Your Ticket to Real Success


Biblical Truth: The Lord wants people to succeed in living right, and He instructs those who know and trust Him in how they can do so.

Learn from Scripture: Proverbs 1:1-6.

[1]  The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: [2]  To know wisdom and instruction, to discern the sayings of understanding, [3]  to receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice and equity; [4]  to give prudence to the naive, to the youth knowledge and discretion, [5]  a wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel, [6]  to understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles.  [NASU]

[1-2]  Verses 2-6 present ten words that summarize what Proverbs gives the person who heeds its instruction: wisdom, instruction, understanding [2], instruction [3], prudence, knowledge, discretion [4], learning, wise counsel [5], understand [6]. Wisdom is the first promised result. The basic meaning of the word is ‘skill’ in living. This skill brings its possessor into success. Instruction is also guaranteed. An alternative translation is ‘discipline.’ This discipline is education through correction. Understanding refers to the knowledge of something and to the faculty that enables you to come to that knowledge. Truth is not relative – there is right and wrong, truth and error, understanding and stupidity – and it may be discovered in these proverbs. Discernment is the path to this understanding. It is the ability to look at two things and see what God sees. These proverbs cut through the fog of human reasoning and throw the spotlight of God upon a given situation, revealing God’s verdict.

[3-4]  Verse 3 provides the fourth of ten benefits delivered to the door of those who heed the proverbs of this book: instruction in wise behavior. The Hebrew term behind wise behavior is roughly synonymous with the word translated discernment in verse 2. However, there is a distinction to be made. Discernment means to distinguish between two things. Wise behavior refers to an understanding of the reason for the distinction that is made. A good alternative translation may be ‘insight.’ Feeding on the proverbs not only helps you distinguish God’s choice in any situation, but why it is His choice. This insight is seen as it is actively revealed in righteousness, justice and equity. The wisest course of action in any circumstance is bringing your life into conformity with the character and actions of God. The fifth term is prudence. The proverbs will make the gullible shrewd and able to avoid the pitfalls of life. The naive person is one who is open and vulnerable to any influence that the winds may blow upon him. The naive lack judgment. The proverbs will make them able to see these influences for what they are and to circumvent the disaster they would bring. The sixth benefit is seen in the knowledge derived from the proverbs. This is offered to the immature youth, just as prudence is to the gullible. This knowledge is something gained through the senses. The proverbs heighten every part of a person to the truth of God. Discretion is the seventh item listed as a benefit to the student of Proverbs. This term is used in the proverbs to describe wisdom’s ability to protect its possessor from the harm brought on by foolishly proceeding with an ill-advised plan. Positively, discretion is the ability to form a practical plan of action and work it to its end. 

[5-6]  Not only do the impressionable and immature [4] benefit from the proverbs, but also the one already possessing a degree of wisdom. We are never fully wise. Two more benefits will come to the one who seeks and keeps on seeking wisdom from God. The eighth is that they will gain additional learning. The root of the word means to ‘take’ or to ‘seize.’ The mature person of wisdom gains an ever increasing ability to grasp with their mind the wisdom of God as it relates to their particular circumstances. They will receive perception into the affairs of life. Also, they will lay hold of wise counsel, the ninth benefit listed. The one who gets this is a man of understanding, the participle of the word translated discern in verse 2. The one who rightly discerns the things of God will, by continuing to study these proverbs, be able to steer a safe and true course through life. The tenth benefit of studying Proverbs is to understand. This is the same word as translated discern in verse 2. Four expressions are then used to describe what we find in this book. A proverb is the term that heads the book. A figure refers to a saying that speaks indirectly to an issue. To the discerning of heart a figure has a sense other than the obvious one. The words of the wise means that the discerning does not give heed to everyone, but only to those who have acquired God’s wisdom. The riddles may refer to what is obscure or indirect in its statements, much like the riddles of Samson [Judges 14:13-14]. Instead of describing four different kinds of sayings, it seems rather that the writer is setting up a contrast of two kinds of sayings. The path of wisdom leads not only to understanding plain statements of truth (proverbs and the words of the wise) but also more enigmatic, indirect statements that carry a stream of wisdom that lies beneath the surface of the obvious (a figure and riddles) and is only tapped by the one who meditates upon them.

Revere the Lord: Proverbs 1:7; 2:4-8.

