Wisdom, and how to use it

wisdom

You don’t have to read too far into the Bible before you realize something is very wrong with the human race. A problem exists that affects not only every single human being, but all of creation. This problem was not part of God’s original plan for man. It came from the outside and there is no way to escape it. The problem is sin. This problem is all around us; no matter where a believer may travel, he will always find sin. Or sin will find him.

Modern man doesn’t talk much about sin, preferring to call it dysfunction, addiction, disorder, alternate lifestyle, or whatever the current mot du jour may be. Those things are real problems, but there is a real danger in using new words to describe something the Bible calls “sin.”

In the Old Testament book of Proverbs, Solomon and others collected the “wisdom of the ancients.” There is truth in the saying, “the truth is the truth no matter where you find it.” Under the Holy Spirit’s guidance, then, the 31 chapters of the book of Proverbs provide truth for living. If a man could live according to the teaching of Proverbs, it has been said, his life would be completely glorifying to God.

As far as the “sin” problem is concerned, Proverbs gives the reader all kinds of excellent advice on how to avoid it.

Reject the world’s call, Proverbs 1:10—19

The reason for the book of Proverbs is a simple one:

These are the proverbs of King Solomon of Israel, David’s son: He wrote them to teach his people how to live—how to act in every circumstance… (Proverbs 1:1, 2 TLB)

The “people” included his son, as evidenced throughout the book with phrases like this one:

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. (Proverbs 1:8 NIV)

Part of the sin problem that plagues all men is inescapable. Many an unsuspecting young man, like Solomon’s son, first encounter it when he leaves home for the first time.

If young toughs tell you, “Come and join us”—turn your back on them! (Proverbs 1:10 TLB)

Very good advice! Be careful who you hang around with and whom you listen to. These “young toughs” are sinners; people who cause mischief and trouble. The funny thing about the allure of sin is that it is so enticing.

We’ll hide and rob and kill,” they say. “Good or bad, we’ll treat them all alike. And the loot we’ll get! All kinds of stuff! Come on, throw in your lot with us; we’ll split with you in equal shares.” (Proverbs 1:11—14 TLB)

There is a segment of the population to whom this kind of proposition sounds good. They want to be part of “the group.” They want their “fair share.” But it’s sin, plain and simple. Thomas Watson, the non-conformist, Puritan preacher, once remarked:

Associate with sanctified persons. They may by their counsel, prayer, and holy example be a means to make you holy.

For the believer, it’s best to ensure your friends are other believers. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be friendly to or associate with the unsaved. We can take lesson from Jesus. He closest friends were hand-picked people that held similar beliefs, but at the same time, our Lord had no problem associating with sinners.  His purpose in doing so was the winning their hearts.

Avoiding close associations with sinners is of the utmost importance:

Don’t do it, son! Stay far from men like that, for crime is their way of life, and murder is their specialty. When a bird sees a trap being set, it stays away, but not these men; they trap themselves! They lay a booby trap for their own lives. Such is the fate of all who live by violence and murder. They will die a violent death. (Proverbs 15—19 TLB)

This paragraph paints a pathetic picture of the hapless sinner. He just can’t help getting into trouble. The wise believer avoids people like this, lest they be dragged down along with them. The Bible does teach a kind of separation that Christians would do well to remember and practice, for the sake of their souls:

That is why the Lord has said, “Leave them; separate yourselves from them; don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you and be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters.” (2 Corinthians 6:17, 18 TLB)

Listen to wisdom, Proverbs 1:20—33

Wisdom is personified for the first time in this paragraph. This is a very common technique in Proverbs. “Wisdom” is portrayed as God’s prophet carrying a vital message to the people, who are described as “simpletons.” Why are they described that way? It’s because they continually reject Wisdom’s call. Only a foolish simpleton would do that.

For you turned away from me—to death; your own complacency will kill you. Fools! (Proverbs 1:32 TLB)

That’s the height of folly! It’s crazy to turn away from what you know to be true to pursue sin, which is “death.” This person is so foolish, they are described as “complacent.”  Chasing sin, all the while they are dying. One like that is a fool.

Punishment awaits fools who are indifferent to Wisdom’s call. But for those who take heed to Wisdom’s teachings, life and security awaits.

