and opulence, the wisdom of God revealed in the Proverbs calls each of us, no matter who we are, wherever we are, into a deeper relationship with Him.

And in the closing two verses of the preamble to this grand gift to us, Solomon lets the pendulum swing hard to the other side and turns his attention to the opposite of the simple and naive.  He now addresses the wise and astute, the ones who should know better, who do know better, and shows us how to understand the book we are now reading.

Let’s take a look at what Solomon had to say to those who live on the other side of the spiritual track.


The Wisdom of the Wise

In Proverbs 1:5-6 we read:

A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel, to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles.

As you can see, Solomon is addressing two categories of people in this passage: a wise man and a man of understanding.  But who are these people and what about their character draws us to them?

The term wise man is used to describe “one who is skilled or experienced.”  The Proverbs expand this definition by showing a wise man is one “who continues to learn and is teachable (Prov. 9:9, 13:1), is one who heeds and accepts a rebuke (Prov. 9:8, 15:31), and one who speaks properly (Prov. 14:3, 15:2, 16:23).”1  But there’s much more.  For Solomon continually contrasts the life of the wise man with the not-so-wise man to show us the inevitable results of the choices we make.  For example:

Proverbs 3:35 – The wise shall inherit glory, but shame shall be the legacy of fools.

Proverbs 10:8 – The wise in heart will receive commands, but a prating fool will fall.

Proverbs 10:14Wise people store up knowledge, but the mouth of the foolish is near destruction.

Remember, a wise man is only wise because he has received the wisdom from God that makes him wise.  His wisdom does not come from within himself, or from some university degree, or his apparent success in this world.  Scripture tells us that all the wisdom this world can offer is “foolishness (or, moronic, folly, absurdity) before God” and will soon fade away (1 Cor. 3:19).  It means nothing.  Zilch.

Proverbs 1:5 begins by telling us the “wise man will hear (or, listen, be attentive, understand, obey) and, as a result of hearing, increase (or, to do again, to add, to continue) learning (or, receive teaching, insight, instruction).”  The wise man thirsts for more, wants more, craves more.  He will not be satisfied with trifle tidbits of information designed to placate his curiosity.  He’s inquisitive, with an insatiable appetite for more than what he’s already received.  “If there’s more to Christ than I know right now, I want it!  And I won’t be satisfied with anything less.”

The wise man, the one filled with the wisdom of God, with Christ Himself (1 Cor. 1:30), will hear, listen, understand, and then obey what he receives from the Lord.  He will be loyal and trustworthy, faithful with the small, what he now has, knowing Christ will soon reward him with greater truths (Luke 16:10).  And the more he sees of Jesus, the more he understands about Jesus, the more he lives in the unbroken presence of Jesus, the more he wants Jesus.  Nothing else matters.  Nothing else can satisfy.

This wise man will hear from the Lord and then increase or continue in what he has learned.  He wants to know more, to experience more, to understand more.  He will study the Scriptures to “present himself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).  He will diligently memorize Scripture in order to “hide God’s word in his heart, that he might not sin against God” (Psalm 119:11) and he will work hard to grow in the wisdom God has provided him (Prov. 9:9).


A Man of Understanding

A “man of understanding” (biyn), on the other hand, is a man of “comprehension and discernment, one who exhibits righteous actions with a strong moral and religious connotation.”  He’s a man who strives after the things of God and who can discern the difference between, not only the “good and the bad”— but also the “good and the best.”

And it says “a man of understanding will attain wise counsel” (Prov. 1:5).  The word attain means to “get, buy, possess” at all costs and is reminiscent of the Kingdom parables spoken by our Lord.  Remember?  A man finds a treasure hidden in a field and joyfully goes and sells all he has to purchase the field (Matt. 13:44).  Why?  To attain the treasure, no matter the costs.  Again, a merchant seeking beautiful pearls finds what he’s looking for and sells all he has to buy the pearl, the object of his search and obviously the passion of his life (Matt. 13:45-46).  Why?  Because he would not let anything keep him for attaining the pearl, even if it costs him all he has.  And so it is with the “man of understanding” when it comes to getting wise counsel.

