II. A Father’s Appeal: Become Wise (Proverbs 1:8–9:18)

1:8 Nearly the first third of Proverbs is a series of lectures from father to son:

4:14-15 Parents must exhort their children to pursue wisdom and avoid evil. Young people need to know the proper route to take, but they also need to recognize the telltale warning signs of a path that leads to destruction. They must keep off the path of the wicked and pass it by. When you see the highway leading to hell, turn your car the other way.

4:16-19 Practicing evil is woven into the daily life of the wicked—sleeping, eating, and walking. They even suffer from insomnia if they fail to make someone stumble (4:16). Just as Jesus considered obeying God to be his “food” (see John 4:34), those who reject God feast on a diet of wickedness (4:17). The path they walk is the darkest gloom so that they don’t even know why they do what they do (4:19).

4:20-27 The repetitiveness of Solomon’s call for his son to pay attention and listen (4:20) is intentional. It’s a reminder that parents can’t offer their children wise instructions one time and suppose their job is done—mission accomplished. No, instructing our children is an ongoing responsibility. Moms and dads must urge their children to keep wise words within [their] heart and guard [their] heart above all else (4:21, 23).

Why is the heart so important? Because it is the source of life (4:23). Jesus even said good and evil are produced from what is “stored up in” it (see Luke 6:45), so nothing in your life deserves more constant care and attention than your heart. Whatever is stored up inside it will dictate what you speak (4:24), what you look at (4:25), and where your feet take you (4:26-27). Keep your heart under lock and key.

5:1-14 Solomon tells his son to pay attention if he wants to be a man of discretion (5:1-2). He speaks plainly about the deadly lure a young man faces in the seduction of a forbidden woman (5:3). Whether the temptation is fornication, adultery, or pornography, fathers must warn their sons that though the promise made by such things is sweet, following such a path leads to death (5:3-6). Keep your way far from her (5:8) is a reminder not to walk near the edge of the cliff. Sexual indiscretion will affect your wealth (e.g., alimony payments), your health (e.g., sexually transmitted diseases), and your reputation (5:10, 14). The man who doesn’t guard his heart but lets his untamed sexual desires lead the way is repeatedly shown by Solomon to be a fool who is walking to his own funeral (5:7-14; 6:20-35; 7:6-27). In the end, he inevitably admits that he hated discipline, and it led to his complete ruin (5:12, 14).

5:15-19 Many think the Bible is negative about sex, but it’s difficult to reach that conclusion after reading passages like this one as well as Song of Solomon. In fact, God invented sex! But he designed it to take place between one man and one woman in the context of the marriage covenant. God is the one who commands, Take pleasure in the wife of your youth (5:18). Under the covering of God’s covenant, in the environment of a lifelong commitment between a husband and wife, sex is a good gift of God intended to be enjoyed (5:19).

5:20-23 Because God grants the kindness of sexual intimacy to couples within the covenant of marriage, why would you lose yourself with a forbidden woman (5:20)? Make no mistake: nothing is truly done “in secret.” We live under the gaze of an omnipresent God (5:21). You may think no one sees what you do in the dark. You might be good at covering your tracks. But the God whose opinion really matters sees all. Blessing and judgment are in his hands. So if you prefer stupidity to discipline on the matter of purity (5:23), you’ll find yourself ensnared by your own sexual sin (5:22). Dads, be like Paul and warn your sons to “flee sexual immorality” (1 Cor 6:18).

6:1-5 Another recurring theme in Proverbs is financial responsibility. Solomon warns his son not to put up security for [his] neighbor (6:1). We would refer to this as being a cosigner for someone else’s debts. If the borrow defaults, guess who’s left holding the bag? Don’t trap yourself into assuming another person’s financial obligations. And if you’ve trapped yourself by agreeing to such an arrangement, free yourself from your neighbor’s power! (6:2-3). Don’t rest until you escape the mess (6:4-5).

