Making a Meaningful Life
By Dennis Davidson
To improve efficiency, a company hired a consultant, who called a meeting of all shop personnel. Stressing the need to listen to experts, he said, “Imagine you’re on the Titanic, and it’s sinking. You climb into a lifeboat. Which direction would you row?” Then he asked, “What if you had the ship’s navigator with you? Now which way would you go? You’d row the way the navigator told you to, right?”
There were murmurs of agreement until a guy in the back piped up, “Well, I don’t know. He’s already hit one iceberg!”
You need discernment concerning whom you’ll take advise. The book of Proverbs urges us to get advice from the wise (1:2-7). Wisdom in the Bible is “skill for living.” Some people know how to make a living but don’t know how to make a life, which is a shame for it is better to make a good life that a good living.
The book of Proverbs is about godly wisdom, how to get it and how to use it. It’s about priorities and principles, not get rich-quick schemes or success formulas. It tells you, not how to make a living, but how to be skillful in the lost art of making a life.
The first seven verses of chapter one reveal the purpose of the book. It was written to teach wisdom by applying wisdom to life instead of simply theorizing about it. The entire book was intended to be of great practical benefit to the obedient listener. It’s wise practical teaching leads the understanding man who fears the Lord to wisdom (CIM).
I. THE TITLE, 1:1 -The Preacher-Teacher of Proverbs.
II. THE THEME, 1:2 – Attaining Wisdom
III. THE PURPOSE, 1:3-6 – Imparting Wisdom to Men.
IV. THE FOUNDATION, 1:7 – The Fear of the Lord.
We learned last week that Solomon was an insightful teacher of wisdom. Now let’s learn what makes a genuine student of wisdom. The preamble in 1: 1-7 prepares you for reading the book as a whole. It sets forth its theme (v. 2, attaining wisdom), its purpose (vv. 3-5), the basic contrasts between wisdom and folly (v. 7), and wisdom’s cornerstone or theological foundation (v. 7). [How to Read the Bible by Gordon Fee. Grand Rapids. Zondervan.2002. 145]
II. THE THEME, 1:2 – Attaining Wisdom
Verse 2 states that the personal attainment of wisdom is the theme of this book. “To know wisdom and instruction, to discern the sayings of understanding,
Wisdom is a word of enormous importance in Proverbs. [Wise & wisdom are used at least 125 times.] A purpose of the Proverbs is that the reader might “know wisdom” and allow it to govern his or her life. The word here is chokma and is the most frequent word for wisdom in Proverbs. It meant skill (Ex. 28:1-3; 31:25; 1 Chron. 22:18), here skill in living. Originally the term was used to describe people skilled in working with their hands, craftsman. [It was used in reference to the detailed work of Bezalel and Aholiab in constructing the tabernacle (Exodus 31:1-11). God gave them and others skill for artwork, building, weaving, and carving.] It came to mean the use of life knowledge in practical and skillful ways. God crafts wisdom into a life so that one learns how to live skillfully, or successfully before Him. The emphasis is not on theoretical information but on a proper discernment for decisions between choices, to know good from evil, and right from wrong. People with wisdom have the skill to face life honestly and courageously and manage it successfully so that God’s purposes are fulfilled in their life. Wisdom orders and directs life for proper purpose. It brings us into harmony with the priorities and principles of God.
A purpose of Proverbs is to know or attain wisdom “and instruction.” Instruction is the teaching of priorities and principles. It is the corrective teaching which results in values or morals but it is more than intellectual enlightenment. It refers to training and discipline for life skills. Instruction (Heb. musar) refers to the fact that training is needed so that one might keep themselves walking God’s way, under His restraint and control and in His direction. Instruction is ordering life according to divine principles so that we can live skillfully.
Another purpose of Proverbs is listed as “to discern the sayings of understanding.” “To discern” is to have insight into (1 Kings 3 :9), to separate, to make distinct. These Proverbs give us insight into the sayings of understanding. These sayings are the pulling together of the observable knowledge from life or lives. The focus is not merely on what goes on in life but the ability to understand it then apply that understanding to your life so that life can be corrected or trained skillfully. There will be much in-depth thought required to see the implications of many of the wise saying of Proverbs. But this attempt to absorb them is a healthy mental exercise which will sharpen the mind.
