Search for Wisdom
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Proverbs, chapter 2. As we have suggested to you, the second lecture on wisdom is contained in the second chapter, and I am going to suggest that we read the second chapter on the basis of an analysis of the chapter that we have prepared so that you will be able to understand the chapter as we talk about it a bit later in detail.

A Description of the Search for Wisdom

May I suggest that in verses 1-5, you find a description of the search for wisdom. We read:

Proverbs 2:

1 My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee;
2 So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding;
3 Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding;
4 If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;
5 Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.

The ultimate goal of the search is given in verse 5, but you recognize from these first five verses why we refer to this particular portion of the Word as The Search for Wisdom .

Recognition of the Source of True Religion

Following the description of the search for wisdom is a recognition of the source of true wisdom because you understand there are two kinds of wisdom in the world. There is an earthly wisdom, and there is a wisdom the Bible describes which is from above. Of course in these lectures we are talking about that latter kind of wisdom, so it is only natural to find in verse 6:

Proverbs 2:

6 For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.
7 He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly.
8 He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints.
9 Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path.

Are you thinking with me? If you are, you will notice the importance of the word then in verse 5 and then again in verse 9. The word then in verse 5 emphasizes the result of your effort and the word then in verse 9 emphasizes the result of God's working in the human heart, and the two are absolutely essential.

The Strength of Wisdom

The third section of the chapter is what we might refer to as The Strength of Wisdom —how this wisdom will strengthen you in areas where strengthening is needed, and how this wisdom will strengthen you in times of temptation. Notice the paragraph which begins with verse 10:

Proverbs 2:

10 When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul;
11 Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee:
12 To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things;
13 Who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness;
14 Who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked;
15 Whose ways are crooked, and they froward in their paths:
16 To deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words;
17 Which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God.
18 For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead.
19 None that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life, and [I am deliberately inserting the word and here so that you will see the division]
20 That thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous.

The Summation

The last division of the chapter is what we might refer to as The Summation . All the evidence has been presented as to the advantages of making a search for wisdom and the summation is presented in verses 21-22, where we read:

Proverbs 2:

21 For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it.
22 But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it.

Having given you a survey of the chapter, I would like for us to begin to look at the chapter in detail and learn as much as we possibly can about what our responsibility is in relation to this that we have referred to as The Search for Wisdom . Because our time is somewhat limited, we are not going to reread everything that we have just now read. We will make a few references to the actual text itself, but we are going to select certain words from the text which are significant that will help you to understand the kind of search that you ought to have or the things that are necessary to do if your search is going to be successful.

Solomon said to his sons, “If you will receive my words, then you will attain unto this wisdom.” You will keep in mind that we are not thinking only a father speaking to his son, but we are thinking of God speaking to men. And what does God say? God said, “If you will receive My words…”

We called to your attention that the word receive comes from the Hebrew word laqach, which really means “to accept.” You may say, “I don't see a great deal of difference between the word receive and the word accept .” There is this difference: The word accept , as it is presented here, involves the idea of accepting the Word as the Word, accepting the Word as final, accepting the Word as full authority. There are some individuals who look upon God's Word as containing the Word of God. If you do that, you will never attain the wisdom of which we speak. There are some individuals who look upon God's Word as being God's Word, but not being particularly applicable to them. If you do that, you will never receive the wisdom of which we speak. When you are willing to accept God's Word at its face value, word for word, then you will be in the position to continue on your search.

Hide the Word of God in Your Heart

Another word that was used to describe the search, as we read it to you, was the word hide : “Hide My commandments with Thee.” The word hide comes from the Hebrew word tsaphan , and it doesn't mean that you hide your light under a bushel or under a bed, but rather it means that you lay up the Word of God in your heart and in your life.

I seriously question that anyone will be successful in his search for wisdom unless he develops the habit of laying up the Word of God in his heart and in his mind. There is a need for hiding the Word of God away in one's life, and too much emphasis cannot be placed upon it.