6:6-11 Men and women of God’s kingdom have the responsibility to rule faithfully over the domain God has entrusted to them. Laziness has no place among God’s people. When Solomon wanted to show his son an example of diligent labor, he pointed to one of the smallest visible creatures in creation: the ant (6:6). Ants are self-starters. They don’t need someone breathing down their necks, nagging them to be productive (6:7). Understanding how God’s universe works is second nature to them: if you want to eat, you have to work (6:8). The slacker, by contrast, prefers getting his beauty rest: a little sleep here and a little slumber there (6:9-10). What he doesn’t realize is that poverty will jump a shiftless man like a mugger in a dark alley (6:11). See 10:4; 12:24; 18:9.

6:12-15 God’s Word says the person who speaks dishonestly, plots evil, and stirs up trouble is worthless (6:12-14). There’s no value in his character or in his actions. Such a person doesn’t even consider his own future. He never asks himself, “Where is this path taking me?” As a result, calamity will strike him suddenly (6:15). In Proverbs, the foolish person is always ultimately overtaken by the consequences of his own actions.

6:16-19 We know that God hates all sin. But Solomon says there are seven things that are especially detestable to him (6:16); interestingly, all of them have to do with how we relate to others (6:17-19). Pride, or arrogant eyes (6:17), is first on God’s list. It’s the sin that led Satan to rebel against God and set up a rival kingdom (see Isa 14:12-14). And if that’s not reason enough to avoid it, know that “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (Jas 4:6).

Pride is typically the headwaters of other sins. When we think too highly of ourselves, we are tempted to commit the other six things that are detestable to God, stirring up trouble among brothers (6:19). This is no minor matter because God responds to the unity of his people. That’s why the devil loves to split believers apart, knowing that the power of God among them will be hindered.

6:20-23 In chapter 5, Solomon pleaded with his son to avoid sexual immorality, and he returns to the subject here. Dads must not assume they can have “the talk” one time with their boys and then forget the whole thing. Your son needs ongoing warning and exhortation if he is to avoid giving in to the sexual corruption that everyone around him is indulging in. Tell him to wear your instruction like a necklace so that it will always be a present source of guidance (6:20-22).

6:24-35 When temptation strikes, you have to be prepared. What do you do, man, when an evil woman speaks flattering words and bats her eyelashes at you (6:24-25)? Don’t lust in your heart for her beauty (6:25). Why? Because the outcome for doing so is ugly: it’s like embracing fire (6:27). You simply can’t snuggle up to a flame and not be scorched! Make no mistake: the one who sleeps with another man’s wife will not go unpunished (6:29). This is the Galatians 6:7 principle at work again, a reminder that you reap what you sow. If you adopt a baby dragon for a pet, don’t be shocked when it grows up to eat you. The one who commits adultery—who pursues pleasure outside the cover of the marriage covenant—lacks sense because he destroys himself (6:32). As we also saw in 5:10-14, it will cost him his wealth (6:31) and bring dishonor and disgrace (6:33). And he just might get a beating, or worse, if a jealous husband takes revenge (6:33-34).

7:1-3 The wisdom of God must become not just our top priority, but part of who we are and what we do. Solomon advised his son, Keep my commands and live, and guard my instructions as you would the pupil of your eye (7:1-2). Tying God’s commands to your fingers and writing them on the tablet of your heart (7:3) reminds us that the Israelites were commanded to make God’s Word an inextricable part of their everyday lives (Deut 6:4-9).

7:4-27 Warnings to flee sexual sin continue through Proverbs 7. So parents, if the space Solomon devotes to this topic doesn’t convince you to invest recurring time talking to your children—especially your sons—about it, you’re missing the obvious. According to the Bible, sex education is the responsibility of parents—not the public schools.

In 7:6-27, sexual immorality is personified as a woman on the prowl. And make no mistake: she’s seeking your sons. In every corner of our culture, in fact, immorality is poised to entrap new victims. Today, whether they want it or not, most people possess the easy ability to access pornography on the mobile devices they carry everywhere with them. But the one who impulsively pursues a woman who is not his wife—whether she is single, married to another, or beckoning from a digital screen—doesn’t know intuitively that it will cost him his life (7:23). He must be warned. Too many men—including Christian men—are suffering the far-reaching consequences of sexual sin.

