Proverbs 2 Sermon Seeking and Receiving the Wisdom of God (Rev. Erik Veerman)
Seeking and Receiving the Wisdom of God (Rev. Erik Veerman)
Our sermon text this morning is Proverbs chapter 2. You can find that on page 626.
One thing these opening chapters do is present the case for wisdom. Not human wisdom but God’s wisdom. In particular, the first 4 chapters answer the question: What, Why and how. What is wisdom and why and how should you pursue the wisdom of God?
We’ve already considered chapter 1. It defined wisdom for us and it gave us the foundation to wisdom. Wisdom begins with fearing the Lord. You can’t start anywhere else. Fearing the Lord is having him at the center of your life and giving him all the reverence, awe, and worship that he alone deserves as the eternal God. That’s the first part of the “how” question.
Then in the second half of chapter 1 – we were given the first part of the “why” question. Why wisdom? In those verses, Solomon gave his son a grave warning. If you don’t listen to the wisdom of God, the path you will be on will lead to anguish and destruction. He was saying, “Beware and listen up!” Now, to be sure, in the coming weeks, we’ll hear the positive answers to the “why” question, but we first needed a little wake up call.
Chapter 2, here, goes back to the “how” question. Yes, we start with the fear of the Lord, but how do we then get wisdom? How do we build on that foundation?
As I read, listen for the answer.
Reading of Proverbs 2
Every single day, about 7 million new blog entries are posted. 7 million every day! Every week, about 550 thousand podcast episodes are released. Think about that. Half a million published every week. Let’s also consider books. Last year, about 2.2 million books were published.
As you know, some blogs and podcasts and books are entertainment, but most are informational or about opinions. They including thoughts on lifestyle and finance and travel and the latest social trends, or about news and commentary or, of course, about religion and politics. Millions and millions of all of that.
We have an almost insatiable desire to consume information.
Why is that? Well, there are many reasons, but part of it is a deep desire to make sense of the world. We want to be able to understand things so that we can navigate life. We want to formulate our own opinions and analyze other people’s opinions.
Almost everyone is searching for some kind of wisdom.
And that’s where Proverbs 2 comes in. Proverbs 2 instructs you on how to get God’s wisdom. His wisdom is not received through self-help books or podcasts (except for Proverbs podcasts!). To be sure, some of those resources can be helpful, but none of those are where you will find the wealth and source of God’s wisdom. No, there’s a greater source. There’s a greater treasure of knowledge and wisdom to pursue. And here’s what Proverbs 2 tells us: when you seek this treasure with all your heart, God will then give it to you.
I think that’s the beauty of this chapter. Wisdom is not just something you pursue. Yes, we each need to do that. But wisdom is also something that you must be given. And when wisdom is given to you, it will transform you. So, seeking and receiving wisdom.
Let me say, Seeking wisdom is not an intellectual pursuit. It’s not a pursuit where you are just trying to fill your mind with information. Yes, knowledge is important, but it’s not the goal. In the same way, receiving wisdom from God is not receiving head knowledge or the ability to remember and recall. No, getting wisdom is much deeper.
The thing about this chapter is that it’s rich with language that goes to our very being. It’s seeking and receiving at the very center of who we are. It’s heart and soul seeking and receiving. You’ll see that word “heart” there in verses 2 and 10. The call is to “incline your heart” to wisdom.
Now, to the original Hebrew audience, the word “heart,” as we’ve talked about before, had a very different connotation than it does today. Today, when we think about our heart, we primarily think about our feelings. But back then, your heart was about what you believe and cherish deep down. Feelings come and go, but a heart of understanding and wisdom is a foundation in your life. You are going to hear that kind of language worked out in different ways.
In fact, I’m going to use that word “heart” in my points. I’m referring to the original meaning.
· Point 1 is this: Seek God’s wisdom from your heart
· Second: Receive a heart of wisdom from God
· And Third: Reap the rewards of a heart of wisdom
So, seek, receive, and reap. Seek God’s wisdom from your heart, receive a heart of wisdom from God, and reap the rewards of a heart of wisdom.
1. Seek God’s wisdom from your heart
To begin, right in verse 1 we’re told where to search for wisdom... where to direct our attention. Solomon tells his son “If you receive my words and treasure up my commandments.” Solomon is referring to the words written here in Proverbs… and he includes the commandments. In other words, Solomon is directing his son to God’s law and his word. You see, outside of studying these Proverbs, the children would have been taught the law and the prophets. They would have studied God’s Word and even memorized it.
But let me ask this. If you are a student here. Grade school, middle school, high school, college… do you like to study? I think know the answer. Sometimes. Often though, you’re not interested in the subject. Right? But yet, in school, you have to study and learn even the topics you don’t like. So, what do you do? You jump through the hoops. You cram for the exam, and right after the test, poof. It disappears out of your mind. I have intimate knowledge about how to do that.
But that is the exact opposite of how to get wisdom. Look at the language.
· Verse 1, if you “receive my words.” That means, taking hold of them. It also says, “Treasure up my commandments.” When you treasure something, you are holding something dear.
