‘My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.’ (Proverbs 2:1-5)
This is one of those Bible passages which is simple to understand. ‘If you do this, this will happen.’ Like the good ol’ Windows instruction saying ‘Click here to Start’ we’re told ‘Do this for wisdom’. Nice and easy. We’ll look at it backwards, from the result through to the instructions.
We’ll go into more depth on this next week, but we’re promised understanding of the fear of the LORD, and a discovery of the knowledge of God. Both of these seem to be one step removed from reality, don’t they? We’re not promised ‘fear of the LORD’, we’re promised an understanding of it. We’re not told that we will know God, we’re told that we will find the knowledge of Him. In any case, the promise is for a deepened understanding of hidden things – these should be a goal of every Christian; who doesn’t want to understand the fear of the LORD better?
Have another look at the commands given in verses 1-4. We’re told to:
- Receive Wisdom’s words; just like Jesus’ parable of the sower in Matthew 13, we must actively listen to these words and take them in. What words would they be? The recorded words of God: the Bible. So we must read the Bible.
- Treasure up Wisdom’s commandments; just like Mary ‘treasured things in her heart’ (Luke 2:19,51) we are to meditate on the Bible – perhaps reading a verse in the morning and holding it close all day to improve our understanding.
- Make our ears attentive to wisdom; we should be ready to receive – that means perhaps taking notes during sermons so that we’re engaged – basically, making sure our minds aren’t wandering when we should be focussing on Scripture.
- Incline our hearts to understanding; this talks about our attitude towards understanding. We should never think that certain levels of understanding are only for special people: ‘you’re a preacher, so you need to know what the Bible’s about, but I just show up.’ No, we should be eager to learn, and expectant that we will.
- Call out for insight and raise our voices for understanding; we need to ask God. This is so simple but done so rarely – we must pray as we read the Bible, that God would speak to us. His Spirit lives in us, and His Spirit inspired the Bible – that combination means that with His help, we’ll understand it as it’s meant to be understood.
- Seek it like silver and hidden treasures; we’re reminded of Jesus’ words in Luke 11:9: ‘ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find.’ Simply put, we have to be looking for a deeper knowledge of God, not just knowledge for knowledge’s sake – by reading the Bible we may get a deepened understanding of Old Testament Jewish practices, or of Roman society, but if we’re not ultimately aiming to learn more about God, that is where we’ll stop.
With every scientific formula there has to be an assumption. Although everything here is correct, we need to recognise that this simple formula only works because God said it in the first place. God wrote the Bible, He gave these instructions, and ultimately He gives the knowledge. Any time we take a line out of Scripture and attempt it on our own we are going to fail; bear in mind that this passage immediately follows chapter one in which Solomon has made abundantly clear that wisdom starts with God.