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‘For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.’ (Proverbs 2:6-8)
There are certain words in the Bible which should sound alarm bells in our minds; ‘for’ is one of them. We can’t understand this passage properly unless we understand what this is ‘for’. Reading Proverbs 2:1-5, as we did last week, we find out that God has promised wisdom to those who seek it, if only we put our trust in Him; it’s almost too simple to communicate. And these verses tell us why it is that simple.
Reason one that we can know that wisdom will come our way is down to who God is. Read the passage above and it’s clear that it’s all about God. We can know that verses 1-5 are true because God has said so: ‘the LORD gives wisdom’. If God wants us to be wise, we will be wise. It’s the same with His mercy: ‘I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.’ (Exodus 33:19, Romans 9:15) This doesn’t take anything away from our free will, it simply underlines God’s almighty power and control.
But there is a bit of a flaw in our logic. We have assumed that we are the ones who receive wisdom, but where have we got this idea from? Reading this verse it’s clear that God’s talking about a particular kind of person: ‘the upright,’ ‘those who walk in integrity,’ and ‘saints’. If my personal record is anything to go by I am extremely likely to sin today, tomorrow, and every day for the rest of my life. I’m not upright, I don’t walk in integrity, and I am certainly not a saint! This seems to be bad news – that wisdom is not for me after all.
But we have the joy of seeing the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament, and it all eventually comes back to the fact that God is in control. As much as many want it to be true, our receipt of wisdom and mercy is not down to us working hard and doing well! The apostle Paul is always good at summing this up:
‘For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”’ (Romans 10:10-13)
Our qualification as ‘upright’ or as ‘saints’ is not down to our own efforts, but down to whether or not we have called on His name! This is the same message that we have been seeing throughout Proverbs: wisdom does not begin by opening an encyclopoedia, it begins with fear of the LORD. As we humble ourselves before Him, then we will be given the qualifications we need to begin on the path of wisdom. Glory to God for His grace.