A STUDY OF WISDOM FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS
Wisdom at Work in the Hard Places
Proverbs 24 SCC 12/13/15
Life has many hard places where we struggle to figure out what to do; how to act; who to trust; and when to fight or give up. Wisdom applied to our life situations provides durable paths for us to negotiate through these. Proverbs continues with a list of thirty wise principles concluding with a final list of six more wise words.
Saying v 1-2; 8-9 Evil Associations: Don’t envy or desire the company of evil people because their future is bleak. The violence and trouble they drum up creates chaos for everyone 1-2. Flouting morality and decency, sooner or later the public will disdain him having enough already of wicked deeds.
NB: So wisdom understands that associating with the evil and wicked inevitably leads to carnage. That understanding of one of life’s basic patterns means avoid any thinking that justifies their tactics.
WISDOM PROVIDES A SOUND STRATEGY UPON WHICH TO CONSTRUCT LIFE
1. Wisdom contributes to security and prosperity 3-4. Wisdom is personified as ‘building’ and ‘establishing’ a house, which is one of the more secure products available. So undertaking any enterprise that engages construction, like a household, a reputation, and wealth, health, education, godliness, discipleship, or friendship, wisdom is essential to secure these. In this sense ‘rooms are filled’ with ‘precious’ and ‘pleasant riches’. A secure and prosperous life is the outcome.
NB: Wisdom is not automatic. The application of wisdom to one’s life is hard earned. It requires diligence, perseverance, and endurance. It does not just happen. Wisdom is available only to those who have sought for her, determined over a log period of time to keep in step with her requirements. Wisdom is the skill of living life, understanding how things usually are most of the time. This requires real objective knowledge. So a wise construction is not based on luck, or chance, or religious mysticism. It is based on real things, which usually happen, most of the time, in the real physical world. This doesn’t just fill the house with riches (a mafia family might do that). It fills the house with pleasant riches, those which are not just luxurious but precious.
2. Wisdom supplies strength and guidance 5-6. Wisdom provides strength to accomplish various tasks. This strength is available to one who is wise and knowledgeable v 5. These traits will supply the ability to negotiate with insight and discernment toward order and away from chaotic solutions. Additionally, a strategic perspective will emerge from the counsel of others v 6 to enlighten one toward a successful conclusion. A wise man will sharpen his knowledge through appropriate counsel. Education, knowledge, and experience are good when accompanied by understanding and wisdom.
NB: Life is filled with struggles and battles. The older we get the harder life becomes. Strength and guidance becomes more crucial so as to engage ourselves wisely. Here is why:
First, we begin reaping what we have sowed (Gal 6:7-8). Our sins begin to catch up with us always sowing what we reap and reaping what we sow. Sin sown over the long haul pays with a full load.
Second, as we live in a fallen world the sins of others increasingly affect us. People sue us; we have accidents; need surgeries, close relatives mess up their lives and all this accumulates over time.
Third, we experience deteriorating health in a deteriorating world. Things we have done to make life pleasant are gradually taken away by the fact of an aging body. The strength and guidance of wisdom is just as essential for the young son heading to the streets as for the older living at home.
3. Wisdom is unavailable for the fool 7. Fools cannot obtain wisdom. They are out of their element. Wisdom is beyond his ability. A fool cannot appreciate or comprehend or even say anything wise. ‘The gate’ is where the elders of the city rendered all judicial and legal decisions. The fool has no place there or should have no place there. These decisions are about making reasonable judgments in every day matters. They involves looking at things the way they actually are and coming to logical decisions. This is impossible for the fool because he lives in a world of chaos and short-term feelings with unreasonable dreams. Wisdom is too high for him.
NB: Since a fool violates life’s usual patterns, wisdom is not feasible in his dealings. A fool plays the percentages against life’s usual patterns, purposely ignores how things usually turn out in his decision-making, and arrogantly pursues an alternate path. Solomon constantly warns that this only produces death-dealing consequences and the naïve are easily caught up in a fool’s plans.
WISDOM PROVIDES STRENGTH TO PERSEVERE WHEN LIFE OPPOSES YOU
First, adversity tests your ability 10. How well one does under adverse conditions reveals how strong that person is. One never knows his or her strength for sure until one is put in situations that demand much from one. In this case, you discover that you are not equipped for the hardship and you falter in some way. Your weakness will determine what you do or how you manage but you are vulnerable in any case. The danger here is that one may tip back into chaos and disorder or plead adverse situations or conditions in order to quit.
Second, virtue triumphs in the end 15-16. The saying begins with a warning that it is futile for the wicked to attempt to destroy the righteous and his or her possessions or home v 15. It is futile and self-defeating to mistreat God’s people for they survive while the wicked fall into calamity. This indicates the righteous can expect to be targeted. Consequently, if the righteous suffer misfortune any number of times, here ‘seven times’ (reminds of Jesus and Peter forgiving seventy times seven), they will rise again and again. Virtue triumphs in the end.
Conversely, the wicked will not survive v 16. To attack the righteous is to attack God and His program and that will fail. Jesus said ‘..I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’ Matthew 16:18. Without God the wicked have no power to rise from misfortune. They will only stumble over their evil while the righteous are protected and preserved.
NB: Such schemes were instigated by Haman Esther 7:7-10; Sanballat and Tobiah Nehemiah 6:10-19; Commissioners and officials Daniel 6: Scribes and chief priests Luke 20:19-26. The point of this saying is that ultimately the righteous will triumph and opposition will be thwarted by their own evil intent. God is in charge of your opposition. You are in charge of your righteousness. You can endure opposing forces in your life confidently with strength as a righteous person knowing God vindicates his own. This vindication is in his plan for you but he is in charge if its execution.
PT: The point is to describe the resiliency of the righteous. It is very hard to effectively attack a good man. For example, one of the most common ways to discredit a witness in a courtroom trial is to attack their personal character. Their sinful history is their vulnerability. You can attack a righteous man, of course, and even cause him to fall with lies, slander, bribes, accusations, and complaints. But before long, he is back on his feet because the truth eventually comes out, and his ongoing righteous character gains him respect. Watch out for discouragement as God works out that plan. God’s timetable and outcomes are His not ours. Just ask John the Baptist or Jesus or Paul or Elijah or Abraham or Moses or Mary.
WISDOM DOES NOT MAKE JUDGMENTS BASED IN PARTIALITY
In v 23 showing partiality is not good. In v 24 calling the guilty innocent will be strongly denounced. In v 25, those ‘who convict the guilty’ will be respected and appreciated. So these wise sayings set the standard that righteousness and evil are not two co-equal outcomes to be equally preferred but instead are to be clearly distinguished by those making judgments.
NB: Make sure you judge based on justice and righteousness, not fairness. Solomon says it is important to get it right. But you can only do that if you are distinguishing between righteousness and wickedness, not measuring one person against another. The basis for judgment is God’s absolute standard, not what is fair for people. An employee may be using his computer on company time but it was only found out because another employee recently began to do the same. Now both are reprimanded. The second employee may think it is unfair since he only began to do so while the other had been for months. But it’s not about fairness; it’s about God’s standard or righteousness.
PT: Life has many hard places where strategy, strength and justice make a difference. Wisdom is at work in these hard places.