II. A Father’s Appeal: Become Wise (Proverbs 1:8–9:18)
II. A Father’s Appeal: Become Wise (1:8–9:18)
1:8 Nearly the first third of Proverbs is a series of lectures from father to son:
Listen . . . to your father’s instruction, and don’t reject your mother’s teaching. This fact is a reminder that instruction on how to be wise begins in the home. Parents have the responsibility to teach their children to know God, to see the world from his perspective, and to live in accordance with his agenda. And children have the responsibility to listen.
1:9 Solomon says the teachings of one’s parents will be a garland of favor on [the] head. It is important to God that children—and young adults living under the authority of their parents—obey their mothers and fathers unless they tell them to do something in clear disobedience to God’s Word. That doesn’t go down too well with a lot of kids today, especially when they reach the age at which they are confident they know more than their moms and dads and think they can do better. But Solomon says listening to your parents’ advice is like storing up gold.
1:10-16 Plenty of voices give advice. All of us are subject to many influences, and we often become like those with whom we associate. Solomon tells his son, If sinners entice you saying, come with us, encouraging you to commit wickedness and promising reward (1:10-14), don’t travel that road with them (1:15). Stay away from them because their feet run toward evil (1:16). To put this in modern terms, if you don’t want to be a drug addict, don’t hang out with drug addicts. If you don’t want to be a gang member, don’t let gang members be your running buddies. “Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Cor 15:33)—that is, when you associate with people of impure character, they’re going to rub off on you.
1:17-19 These verses provide a warning to parents; we must make sure we know our kids’ companions. If they are going out with friends, find out where they’ll be. When they tell you they’re just going to hang out, ask them where they’ll be hanging out—in case you want to join them. Don’t be a wishy-washy parent: help your child. If they’re living under your roof, they’re under your authority. You have a right to know what they’re up to, and you’re responsible for knowing. Make sure your kids understand this: when foolish people look for trouble, they are simply setting a trap for themselves (1:17-19). What goes around comes around.
1:20-21 Sinners call for others to follow them, but wisdom is calling too. Solomon says wisdom—often personified in Proverbs—calls out in the street . . . makes her voice heard in the public squares . . . cries out above the commotion. Everybody has an idea or opinion, but there are only two answers to any issue: God’s answer and everybody else’s. And everybody else is wrong. Wisdom is crying out for someone to pay attention to truth. Are you listening?
1:22-33 Only inexperienced ones and mockers would ignore, hate, refuse, and neglect God’s wisdom, knowledge, counsel, and correction (1:22, 25, 29-30). In fact, Solomon warns that it’s disastrous to miss wisdom. Those who reject God’s counsel will fall into calamity one day, and then it will be too late (1:24-32). You do not want to hear God declare to you, I . . . will laugh at your calamity. I will mock when terror strikes you (1:26), so remember Galatians 6:7: “Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap.” When fools reject counsel, correction, and the fear of the Lord (1:29-30), they won’t get off scot-free. Since they don’t take God seriously, they will eat the fruit of their way and be glutted with their own schemes (1:31). In other words, a fool will be stuffed with his own stupidity to his own detriment. On the other hand, whoever listens to [the Lord] will live securely (1:33). The choice is yours.
2:1-5 Godly wisdom doesn’t just fall into your lap. It requires diligent pursuit. Finding it requires digging into God’s Word the way a miner digs into the ground for silver and other hidden treasure (2:4). Why hasn’t God made it easy? Why not leave it on top of the ground for you to pick up? Because it’s too valuable. People don’t mind digging for gold; it’s worth their efforts. If there’s a vein of gold under their feet, they know their labor to unearth it will be richly rewarded. Wisdom is a treasure found in God’s Word. Make it your quest to dig for it, and you will discover the knowledge of God (2:5).