The phrase “wise counsel” means wise “guidance, direction, or good advice” and the importance of that virtue is taught many places throughout the Proverbs.  For example:

Proverbs 11:14 – Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.

Proverbs 12:15 – The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.

Proverbs 13:10 – By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom.

Proverbs 20:18 – Plans are established by counsel; by wise counsel wage war.

Proverbs 24:6 – For by wise counsel you will wage your own war, and in a multitude of counselors there is safety.

As you can see, a “man of understanding” seeks the wise counsel in order to learn from others who have also received the wisdom of God.  Why?  Because they lead to collective wisdom, for no one man can know everything there is to know about all things.  After all, “he who walks with wise men will be wise” (Prov. 13:20) and “a wise man is strong, yes, a man of knowledge increases strength” (Prov. 24:5).  Need we say more?


Riddles and Dark Sayings

But what about the last part of this passage?  What about the “riddles and dark sayings”?  It seems the “wise man” and the “man of understanding” will “hear and increase learning” and “attain wise counsel” for only one reason: “to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles” (Prov. 1:6).

“But what’s an enigma and the words of the wise and their riddles”? you ask.  Great question.  And one we will look into next time.

Until then, enjoy some wise sayings from our own culture.

“Two minds are better than one.”
“Many hands make light work.”
Or, how about this one: “When spider webs unite they can tie up a lion.”

Adveho quis may.
Come what may.

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Getting Serious

1.   How would you describe your quiet time with the Lord?
2.  Do you have a special place where you meet daily with the Lord?  Does He meet you there?  And, if so, what is your time with Him like?
3.  Do you have a group of fellow believers who speak wisdom into your life?  If so, how did you meet them?  How has your intimacy and trust with them grown over time?
4.  If you don’t have those in your life who can offer you wise counsel, why?  And, are you a person who is in a position to offer wise counsel to others?  If so, how did that relationship come about?  If not, why?
5.  On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate God’s wisdom in your life right now and in your decision making process?  What was it yesterday?  Are you growing in the wisdom of God?  And, if not, why?


Next Step Challenge

Take a sheet of paper and write down 5 people you know to be wise and ones you would trust to receive counsel from.  What about their lives leads you to trust them?  What character traits do they possess that you admire the most?  What single thing in their life speaks loudest about their relationship with Christ?

Do you have the same character traits in your life that you admire in theirs?  If not, what are you prepared to do about that?  Are you willing to humble yourself before the Lord and ask Him to change you into the person He wants you to be, no matter the costs?  Have you asked Him for His wisdom, for His Son, and have you received Him on His terms?

Finally, make a list of 5 people you would never go to for wise advice.  List the reasons why.  Then compare the two lists and see which one most describes your own character traits.

Is the news good or bad?  And what are you prepared to do about it?

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1. Baker, W., & Carpenter, E. E. (2003). The complete word study dictionary: Old Testament (p. 336). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.

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How to Become a “Wise Guy”

How to Become a “Wise Guy”

To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding.
Proverbs 1:2

In Proverbs 1:2 we’ve discovered one of the great goals of the book of Proverbs is to allow us to know, in an intimate and experiential sense, both wisdom and instruction.  We’ve already looked at what the word know means in this passage in yesterday’s post.  But what about wisdom?  And instruction?

Wisdom is defined as “the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment, or the quality of being wise.  It’s the ability to discern or judge what is right, true, and lasting.”  Wisdom is not the mere accumulation of facts about someone or something, it’s the ability to properly apply those facts in a given situation to determine the right and God-honoring outcome.  Wisdom is manifested when a person can see the circumstances they face and match them with truth they know, God’s Word, and then plot a course of action based on the truth and not on the urgency of the situation.

