The Happy Results of Acquiring Wisdom

Do you want to be happy? That is a stupid question – everyone wants to be happy. In fact, it seems as if our society is filled with people who spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find happiness or to be happy. There is the irony, so many people spending a great deal of time (and money) in order to be happy – and yet it doesn’t seem as if our society is a happy one.

This problem will continue.

Because you can spend all your time and all your resources looking for happiness, but if you are looking in the wrong place you will never find it regardless of how hard you look.

In this post we are going to examine Proverbs 2:1-11. Please take the time to read the passage before the comments in this post.

In Proverbs 2:1-22, we have the second poem found in the first 9 chapters of Proverbs.

Since the writer, in the previous chapter warned youth to beware of evil influences, he devotes chapter 2 to a discussion of the positive influences that wisdom has upon an individual. Wisdom protects the son from the evil influences and thus, keeps him from following the direction of those who are in the evil way.

Here is a basic outline of the 22 verses:

The development of character (vv. 1-11)

The internalizing of advice (vv. 1-4)

“if you receive…” (v. 1)

“if you cry…” (v. 3)

“if you seek…” (v. 4)

The result: religious education (learning to fear and know God; vv. 5-8)

“then you will understand…” (v. 5)

The result: ethical education (learning righteousness intuitively; vv. 9-11)

“then you will understand…” (v. 9)

The defense against the wicked (vv. 12-22)

Defense from the wicked men (vv. 12-15)

“to deliver you from…way of evil” (v. 12)

“who leave the pathsways (v. 13)

ways are crooked…devious…paths (v. 15)

Defense from the wicked woman (vv. 16-19)

“to deliver you from…immoral woman” (v. 16)

“who forsakes the companion” (v. 17)

“her house leads…her paths…” (v. 18)

Summary (vv. 20-22)

The development of character (vv. 1-11)

This first section (vv. 1-11) shows: “By internalizing parental teaching (vv. 1-4) he will come to fear and know God (vv. 5-8) and to learn righteousness intuitively (vv. 9-11).”[1] This is the reason why happiness is unattainable by many. When people dismiss God and His instructions, they will never be able to know what true happiness is nor will they ever be able to enjoy it. True happiness is found in God and living in accordance with God’s Word.

In other words, true happiness comes on the heels of wisdom. If you want to be truly happy you need to be wise. But wisdom does not come automatically nor freely. If you want wisdom you will have to meet the necessary qualifications, which are mentioned in verses 1-4.

The conditions (vv. 1-4)

Wisdom can be acquired; however, acquiring it is conditional. The reader must ensure that he has met the prerequisites for acquiring such wisdom. These prerequisites are expounded upon in the first 4 verses.

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;

In order to have wisdom one must allow it to dwell within the heart (2:1). This can be seen in two words: “receive” and “treasure.” The reader is called to “receive” God’s word, which goes beyond a mere mental acknowledgement or belief of the truth to a commitment to it. Waltke mentions that this type of commitment represents personal commitment rather than detached observation. A child learning a bicycle does not learn from merely understanding the motions necessary to propel the bike. Rather, he commits himself to learning a set of skills through taking risk and practice.[2]

The reader is also called to “treasure” God’s Word within him. The word “treasure” signifies storing up (as treasure stored in a safe place). Therefore, one treasures that which he stores up.[3] Although the word “heart” is not directly mentioned in verse 1 (it is in verse 2), it is evident that verse 1 speaks of a proper heart attitude toward God’s Word. The heart has the potential of driving one away from God because it is desperately wicked (Jer 17:9). Therefore, the reader should hide wisdom within his inner most being in order to train the heart to think God’s thoughts after Him (Rom 12:1-2). As I have suggested before, only a born-again person (one who has been regenerated by God’s Spirit) can truly pursue God and wholeheartedly apply God’s truth to one’s life. Those who are born again and treasure God’s Word have met the first condition in finding true wisdom. Thus, God does not call the believer as a mystic but as a student.[4] But unfortunately, most Christians think of the Christian life in terms of mysticism (experience, emotion) and fail to grasp that God leads by His Spirit according to His revealed truths.

Verse 2 clarifies verse 1 by demonstrating that as one receives and treasures wisdom, his heart will be changed, which is necessary if true change is to occur. To “incline” one’s ear to wisdom and to “apply” one’s heart to understanding are parallel terms. The first speaks of paying attention, while the latter speaks of turning the heart in the direction of understanding. One who is being changed by instruction is one who is alert and attentive (2:2) – he is one who will “lean into” the God’s truths for the purpose of diligently applying the instruction to his life.

Happiness comes on the heels of wisdom. Pursue wisdom. Wisdom starts with a sincere desire to apply it to your life. If you are not genuinely interested in acquiring God’s wisdom so that you can change your life through it, you have not met the first qualification. God will not dish out wisdom to those who are unwilling to act upon it.

Are you attentive to God’s word? What actions in your life indicate that you are attentive? When you read God’s Word are you alert or are you easily distracted thinking of the events of the day? Do you regularly attend a local church to hear God’s word, or is your attendance “hit and miss?” When you do attend are you alert or are you day dreaming? Do you leave the time of public worship with a better understanding of the Word of God and how to apply it or do you easily forget what was said? Or even worse, when you leave the time of public worship do you possess a numbing sense of satisfaction for having been well-entertained?

There is a cost involved in gaining wisdom. God’s knowledge and wisdom are not simply laying out on the surface for us. God’s wisdom requires that we do some mining of our own.

The second prerequisite for finding wisdom is willingness to pay the price involved in finding it. The price for wisdom is explained in very active language in verses 3-4. Verse 3 speaks of prayer, whereas verse 4 addresses active pursuit.

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;

First, we must plead with God so that He might impart wisdom to us. Do you actively ask God for wisdom? Is it your habit to ask Him for wisdom as you daily read His word?

Prayer is an essential part of learning and is indicated through the use of the word “cry” and the phrase “lift up your voice.” God wants the eager person to pray for wisdom that he might obtain it. Since wisdom is godly wisdom, the reader is dependent upon God to give it to him (James 1:5-8; see also Psalm 27:11-13).

Verse 4 demonstrates that, along with prayer, great diligence must be expended in seeking for wisdom. The reader is to look (“seek” and “search”) for wisdom with as much zeal and enthusiasm as if he was looking for “silver” or “treasures.” If you lost a bag of silver or a brick of gold in your home, you would certainly turn the house upside down in hopes of finding it.

What value do you place upon wisdom? God compares wisdom to treasure. The reality is that wisdom is far more valuable than a brick of gold (8:10; Psalm 19:10). Do you see it as being more valuable than earthly treasure? Is knowing God’s Word more important to you than having earthly riches? It ought to be: “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” (Psalm 19:10). If acquiring God’s wisdom is that important to you, you will show great diligence in acquiring it by actively pursuing it by reading and hearing God’s Word.

These verses force the reader to make a decision. Some people merely want enough wisdom to keep them out of major trouble. They really are not committed to keeping God’s Word in totality. They like the buffet-style approach to God’s Word – they take what is appetizing to them and leave the rest.

[1] Waltke, p. 216.

[2] Waltke, p. 219.

[3] Ross, EBCOT: “a figure that implies that most teaching cannot be used immediately but that some time will pass before education’s effects are felt (Plaut, p. 43). In the meantime the teachings will develop attitudes in their pupils that will influence their future actions.”

[4] Kidner (p. 61): the starting point in this search for wisdom “is revelation – specific (words) and practical (commandments); its method is not one of free speculation, but of treasuring and exploring received teachings…”

[5] Waltke, p. 226.

[6] Waltke, pp. 227-228.

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