The Book of Proverbs

Lesson 1 - “Becoming Wise”

by Pastor Frank J. Cuozzo

Pastor Frank Cuozzo

1 Kings 3:5-9, “In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee. And Solomon said, Thou hast shewed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?”

We are beginning a study of the most practical book in the Bible—Proverbs. This book is a collection of God-given wisdom about money, marriage, work, anger, health, parenting, making friends, planning, success, etc. This book originates during a dream of Solomon's in which God says: Ask what I shall give thee” in I Kings 3:5. In response, Solomon requests and understanding heart to judge the people. (I Kings 3:9)

This is not a selfish request because Solomon does not ask for money, power, fame, a long life, etc. Therefore, God grants his request, and one of the results is the book of Proverbs. Look at 1 Kings 3:10-14, “And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days. And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days.”

Solomon became the wisest man ever to live until the coming of Jesus, who makes the following declaration in the last phrase of Matthew 12:42, “The queen of the south (Sheba) shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.”

The book of Proverbs consists of 31 chapters, one for each day of the month. Reading one chapter each day for a month would be a fantastic "journey" into becoming wise. The word "wisdom" is found fifty times in the book of Proverbs.

Proverbs is one of five books that make up the "wisdom, poetical or literature" section of the Old Testament. The five books are Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon.  

Becoming wise requires that we understand three things: the meaning of wisdom, the benefits of wisdom, and the acquisition of wisdom. Let’s look at these three things.

#1) The Meaning Of Wisdom.

Wisdom is not the same as knowledge. I know many people who have a lot of knowledge, are very well educated, even have PhD's, but are not wise at all. The Hebrew word translated wisdom means skilled, intelligent, or understanding how to use knowledge or information. There is a big difference between being educated and being wise. We can get a great education and not know how to apply what we have learned. Proverbs 8:11 says, “For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.”

Biblical wisdom is knowing how to live "wisely in a foolish world." Having discovered the meaning of wisdom, let's now look at...

#2) The Benefits of Wisdom

There are at least five benefits of wisdom:

A.Wisdom protects against deception. Every generation has more than its share of con artists who try to take advantage of people. Commercial after commercial on TV, endless emails, and mass mailings invite us to take advantage of the latest money-making schemes—real estate investments, internet businesses, precious metals, coins, etc. However, Proverbs 2:12 tells us the benefits of wisdom. It is, “To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward (perverse or fraudulent) things.”

B.Wisdom produces a healthy life. Some of the most profitable businesses in our country are health-related, such as diet programs and exercise equipment. Almost all of early morning television is "paid programming" for the latest diet or exercise machine. Proverbs 3:16 says that, “Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour.”

How can wisdom do this? For one thing, living wisely removes a lot of stress from our lives because we won't make bad decisions about finances, relationships, jobs, etc. Also, if we are wise, we will avoid many accidents that foolish people have. We won't do unwise things, like sawing a limb off a tree while sitting on the wrong side of the limb. If we are wise, we will have healthy habits regarding diet, exercise, and lifestyle.

C. Wisdom promotes financial success. One of the most foolish things in our world is how many people unwisely handle their personal finances. As wealthy people often say, "Making money is easy; keeping it is the hard part." Proverbs 17:16 says, “Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?”

In other words, a fool will just waste his money. An insurance agent told me that when someone with a large life insurance policy dies, he tries to get the survivors to take the settlement in yearly installments over a ten or twenty year period. He said the reason for his advice is most people don't know how to handle money, so no matter how large the settlement, they are broke in three to five years. The book of Proverbs is filled with advice on handling money wisely.

D. Wisdom paves the way to peace. Foolish people are always stressed-out because they continually make bad decisions. Proverbs 3:17 says, “Her (Wisdom) ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.”

Wise people are also peacemakers, who try to bring peace to every situation. Foolish people are constantly creating division and conflict, while wise people are always peaceable. James 3:17-18 says, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.

E. Wisdom provides happiness. This really sums up what wisdom is all about. No matter what you have or what you accomplish, without wisdom nothing makes you happy. To enjoy all the good things we have in life, we must remember the truth found in Proverbs 3:13 which says, “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.”

Wisdom produces blessedness, or happiness, because it reminds us from whom all our blessings come. The word translated happy refers to the happiness that comes from knowing God has bestowed His favor or blessing on us. The wisdom that produces happiness remembers this fact found in James 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

Fame or fortune can't really make us happy unless we understand they are the result of God's favor in our lives. Becoming wise requires understanding the meaning of wisdom, the benefits of wisdom, and lastly,

#3) The Acquisition of Wisdom

We must do three things to gain wisdom.

A. Acquire reverence for God. Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” The Hebrew word translated fear means reverence. The word "reverence" means an attitude of deep respect. When we respect people, we value their advice and take them seriously. The beginning of wisdom is taking God and His Word, the Bible, seriously.

B. Ask God. The only real source of wisdom is God. Proverbs 2:6 tells us, “For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.” The problem isn't that the Lord doesn't want to give us wisdom; the problem is we don't ask. James 1:5 says that, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”

The verb translated ask is present tense, which means continuous action. This is not a one-time request through which we gain wisdom for a lifetime. Rather, it means we ask God for wisdom before every decision. If we consistently ask God for wisdom, we will avoid many mistakes, much pain, and a lot of grief.

C. Apply God's Word. Wisdom isn't just reading the truths in the book of Proverbs; it is remembering and putting them into practice. Proverbs 17:24 says that, “Wisdom is before him that hath understanding; but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.” Intelligent people keep their eyes fixed on wisdom... but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth, so they never find wisdom. To keep our eyes fixed on wisdom, we must remain focused on the Word of God, which contains the wisdom of God. This requires personal Bible study and faithfully attending church worship services and Bible studies.

And so becoming wise requires we understand the meaning of wisdom, the benefits of wisdom, and the acquisition of wisdom

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