Instruction, surprisingly, is not primarily defined as teaching or exhortation, as we would expect.  Instruction (muwcar) is defined as discipline, chastening, and correction, with the imagery of a father disciplining his son.  So the book of Proverbs is designed to help us know (yada) by doing, to learn by experience, in an intimate, personal way, the ability to discern what is right, true, and lasting versus choosing the cheap trinkets and toys our culture offers.  And we are to learn the wisdom of God by discipline, correction and chastening.  After all, the Lord disciplines the ones He loves (Heb. 12:6).


How to Get Wisdom

And that’s a question we all ask, isn’t it?  How do we get wisdom?  There are several verses that speak to this desire.  The most well-known is found in James:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (James 1:5-8).

As we can see, wisdom is given to anyone who asks, just as long as they ask in faith.  For if they doubt when they ask, they shouldn’t expect to receive anything from the Lord.  Why?  Because they are “double-minded” and “unstable” in all their ways.

So let me get this straight.  All we have to do is ask for wisdom, for God’s wisdom— like something He possesses within Himself, as a part of Himself— and He will lavishly give His wisdom to us, to anyone for that matter, just as long as we ask in faith, without doubting.  And why would God do that?  Is it because He has a great desire for us to be wise?  Or, maybe He wants His church and His children to be known as the wisest in all the land and show the world what it looks like to belong to Him?  Or again, maybe He doesn’t relish the idea of His children struggling to make sense of the fallen world He placed us in?

But that can’t be true.  Why?  Because the Lord tells us a few verses earlier to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials” that we obviously didn’t have the wisdom to see or avoid in the first place (James 1:2).  Plus, the word fall implies stepping into a hole we either didn’t know to look out for or we weren’t wise enough to step over.

Talk about not having wisdom.  Also, if it’s really just that easy, then what’s the point of the book of Proverbs?  If all we have to do is pray and the wisdom update is automatically downloaded, why would we need the instruction manual?  Can we really become Yoda by just asking?


Wisdom is Found in Just One Man

But if we keep looking for the true meaning of wisdom in His Word, we will soon find ourselves walking through the pages of 1 Corinthians and find:

But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God— and righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30).

Now, what does this mean?  Exactly what it says.  Jesus, by His own doing, has literally become for us the “wisdom from God.”  So when we see Jesus we see, in perfect clarity, all the “wisdom from God.”  If we want to know (yada) the “wisdom from God” all we need to do is know (yada) the Son of God.  Since Jesus has “become for us wisdom for God” we need only to look and learn from Him to have that wondrous wisdom.  Don’t you see?  If we want more wisdom, we must seek and ask for more of Jesus.

The answer for our lack of wisdom is more Jesus.  It’s all about Jesus.

So when James speaks of asking God for wisdom and knowing God gives “liberally and without reproach” to all who ask, He just may be speaking of the wisdom found in Jesus.  Or, he may just be speaking about Jesus Himself.

Consider this:

If any of you lacks wisdom (what Jesus literally became for us), let him ask God (for more of Jesus, for the revelation of Jesus, to receive Jesus) who gives (Jesus) to all (“Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden” – Matt. 11:28) liberally and without reproach (there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus – Rom. 8:1), and it will be given to him (to make us complete in Christ – Col. 2:10).

After all, Jesus has become for us “wisdom from God — and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30).  Jesus is all in all.


To Know Wisdom is to Know Jesus

When Proverbs 1 states the main purpose of the book is for us to know (yada) wisdom, we’re also talking about knowing Jesus and the life in Christ and how to live in Him in a practical, hands-on, everyday sense.  Proverbs gives us instruction on Godly living, and examples on how to put into practice the wisdom found in Christ.  After all, He’s our perfect example, tested and tempted in every way we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).

Just think, when we want to know how to respond to someone who verbally attacks our loved ones, what do we do?  We look to Jesus, the “author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2), and see how He responded in the same situation.  We see His perfect example and, like true disciples, follow Him.  He becomes for us the “wisdom from God” (1 Cor. 1:30).  When our rights are violated and we scream for justice or vengeance, what should we do?  We look to Jesus to see how He responded in the same situation.  And we do what He did.  We learn from Him.  We learn His wisdom by learning more about Him, walking with Him, and choosing to live like Him.

