Words of Wisdom

by Robert H. Spain

Every week you’ll find different types of posts here on the ABS blog. Today’s post is for individuals, to encourage personal reflection and Bible study.

I grew up in a churchgoing home. My father was not a preacher. He was a principal of the local school and my mother was a teacher in the same school. On Sunday the morning schedule was always the same. I don’t ever remember a discussion about going or not going to church. Our lives, however, focused more on school than anything else. School, at our house, was morning to night.

Our home didn’t have a lot of luxuries, but we had books—more than a few, and one that was always within reach was the Bible. My father was a good man, a special man, a caring man, a real role model, but family Bible reading time wasn’t a regular experience. I don’t ever remember the family eating without a prayer of thanksgiving. I grew up hearing my father leading prayer at church and teaching in Sunday school; but in the home, we did not gather round every night for Bible and prayer time. With both my father and mother, we had family Bible times, but it was not a staple of every day.

Some of my early Bible lessons came unexpectedly, usually when my father wanted something more than he was getting from his three sons. He apparently thought his words to us would go further and sink in deeper if his admonitions were sprinkled or massaged with a few well-chosen Bible words. How often did we hear, “Whatsoever your hand findeth to do, do it.” He could have said, “Come on boys, we’ve got to finish the job.” Or, “Can’t you see there’s more to be done?”

My father’s enriched-with-Bible-flavored words are from the Book of Ecclesiastes. This part of the Bible is one segment of Wisdom literature, a part of which is to offer practical and usable help for regular living. Most of the lines of shared wisdom are not ritualistic or heavily saturated with priestly intonations. Some speak of the Book of Proverbs as a “Manual for Living.” Some have referred to the many tiered lines of poetry as simply the “Rules of Life.”

The “Wisdom” reading in the Bible is not first in most of our reading, but it ought to be occasionally trotted out for some “dusting off.” If you need a refresher, start with the first chapter of Proverbs.

Read it slowly. You will be hooked.


Proverbs 1

Purpose of Proverbs

1 The proverbs of Solomon, King David’s son, from Israel:
Their purpose is to teach wisdom and discipline,
    to help one understand wise sayings.
They provide insightful instruction,
    which is righteous, just, and full of integrity.
They make the naive mature,
    the young knowledgeable and discreet.
The wise hear them and grow in wisdom;
    those with understanding gain guidance.
They help one understand proverbs and difficult sayings,
    the words of the wise, and their puzzles.
Wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord,
    but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Avoid evil associations

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction;
    don’t neglect your mother’s teaching;
        for they are a graceful wreath on your head,
        and beads for your neck.
10 My son, don’t let sinners entice you.
    Don’t go
11     when they say:
        “Come with us.
        Let’s set up a deadly ambush.
        Let’s secretly wait for the innocent just for fun.
12         Let’s swallow up the living like the grave—
        whole, like those who go down into the pit.
13         We’ll find all sorts of precious wealth;
        we’ll fill our houses with plunder.
14         Throw in your lot with us;
        we’ll share our money.”
15 My son, don’t go on the path with them;
    keep your feet from their way,
16     because their feet run to evil;
            they hurry to spill blood.
17 It’s useless to cast a net
    in the sight of a bird.
18 But these sinners set up a deadly ambush;
    they lie in wait for their own lives.
19 These are the ways of all who seek unjust gain;
    it costs them their lives.

Listen to “Woman Wisdom”

20 Wisdom shouts in the street;
    in the public square she raises her voice.
21 Above the noisy crowd, she calls out.
    At the entrances of the city gates, she has her say:
22 “How long will you clueless people love your naïveté,
    mockers hold their mocking dear,
    and fools hate knowledge?
23 You should respond when I correct you.
    Look, I’ll pour out my spirit on you.
    I’ll reveal my words to you.
24 I invited you, but you rejected me;
    I stretched out my hand to you,
    but you paid no attention.
25 You ignored all my advice,
    and you didn’t want me to correct you.
26 So I’ll laugh at your disaster;
    I’ll make fun of you when dread comes over you,
27         when terror hits you like a hurricane,
        and your disaster comes in like a tornado,
        when distress and oppression overcome you.
28 Then they will call me, but I won’t answer;
    they will seek me, but won’t find me
29         because they hated knowledge
        and didn’t choose the fear of the Lord.
30 They didn’t want my advice;
    they rejected all my corrections.
31 They will eat from the fruit of their way,
    and they’ll be full of their own schemes.
32 The immature will die because they turn away;
    smugness will destroy fools.
33 Those who obey me will dwell securely,
    untroubled by the dread of harm.”

Proverbs 2

Benefits of wisdom

2 My son, accept my words
    and store up my commands.
Turn your ear toward wisdom,
    and stretch your mind toward understanding.
Call out for insight,
    and cry aloud for understanding.
Seek it like silver;
    search for it like hidden treasure.
Then you will understand the fear of the Lord,
    and discover the knowledge of God.
The Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He reserves ability for those with integrity.
    He is a shield for those who live a blameless life.
He protects the paths of justice
    and guards the way of those who are loyal to him.
Then you will understand righteousness and justice,
    as well as integrity, every good course.
10 Wisdom will enter your mind,
    and knowledge will fill you with delight.
11 Discretion will guard you;
    understanding will protect you.
12 Wisdom will rescue you from the evil path,
    from people who twist their words.
13 They forsake the way of integrity
    and go on obscure paths.
14 They enjoy doing evil,
    rejoicing in their twisted evil.
15 Their paths are confused;
    they get lost on their way.
16 Wisdom will rescue you from the mysterious woman,
    from the foreign woman with her slick words.
17 She leaves behind the partner of her youth;
    she even forgets her covenant with God.
18 Her house sinks down to death,
    and her paths go down to the shadowy dead.
19 All those who go to her will never return;
    they will never again reach the ways of the living.
20 So you should stay on the path of good people,
    guarding the road of the righteous.
21 Those who have integrity will dwell in the land;
    the innocent will remain in it.
22 But the wicked will be cut off from the land,
    and the treacherous will be ripped up.