· Verse 2. If your “ear is attentive to wisdom.” It’s not in one ear out the other. It’s like you are leaning forward, hanging on every word from God. And then there’s our word “heart.” “inclining your heart to understanding.” Your pursuit of wisdom is not about knowing information so you can pass the test. No, the call here is to have a heart for wisdom. “I want your wisdom, Lord. Give me a heart that yearns for wisdom.”
· And look at verse 4. “If you seek it like silver and search for it as hidden treasure.” Do you hear that sense of a deep longing and searching for wisdom?
I was thinking of Jesus’ parable of the hidden treasure. A man finds hidden treasure in a field, but he doesn’t own the land. He can’t take it. And so what does he do? He sells everything he has to buy the field so that the treasure would be his. That is the level of heart pursuit we should have for God’s wisdom.
Again, it’s not a mental exercise to fill your mind with knowledge so you can regurgitate it or demonstrate that you know things. No, our seeking of wisdom should be a deep yearning and longing for the wisdom of God… which he has given us in his Word. What does that require? It requires pursuing it. Filling our minds with God’s Word and commands. Memorizing them.
In fact, in the Hebrew, this chapter is written for memorization. Chapter 2 is a form of an acrostic. An Acrostic is when a text connects to the alphabet. There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet and 22 verses here. The first 11 verses are full of the letter Aleph. That’s the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Verses 12-22 are full of the letter Lamed. Lamed is the 12th letter of the Hebrew alphabet. So, it’s a type of acrostic which indicates two things. First it communicates completeness – completeness in seeking and receiving wisdom. But second, it supports memorizing the chapter. Acrostics helped with that.
In other words, this chapter’s instruction to pursue God’s wisdom parallels this chapter’s structure which enables the pursuit of God’s wisdom.
You see, seeking the wisdom of God in your heart and mind requires filling your heart and mind with the wisdom of God in his word. That’s our part, our responsibility. It’s seeking out the wisdom of God from a heart that desires the wisdom of God.
So seek it.
2. Receive a heart of wisdom from God
And that brings us to point 2. The receive part. Receive a heart of wisdom from God
Let me say, these first 2 points are really interrelated. The first point, Seeking God’s wisdom from your heart interrelates with the second point, Receiving a heart of wisdom from God. It’s both our pursuit AND God’s gift.
That’s why in verse 3, we’re to “call out” and “raise our voice” for wisdom. In other words, pray. You see, part of seeking wisdom is praying to God that he would give you wisdom.
Have you ever done that? Have you ever prayed that God would give you a heart for wisdom… Have you asked God to fill your heart with wisdom? We read from the book of James, earlier. He says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
I have this very clear memory of someone asking me that question. Had I ever prayed for wisdom? I was in High school at the time. It was in the summer. I remember not knowing exactly how to pray for wisdom. I just knew I had a desire to better understand God and his world and his word. So I prayed! But it wasn’t like, all of a sudden light bulbs went off. No. But over time, first God developed in my heart a deeper desire to have his wisdom… and second, over time he gave me a deeper understanding of his wisdom. I believe God is still answering that prayer in my life.
Will you pray for wisdom? Verse 6 says, “for the Lord gives wisdom.” You see, wisdom flows from him.
Did you notice how these opening verses lead up to that? IF you receive and treasure my commands. IF your ear is attentive… IF you call out for it… IF you seek it like silver. IF, IF, IF, THEN….
THEN, it says, “you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” WHY? Verse 6. “For the Lord gives wisdom.” We seek it. He gives it.
God is the source of all wisdom. Verse 7 – “He stores up sound wisdom for the upright”
As Romans 11 declares, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! …For from him and through him and to him are all things.”
When you seek God and his wisdom from your heart, he will give you his wisdom in your heart. Look how verse 10 puts it, “for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.”
Again, “heart” in the ancient Hebrew sense of the word. You’ll be given a deep-seated belief and knowledge of God, his word, and his commands. You’ll be given discernment of what is good and right and true and righteous. “wisdom will come into your heart.” When you seek wisdom with all your heart.
Seeking and receiving. It’s our pursuit and God’s gift. If you hold the Scriptures up to your head, the words are not going to somehow move from the pages to your brain.
No, you read the word, listen to it, meditate on it, study it. God is the one who then moves it from your head to your heart. The call of wisdom to know God’s and to know God’s Word. And to know God is for him to know you. That’s why you call out to God for wisdom because he is the one who gives wisdom and who gives you knowledge of him.
Let me answer the question “how do I get wisdom?” by state the first two points this way: If you seek God’s wisdom from your heart, then you will receive a heart of wisdom from God.
3. Reap the rewards of a heart of wisdom
And here’s the thing. Having a heart filled with God’s wisdom comes with innumerable blessings. The second half of chapter 2 gives us some of the rewards of wisdom. And actually, we’re going to see more of the blessings in chapter 3.
We learn in this chapter that when we receive the wisdom of God, we will reap the rewards of a heart of wisdom.
This is our third point. Reap the rewards of a heart of wisdom.
