Wisdom is supreme, 1-27
The reader is directed towards a life of wisdom, an appeal that is backed up by the promise of the blessings wisdom brings. We are called to ‘attentiveness, application, responsiveness, commitment, consistency, sacrifice and enthusiasm (note the repeated get). The motivation promises life, protection and honour.’ (NBC)
Prov 4:1 Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding.
Note the stress in vv1-4 on instruction within the family.
Prov 4:2 I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching.
Prov 4:3 When I was a boy in my father’s house, still tender, and an only child of my mother,
Three generations are in view here. God’s truth is to passed down from one generation to the next, Deut. 6:3–9; Eph. 6:1–4; 2 Tim. 1:3–5; 2:2; 3:14–17. Let us thank God for godly parents and grandparents.
Prov 4:4 he taught me and said, “Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live.
Prov 4:5 Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them.
Prov 4:6 Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.
‘In Proverbs, Wisdom is personified as a beautiful woman who invites us to her lavish banquet, while Folly is the adulteress or prostitute who tempts us to poverty and death. The one you love is the one who will control your life. Embrace Wisdom and you will have security (4:6), honor (v. 8), and beauty (v. 9).’ (Wiersbe)
Prov 4:7 Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
‘The Bible has a great deal to say about the divine gift of wisdom. The first nine chapters of the book of Proverbs are a single sustained exhortation to seek this gift. “Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. . . . Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life” (Prov 4:7, 13). Wisdom is personified and made to speak in her own cause: “Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the LORD. But whoever fails to find me harms himself; all who hate me love death” (Prov 8:34-36).’ (Packer, Knowing God)
Prov 4:8 Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honour you.
Prov 4:9 She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendour.”
Prov 4:10 Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many.
Prov 4:11 I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths.
Prov 4:12 When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.
Prov 4:13 Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.
‘Hold on to wisdom the way a child holds a parent’s hand and trusts Mother or Father to guide and protect. God is able to keep us from stumbling (Jude 24) if we’ll keep ourselves in His wisdom.’ (Wiersbe)
Prov 4:14 Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men.
Do not go one step along that path, for it will lead you further and further astray.
Prov 4:15 Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way.
Prov 4:16 For they cannot sleep till they do evil; they are robbed of slumber till they make someone fall. Prov 4:17 They eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence.
Note the perversity: for some, wickedness has become more than a bad habit; it has become a chosen lifestyle.
Prov 4:18 The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
‘If we walk in the way of God’s wisdom, the path gets brighter and brighter and there is no sunset! When the path ends, we step into a land where the light never dims, for “there shall be no night there” (Rev. 22:5).’ (Wiersbe)
Prov 4:19 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.
Prov 4:20 My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words.
In vv20-27 we are encouraged to undertake a spiritual checkup to see if we are living in healthy obedience to God’s will:-
- Our ears, v20. What we hear will influence our thinking, our attitude, and our decisions. Beware of ‘obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking’ (Eph 5:4). Avoid ungodly counsel, Psa 1:1.
- Our heart, v23. ‘If we pollute that wellspring, the infection will spread; before long, hidden appetites will become open sins and public shame…The Bible warns us to avoid a double heart (Ps. 12:2), a hard heart (Prov. 28:14), a proud heart (21:4), an unbelieving p 44 heart (Heb. 3:12), a cold heart (Matt. 24:12), and an unclean heart (Ps. 51:10). “Search me, O God, and know my heart” (139:23).’
- Our lips, v24. ‘Whatever is in the heart will ultimately come out of the mouth (Mt 12:33–34).’ See also Tit 2:8; Col. 4:6. ‘Among other things, Solomon warns us about perverse lips (Prov. 4:24), lying lips (Prov 12:22), flattering lips (Prov 20:19), deceptive lips (Prov 24:28), and undisciplined lips (Prov 10:19). “He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin” (Prov 13:3, NIV).’
- Our eyes, v25. Let our vision be for Christ, and the things of Christ, Heb 12:2. Let us not spend out time looking back, Lk 9:62, or gazing after worthless things, Psa 101:3,37.
- Our feet, v26f. We should ponder carefully the path that we take, so that we do not take a detour that may prove costly or even fatal. See 2 Cor 13:5.
Prov 4:21 Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart;
Prov 4:22 for they are life to those who find them and health to a man’s whole body.
Prov 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
Heart – Kidner comments that ‘This word most commonly stands for ‘mind’ (e.g. Prov 3:3; 6:32a; 7:7b; etc.; cf. Hos. 7:11), but it can go beyond this to represent the emotions (Prov 15:15, 30), the will (Prov 11:20; 14:14) and the whole inner being (Prov 3:5).’
Life – Not merely continued existence, but healthful vitality, cf. vv20-22.
Prov 4:24 Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
Kidner: ‘Superficial habits of talk react on the mind; so that, e.g., cynical chatter, fashionable grumbles, flippancy, half-truths, barely meant in the first place, harden into well-established habits of thought.’
Prov 4:25 Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.
Prov 4:26 Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Prov 4:27 Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.
‘The succession of steps, by which vision is turned into action, demands practical planning.’ (Kidner)