[7]  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. [2:4]  If you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; [5]  Then you will discern the fear of the LORD and discover the knowledge of God. [6]  For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. [7]  He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, [8]  guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones.  [NASU]

[7]  This verse expresses the substance of the entire book of Proverbs. The fear of the Lord is a repeated theme being found fourteen times throughout the book. Being contrasted with the fear of man [29:25], the fear of the Lord renders countless benefits for its possessor. It is not only the beginning of knowledge [1:7,29; 2:5] and wisdom [9:10; 15:33], but it instills confidence [14:26] and makes rich [22:4]. The fear of the Lord prolongs life [10:27], is a fountain of life [14:27], leads to life [19:23], and is rewarded with life [22:4]. The fear of the Lord is to hate the evil God hates [8:13; 16:6; 23:17]. Though you may lose all else, gain the fear of the Lord [15:16]. This reverent awe is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom in that it is the first and controlling principle, rather than a stage which one leaves behind. The wise never graduate from the school of instruction and wisdom. While the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure, the path of the fool is to despise wisdom and instruction. For the first time, we are introduced to the fool, a personage that will be mentioned repeatedly throughout the book.

[2:4-5]  Notice how the writer piles one intense verb upon another in describing the quest for wisdom: receive, treasure [1], make … attentive, incline [2], cry, lift [3]. To these six he adds two more verbs in this verse: seek and search. These verbs speak of the passion of the search underway. The discovery of silver and hidden treasure is the goal. Hidden treasure refers to something of such rare value that it is shielded from the public view. The series of conditional clauses in verses 1-4 now culminates with then which indicates the result of fulfilling the conditions of diligent search. The outcome is the fear of the Lord and the knowledge of God. To possess the fear of the Lord is to embrace reality. It describes a Biblical worldview. It defines the perspective of the person who has come to see that The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it [Ps. 24:1]. It describes an informed and appropriate perspective of who God is and who I am before Him. The knowledge of God describes the great desire of God for His people [Hosea 4:1,6; 6:6]. The Hebrew word for knowledge describes an intimate knowledge of the object involved; it is knowledge gained through personal and experiential relationship. God desires, above all else, that we would know Him deeply and personally, more even than He desires our multiplied sacrifices [Hosea 6:6]. This kind of intimacy with God is the end goal of God’s redemptive plan for man [Hab. 2:14; Isa. 11:9]. The fear of the Lord and the knowledge of God are often found as the twin towers of true religion, describing the poles of awe and intimacy which God desires. This pursuit will require discernment, the ability to look at two things and distinguish the differences. The arrival at knowing God and acquiring wisdom requires choices, sometimes difficult choices. These choices must be based upon the revelation of God, not personal whim.

[6-7]  The reason one finds God when he seeks wisdom is that only God can dispense true wisdom. Notice that what verse 5 describes as being found is in fact given. Wisdom is a gift of grace. No amount of human effort can acquire it. Our diligent search is required, but is not efficient apart from God’s grace: the grace both to seek and the grace to discover. Not only is God the sole source of wisdom, but He only dispenses it in one way: the words of His mouth. Ultimately, wisdom is not a matter of discovery, but of revelation. Not only does God dispense wisdom to the seeker, but He stores up that wisdom for the hour in which we need it. God has laid up in store for us His wisdom in His word [6] and, then, when we dig and search for it [1-4], He lays it up in store within us [Ps. 119:11]. The thing hidden is designated as sound wisdom. The term carries the idea of sound judgment and that which flows from it, i.e. abiding success in the practical affairs of life. But this wisdom is held in reserve only for the upright. The word has the idea of straightness. When we are straight with God, He is straight with us and leads us straight to His wealth of wisdom held for us. Not only does God grant wisdom, He Himself is our shield. The word describes the small round shield carried by the light infantry and officers. It was lighter, more mobile and moveable than the large rectangular shield which covered the entire body. Again God does not serve indiscriminately in this capacity, but only for those who walk in integrity. Walk is descriptive of the established and consistent way of life a person takes. Integrity is the full submission and moral faultlessness which chooses God with the whole heart and seeks good without exception. It does not denote moral perfection, but the full-orbed and whole-hearted submission of one’s life to God.

[8]  The thought begun in the last line of verse 7 is continued here. It is important to allow the three lines to interpret one another. A shield, guarding and preserves are parallel as are walk, paths and the way. The parallelism of integrity and justice with His godly ones makes clear that the assurance is that, as we live justly, God promises to be our shield and guard. There is no safety in folly and independence, but there is security in obedience and devotion to God. Indeed, godly ones comes from the powerful Hebrew word hesed and connotes the loyalty of those who keep the terms of God’s covenant. God does the keeping, but He requires us to avail ourselves of His wisdom and enabling to stay in the paths He has promised to guard.

