Fear and Wisdom and Biblical Sagacity Part Two: Getting There

In Proverbs, the sage understands that the fear of the Lord is something that he needs to explain to his students, and that is what he does in the chapter 2 of the book. In Proverbs 2:1-11, we find him explain how we can get a grasp on the fear that is needed for wisdom. 

In these verses the sage spells out the practical guidelines for attaining the fear of the Lord. 

My son, if you accept my words           
     and store up my commands within you, 
turning your ear to wisdom           
     and applying your heart to understanding, 
and if you call out for insight           
     and cry aloud for understanding, 
and if you look for it as for silver           
     and search for it as for hidden treasure, 
then you will understand the fear of the LORD           
     and find the knowledge of God. 

Proverbs 2:1-5 

First, it is crucial that we be committed to learning wisdom.  We are told to “accept” his words as opposed to ignoring or rejecting them. Next, we should “store up” the teachings that he will give us, meaning that we should remember them so that we can think about them and use them later in life. It is likely that the students of wisdom would memorize the proverbs as a way of storing them up. This way they could recall the right proverb when it was needed to provide counsel. 

I particularly like the way that the sage says that we should “turn our ear to wisdom.”  In modern language, we might say that wisdom is like a radio frequency that we should tune in to so that we can hear what is being said.

The sage goes on to encourage us to actively seek out wisdom, to “call out” for it and “cry aloud” for understanding as if it were riches.  Imagine if someone told you that they had buried a million dollars in gold in your back yard, and that it was yours if you could find it. You would spend every free moment looking for it, would you not?  We should have the same passion for wisdom, looking for it ceaselessly.

One word that we might use to describe both the acts of accepting and looking for wisdom is the word “commitment.”  We must be committed to gaining wisdom if we ever hope to find it.  

When I was in tenth grade, I went out for the football team at my high school, which meant that I had to go through the summer football camp.  Anyone who has done this knows what kind of commitment is required to get through summer football.  We had two, sometimes three, practices a day in the sweltering heat.  Anyone who signed up for the camp halfheartedly probably quit in the first two weeks.  In order to survive you had to be more than just willing to go to practice, you had to want to do it because you wanted to play football.  It was that hard, but the committed ones got through.

We need to have the same wholehearted commitment to wisdom if we don’t want to fail, but if we do have that commitment, the sage promises that we will understand what it means to fear the Lord.

The Source of Wisdom

So how does commitment help us understand the fear of the Lord?  Solomon explains in 2:6-11,

For the LORD gives wisdom, 
     and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.   
He holds victory in store for the upright,      
     he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,  
for he guards the course of the just      
     and protects the way of his faithful ones.  
Then you will understand what is right and just and fair     
     –every good path.  
For wisdom will enter your heart,      
     and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.  
Discretion will protect you,      
     and understanding will guard you.  

Proverbs 2:6-11 

Being committed to wisdom does not mean that we can have wisdom if we just “try really hard.”  Human beings cannot come up with their own wisdom just because they are particularly smart or particularly committed.  Rather wisdom is a gift of God.  He is the source of wisdom from the very beginning.  It is his wisdom.  He owns it. It is a reflection of his own wise character, but he gives it freely to those who seek it (James 1:5).

Throughout history, people have believed that they can get wisdom by themselves, by experiencing different things like failure and success, and if they are watchful they can learn wisdom on their own.  It is true that everyone learns from his or her own mistakes in life (some better than others), but this approach to wisdom can only produce a worldly sort of wisdom.  The wisdom that Solomon is talking about is much greater and fulfilling because it is the true wisdom of God.  

If you are committed to God’s wisdom you will learn that it is only through him that you can gain it, and look at everything that you have to gain.  As we just read, the Lord “holds victory” for those who seek wisdom.  He is a “shield,” and he “guards” and “protects” the wise.  Not only this but wisdom will “enter your heart” and “knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.”  

One of the results of gaining wisdom is your own personal fulfillment.  At the end of the day, wisdom offers the gift of a confident (due to God’s protection) and a fulfilled life (due to the pleasing nature of wisdom).