The Way to Go

Proverbs 4:11-12

“I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths. When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened; and when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble.”

A Way Walked

The first part of this passage is fairly simple to understand. In a moment of recollection, Solomon is reminding his children that he has given them good instruction; that he has led them.The best teachers are those who can say, “I have been down that road.” Sure, it is easy to give directions, but how much more valuable is the instruction when the teacher can relay first-hand experience?

As a bus driver, I drive the same route every day. I could draw a map that would be as accurate as one printed. But the difference between my map and an image from a satellite would be my knowledge of hazards unique to the vehicle. Unlike automobiles, 40 foot buses aren’t able to straighten some curves, or go under some bridges. Maps don’t usually show those things; but experience will.

Solomon is telling his children, as God is telling us, that the way ahead will be much easier if we listen to those who have gone before.

A Parental Challange

One interesting thing to note is where Solomon says “I have taught thee…” A deeper look at the word taught will show that it also means “to throw, to shoot.” Let this be a reminder – children are ours for a purpose.

In Psalm 127:5 David refers to children as “arrows” in a quiver. Arrows are worthless unless they are used. Arrows are worthless unless they are sharp, straight, and designed for a specific target. Children are to be considered tools with a mission, and we are to train them and keep them until we launch them toward their goals.

Straight, or Not?

Another interesting thing to consider is the word “straightened.” At first glance, we might consider the word here to mean the same as implied in the phrases “straight and narrow,” or “straight as an arrow.” Why, then, does Solomon say “thy steps shall not be straightened?” Does he want them to encounter curves along the way?

Actually, the word here is yatsar (Strong’s H3334), which can mean “to bind, be distressed, be in distress, be cramped, be narrow.” In reality, Solomon is saying that if one follows wise instruction, the way ahead will be less stressful, less binding, less depressing.

Thinking about this, I am immediately reminded of a particular place on the path through Rock City (a tourist attraction near Chattanooga, TN). It is called “fat man’s squeeze.” Seriously, if you are over 250 pounds, you might not make it through this narrow passage between two huge walls of rock. Yet, if you follow the signs along the way, you will be led to a different way around this “squeeze.”

If we would just follow wise counsel, the chances are much better that we will reach our goals, instead of stumbling or getting stuck along the way.

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Listen Up, Recruit!

Proverbs 4:10

“Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many.”

While pondering this verse, an image of older, more experienced men came to mind; men who have “been there and done that.”

The policeman

Street weary, he is wary of a new partner to train. He knows the rookie has been taught self-defense, state laws, patrol procedures, arrest techniques, and how to drive a squad car. But what the old cop also knows is that experience can’t be learned in a classroom.

“Listen, son,” the policeman says, “and pay attention to what I tell you; and you just might see retirement.”

The soldier

Only 22, in 6 months he has seen more than 6 lifetimes of pain. A new recruit, straight out of boot camp, is sent to fill a vacated spot. The young sergeant can tell the recruit is fit, equipped, and ready to defend his country. But the veteran also knows the terrain, the trails, the smells, and the sounds that are unique to his battlefield.

“Listen up, boy!” the vet growls. “If you want to live to read your first letter from Mom, pay attention to what I tell you.”

Solomon

“Listen to me, oh my son; take hold of what I am telling you.” Can you hear the warning in his words? Do you sense he knows something his son does not? Is it possible Solomon has walked down roads his son has not yet traveled? Yes, and more than likely it was he who recorded his experiences in the book of Ecclesiastes.

Wisdom calls out to us. The message is clear: listen, and live.

Self

Yet, self has to have its own way. It chooses what feels good and cries out, “If loving you is wrong, I don’t want to be right.” Self says, “I’ll do it my way.” And with no view toward the future, self concludes life is too short to be burdened by the warnings of old fools.

So, black bands continue to be place on badges; helmets still get placed on the butts of rifles; and parents still find themselves living longer than their children. Oh, that we would listen to the voice of wisdom.

 


Sri Lanka Weeps

The Christians in Sri Lanka weep as they mourn the loss of hundreds of precious lives, and pray for the wounded numbering in the hundreds more.

We weep with them. We mourn with them. We pray for the wounded.

But we rejoice in that the victory has already been won . . . The church will not be defeated . . . Jesus Christ has risen!

Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning! – Psalm 30:5


Fortress Wisdom

Proverbs 4:8-9

“Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her. She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.”

Building Wisdom

The defense of many iron-age villages in the UK relied on huge mounds of soil being piled up to encircle a settlement and create a primitive fort. There is one of these ancient earthworks close to where I live. It is situated on the highest point for several miles and must have taken a herculean effort to build. The scale of the earthworks is not immediately evident when walking on its remains, and much is left to the imagination. What is not in doubt is that the earthworks were essential to the safety of those who lived inside. Why else would a group of Ancient Britons have invested so much in the construction of such a formidable barrier?

The word ‘exalt’ at the beginning of verse eight could be applied to the construction of an iron-age fort. Wisdom needs to be built up, and constructed into a formidable barrier to defend against everything that life and Satan have to throw at us. It is useful to remember that iron age forts were not built overnight. Solomon may have been blessed with a gift of wisdom by God, but the process of building wisdom began with the early example and teaching of his parents  (Proverbial Thought – Proverbs 4:1-2 and Proverbs 4 3-4).

Embracing Wisdom

It is not enough to embark on a building project alone. The builders of the earthworks could not spend their entire lives inside never facing the dangers outside. And how good a defense would the earthworks have been if lookouts were never posted to provide warning of possible intruders?

