Wise Up! (Proverbs 1:1-7)
Topic: One Truth: Walk in Truth Passage: Proverbs 1:1–1:7
I. Ever Had to... ?
Have you... ever had to... deal with a difficult boss? Ever had to... navigate the choppy waters of marital conflict... the turbulent tides of raising kids or dealing with the in-laws? Ever had to... make hard financial decisions? Ever had to... figure out good words for a bad situation (like when a neighbor is blasting his music late at night, or a friend wants you to invest in some kind of sketchy scheme)? Ever had to... grapple with the bully, the bank, the bottle? Maybe the unwanted advances of your friend's husband? Ever had to... wrestle with pride, greed, impatience, laziness, jealousy... or with someone dominated by any or all of those vices
If you've ever had to walk through any of those situations, to make decisions in any of those situations, to survive in any of those situations, then do I have book for you. It's called Proverbs.
Proverbs is a book about wisdom. “Wisdom” is a word that can be used in variety of ways. In Proverbs, wisdom is direction for daily life, especially in those circumstances where there is no clear rule or one-size-fits-all formula. As we will see in this series, Proverbs is called “Proverbs” because it contain hundred and hundreds of short, terse sayings (usually couplets) that offer us wisdom about life's challenges and choices.
But let's dig into this more by actually going to the book of Proverbs, and looking together at the the first seven verses of the book.
II. The Passage: "To Know Wisdom" (1:1-7)
Let's start with just verse 1. Look at what it tells us: The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel...
Right away we're grounded in time and space, aren't we? This opening line actually confirms what the historical books of the Bible have already revealed. For example... I Kings 4:29-31...
And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore,  so that Solomon's wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt.  For he was wiser than all other men, wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Calcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol, and his fame was in all the surrounding nations.  He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005.
Moreover, if Solomon is, in fact, the author of Ecclesiastes, then we also learn this about him...
Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care.  The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth. (Ecclesiastes 12:9–10)
So as we learn from passages like those, the ancient Near East was a place in which wise men were at work both writing and collecting proverbs. Solomon was no exception. Therefore it's not surprising to learn that Proverbs is really “a collection of collections”. Let me give you a quick tour of the book.
As you can see, and as we'll explore further, there is this short introduction to the book in 1:1-7. Then in verse 8, and all the way until the end of chapter 9, we find a kind of extended prologue in which Solomon is encouraging his son to prize and pursue wisdom. If you flip over to 10:1, you'll discover the beginning of the second part of the book. This is where the actual collection of proverbs begins; thus the heading: “The proverbs of Solomon”. If the first part of the book is about prizing and pursuing wisdom, this second part is about pondering and practicing wisdom.
But this second, larger part of the book is itself made up of several parts. For example, look at 22:17. We read there, “Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise...” That is the introduction to a new, shorter collection, one that begins with (v. 20) “thirty sayings of counsel and knowledge”. So that section runs through chapter 24. But in 25:1 we find this...
These also are proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied.
So here we've moved, in one sense, from Solomon's reign in the 10th century BC, down to Hezekiah's court in the early 7th century BC. Of the thousands of proverbs that Solomon wrote or collected, not all of them had been included in larger collections like what Proverbs itself became. This second collection of Solomon's proverbs runs for several chapters, through the end of chapter 29. Finally, if you flip over to chapters 30 and 31, you will find two other writers included, one named “Agur, the son of Jakeh” (30:1), and the other “King Lemuel” (31:1).
Now, not all of these proverbs are the actual couplets many of us think of. But those do make up the majority of the book, with over 500 spread throughout chapters 10-29. So in light of what we've learned, I think all of this should drive us back to some fundamental questions, “What exactly is a proverb and why do they matter?” Let's get to...
1. Analyzing Wisdom (vs. 1-5)
If we go back to the intro of the book, those opening verses can help us. Look with me at verses 2 and 3... [keeping v. 1 in mind, these proverbs of Solomon are given here in order...]
To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight,  to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity...
Talk about a dense couple of verses! Think for a minute about all the related terms that the writer gives us here: “wisdom”, “instruction”, “insight”. And if we scanned down to the next few verses, we find even more: (v.4) “prudence”, “knowledge”, “discretion”; (v. 5) “guidance”. And then in verse 7, we find “knowledge”, “wisdom” and “instruction” repeated.
Now, it certainly would be profitable to look at all the Hebrew words represented here by these English words. But we won't do that this morning. I think it's enough to give you one Hebrew word: it's the word translated “wisdom”, the word chokmah. Why focus on this one word? Because it's found more often in Proverbs than in any other OT book. Some form of the word “wisdom” appears 118 times throughout Proverbs. There is no doubt it is the dominant theme.
What's interesting is that this Hebrew word, in many contexts, is actually rendered “skill” or “skillful” (like the skill of an artist, craftsman, or even a warrior). Therefore, one of the ways we can think about wisdom is in terms of moral skillfulness. That doesn't mean wisdom choices are always explicitly moral choices, but even when they are not, they often have moral implications (e.g. there are moral choices re: finding a spouse, but also wisdom issues to consider).
