People of the world say, “knowledge is power” and set about gathering knowledge about people and situations that concern them. Knowledge is an assemblage of facts and datum. Those facts and datum are of little use, except for small talk at parties, if you lack the wisdom to interpret and use those facts. Wisdom is the proper interpretation and application of knowledge. Wisdom allows you to interpret information properly, however pressing information into the mold of our own opinions and ideology distorts it and renders it less useful.
Proverbs 2: 1-7 says:
1 My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,
2 So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding;
3 Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
4 If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
5 Then you will understand the fear of the Lord,
And find the knowledge of God.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;
7 He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk uprightly;
“My son” indicates a familial relationship: this message is for the children of God, true believers, not for the world at large, not for make-believers.
“if you receive my words” the word picture here is of someone holding out a gift to you and you reaching out to take hold of it and drawing it back to you. This is not someone forcing something on you. It is not a casual brushing up against something and part of it sticking to you. You reach out in anticipation, take hold and draw it back to you. You participate in the receiving.
“And treasure my commands” treasure means that the gift you received is not a holiday fruitcake, forcing you to smile politely but groan inwardly. This gift is one of your fondest desires, something you will keep with you and look at often.
The word “commands” does not sit well with some because their pride and self-reliance gets in the way telling them that they don’t want to be ordered around like some vassal. This is a misinterpretation. Think of God’s commands as the instruction of a loving parent to a beloved child. The lessons may be given in the form of teaching, encouragement, correction, or admonishment but all are given through love and the desire to see the child progress and grow properly.
“within you” – These teachings are not to be superficially acknowledged but stored away inside where you will treasure them.
A young man is courting a girl. She gives him a letter in which she describes her love for him and what she adores about him. He will keep this in a pocket where he can pull it you to read often, not hidden in a drawer in his room. That is treasuring within.
“so that you incline your ear to wisdom” Inclining your ear is to tilt your head so that your strongest ear will better pick up what someone is saying because it is important that you hear and understand. You are straining to catch the words God is giving you, not listening passively.
“and apply your heart to understanding” Here again we are distinguishing between knowledge and wisdom. The heart is the seat of our emotion, the residence of love. The mind is the great hall of intellect. What we store in our heart, or apply our heart to, does not deal with mere dry facts but with truth and honor: “understanding” means full comprehension and assimilation into our being not just reception of information. Wisdom is understanding the motivation and ramifications, not just the superficial meaning.
“Yes, if you cry out for discernment” Crying out is not a passive act. Think of the poor and crippled that sat alongside the city gates crying out to Jesus and his followers to be merciful to them. They did not sit and wait for someone to hold out a coin to them. We cry out to God asking, “Please dispel my ignorance by giving to me of your vast wisdom.”
“discernment” is the ability to see things and situations as they really are, not for what they may pretend to be. Discernment is a fruit of wisdom. It is discernment that guides you like a compass through the dark forest of worldly lies.
“lift up your voice for understanding” Again take an active role, do not be passive. God will give understanding, wisdom and discernment to those who love Him and seek these things.
“If you seek her as silver” ‘her’ being wisdom. To gain wisdom you need to invest the same effort that you would in gaining silver: an income. Am I saying you must labor 8 hours a day studying the Bible to become wise? Is it mandatory that you labor 8 hours a day in order to live, or could you work less if you were willing to accept a lower standard of living? You get back what you put in.
“search for her as for hidden treasure” You may not have ever gone hunting treasure, but you have read or watched stories about those who have. Do these people go out looking for an hour or two once a week? Generally, these people are obsessed with their quest. We need to be obsessed with the search for wisdom if we are expecting results.
“understand the fear of the Lord” Rarely does the biblical word translated as “fear” mean terror, afraid, or deep apprehension. Generally this is a deep reverence, respect or awe as is appropriate for the creator of the universe and an omnipotent being.
“and find the knowledge of God” Do you understand God? CAN we understand, completely, God? No. Our human minds are too limited to fully comprehend what God is and how He works. But the more we study God’s word with an open mind and compliant heart, not in an effort to mold the words of the Bible to our way of thinking, the better we will understand God and His workings in our life.
“For the Lord gives wisdom” God does not jealously hide His truths, He does not withhold understanding. He wants us to know Him.
“From His mouth come knowledge and understanding” He will teach us if we will listen actively to His words. Where do we find His words? In the Bible.
“He stores up sound wisdom for the upright” Sound wisdom is the real deal, not some half-baked theory but genuine wisdom; the ability to discern truth, and these are reserved for the upright. God does not share His wisdom with those who insist on walking their own path, on “interpreting” His words so they conform to their own desires. Distorting truth means it is no longer truth. When we reject God’s Word, we reject His wisdom and pursue our own.
“He is a shield to those who walk uprightly” When we are compliant to God’s instruction and living as He has said we should, God strengthens us as we resist the enemy. Does this mean we will not have troubles? No. The closer we walk with God the more we can expect Satan to harass us in an attempt to turn our loyalty. But our God-given understanding and wisdom allow us to see things for what they are and deal with them without fear or discouragement. We will know what is of God and what is not, what is right and what is misdirection and temptation.
The path we walk to eternal life with God is narrow and difficult: wide and easy to travel is the path to destruction. To know the difference, we must acquire Godly wisdom. We do that by seeking it diligently, by applying ourselves to the study of God’s Word. Listening to sermons once a week will not get you there. These may be Godly and truthful and useful for instruction or motivation but to really learn we must be digging around in God’s word, actively seeking to understand God. Only then can God speak directly to us, to address our needs and our concerns. Only then can He teach us as a father teaches his child.
A good father does not rely on telling servants, “Go tell my child that I said…” but will want to commune directly, intimately with his child, to share not just the information, but love. But if that child avoids coming into the fathers presence, the father cannot teach.
To find the treasure of truth we must seek it diligently. To find genuine wisdom we must go to the source, not accept hearsay and interpretation. Are you avoiding the Father’s presence and relying on the household servants as your sole source of instruction?