Live by Faith: Proverbs 3:5-6.

[5]  Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. [6]  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.  [NASU]

[5]  Here we encounter an exhortation [5-6a] and, then, a promised reward [6b]. The exhortation is given in three lines. The first line calls us to trust in the Lord with all our hearts. This trust is the sense of security and safety that comes from being under the care of another more competent than ourselves. This trust is to be total: with all your heart. The heart represents the totality of one’s inner being: mind, emotions and will. Everything we are and all we have must be rested upon the Lord as our security. The second part of the exhortation is cast negatively: we are not to lean on your own understanding. The root of the verb means to support yourself on something, to lean with your entire weight upon something. We are not to take our own understanding as buttressing support. Understanding is a word that is generally given a positive spin by Solomon, but here is seen negatively. Here it is that human wisdom worked up from our natural selves as compared to the divine wisdom that God gives to those who seek Him. This does not mean to imply that there is nothing to be trusted in common sense, but simply that you don’t use it as your sole, or even primary, support in life. Rather, we should bank our all on God and the wisdom of His ways. His ways are above ours, and must be chosen when they seem to contradict our earthly, human wisdom.

[6]  The verb acknowledge means simply ‘to know.’ Such knowledge is more than acquainting yourself with God, but describes a deep experiential knowledge. The fact that this is to be in all your ways drives deeper still the level of intimacy intended. Finally, the reward is stated: and He will make your paths straight. The straight paths of the wise contrast with the crooked or perverse ways of the wicked. The reward is more than the promise of simple guidance. It includes the removal of obstacles from the path of the wise and the surety of arriving at one’s destination. When you abandon yourself to God in trusting obedience, finding your entire support in Him and striving in every avenue of your life to know Him more intimately, He guarantees that the path before you will be clearer and smoother than otherwise it would have been, and that He will keep you in His will.

Appreciate God’s Correction: Proverbs 3:11-12.


[11]  My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD or loathe His reproof, [12]  For whom the LORD loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.  [NASU]

[11-12]  Wisdom is learned not only by prosperity and blessing, but also through hardship and suffering. These verses are quoted in Hebrews 12:5-6, where they are then expounded upon. Discipline points first to an exhortation with a warning of consequences for disobedience, but it also then may refer to the physical punishment applied if the counsel is not followed. Reproof points more exclusively to verbal correction, yet both terms are often found together. Both are employed by God (through His word and through His providences) and ought to be a part of every godly parent’s instruction as well. The responses warned against are reject and loathe. The former refers to the action of pushing away counsel and discipline and walking away from it, refusing to learn anything from it. The latter describes an emotional reaction to discipline. The purpose of the discipline is not perceived, so the emotions cannot abide with it and learn from it. The first is an act of a rebellious will, the second a reaction of a misguided mind and emotions. The latter believes the discipline is capricious, and misses that God’s discipline is one of the greatest evidences of His love [Heb. 12:7-11]. If these two misguided responses are avoided and the discipline embraced, rather than rejected, then afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness [Heb. 12:11b]. If we do not flee the correction and discipline of God, we will discover it to be a great sign of our sonship. God disciplines us, not because He does not love us, but in order to protect us. He allows difficult things to come our way, not because He delights in pain, but because He delights in us [Heb. 12:7; Job 5:17; Ps. 94:12; 119:75; Rev. 3:19].

Questions for Discussion:

1.          Proverbs 1:2-6 outlines the purpose of studying Proverbs. What ten words summarize what Proverbs gives to the person who heeds its instructions?

2.          How does 1:7 express the substance of the entire book of Proverbs? Why is “the fear of the Lord’ the key to the treasure of knowledge and wisdom?

3.          In 2:1-4, what eight intense verbs describe how we are to discern the fear of the Lord? What do these verbs tell us about our role in the search for wisdom? What does 2:6-8 tell us about God’s role in this search?

4.          In 3:5-6, describe the threefold exhortation and the promised reward. Why are the exhortations necessary in order to experience the promise?

5.          How is God’s discipline one of the greatest evidences of His love? Do you see God’s love at work in your life when undergoing His discipline?


Proverbs, John Kitchen, Mentor.

Proverbs, Tremper Longman III, Baker.

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