Incline Your Ear

Another thing that must be done in the search for wisdom is to incline one's ear to what is being said. The word incline comes from the Hebrew word qushab which could be translated by two English words, mark well . When you incline your ear, you mark well. Oftentimes through the years when we have had a visiting minister, I have had individuals say to me, “I suppose you have said that. I am sure you must have, but I never heard it.” Well, they are exactly right. In most cases, I have said it, but they didn't hear it because they, like myself, like all of us, at some time or other in listening to the Word of God do not incline our ear. We do not mark well what we hear. If you are going to be successful in your search for wisdom, you are going to have to mark well what you hear. That is the reason we use visual aids. That is the reason we try to put things down on a level where you can grasp them because we want you to mark well what you hear and get the wisdom that God has in store for you.

Train Your Heart to Yield to the Truth

You noticed another phrase while we were reading, and that phrase was “apply thine heart to wisdom,” or “apply thy heart to the search.” The word apply comes from the Hebrew word natah, which is interesting in that it does not mean so much “pay attention,” as we have been thinking about up to this point, but it means “cause your heart to yield to what you hear.” You know, there are multitudes of people who hear the Word of God who can give you the right answers for every question that might be asked them along a doctoral or theological line, but it has never caused their hearts to yield to the truth. If your search for wisdom is going to be complete, then you are going to have to train your heart to yield when the Word of God is plainly presented. Then your heart yields to the truth, no matter what the cost might be.

Make a Point to Encounter Wisdom

Another word we noticed when we were talking about the search for wisdom was the word criest . We were told in this portion of the Word: “Yea, if thou criest after knowledge and liftest up thy voice for understanding, then your search will be successful.” The word criest is from the Hebrew word qara , and it means more than “putting your hand to your mouth and crying out after someone or something.” It means “making a definite encounter with the thing or person in question,” It means “making a point to encounter wisdom.”

I don't know how many times folk have said to me, “Oh, I wish I knew the Word of God.” Sometimes when I think it is a fitting thing to say, I will say, “Well, what are you doing to know the Word of God?” They just somehow wish that God would funnel the Word of God down into them and they would suddenly become proficient in wisdom. That isn't the way that it is done. You have got to arrange a deliberate encounter if the search for wisdom is going to be what it ought to be.

Dedicate Yourself to Search out Wisdom

In the same verse you had a phrase, liftest up thy voice , and it almost sounds like a repetition, but the words liftest up come from the Hebrew word nathan , which speaks of being dedicated to the purpose that you have in mind. How dedicated are you to search out and know the wisdom of God? How dedicated are you to knowing what God really wants you to know?

This word nathan is an interesting word because it is the root word for the name of a class of priests who ministered in the Old Testament tabernacle all the time. There were some priests who had special kinds of ministry, but these folk had a continuous ministry. They were dedicated to their ministry. Nothing else occupied their time.

Seek Wisdom Through Prayer

There was another suggestion in relation to the search and this was brought to our attention by the word seekest . In verse 4 we see:

Proverbs 2:

4 If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;

Sometimes in that verse the emphasis is placed upon the search, like if you were going to search for silver, you would leave no stones unturned until you found the silver. The emphasis more correctly should be placed upon the value of wisdom. It is more valuable than silver; it is more valuable than gold. You seek for it as something valuable, but we are getting down now to the real thought of the next division of the chapter. This seeking cannot be done in an ordinary fashion. You will not necessarily win your search for wisdom by attending a college Bible class or a theological seminary.

The word seekest here comes from the Hebrew word baqash which involves the idea of prayer—seeking through prayer the wisdom of God. The suggestion is that the wisdom is found within the Word of God itself, and if you seek it in this fashion, then you are going to pray the prayer that David prayed: “Open Thou my eyes that I might behold wondrous things out of thy law.”

Search Diligently for Wisdom

The last word that was mentioned in regard to the search related to silver and gold was the word searchest . The word searchest comes from the Hebrew word chaphas, which speaks of a very diligent search. If you want the wisdom of which this passage of Scripture is speaking, if you want to know what God would have you know in relation to this wisdom, then you are going to have to exercise all diligence.