Let me say, as we continue to work through Proverbs, we’re going to see, over and over, various temptations. We’ll read about the path of the fool and the wicked. We’ll hear about injustice and sloth and gluttony, pride, and deception. We’ll see, in pretty graphic form, the temptations of the adulterer. Yes, proverbs will point us to a life of integrity and honor and righteousness, but it’s also full of the various landmines that are on the path to destruction.
And what Solomon is saying here in the second half of chapter 2 is this: Having the wisdom of God will protect you, guard you, deliver you. In other words, when you seek the wisdom of God with all your heart and you receive the wisdom of God in your heart, God will use that to preserve and protect. You will reap the tremendous rewards of wisdom.
I want you to notice something in the second half of this chapter. The verbs connected to Solomon’s son are passive. In other words, the one who has wisdom is being acted upon by wisdom.
Let me highlight some of those:
· Verse 11.”Discretion will watch over you… understanding will guard you” Do you hear that language of protection?
· Verse 12… “delivering you from the way of evil.” And then for three verses, Solomon explains just how devious and perverse the wicked are. The placement of the word “delivering” at the beginning reveals an emphasis on being delivered.
· Verse 16 is similar. “You will be delivered from the forbidden woman.” And then again, for three verses, he explains just how destructive her path is. It leads to death.
· What will having a heart of wisdom give you? Verse 20 – “you will walk in the way of the good.” It’s a promise that wisdom will keep you on the paths of the righteous.
Last weekend, we were out of town and rented a car. This car would warn you if you got too close to the yellow or white lines, or if there was a car in your blind spot. And if you enabled the cruise control, it would literally turn the steering wheel for you to keep you in the center of the lane – It would also make sure that you were not too close to the car in front of you. It would slow you down. I know what some of you are thinking. “They’ve had that technology for 10 years.” Yes, but let me just say that the cars in our driveway are (to put it nicely) vintage. So, it was new for us.
This is what wisdom does for you. It warns you, watches over you, guards you, keeps you on that path. Those are the words. In a sense, delivers you from falling asleep at the wheel, from accidents. You’ll have the wisdom to discern truth from error, righteousness from wickedness, and holiness from perverseness.
We don’t need to look much further than the life of Christ. In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2, we’re told of Jesus as a twelve-year-old boy. He was studying at the temple, listening to the teachers and interacting with them. And as it says, Jesus was filled with wisdom and he increased in wisdom and stature. In a sense he’s the embodiment of the first half of Proverbs 2. Seeking and treasuring the wisdom of God, and then being filled with wisdom from his Father.
Now fast forward to Jesus in the desert when Satan tempted him. In that situation, his wisdom was put into action. Jesus was tempted by the epitome of evil and deception - the devil himself. In fact, Satan twisted the very word of God to try to tempt Jesus.
Think of that, Satan quoted Scripture, really perverted Scripture, in an attempt to cause the Son of God to fall. But armed with the full wisdom of God, Jesus saw right through the lies and temptation. He responded, in wisdom, with the truth of God, not only setting the record straight but condemning Satan.
We need the wisdom of Christ. It’s through that wisdom that we will be delivered.
But you say, “wait, wait wait! How can God deliver us if at the end of his life on earth, Jesus wasn’t delivered?” That’s a great question because you likely know what happened. Jesus was arrested, accused, mocked, tortured, and hung on a Roman cross. Look at Proverbs 2:12-15. It describes what Jesus endured. Men of deceptive speech rejoiced in doing evil against him. Their ways were perverted and crooked and devious. He was killed and we were complicit. Well, what happened to wisdom? Why didn’t the Father deliver him? or why didn’t Jesus save himself? Why? Because our deliverance depended on Jesus’ endurance. He endured the anguish and torture at the hands of evil men, in order to deliver us from evil and death and destruction. And in the end, which is the critically important part, Jesus was delivered. He overcame death and sin and evil so that he could guard us, and be a shield for us, and watch over us and deliver us.
This chapter is very instructive because nowhere in here does it say that you will deliver yourself. All the guarding and protecting is being done to you, if you have been given wisdom. Our responsibility is to actively seek the wisdom of God in his word and commands. After verse 5 – we’re the recipients of the benefits of wisdom. “The Lord gives wisdom….” “He stores up wisdom for us…,” “He’s a shield for us.” He is the one who delivers and guides and watches over us. We will reap the rewards of a heart of wisdom
The ultimate benefits of wisdom are in the deliverance that wisdom gives us. That deliverance comes through the wisdom of God in what Christ has done.
Let me briefly summarize and close.
Seek the wisdom of God in Christ. Pursue God with all your heart and mind and soul and strength. Pray for wisdom, yearn to have a heart of wisdom. Seek wisdom but seek God and his wisdom - his Word, and his commands.
And when you do, God will give you a wisdom beyond the wisdom of the world. He’ll give you a heart of wisdom. He will take the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And when you have that wisdom, he will deliver you. He can do that because he is the deliverer.
The promise of verse 21 will then be for you. “For the upright will inhabit the land and those with integrity will remain in it.” That’s the promise of Christ. It’s not your uprightness or integrity that delivers you. No, it’s the uprightness and integrity of Christ.
So, may we each seek the one who is wisdom, seek his word which reveals wisdom, and receive his deliverance through wisdom… his guidance and protection for eternity.