This is what it means to know (yada) wisdom and instruction.  It means to know (yada) Jesus (wisdom) and to be disciplined (instruction), or disciples of His.  And the answer to our lack of wisdom is, as always, our lack of Jesus.

And the reason for the Proverbs?  Simply this, to give us hands on examples of how Jesus would handle a situation that wasn’t recorded in the Bible.  For example, how would Jesus handle sexual temptation?  Or was He even tempted in that way?

But you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see how the Proverbs complete the life of Christ not recorded for us in the Gospels.

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Getting Serious

1. What does it mean for you, in a practical sense, to see Jesus as the wisdom from God (Col. 1:30)?
2. Do you have the wisdom of God? How would you know?
3. Since instruction in our passage primarily means discipline, how disciplined are you in your walk with Christ? Do you have daily time with Him? When? Where? And how long?
4. Can you remember an example of God giving you His wisdom at just the right time? What was that experience like? How often does it happen?
5. On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate God’s wisdom in your life and in your decision making process? What was it three months ago? One year ago? Are you growing in His wisdom or are you stagnated?


Next Step Challenge

Take a Bible Concordance or an online source like www.blueletterbible.com and do a search of the word wisdom in both the Old and the New Testament. Write down at least 20 passages that speak to you personally. Do you see any difference between the description of wisdom in the Old versus the New Testament? And, if so, what are those differences?

Why did you choose the 20 passages that you did? What has the Lord shown you through your word search and those 20 passages?

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Day Nineteen:  From Proverbs 19

Day Nineteen: From Proverbs 19

The following are a few passages that specifically spoke to me this morning.  Two great truths and a prayer.

First, the prayer:

Lord, help me listen to only Your voice and not blindly forge ahead in my own so-called wisdom.

Proverbs 19:21 – There are many plans (or, thoughts, intentions) in a man’s heart,
Nevertheless the LORD’s counsel (or, advice, plan, purpose)— that will stand (or, rise up, to be established, to remain).

Then, a wonderful promise from Scripture (if we meet the conditions):

Proverbs 19:23 – The fear (or, awe, reverence, profound respect) of the LORD leads to life, and (condition) he who has it (life and the fear of the Lord) will abide (or, rest, remain, stay, to make one’s home) in satisfaction (or, to be satisfied, full, abounding); He (promise) will not be visited with evil.

Finally, something God is slowly creating in my life.

Proverbs 19:11 – The discretion (or, intelligence, good sense, insight, understanding) of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook (or, pass over, to cover) a transgression.

I wonder what I will learn about Him tomorrow?

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Mistreating the Holy Spirit

Mistreating the Holy Spirit

Prayer of Forgiveness to the Holy Spirit

My Lord, I have mistreated You all my Christian life.  I have treated You like a servant.  When I wanted You, when I was about to engage in some work, I beckoned You to come and help me perform my task.  I have sought to use You only as a willing servant.

I shall do so no more.

I give You this body of mine, from my head to my feet, I give it all to You.  I give You my hands, my limbs, my eyes and lips, my brain; all that I am within and without, I hand over to You for You to live in it the life that You please.  You may send this body to Africa or lay it on a bed with cancer.  You may blind the eyes or send me with Your message to Tibet.  You may take this body to the Eskimos or send it to the hospital with pneumonia.  It is Your body from this moment on.  Help Yourself to it.

Thank You, my Lord.  I believe You have accepted it, for in Romans 12:1 You said, “acceptable unto God.”  Thank You again, my Lord, for taking me.  We now belong to each other.

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From Dr. Walter Wilson (1881-1969) regarding his relationship, or lack of relationship, with the Holy Spirit.  And I couldn’t agree more.  How about you?

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