You will recall this is what the Apostle Paul said to Timothy, when he said, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed [that is, a skilled craftsman needeth not to be ashamed], rightly dividing the Word of Truth.” In our King James text, because the word study is in the first part of the verse, you would be led to believe the suggestion is that you study your Bible. Certainly that is needed, but this word study comes from the Greek word spoudazo , which means “to be eager to rightly divide the Word of Truth.” That makes it somewhat different, doesn't it, because many of us carelessly handle the Word of God; but we should be eager to rightly divide it, and if we are eager to rightly divide the Word of Truth, then we are going to be diligent in our study of God's Word.

I have been using the New Testament phrase, the Word of Truth . As we read this passage in Proverbs, chapter 2, we have been talking about wisdom. If you listened carefully as we discussed the search for wisdom you noticed that there were a number of words used interchangeably with the word wisdom , and I think it would be well for us to notice that so we will know exactly what we are looking for. If we don't know what we are looking for, we won't even know when we find it, so without rereading the passage of Scripture, let me call to your attention that one word that is used interchangeably with the word wisdom is the word commandments. The word commandments comes from the Hebrew word miysvah, which is translated by the word law . The law of God is part of the wisdom of God, and if you would know the wisdom of God, then it is important for you to know the law of God.

The word wisdom comes from the Hebrew word chokmah , which could best be translated by our English word doctrine because the word wisdom —there are three in the Hebrew, one of them being used some one hundred fifty times—has a wide application of meaning. The simplest summary of it could be in our word doctrine . What does the Bible teach about doctrine? That doctrine is wisdom in the book of Proverbs.

Included also is the word understanding , as you probably noticed, used interchangeably with the word wisdom . The word understanding comes from the Hebrew word tabuwn , which suggests the idea of sorting things out. When you search for wisdom, you will be searching for the ability to sort things out in your mind; or as we were discussing a moment ago in relation to the passage in the New Testament, you will be learning how to rightly divide the Word of Truth. It is possible for you, you know, to have a great deal of doctrine; but if you don't have doctrine rightly related to other doctrine, then you are going to be mixed up and mislead about a great many things.

The last word that we are going to call to your attention that was used interchangeably with the word wisdom was the English word knowledge , which comes from the Hebrew word biynah , which could be translated by our English word comprehension . God said in His Word, “With all thy wisdom, get understanding. With all your doctrine, get understanding.” If you have all of this truth and do not understand it and are not able to apply it, then it is not going to accomplish the purpose that God intended for it to accomplish.

Keep in Mind the Source of Wisdom

Remember now, we are analyzing the lecture on wisdom delivered by Solomon. He is dealing first with the search for wisdom, which we have tried to analyze for you. Then he goes on to the source of all wisdom because Solomon would remind those to whom he addressed these words that though their search was diligent in every sense of the word, they had to keep in mind the source of wisdom.

Will you look again at verse 6:

Proverbs 2:

6 For the LORD giveth wisdom…

“If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God and He will give to all men liberally, and upbraideth not.” Notice:

Proverbs 2:

6 …out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.

This is a reference to the fact that the Word of God, from which we are reading today, is literally the Word of God. God spoke the Word. Since God is the source of wisdom, He presents a real challenge to us here in verse 7, when we read:

Proverbs 2:

7 He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous…

That is, He has it stored away for you. All you need to do is take advantage of what He has to offer you. I wonder if many of us do not have yet many undiscovered gems of truth that God has laid up for us that we have not been diligent enough to search out and find. Then notice:

God is Our Shield

Proverbs 2:

7 …he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly.
8 He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints.

Of course, this could be dismissed with a word concerning God's general watch-care over those who place their faith and trust in Him, and that is not to be ignored. But in the light of the context, I believe it suggests that God has a special way of preserving. He has a special way of watching over those who are genuinely seeking out His truth and His wisdom.

He is a buckler. A buckler is a shield. Notice again:

Proverbs 2:

7 He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly.
8 He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints.
9 Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path.

When you get your information from God, you will have the right information. I have folk tell me—I understand their concern—“I don't know if it is safe for people to be studying the Bible on their own or not. Maybe they need somebody who knows more than they do to interpret the Word of God for them.”