Now, think again about the seven terms we find in the opening verses of Proverbs: wisdom, instruction, insight, prudence, knowledge, discretion, guidance. “What exactly is a proverb and why do they matter?” Well, taking all these things together, I think we can say...
A proverb is a simple, but insightful, saying meant to train us in moral skillfulness. Proverbs does this by providing practical knowledge about people, the world, and God, in order to help us navigate our everyday moral and relational challenges.
As verse 3 reminds us, these are not simply 'life hacks' to make you more efficient or produc-tive. No! This is guidance that instructs us in “wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity.”
Let me give you a couple simple examples of how these proverbs relate to something like the Ten Commandments. The commandments make it clear, for example, that you should not commit adultery (cf. Exodus 20:14). But it's wisdom that trains us in the moral skillfulness we need to avoid temptation, to recognize the the ugly truth about adultery, and to focus on our spouse instead. In the same way, the commandments teach us, “You shall not murder” (cf. Exodus 20:13). But it's wisdom that trains us to navigate the dangerous straits of anger, conflict, and violence; waters that can eventually lead to murder. Whether that wisdom comes through stories, parables, proverbs, or something else, it is nevertheless invaluable.
But in verses 4 and 5 of Proverbs 1, we also find Solomon...
2. Addressing Wisdom (vs. 4, 5)
If these wisdom sayings were a package to be mailed, to whom would they be addressed, that is, who exactly is the target audience for this book? Well notice what we read in verses 4, 5...
[These proverbs are given in order...] to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth— Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance...
Verse 4 clearly describes those who are simply ignorant and inexperienced when it comes to discernment and discretion in their daily life. This is often, but not always, young people. Therefore, Proverbs has wonderful things for tweens, teens, and twenty-somethings.
But verse 5 is also clear, isn't it? Even “the wise”, even “the one who understands”, has something to gain from Proverbs. There is more to learn for the mature, isn't there? There is still guidance to be gained, even for the seasoned. To sum up verses 4 and 5: Proverbs is for everyone! But I want to also notice in verse 7 how Solomon is...
3. Anchoring Wisdom (v. 7)
This one statement is key to understanding, to truly understanding, this entire book: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge...
Now, what exactly does that mean? I think it means that unless you are overwhelmed by God, in a spirit of awe and reverence, you will not truly profit from the knowledge that leads to wisdom. Why? Because only the fear of God provides us with the 'why' of wisdom. Only the fear of God points us to wisdom's source. Only the fear of God anchors our motives and humbles our hearts. Without the fear of God, we are simply man-fearing fools... and as we see at the end of verse 7... fools despise wisdom and instruction.
III. “One Greater than Solomon”
Brothers and sister, friends, in light of all this, listen to the words of Jesus in Luke 11:31...
The queen of the South [i.e. the queen of Sheba] will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.
If you are a blood-bought, grace-filled, born again follower of Jesus Christ, then you serve one greater than Solomon; greater in every way, including in wisdom. That doesn't negate Solomon's wisdom. No. But Jesus fulfill Solomon's wisdom, just as he is the fulfillment of all that God's revealed. But what does that means for us in terms of wisdom?
Well, to illustrate a disciple's proper posture toward wisdom, listen to how the Apostle Paul weaves this idea of wisdom through every chapter of his letter to the Colossian believers. In 1:9 he prays that they “may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding”. How is this possible? Because they are now (1:13) in the kingdom of Christ, “in whom [2:3] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (savor that!) To be sure, there are teachers and philosophies in the world that have (2:23) “an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion”, but ultimately, “they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” But what God has revealed is of great value. This is why Paul encourages them the way he does in 3:16... “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom...” And Paul wants his prayer to be answered, even beyond the community of Christ: 4:5... “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.”
Brothers and sisters, do you see why we so desperately need to be trained in moral skillfulness? Do you understand why a book like Proverbs is so important for followers of Jesus? To be trained in wisdom by these proverbs is to be trained in the imitation of Jesus. Have you ever thought of it that way? Proverbs is a manual designed to help you become more like Jesus. If you love Christ, that should be your supreme desire, to the glory of God. As Jesus said in Matthew 10:25, “It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher...”
If you are not a follower of Jesus, then please know that the 'good life' is the 'wise life'. But also know, true, life-giving wisdom only comes through Jesus. Remember that foundational fear of God. And to fear the LORD is not simply to fear a god. It is to fear Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel. And the only human beings on this planet who can truly know that God, the only true God, are those who have been reconciled to him through his son, Jesus Christ.
We have all played the fool. We have all despised the wisdom and instruction of God. But in his great love, God sent Christ to die for fools like us. And Jesus rose again that we might experience a new life of wisdom; Spirit-empowered wisdom! Do you recognize that you need God's wisdom this morning? Let's pray, and ask God for that very thing, in light of his grace.