Proverbs is a book that contains many themes and instruction on how to live life. However, the most pronounced theme seems to be the contrast that exists between the wise man and the foolish person in a similar way our Lord taught in Matthew 7:21-29. In our text for April, Proverbs 1 finds the fool three times:
- Prov. 1:7, “The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of knowledge, [But] fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
- Prov. 1:22, “How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity? For scorners delight in their scorning, And fools hate knowledge.”
- Prov. 1:32, “For the turning away of the simple will slay them, And the complacency of fools will destroy them”
Where fools despise wisdom and instruction, the fear of the Lord is beginning place for such. The miser can delight in scorning. Have you ever known anyone who appears happy only when he has something to complain about? Complacency, scorn, and an undisciplined life are key components to the foolish man.
On the other hand, the primary attributes of a wise man are to “perceive” and “receive” instruction. Note how the book begins in 1:2-5:
2 To know wisdom and instruction, To perceive the words of understanding,
3 To receive the instruction of wisdom, Justice, judgment, and equity;
4 To give prudence to the simple, To the young man knowledge and discretion—
5 A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel
Think on this section carefully.
- “To know” – is to first have the attitude of heart to listen. It is not so much capability, as it is a desirability to learn.
- “To perceive” – is to have a ready mind to understand. The crucial step of discernibility is in play and is an intricate part of wisdom. Solomon, the author of this book, asked God, “Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil” (1 Kin. 3:9).
- “To receive” – is to have the humility and interest to take it in. “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (Jas. 1:21). Sadly, some don’t want to receive because they do not desire any application or change in the course to their lives and pursuits. “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14).
EXERCISE: Discover and compare the examples of those who were “receivers” versus those who refused to receive God’s instruction? For help see examples of both 1 Thessalonians 2:13-15. Who else might be viewed in God’s word as a receiver versus a refuser? Examples abound.
- “To give” – is to have the willingness to share and use the knowledge gained in various circles. Our growth is stunted if we receive only and do not exercise it (see Heb. 5:12-14).
The blessed result: A wise man will hear and increase learning, Proverbs 1:5.
You might break Proverbs 1 into three parts:
- Traits that serve as the fountainhead for wisdom and instruction (Prov. 1:1-7).
- Applying wisdom and instruction as a youth to the invitation and appeal of evil (Prov. 1:8-19). Just say “no!” (1:10).
- Wisdom calls out (Prov. 1:20-33). Wise men heed and turn where fools are complacent and burn.
“But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, And will be secure, without fear of evil,” (Prov. 1:33).
—Steven J. Wallace