We must keep in mind that one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit to the Church is the teacher, and He would never have given gifted individuals if He did not expect people to sit under their ministry. But I would suggest to you today that this passage of Scripture is reminding us that though the gifted individual is given to the Church for the purpose of teaching, you do not need to rest completely upon his teaching. The Holy Spirit of God, called the anointing , in the first epistle of John, is resident within your life to such an extent that you do not need any man to teach you. This is not to suggest that you don't take advantage of the gifted individuals whom God has given to the Church; but it is to suggest that God will be a shield and a buckler to you to protect you from error as you study the Word of God.

If you go about this in your own way and in the flesh, making your own interpretation without comparing Scripture, forgetting that no Scripture is of any private interpretation, then you can run into all kinds of error; but you can believe God to protect the path that you walk as you seek for wisdom, for God never has and never will turn the hungry away empty.

Strength which Wisdom Provides

We suggested to you as we read the chapter on the basis of the analysis that we presented that a part of the chapter is going to deal with the strength of wisdom. Perhaps it would be better to say the strength which wisdom provides. There are four things from which you as a believer will be protected if you have wisdom in the sense of the text, or if you want to use the word doctrine , if you are properly indoctrinated. If you understand the doctrine, you will be protected in the manner described in the paragraph that is presented with verse 10:

Proverbs 2:

10 When wisdom entereth into thine heart [notice, into thine heart], and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul;

When it is not a dry, dusty thing—an ordeal that you have to go through—but it is a pleasant thing to you, then God will provide what I like to refer to as two guardian angels , figuratively speaking, to look after you.

If we were studying angelology, we could show you from the Word of God that there are such beings as guardian angels that look after us as we travel on this earth, but I am using the word figuratively now: two guardian angels that look after you when wisdom has entered into your heart and knowledge is pleasant to your soul. Verse 11:

Proverbs 2:

11 Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee:

These two guardian angels are going to be looking out for you as they exercise their prerogative in your life. One thing they are going to protect you from is the evil man. The evil man is described in the portion that we read in your hearing, and we will not take the time to reread everything that we read about him. He is a man who leaves the path of uprightness. He is a man who is perverse. He is a man who does not like to travel that road alone. It is amazing how the evil man always wants someone to go along with him.

In the lecture on wisdom that we studied in our last lesson, we read how this evil man said, “Come thou with us. Cast in thy lot among us. We shall find all manner of precious things.” Discretion and understanding, wisdom and doctrine will prepare you to face this evil man and have the answer so that you will not be gullible enough to follow all of his suggestions.

You will be protected, as well, from the evil woman, who is described in verse 16:

Proverbs 2:

16 To deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words;

This strange woman that is described in terms, which if we wanted to interpret her literally, would be a prostitute. When you are well indoctrinated, when you have wisdom that God has given you, then you have strength to withstand the wiles of the evil woman.

Spiritual Adultery

There is something that I would like to suggest. You can reject this if you want to because it is more of a personal opinion than it is a fact that is backed up by the Scripture. This is it: I meet this evil man and this evil woman flitting across the pages of Proverbs so often that I am personally inclined to think that God has a double lesson for us. I am personally inclined to think that He is not only warning us against the evil man and the evil woman, literally speaking, but I think He is warning us against an evil man and an evil woman, figuratively speaking. The evil man who is described here, who we met in the first chapter and whom we will meet again before we are through the book of Proverbs, has all the earmarks of rationalism. I am wondering if God is not saying to us here in the book of Proverbs, “If you have searched out wisdom very carefully and attained it, if you are well indoctrinated, you will be well preserved against the rationalism of the age in which we live.” The rationalism is rampant. On every path there is some rationalist ready to say to the believer, “Come thou with us.”

I am wondering if the evil woman does not also have more than a literal significance. I am wondering if the evil woman does not represent what the Bible refers to as spiritual adultery —not idolatry, but spiritual adultery, when the church has all the outward signs of a church, but has become disloyal to the Lord Jesus Christ and is keeping company with someone other than the One who was the guide of her youth.

That is something for you to think about, and if you don't agree with it, it is quite all right, but it is an amazing thing that this evil man and this evil woman would come to our attention so often in the book of Proverbs.