III. THE PURPOSE, 1:3-6 – Imparting Wisdom to Men.
Verse 3 continues with the purpose with the book but also tell us what we will take in or learn from Proverbs. “To receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice and equity;”
The result of true wisdom is the enacting of wise behavior, righteousness and equity. The wisdom purposed in Proverbs is more than enlightenment of human reason through means of comprehending reality as it is. It is for “wise behavior” (haskel, Heb. “good sense and practical judgment;” 1 Sam. 25:3), or for moral achievement. It is worth remembering that man may “take in” (receive) knowledge till he is ignorant. No matter how enriched one is with science and philosophy, he is a fool if he does not practice righteousness, justice, and equity.
Righteousness is from tsedeg and implies right believing, right thinking, and right action. Justice is the understanding and application of right and wrong. Equity is to know what is fair and balanced. The great philosopher Locke said the goal of education “is not to perfect a learner in all or any of the sciences, but to give his mind that disposition and those habits that may enable him to obtain any part of knowledge he will apply himself to or stand in need of in the future course of life.”
Management expert PETER DRUCKER once wrote that too often people focus on efficiency (doing things right), instead of on effectiveness (doing the right thing). “There are few things less pleasing to the Lord and less productive,” Drucker says, “than an engineering department that rapidly turns out beautiful blueprints for the wrong product. Working on the right things is what makes. . . work effective.” Those are wise words for anyone seeking business success, and for those trying to live a good life.
Are you busy trying to get everything done in life? It would be wise to first see if you are living the right kind of life. How can we be sure we are doing the right thing-that which is truly valuable–instead of doing the wrong thing in an efficient way? Solomon wrote his Proverbs so that his sons would “receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity.” Or, as one translation puts it, to acquire “a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair” (NIV).
Through His Word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, God will teach us what is right and enable us to do it. Our most important task is doing what is grounded in “justice, judgment and equity!
Verses 4 and 5 introduce various recipients who will find help in the Proverbs: the naive, the young, the wise man and the man of understanding. Verse 4 tell us what can happen through a study of this book. “To give prudence to the naive, To the youth knowledge and discretion.”
Prudence is what is offered to the naive. Prudence is the ability to escape the wiles of another (Gen. 3: 1)or the traps of life by knowing which course of action is best. This is a great blessing especially for the naive (simple, KJV, nethi, Heb.). The word naive literally is open-hearted and describes one who is wide open, gullible, easily susceptible to good or bad influences. Prudence is a safe guard against being mislead.
Proverbs offers “to the youth knowledge and discretion.” A youth (naar, Heb.) is one who is immature and has not yet experienced the world. His mind fluctuates at the opinionated winds of those about him, unless he settles his purpose and fixes his priorities, to obtain wisdom. The young because of their hot blood and inexperience especially need the preventive medicine injected into these Proverbs.
Not only does a youth need to grasp the knowledge of the wise, he or she needs discretion. Discretion (Heb., mezimmah, “meaning to press together”) is mental concentration which produces discerning thoughtfulness in decision making.
How unfortunate it is that those most in need of these Proverbs avoid them and often will only learn their truth after repeated failures and bitter experiences. We can either be instructed and guided by experiencing life, or we can learn by studying the Word. We can learn in the storm or we can learn in the sanctuary. We can learn in the crisis or we can learn in the classroom. Most of us have had to experience learning in both places. Proverbs wants to teach us in the classroom. [Jon Courson. Application Com. OT. Vol. 2.Nelson. Nashville. 2006. p 179.]
Verse 5 teaches us that we will need to apply our selves in order to hear, learn and acquire understanding and wisdom. “A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel,”
A person disagreed with something I said and asked for an explanation. After I explained it to her in greater detail she responded. “Thank you for your answer. It was something I didn’t know. What I learned in childhood I just took for granted. But now I realize how good it is to learn something new.” At 89 that wise lady was still learning.
“A wise man” is described here as one that is still learning. The Hebrew word learning means “taking in.” But before learning occurs a wise man is attentive, he will hear. The mental and spiritual ears of some are so heavy that they do not hear the voice of wisdom. The ears of others are so full of the rush of the world that truth even when it cracks like thunder rolls beyond their grasp unheard.
So a wise man is described as an improving man, one increasing in learning by knowing truth and God better. He discards what is less adequate for what is more accurate. “It’s what we learn after we know it all that counts.”
A wise man is also a “man of understanding” (tachbuloth), literally knows the ropes. He knows who to tie himself to in order to better guide himself through life. A wise man is one who grasps divine truth through wise counsel. Wise counsel literally is steering (like the tackle for directing a ship) and suggests moving one’s life in the right direction. He has the discernment to steer a right course through life.