But all who listen to me shall live in peace and safety, unafraid. (Proverbs 1:33 TLB)

Avoid immorality, Proverbs 7:1—5, 21—27

All sin is not created equal and without a doubt, from the Bible’s perspective, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the the absolute worst sin of all.

Even blasphemy against me or any other sin can be forgiven—all except one: speaking against the Holy Spirit shall never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come. (Matthew 12:31, 32 TLB)

Running a close second would be sexual sin:

That is why I say to run from sex sin. No other sin affects the body as this one does. When you sin this sin it is against your own body. Haven’t you yet learned that your body is the home of the Holy Spirit God gave you, and that he lives within you? Your own body does not belong to you. For God has bought you with a great price. So use every part of your body to give glory back to God because he owns it. (1 Corinthians 6:18—20 TLB)

Specifically, the sin of adultery is singled out and given special mention throughout Proverbs. The sin of adultery is so insidious because it wreaks havoc not only on the one who commits it, but also on the one against whom it was committed, and also on other relationships. Adultery destroys all kinds of relationships. So, it’s not at all surprising that Solomon warns his son against its dangers.

The foundation of one father’s advice about adultery is built on wisdom, and wisdom is always the way of the Lord.

My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee. Keep my commandments, and live; And my law as the apple of thine eye. Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart. Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman: That they may keep thee from the strange woman, from the stranger which flattereth with her words. (Proverbs 7:1—5 KJV)

More than just good advice is needed to avoid temptation. It takes an active faith in God and the regular application of that faith in resisting the relentless onslaught of temptation. Only by taking God’s way of wisdom can you hope to stay on top of the sin all around you.

God’s wisdom is special; so special, in fact, it should be treated and cared for as you would the pupil of your eye. That phrase, “the apple of thine eye,” is a proverbial saying for something of inestimable value deserving of the utmost care or protection. This is how we ought to cherish God’s Word to us. Truth be told, we often don’t, which is why so often temptation gains the upper hand.

We ought to do more than just listen to the words wisdom; we need to “bind them” and “write them.” Those phrases were important to the Jews, and they took them literally. Recall Deuteronomy 6:6—9:

And you must think constantly about these commandments I am giving you today. You must teach them to your children and talk about them when you are at home or out for a walk; at bedtime and the first thing in the morning. Tie them on your finger, wear them on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house!

This is really describing an inward awareness of God’s Word. The Jews took this literally, but the idea is that the Word of God needs to be foremost on our minds all the time. Every aspect of our lives should be governed by the Word and the wisdom it contains.

The thing about the “wisdom of the Word” is that when it is properly applied, it acts like a barrier against sin. Remember the old saw,

Knowing God’s Word will keep you from sin…or sin will keep you from knowing His Word.

Here’s what Jesus had to say on the subject:

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (Matthew 8:31, 32 NKJV)

God’s Word is wisdom and it contains the truth. Ultimately, knowing God’s Word is important because it keeps us going in the right direction on the straight and narrow. And anything or anybody that keeps us from God’s Word needs to be dealt with sternly. A.W. Pink, great Calvinist evangelist and theologian, wrote this:

If any occupation or association is found to hinder our communion with God or our enjoyment of spiritual things, it must be abandoned.

So, with that in mind, then, we read about the adulteress. Like wisdom, in Proverbs the adulteress is a personification of evil temptation. Sin, like an adulteress, looks good and is full of flattery. If a young man (a believer) is not careful, he will succumb to her allurements.

He followed her as an ox going to the butcher or as a stag that is trapped, waiting to be killed with an arrow through its heart. He was as a bird flying into a snare, not knowing the fate awaiting it there. (Proverbs 7:22, 23 TLB)

With gleeful ignorance, the witless believer can be chewed up spat out by sin. Sin promises so much, but delivers only death. It’s no exaggeration to say that sin will cost you your life.

For she has been the ruin of multitudes—a vast host of men have been her victims. If you want to find the road to hell, look for her house. (Proverbs 7:26, 27 TLB)

This warning is meant to be taken seriously. Of course, most of us aren’t out trolling the streets and back alleys in the dark of night looking for the adulteress’ house. What Solomon is talking about here is sin in its rawest form. Sin—any sin you care to name—will drag you away from God, straight to Hell. Sin looks so good and promises so much, but in the end it’s not your friend and will do you no good.

If you are a believer, make sure God’s words of wisdom are foremost on your mind. Live wisely. Practice discernment. Don’t get close to the adulteress.

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