2:6-19 God wants to know how serious we are about him. Many people rise early to exercise because they’re serious about getting in shape, but they’re too tired to rise early to spend time in God’s Word. Others set aside time for their favorite TV show, but God can’t get a slot on their schedules. The Lord is the one who gives wisdom (2:6). You can’t obtain it anywhere else. For those who live with integrity, he’s a shield to guard and protect the way of his faithful followers (2:7-8). But how serious are you to have his wisdom enter your mind and knowledge delight your heart (2:10)? How eager are you to have discretion and understanding . . . guard you and rescue you from the way of evil (2:11-12)? How desperate are you to be protected from those who enjoy doing evil . . . whose paths are crooked . . . whose house sinks down to death (2:14-18)? God only feeds hungry people. If you are not spiritually hungry, ask God to give you a new spiritual appetite (see Ps 42:1; Matt 5:6).
2:20-22 Smart hikers know to stick to the trail. God has prepared a spiritual path from which we shouldn’t deviate. We must keep to the paths of the righteous (2:20) because the upright will inhabit the land while the wicked will be cut off from it and ripped out of it (2:21-22). Those who reject God’s wisdom in order to pursue wickedness and foolishness may seem to flourish for a while, but eventually they’ll be pulled up like weeds.
3:1-4 Solomon pleads with his son to remember his teaching and store his commands in his heart (3:1). Why? What’s the payoff? Doing so will bring . . . many days, a full life, and well-being (3:2). While many Christians say they trust Christ to get them to heaven, their lives demonstrate a lack of trust in Christ to navigate their day-to-day journeys on earth. But the Lord knows how to deliver. If you inscribe loyalty and faithfulness on your heart, he will grant you favor with himself and people (3:3-4).
3:5-6 Chapter 3 contains one of the most beloved, quoted, and memorized passages in the Bible. It’s a reminder that the knowledge of who God is should make us willing to trust him. Solomon says, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight.
The Hebrew word for trust means to lie down on—to put your entire weight on something. When you go to sleep at night, you lie down on your bed because you believe it is strong enough to hold you up. “With all your heart” means entirely, without exception. So in essence God says, “Trust me completely; I can sustain you. Your own understanding won’t support you.”
God doesn’t want us coming to crucial crossroads in our lives with nothing to guide us but faulty human signposts. He wants us to know his ways, his divine perspective, so we don’t take the wrong road.
The proof that we’re not trusting God—even when we say we do—is when we turn to other sources first to address life’s problems. If you want to know where your trust is, ask yourself, “Where do I turn first when I need help?” God is omniscient and his wisdom is infinite. He has the ability to coagulate and coordinate the events of history throughout eternity. Based on that impressive résumé and experience, there’s no question that we should seek him first. Remember James’s exhortation: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him” (Jas 1:5). But will we?
“In all your ways know him” is an umbrella statement covering anything having to do with your life. Pleasing God in all things is to become your goal. When you write a check, you need to be certain that you have the resources on deposit in the bank to cover the purchase. Otherwise, the check is going to bounce. A responsible adult, then, regularly keeps his bank account in mind when making purchases to be sure he can cover the charges. When it comes to negotiating life, God should be the source of your resources. You need to draw on an account that can support your decisions. Unfortunately, we often make life decisions that our spiritual account can’t support and we wonder why our checks keep bouncing. Know God in all your ways by prayerfully consulting his Word.
When you rely on God in all you do, “he will make your paths straight.” Life is crooked. It doesn’t take long to figure that out. But God can remove the obstacles and cut a path through the woods. He will make sure your road reaches the right destination. An old axiom says, “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” But when you are walking in the will of God, your life heads in a straight line no matter how the road curves. Jesus Christ knows the end from the beginning, the start from the finish. He knows where you need to be, how you are supposed to get there, and what route you should take. God wants you to trust him so you can start living.
3:7-10 Solomon cautions us: Don’t be wise in your own eyes. Unless you fear the Lord and turn away from evil, you shouldn’t count yourself a wise person (3:7). You can’t just talk about trusting the Lord without walking the talk.
One of the ways God calls you to “trust him with all your heart” and “think about him in all your ways” as 3:5-6 says is to honor the Lord with your possessions and with the first produce of your entire harvest (3:9). Giving to the work of the Lord and honoring him with how you spend your money is crucial because it’s a tangible expression of your faith. It demonstrates how much you value him. We must recognize God as the source of all we have and as the one who will provide for all our needs (3:10).
