Wisdom In PROVERBS:
Better Than Rubies
“Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold. For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.” Proverbs 8:10-11 KJV
In Proverbs wisdom is both a person and a quality, the attaining of which is the supreme achievement of a human life. Wisdom is the best and most valuable thing of all. Its value is far beyond all the material wealth that any human may covet. Its advantage is eternal while earthly advantages are ephemeral. To devote oneself to the pursuit of anything else is to be content with second best at most, with earthly dross and dirt at worst.
We can understand that wisdom is personified when we realize that the Lord Jesus is the Person who was “with God and … was God” (Jn. 1:1). Proverbs 8:22,29-30 tell us, “The Lord possessed Me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old … when He appointed the foundations of the earth, then I was by Him, as one brought up with Him; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him.”
This is confirmed by passages in the New Testament where Paul shows us how, through the cross and the preaching of the gospel, God has shown the wisdom of the world to be but foolishness. “We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:23-24.)
John, recording his vision of the Revelation, wrote what he saw in heaven: “I beheld … in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb, as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent forth into all the earth” (Rev. 5:6). The number seven, the perfect number, indicates finality and completeness, and so we see this Lamb which has been killed is yet alive holding full power and wisdom. The horns speak of power and the eyes of intelligence, discernment and wisdom.
First Corinthians 1:30 also says that “Christ Jesus … is made unto us wisdom.” The pursuit of wisdom, then, is also the pursuit of the Lord Himself. Proverbs is a book about wisdom, and it is also Messianic in that it shows us the human and divine character of wisdom and its outworking in the perfect and sinless life of Jesus. In this context, we understand also how love, as seen in 1 Corinthians 13, is related to divine wisdom and finds its unity in the Lord.
Words Of Wisdom
The wording of Proverbs makes it very clear that attaining wisdom, though a gift of God, is only given to those who are willing both to ask for it and to work for it. “Get wisdom … Wisdom is the principle thing; therefore, get wisdom; and with all thy getting, get understanding” (Prov. 4:5,7).
Solomon asked God for a “wise and understanding heart” (1 Ki. 3:12). Why? “To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; to receive the instruction of wisdom, righteousness, and justice and equity; to give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion” (Prov. 1:2-4).
Peter exhorts us to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). If we remember that Jesus is the personification of wisdom then we can see how important this is. It also becomes clear that each believer ought to be diligent to heed the words of Paul to Timothy: “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
Whatever the world may tell us, there is no other way. God is all-knowing and all-wise. If He tells us we should read, study, learn, discuss, meditate upon and memorize His Word, then that is what we must do. It can only be for our own benefit, and for the benefit of all those around us as well as for His glory.
The Word And Words
We are creatures of the earth but we have a heavenly revelation. To acquire wisdom – which is the best thing we can possibly be doing – we must read. The Word is written in words. Therefore it is to the words that we must first direct our minds. “To perceive the words of understanding” is part of the opening of Proverbs (1:2). We must look at the actual words of Scripture here since there are two words in the Old Testament and two in the New for “word.”
The Hebrew equivalent of the Greek word “logos” is “davar.” It is a title of the Lord Jesus (Jn. 1:1) and it also refers to the sense or meaning of the passage, or the argument. Two other words, the Hebrew “emer” and the Greek “rhema” refer to the actual written or spoken word. So the words written in the Bible are the second, while the message of the Bible are the first pair. In the opening passage of Proverbs, “words of understanding” (1:2), the writer uses “emer,” referring to the actual words on the page which we read to get the sense or meaning of the passage.
There is something about words. Writers, poets and orators are word smiths, and sometimes so are politicians who twist or spin words to mislead. All of us use words. The normal young child does not have to be coaxed to learn to talk. It is often getting him to slow down that is the difficulty. A three-year-old is soon chattering away, “sixty to the dozen,” as my late mother would have said. Humans have a remarkable affinity for language. It is one of the things which makes us human. It is one of the things by which we were created “in the image of God.” God used words – “And God said” (Gen. 1:3) – and so do we. We are designed with language and for language.
We think with words. Without words, conceptual thought would be impossible. The Bible is the Word (davar/logos) but it is written in words(emer/rhema). Proverbs tells us that “every word of God is pure” (Prov. 30:5.) These are the words on the page which need to be read, studied, memorized and meditated upon in order for us to understand the Word. “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee” (Ps.119:11). The word that we memorize is the actual written word. By meditating upon what we have memorized, we learn the meaning and we progress towards wisdom. The “blessed man” of Psalm 1 “delights in the law of the Lord and in His law doth he meditate day and night” (Ps. 1:2).
From this we also see the importance of translation and the sort of study which has been suggested to get at the words of the original manuscripts, and behind the best efforts of translators. This serious Bible study has never been more urgent than in these last days.
This word, “meditate” has been hi-jacked by the satanically inspired obsession with eastern religions. The practices they advocate are dangerous. Since the human brain works on knowledge, any attempt to empty it is to go against nature and the God of nature. Rather we should fill our minds with Scripture and think about what we learn. All sorts of study are necessary but meditation can be done anywhere and at any time. All we have to do is learn one or more verses, according to our capacity, then think about them all day long.
By doing this we follow the instructions left us by Moses who said: “And these words (teachings, davar), which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Dt. 6:6-7). These are the words which must be “in thine heart.” Note that the pronouns here are singular. In other words, this is not a generalized statement but an instruction to the individual.
Just as it was given to every individual person on the eve of Israel’s entrance into the land, today it is God’s instruction, through Moses, to every individual Christian. It should not be ignored as is often, and sadly, the case. Before people had copies of the Word of God to read personally, they meditated on what they heard read to them by their parents and teachers. Today with Bibles easily available, it is much easier for us to read, study, memorize and meditate on God’s Word.
“Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold. For wisdom is better than rubies” (Prov. 8:10-11). This is how our spiritual journey starts. God’s instructions are in the Bible. With the words of the Bible, and with its instructions, we acquire knowledge and grow in wisdom. God has given us “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3). We have the Bible; we also have the Spirit of God in our hearts. And “the Spirit of truth … will guide you into all truth” (Jn.16:13). The Spirit of God, according to this passage, does not speak about Himself, but tells us rather about our Lord. He also shows us things to come and glorifies our Lord, revealing to us the things that are His (Jn. 16:14-15). In this way we are led – through instruction from teachers the Lord has given to the Church – to the acquisition of knowledge. This then enables us to order that knowledge and use it. Our developing intelligence and understanding thus enables us to use our knowledge in practical things, and to discover the ultimate wisdom which leads us to likeness to and glorification of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:30).
We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” says the psalmist (Ps. 139:14). God has designed us for knowledge and the increase of wisdom. However He has not made us machines. We are free to follow His instruction or reject it. This is all part of that awesome design which is our being made in the image of God. “Doers of the Word” is what James tells us we should be, while Paul warns us, “Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Writing to the Philippians he also tells us, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Jas. 1:22; Rom.12:2; Phil. 2:5).
It would seem from these verses that the very construction of our minds and souls is our own responsibility. With Wisdom and the likeness of the Lord Jesus as our aim and purpose, we then receive God’s instruction, meditate in His Word, with His words, and so develop our faculties of understanding and intelligence in the application of His teachings with practical wisdom. Also, at the same time, we find ourselves developing the true Wisdom which glorifies God and His Son our Savior, by becoming more like Him, and more effective in His service.
By Roger Penney
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org