When was the last time you admitted your were wrong? Why is that so hard to do? What have you learned recently from another believer? The best way to make room for wisdom is to get rid of know-it-all pride. The most annoying type of person is the know-it-all, a person who has a dogmatic opinion on most everything. They are closed to learning because they think they already know. Don’t be a know-it-all. Learn from the wisdom of God and from those who walk in God’s Word. Only God truly knows it all. [Application Bible. Zondervan. ]
[STILL LEARNING] Many years ago an OLD MAN TOOK A CLASS at the University of Berlin. It was an unusual sight to see this small, white-haired gentleman sitting among 19-and 20-year old students. But what made this most unusual was that the old man was Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859), the renowned German naturalist and scientist. In fact, during a lecture on physical geography, the professor, who was an-eminent scholar himself, quoted as his authority something von Humboldt had written.
When Alexander von Humboldt was asked why he, with all his learning, was taking that class, he replied, “To help me review what I had neglected in my youth.” With such a hunger for knowledge, he was not too proud to take notes and learn right along with his younger classmates.
The desire to learn about our physical world is commendable. But nothing is more important than to increase our knowledge of God’s Word. We will never get to the place where we can say, “I know it all. No one can teach me anything that I haven’t heard before.”
A wise person never stops learning about God and His world.
Increase your knowledge of God’s Word, For in it you will find
The wisdom that you need for life, Which comes from God’s own mind.
The more we learn the more we realize how much we need to learn. The book of Proverbs is not only for the naive-but also for the wise. It is for anyone who realizes that he has further to go.
The following are some things you should know about PERSONAL GROWTH.
(1) Growth isn’t automatic. You’re only young once, but you can be immature indefinitely.
Each year the lobster is forced to shed its shell; it’s a pity we aren’t! Come on, if you don’t make personal growth your responsibility it’ll never happen. The road to anything worthwhile is always uphill, so the sooner you start climbing the closer to reaching your God-given potential you’ll be.
(2) Growth today brings success tomorrow. What you sow today determines what you reap tomorrow. Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Once stretched by a new idea, a man’s mind never regains its original dimensions.” So what are you doing today to become wiser, more truly successful tomorrow?
(3) Growth is your responsibility. When you were a child your parents were responsible for your growth, now you are. Robert Browning wrote, “Why stay we on earth except to grow?” Good question! Yet few of us dedicate ourselves to the process. Why? Because growth requires change and most of us are uncomfortable with change. Gail Sheehy writes, “If we don’t change we won’t grow, and if we don’t grow we’re not really living. Growth demands the temporary surrender of security. It means a giving up of familiar but limiting patterns, safe but unrewarding work, values no longer believed in, relationships that have lost their meaning. Taking a new step is what we fear most, yet our real fear should be the opposite.” Other than going to Hell, can you think of anything worse than living a life devoid of spiritual growth and improvement?
In verse 6 Solomon propose a challenge to the reader of the book. “To understand a proverb and a figure, The words of the wise and their riddles.”
A genuine learner is described as an interpreter. The deep things of God need to be interpreted (1 Cor. 2:9,10). A proverb is a description by way of a comparison. The words of the wise are thought provoking words and riddles are thought provoking questions which need interpretation.
The goal of learning should be to better know God and out of that knowledge to love Him, and to become like Him that we may possess true virtue and wisdom.
IV. THE FOUNDATION, 1:7 – The Fear of the Lord.
Verse 7 conveys the book’s theological foundation and that the basic contrast between wisdom and folly. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
Here is the foundational truth on which the book rests. Without this basic preparation or characteristic the reader disqualifies himself from obtaining true knowledge and wisdom. The knowledge needed for wisdom begins with “the fear of the Lord.” The single essential to finding eternal knowledge is the fear of the Lord.
In God’s eyes natural man is a sinner living in rebellion against His revealed will and thus meriting eternal separation. Those that know this fear will not remain strangers to the Word of God nor the Family of God. They will fling themselves upon God’s mercy, begging for His forgiveness and cleansing, trusting only in Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice and ransom payment on the cross for their sin and sinfulness.
“Fear” is respect for legitimate authority. God is the absolute final authority of everything and everyone. Wisdom begins with a submissive reverence to God Almighty, recognizing who He is. Once His greatness and holiness is reverend, lives will be lived in obedience to His revealed will. To too many people God is an after-thought, not the first thought. Therefore most do what is right in their eyes, with little of no concern for God’s will or way or word.