Wisdom Makes Possible Walking with Good Men

The strength of wisdom is such that it will not only protect you from the evil man and the evil woman, but it will make it possible for you to go with the good man. You know, that isn't always easy. Some of you know that already. Some of you have come to the crossroad before this time. You had to make a decision whether or not you would go with the evil man or the good man, and in a moment of weakness, you made your decision, and you didn't stand with the good man.

If you are properly indoctrinated and wisdom permeates your life like it should, then what is found in verse 20 will be true of you. Notice:

Proverbs 2:

20 That thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous.

The word that refers back to verse 10:

Proverbs 2:

10 When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul;
11 Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee:
20 That thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous.

This is the advantage of succeeding in your search for wisdom.

What is Said is for Israel

One last word related to the summation of the entire lecture. The summation is such that we need to be clear in our understanding of it. I have suggested in the summation that it is brought to our attention that by interpretation what is said is for Israel, and there is no other way to explain literally these two verses. Look at them:

Proverbs 2:

21 For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it.
22 But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth [earth is is the same word as land, and it should be so translated], and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it.

God has never promised to the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ an extended stay in any one land. We are a heavenly people, but by God's grace, He has privileged us to be born in a land that we love that has all the privileges which we enjoy and which I am afraid so often we do not appreciate as we should. Other Christians He has permitted to be born in other lands where they do not have such privileges as this. He is not showing any favoritism because He has never promised any certain land to the believer; but to the nation of Israel, He did promise a certain land, the land of Palestine, the land of Israel. When He made what is known as the Palestinian Covenant with the nation of Israel, He guaranteed them that the upright would dwell in the land of Israel and the perfect would remain in it, but the wicked would be cut off from that land and the transgressors should be rooted out of it. That is the interpretation of the passage.

I have often said to you that every passage of Scripture has one interpretation and then as many applications as is consistent with the rest of the Word of God because the Bible is a book of principles. By interpretation the summation, the entire chapter, is for Israel, but by principle, it is for all of us. It still remains that individuals who live according to the Word of God shall be blessed of God dwelling in the place that God has provided for them, and it is still true that believers who are disobedient to God will feel the chastening hand of God upon them and be removed from this earth even before their time, normally speaking, would come.

This is the search for wisdom. We learned in our last lesson that in the book of Proverbs, once in chapter 1 and again in chapter 8, wisdom is personified. That is, wisdom is the Old Testament name for the Lord Jesus Christ, so as you search for wisdom, do not search for an abstract thing only. Take into consideration the Lord Jesus Christ and remember that unless you have Him, all you can expect to have would be an accumulation of knowledge.

Accept Christ as Savior

There is one good thing: Though you may have to spend hours searching for wisdom, you don't have to spend an extended period of time searching for Christ. To be absolutely scriptural, you don't have to seek for Him at all; He is seeking for you. If you have never received the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, let me say that this is the starting point. Receive Him.

What do I mean, “Receive Him?” I use these terms because the Word of God uses them: “As many as receive the Lord Jesus Christ, to them gives He the right to become the sons of God even to them who believe on His name.” If you receive Him, you believe on His name. If you believe on His name, you believe that His name is powerful enough to save you from sin and guarantee you a place in Heaven. Why do you believe that His name is that powerful? Because of what we refer to as His finished work on the Cross . When the Lord Jesus Christ came to this earth as the Son of God, He came for one purpose, and that was to make an atonement for the sins of the world through His death on the Cross.

Men did not believe that He was Who He said He was, so He said, “When I have been crucified, I will arise again the third day, and you will know that I have finished the work that I came to do, that I am who I said I was.” When He finished the work that God gave Him to do, then God gave Him a name which is above every name, more powerful than any name on the earth, powerful because His sacrifice is an atonement for your sins.

If you receive the Lord Jesus Christ, you believe on His name. If you believe on His name, you believe that He met God's demand in full for all the charges that were ever against you. You might say, “I find that very difficult to believe because I don't quite understand how it can be.” You are not asked to understand it; you are asked to believe it because the Word of God declares it.


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