The reason that Solomon tells us we need to embrace wisdom is because he knew that there would be times when however good and strong the earthworks of wisdom around us may be, we still have to venture out, sometimes into the unknown. Solomon is also reminding us in these verses that we need to remain alert. Why? Because danger is all around. Stand on top of the earthworks and take a good look outside:

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8 NASB)

The journey is not over yet, but look out from the ramparts and you will see that the reward for exercising wisdom is in view.

 


The Principle Thing

Proverbs 4:7

“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.”

I think God really wants us to understand that wisdom is the best thing we can get. How many times over the past few chapters have we been exhorted to get wisdom? And there is more to come!

In 2007, I had the blessing of living out this verse. Really it was a mixed blessing. I had to end an engagement to a woman. I lost my job. I left home with only three bags of possessions (to be fair, my parents still have a few of my things to this day), and spent months living out of those bags with nothing else. I knew no one when I got to Arizona, and I spent a few months practically homeless.

It was difficult and at times a little scary, but I have rarely been as joyful. I was so dependent on God for every moment. I almost literally gave up everything to get a hold of God.

What have you given up to get a hold of God?

He may be reaching out for us every moment of every day, but God wants us to willingly choose to love Him.

For some of us, we may have only to give up our past. For others it is giving up our habits. For still others it may be giving up wants and desires we once had. Like myself at one time, it may require a complete restart, giving up everything and everyone (to a point) in our lives to focus solely on God.

For some, such as many believers in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, it may mean giving up this life.

God’s wisdom is worth it. No amount of money can get it. It must be gratefully and humbly accepted from God.

Awesome Lord, teach us to love You with a passion we cannot comprehend. Give us Your wisdom and grace, and help us understand a little more how much You love us. Give us more every moment!


Trip Planner

Proverbs 4:5-6

“Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth. Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee.”

 Get a Travel Agent

Today I had conversation with a co-worker about going to Disney World. Even though she was an adult, this was going to be her first time visiting the park, and she was very excited. But once she got to hear me share my experiences, she got even more excited. She really had no idea what to expect.

One bit of advice I gave her, however, was “get a travel agent.” When I explained to her how a good travel agent could help her get better deals, make more use of her time, etc., she was so grateful. She even said, “I have got to tell my sister what you just told me . . . she needs to know this.”

I can only imagine the advice Solomon was giving his son in verse five had the same imperative. Instead of a travel agent, Solomon said, “Get wisdom, get understanding…” Of all the time savers, money savers, and life savers, wisdom and understanding can’t be beat. Like a good travel agent, Wisdom will direct your paths (Prov. 3:6).

Love Her

No, not the travel agent; I am referring to wisdom. Solomon said to first “get wisdom,” then later “love her.”

The word translated “love” is a word that could be used in describing one’s feelings for another human being (Gen. 24:67), truth and peace (Zec. 8:19), or a good steak (Gen. 27:9). But in this passage it is used of wisdom.

Interestingly, according to one Hebrew lexicon*, one meaning of the original word was “to desire, to breathe after anything.” How much better off would we be if we sought wisdom and understanding in the same way? Do we love wisdom so much that we chase after it; breathe deeply and longingly at the mention of it; desire it as much as the very air we breathe to live?

Do you know what it is like to love someone so much it takes away your breath? Get wisdom, and love her even more.

*http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=H157&t=KJV&page=1


A Special Son

Proverbs 4:3-4

“For I was my father’s son, tender and only [beloved] in the sight of my mother. He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live.”

“Father’s Son”

The first thing that arrested my attention in these verses was the words “father’s son.”

Why do these words stand out so much? Could it be that Solomon was speaking as if he had been an only child? Could it be that of all the children of King David, the one who turned out well was the one who was treated special?

Solomon was not David’s only son, nor his first. Yet, Solomon grew up differently. Even before he asked for wisdom from God, he was well on the right path, unlike his brothers Absalom and Adonijah. Could it be, because of the mistakes that David had already made, he didn’t want to repeat them with Solomon? Could it be he didn’t want another son hanging from a tree?

“My Mother”

Can you imagine what kind of mother Bathsheba must have become? She evidently was not the kind of queen mother who sent her children away to be cared for by nannies. No, she evidently doted on Solomon. She must have cherished and protected him, for he was “tender” (delicate, weak) in her eyes.

Solomon was not Bathsheba’s only son, either. But if we are to understand Solomon correctly, he was definitely treated in a unique way (“only beloved”).

“And live”

Can you picture Solomon remembering the face of David? His father had already had two sons try to take over his throne, and both had died. Surely he couldn’t foret hearing his father cry, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” – (2 Samuel 18:33).

What kind of pain must have been written in the wrinkles of that broken father’s face? As Solomon remembered, did he try to pass on his wisdom in the same way?

Solomon says, “Let thine heart retain my words; keep my commandments, and live.” Was he thinking of his rebellious brothers? Could he see their bodies in his mind’s eye as he looked upon Rehoboam? Oh, if only Rehoboam had listened (See 1 Kings 3).

A Prayer

Oh, God! Am I passing on the wisdom of my godly parents? Do I take my parenting seriously? If the wisest man in the world could mess up as much as he did, what chance do I have of rearing god-fearing children? Lord, my hope is in You. Your Spirit is my strength. Let my children see You in my actions, and where I fail, blind their eyes. Give me a broken heart for my “tender and beloved.”

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