8:1-4 Wisdom is personified in Proverbs as a woman. The seductress mentioned in 7:10-21 walks the streets and entices young men to follow, and Lady Wisdom also stands in the streets and cries out for people to follow her (8:1-4). But that’s where the similarities end. The forbidden woman has “a hidden agenda” (7:10). But Wisdom takes her message out into the open and offers her gift to everyone because her agenda is God’s agenda. Therefore she stands in the middle of the street and calls out, freely offering a spiritual view of life.

Parents, God has given you the responsibility to instill wisdom in your children, and there are lots of noises competing for their attention. So since wisdom doesn’t whisper or mumble, make sure you don’t either. Your children need to hear you.

8:5-21 These verses spell out the virtues and rewards for those who will listen to Wisdom. What she offers is better than silver, gold, or jewels (8:10-11, 19). We should not be satisfied with pursuing merely the socially acceptable approach to life, then, for God has something better planned for those who do life his way. Whoever listens to Wisdom becomes shrewd and develops common sense (8:5), receiving good advice (8:14). Unfortunately, these qualities are in short supply today, so whoever possesses them will not go unnoticed. Love Wisdom, and she will love you; search for her, and you’ll find her (8:17). If you heed God’s “seek and find” commands, he always promises to deliver what you’re looking for (see Jer 29:13; Matt 7:7-8).

8:22-36 Wisdom isn’t some Johnny-come-lately. Before the earth began, before the watery depths were poured out, before the mountains were raised, before the fields were laid out, the Lord acquired [wisdom] at the beginning (8:22-26). From the heavens above to the foundations of the earth below, God made his world through wisdom (8:27-29). And wisdom wasn’t a mere tool that God used; it was his delight every day (8:30).

What do we learn from this? First, if not for wisdom, you wouldn’t be here. Wisdom is woven into creation; therefore, you can’t escape the consequences of rejecting it. Second, your Creator has given you an example to follow. God accomplished his glorious work with wisdom. So why attempt your own work without it? Third, wisdom brings joy. If you want to be truly happy in God’s kingdom, pursuing wisdom guarantees God will bless you with rejoicing. And that’s how Solomon concludes chapter 8—with an appeal to his sons to see wisdom as the door that leads to happiness (8:32-34). Finding wisdom is the difference between life and death (8:35-36).

9:1-6 If you don’t feel hungry for wisdom, it’s a good sign that you’re actually starving for it. Wisdom has prepared a mind-blowing banquet of blessing for those who will accept her invitation (9:1-5), and rejecting her offer is like rejecting the only source of food. We desperately need God’s wisdom, so we need to RSVP immediately and partake of the feast offered. Wisdom says, come and you will live (9:5-6).

9:7-9 Humans don’t typically enjoy being rebuked, but Proverbs insists that the difference between a mocker and the wise lies in an individual’s willingness to be corrected. Solomon says, if you rebuke a mocker . . . he will hate you—and maybe even hurt you (9:7-8). But a wise and righteous man knows that whatever wisdom he possesses is not enough. He wants to be wiser still (9:9), so he’s open to correction. He’s not satisfied with making a few good choices in life. He wants to make them all the time.

9:10 Lest we forget what this discussion of wisdom is all about, Solomon repeats the theme he began with (1:7): The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Wisdom, the ability to understand the divine perspective and apply it to life, comes from God. He’s the only source. If you’re going to become wise, you have to get to know God through his Word and take him seriously.

9:11-12 You can’t purchase years to add to your lifespan. But, if you accept Wisdom’s banquet invitation (9:1-5), she’ll keep you from dying an untimely death through foolishness (9:11).

9:13-18 Don’t miss that there’s another party going on, distracting people from the pursuit of wisdom. The devil has a banquet prepared too, hosted by Folly. But this hostess is rowdy; she’s gullible and knows nothing (9:13). Her meal may be sweet and tasty (9:17), but it’ll kill you (9:18). Her guests are in the grave. You won’t come home from this party.

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