3:11-18 Sometimes God leads you backward to take you forward. No matter how hard the lesson is to learn, do not despise the Lord’s instruction (3:11). The difficult path is always meant for our good. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, just as a father disciplines the son in whom he delights (3:12). Godly parents don’t withhold loving discipline from their children. The more you love, in fact, the more you correct what is wrong and train in what is right. So endure the hard times. For the one who finds wisdom will be truly happy (3:13, 18). Why? Because nothing of value in this world is more profitable or precious (3:14-15). What do you desire in this world? Whatever it is, it doesn’t compare to what wisdom offers you. Money can’t buy life, peace, or happiness. But wisdom can deliver them all (3:16-18).
3:19-20 God created the heavens and the earth by wisdom (3:19-20)—in other words, wisdom is part of the fabric of the universe. Reject wisdom, and you’re rejecting the reason for your existence. See 8:22-31.
3:21-26 Do you want to be safe (3:23)? Do you want to get a good night’s sleep (3:24)? Do you want to be free from anxiety (3:25)? Then maintain sound wisdom and discretion (3:21). Exercise sound, biblical judgment in your day-to-day life, and God himself will be your confidence and watch over you (3:26).
3:27-30 The way of wisdom is not a solitary road. In fact, Solomon will repeatedly point out that wisdom is demonstrated by how we respond to and interact with others. When it is in your power, then, don’t withhold good from the one to whom it belongs. Don’t say to your neighbor, “Go away! Come back later. I’ll give it tomorrow”—when it is there with you (3:27-28). Don’t plan any harm against your neighbor or accuse anyone who has done you no harm (3:29-30). These admonitions, at their core, are really just another way of saying, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev 19:18; Mark 12:31). Treat others the way you want to be treated. Love God and love your neighbor; you can’t have one without the other.
3:31-35 When we see evil people prosper, we’re tempted to envy them (3:31). But we need to make sure we’re wearing our spiritual spectacles so that we get the complete picture. The Lord curses, mocks, and dishonors the wicked and the fool (3:33-35). Yet the one who is righteous, humble, and wise receives God’s blessing, grace, and honor (3:33-35). God detests the devious, but he is a friend to the upright (3:32). Which would you rather be?
4:1-4 Again Solomon calls on his sons to listen (4:1-2), but since God inspired Solomon to write Proverbs as Scripture, then through these verses the Holy Spirit is calling on children everywhere to listen. Interestingly, Solomon shows the progression of godly instruction and obedience from one generation to the next: When I was a son with my father, tender and precious to my mother, he taught me and said: “Your heart must hold on to my words. Keep my commands and live” (4:3-4). It’s clear, then, that Solomon expects parents to be the dominant moral influencers and instructors of children. Their role is critical because nobody can replace them. Proverbs is a blueprint for skillfully constructing the life of a child. It’s a parenting manual.
4:5-9 Notice how Solomon urges his son to pursue wisdom and not abandon it (4:5-6). Wisdom is supreme, he says, so get wisdom (4:7). Solomon would also say, if asked, that the process of becoming wise starts with wanting to be wise.
Remember when cereal boxes came with prizes inside? They were at the bottom of the box, and your mom wouldn’t let you shove your hand in to search for them. If you wanted the prizes, you had to eat your way to them. Similarly, if you want the rest of your life to be better than the part you’ve already lived, wisdom is there for the taking. But you must desire it and earnestly pursue it. Cherish wisdom like a husband is to cherish his wife, and wisdom will honor you (4:8-9).
4:10-13 Solomon doesn’t stop pleading with his son to listen (4:10) because he knows there are very practical consequences to heeding that advice. Accepting godly wisdom from one’s parents can help you live longer (4:10), and I never met anyone who didn’t want to live a few extra years! When you walk the paths of life, wisdom can even keep you from getting tripped up (4:12). It helps you see things the way they really are—with spiritual insight. So if you know what’s good for you, you’ll hold on to instruction as if it were your life. Because, after all, it is your life (4:13). See 3:21-26.
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.