Seek Wisdom’s Way


Wisdom in opposition to Evil

The Place of Wisdom Literature in Scripture

To show the multifaceted application and pervasive truthfulness of divine law

To learn to distill from common experiences holy purposes

Reflective instruction is a valid form of divine revelation as both a supplement to and interpreter of historical events [See Paul’s reflections on redemption in Romans 6. It is clearly revealed doctrine but is in the form of a closely reasoned argument from one that is reflecting on the implications of grace abounding in the presence of increased sin.] We are dependent on divine revelation for meaningful knowledge – 3:5, 6

All issues, from the daily and mundane familial and neighborly interactions to perplexities of deep and mysterious tragedy, wisdom involves a profound submission to divine instruction;  We learn to see God’s hand in the extremities of life as well as the normal- Job (throughout) Ecc 5:18-20; 6:7-9; 7:1-5

We must assume the existence of a God who creates, sustains, reveals, redeems, and judges to make any progress in discerning moral and intellectual  coherence and meaning.

A heart uninstructed by divine revelation manifests itself in foolish talk (10:19, 31-32; James 1:5-8, 19)

Knowledge that does not result in moral improvement and holy discernment is not wisdom cf. James 3:13-18

Wisdom expresses itself particularly in sexual purity while foolishness expresses itself in sexual perversions of many sorts 2:10-22; ch. 5; 6:20-35; ch. 7; 9:13-18 ; 2 Samuel 11, 13; Romans 1:24ff

Wisdom is intrinsic to God’s being as an active expression of His attributes: 3:19; 8:22-31

Wisdom culminates in the person and work of Christ 1 Cor 1:30; 2:6-8; Colossians 2:1-5

What does the Text Say?

A.  Wisdom yields only to an earnest desire for obtaining it  1-6

1.  One who is wise increases in learning 5; cf. 4:5-7; 9:9-12-

2.  His gathering of knowledge is in pursuit of good purposes

He will seek instruction as it comes in various literary forms 2, 6 [note all the styles of instruction contained in Scripture]

He will seek it for increase of integrity of heart  3. Much beyond  the seeking of personal advantage, the goal of increased wisdom should be, righteousness, justice, and equity. Particularly is this true for one that is to be a leader.

He will seek it that he might instruct others 4 – Gaining wisdom to be an encouragement to the betterment of others is inherent in true wisdom. James defines the wisdom from below as devoted to “bitter jealously and selfish ambition.” That which is from above, among other things, “impartial and sincere.”

B. Verse 7 – True knowledge cannot be divorced from Fear of the Lord ( for an expansion of this cf. 3:5-7; 9:10; 10:27; cf Ecc. 12:13) The first four commandments define the constituent parts the proper of God. All of life and every part of beneficial knowledge must be built on this devoted knowledge of the one true God. “This is life eternal that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

The Positive effect of Christian evidences requires a love of the truth. One may demonstrate with clarity the powerful credibility of the Christian faith, but hardness of heart will keep a person from receiving the truth. Even the revelation that God gives through Nature, the manifestation of “his eternal power and godhead” falls on eyes blinded because they will not see and ears deafened because they will not hear.

Christian Theology is foundational to proper fear of God. “We can never worship God acceptably, unless we worship him regularly [i.e. according to the rule of Scripture]; Thomas Watson;  William Ames includes both in his definition of theology : “Theology is the doctrine or teaching of living to God.”

Condemnation comes particularly to those who do not receive a “love of the truth” 2 Thes 2:10-12

C.  Wisdom discerns the destructive end of evil

1.  The value of parental discernment  8-10

Command built on 5th of decalogue and is a “type” of divine authority. Even as the fear of the Lord summarizes the first four commandments, so this admonition bridges the two tables by seeing Parents as  communicating God’s authority. The instruction that arises focuses on the many ways in which the second table of the commandments is broken thus dishonoring both God and man.

Wisdom constitutes the most beautiful adornment 9; 4:9; Godly, humble, and loving interaction is a far greater attraction than any thing of purely material beauty. This is precisely the way Peter admonished wives in 1 Pet 3:1-4.

The general instruction, before delineating specific examples, is to avoid enticement of sinners. Thos who merely seek their own pleasure and want to spend their time in frivolous will never seek to lead one to purer worship and a more constructive and godly way of living. “If sinners entice you, do not consent.”

2.  A morphology of the enticement  11-14

Appeal to power and sensation – Solomon does not give the exact words of the enticement, but inserts an editorial comment about the injustice of the proposal, “Let us ambush the innocent without reason.” The illusion of power can be enticing and to think that one’s power can be as absolute as Sheol must make the plot very heady indeed.

Set forth the allurement of wealth – Setting out the end result of great wealth can makes the means seem entirely fitting. The jackpot of millions makes the throw-away of wealth in gambling seem innocent when so much can be gained for so little. Even so, overpowering one unjustly with a view to wealth is driven by the irresistible force of pure self-love.

Illusion of convivial camaraderie – Strength in numbers makes the prospect seem pleasant and will result in a solid group of friends. All have benefited from the plot together and have formed a bond out of this iniquitous action.

3.  Avoid their way for the simple reason that it is evil  15, 16 –A clear violation of commandments 6, 8, 10 Killing, stealing, and coveting all are involved in this plot and puts the perpetrator under the judgment of both God and society.

4.  Also see that evil turns on its propagators and destroys them  17-19

A bird will avoid an obvious trap

The rebellious spirit of a human, however, is self-destructive – they “lie in wait for their own blood, they set an ambush for their own lives; unjust gain . . . takes away the life of its possessors.” Even should the plot succeed and the riches be obtained, the  torment of conscience, the  death of the soul, and the impending judgment of God render the criminal dead.

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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