This fear of the Lord is where knowledge begins. Satan has intellectual knowledge but true knowledge, spiritual knowledge, the knowledge of self, the universe, eternity, Christ and man comes from God. For knowledge to become an eternal building block in one’s life it must be based on this reverent acknowledgment and submission to Almighty God.
Today it seems that the fear of man is what is prevalent. There are many people who profess a belief in God but demonstrate by attitude and lifestyle a total disregard for His wishes and complete disdain for His Word. They show by their unwise behavior that the God they believe in has not been discovered through fear. God demands His due recognition of His sole right to be Lord of life, every life. With telling forth rightness’ Solomon describes those who deny God in speech, attitude and action.
“Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” A fool (nahal) is not one who lacks intelligence, but one who is obstinate (13:16; 17: 10) and stubborn (1:7; 17:28; 20: 3; 22: 15). The root of his foolishness is not intelligence but spiritual perspective. He begins his downward journey by rejecting the fear of the Lord and determines to go his own way (v. 31) shutting God out of his life.
So fools are those who despise wisdom’s instruction. They are morally bankrupt, fleshly, and practically ignore of the greatest truths in the universe. They trifle with the serious and gamble away the joys of eternity for the lusts of time. Though their intelligence may be great their logic is faulty and inconsistent.
[A FOOLS LOGIC] This fact was vividly impressed on me while I was watching a television special several years ago on the subject of the “textbook controversy.” Those who defend the use of dirty, blasphemous material in the schools claim that our youth need to be exposed to the whole spectrum of thought, including that of morally and religiously twisted groups. But these proponents of “open-mindedness” are opposed to the writings of Biblebelieving Christians, and want them out of the class room and off public property. Furthermore, to support their use of objectionable textbooks, these people say that even the Bible contains passages that appear obscene. Yet they fail to recognize that the literature they defend encourages unbelief, lawlessness, and immorality. The Bible, on the other hand, promotes a fear of God and a respect for human dignity and the property of others.
These advocates of a “well-rounded education” also fail to see the disastrous results of their godless philosophies. Drug abuse, prostitution, shoplifting, and crimes of violence are increasing at an alarming pace. If moral standards are not taught, or if they are said to be relative, such conditions will continue to exist.
Don’t believe the faulty logic of fools. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge!” Education may make you smart, but only God makes you good.
A man may fill his mind with facts until it overflows, But without wisdom he’s a fool unless the Lord he knows.
Foolishness is a liar. It promises pleasure, peace, and prosperity. But, as its victims discover, it delivers the opposite. After the pleasure is a gaping void and inescapable pain.
Wisdom, however, delivers more than we could hope for. She says from the beginning her way is hard. She demands our respect and requires discipline on our part. But in return she gives her children freedom, security, and joy. These jewels of wisdom are thrown away on him who has no heart for them. Achieving wisdom may seem difficult. But the end result is worth it. The fear of the Lord is the starting point and essence of wisdom.
In this age of information, knowledge is plentiful, but wisdom is scarce. Wisdom means far more than simply knowing a lot. God’s wisdom guide us in how to live our life right. It grows out of a daily walk with the Lord. The foundation for this knowledge of true wisdom is the fear of the Lord. Wisdom begins by honoring and respecting God, by living in awe of His power, and in obedience to His Word. Faith in God’s revealed wisdom should be the controlling principle for your understanding of the world, your attitudes, and your actions. Trust in God and He will make you truly wise.
WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN was a U.S. Congressman, 3-time Democratic presidential nominee, and Secretary of State who served this country for three decades. He is probably best remembered for the famous Scopes Trial in 1925 at Dayton TN. This man’s far reaching influence has been attributed to his wisdom. Perhaps the secret of his wisdom was his acceptance of the advice given to him by his father. Just before William was leaving for college, his preacher father challenged him to read through the Book of Proverbs once a month for a year. The young man did so during his freshman year. Years later he looked back at his father’s request as one of the most important factors in his life.
Man’s advice may or may not be good. It depends on where the man has derived his wisdom. The wisdom of God will give one the ability to make an eternally significant impact with your life. If we are to gleam the wisdom of Proverbs we must bow in awe and respect for God’s authority and respond to Him in faith and obedience.
Father, remove from me, from us, what does not reflect Your character and replace it with Yourself. Amen. May the Word of Christ dwell in you richly with all wisdom.
[The goal of learning should be to better know God & out of that knowledge to love Him, & to become like Him that we may possess true virtue & wisdom. The Book of Proverbs is not only for the naive but also for the wise. It is for anyone who realizes that He has further to go. So let us study this book which is rich in wisdom for the age in which we live.]