Chapter 4

Wisdom Is Supreme

Chapter 4 has three sections starting "My son," which my NIV makes one paragraph each, except the middle section has a 2-verse mini-paragraph at the end (8+2 verses in two paragraphs). Also, the chapter begins with "Hear sons" (plural) instead of "My son," so although the translators might reasonably render it "my sons," the actual Hebrew could apply to sons and daughters everywhere, not just Solomon's sons. Pay attention to your parents, whoever you are, it is part of the "Honor" that gives you long life. They have lived longer than you, and they have collected more wisdom from experience. Pay attention.

What Solomon Got from David

We tend to focus on what Solomon asked God for in 2Chr.1:10, and nobody ever connects that with what Solomon himself said about where he got the idea, here in Proverbs 4 [read v.1-4]
1 Listen, my sons, to a father's instruction; pay attention and gain understanding.
2 I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching.
3 When I was a boy in my father's house, still tender, and an only child of my mother,
4 he taught me and said, "Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live.
Where have we heard these words before? More and more as I get older, I am firmly convinced that nobody ever invents anything, knowledge and wisdom do not pop into existence out of nowhere like some Darwinistic Big Bang -- nor even a bunch of little Puny Pops -- everything came from somewhere, like energy comes from somewhere else, mostly the sun, which gets its energy from Einstein's matter-energy conversion, and God made the matter. Ultimately, that somewhere is always God, as James tells us:
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to everybody without finding fault, and it will be given to him. -- James 1:5
Did you catch that? God gives His Wisdom to everybody -- even the unbelievers -- otherwise we could not safely get on an elevator or airplane designed and built by atheists and reasonably expect to arrive at our destination without it falling out of the sky. The groundwork for all this technology was invented by Christians, but the atheists and unbelievers can see what works and build on it without actually understanding what's going on. And we benefit from that. God is Good, what the atheists give us is only second-hand.

Jesus said something similar in his Sermon on the Mount:

He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. -- Matt.5:45
Verse 3 has Solomon as the "only" child of his mother -- I guess that would be "only surviving child" since Bathsheba's first child died in infancy -- and also David had numerous sons, but from different mothers.

Continuing on with what David told Solomon as a child [read v.5-9]

5 Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them.
6 Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.
7 Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
8 Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you.
9 She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor."
The second half of verse 7, do you remember where you have seen that in Jesus' teachings? [Try Matt.13:45]
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
Wisdom is like the Kingdom of Heaven, pay everything you have for it, because Wisdom will replace what it cost you (and more). [discuss]

Good Consequences from Wisdom

Next we see what Solomon did with the advice he got from his father David (and from God, but it doesn't say that here) [read v.10-13]
10 Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many.
11 I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths.
12 When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.
13 Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.
Did anybody ever say that good results happen from being stupid or unwise, or that Bad Things result from God's Wisdom? No, common sense tells us that Wisdom -- well, common sense, same thing -- has good results. When Bad Things Happen, it's usually because somebody did something stupid or unwise. I think I mentioned a week or two ago, my father's advice,
Experience is a hard school, but the fool learneth in none other.
I distilled that down to "Opium" (OPM) = "Other People's Mistakes," and it has served me well. Look around, see what other people did in this situation, and what happened. Don't make the same mistakes. Sometimes I didn't understand what happened, and things didn't turn out so good, but mostly I try to figure it out.

Now we have the negative consequences -- not so much outcomes as what Bad Things go together -- of doing it Wrong [read v.14-17]

14 Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men.
15 Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way.
16 For they cannot sleep till they do evil; they are robbed of slumber till they make someone fall.
17 They eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence.
Bad people corrupt good intentions, stay away from that kind of people (if you can) [discuss].

That was four verses of Good results from Wisdom followed by four verses of Bad results from Bad people, then we get a summary, one verse each [read v.18-19]

18 The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
19 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.
Wisdom is like daylight, seeing where you are going and avoiding the potholes. Evil is darkness, not being able to see what's happening to you. Jesus told Nicodemus,
"Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." -- John 3:19-21
Jesus is the Light of the World, so turn on the Light. Notice that Jesus did not say we do good on our own, when Good things are done, God did it. Either we accept God working in us to do Good, or we turn away from it and do our own evil. Solomon is saying that too. Another related verse, in the Sermon on the Mount:
Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. -- Matt.5:16
Notice that when people see us doing Good Things, the proper response -- if our "light is shining" -- is for them to praise God (the source of all Good) rather than us.


The final "My son" section in this chapter encourages us to stick with it, to go the whole distance [read v.20-23]
20 My son, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words.
21 Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart;
22 for they are life to those who find them and health to a man's whole body.
23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
[read v.24-27]
24 Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.
26 Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm.
27 Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.
Wisdom and Solomon's advice is like a Covid or flu shot, once is not enough, you must keep on getting boosters. The Apostle Paul repeated that sentiment several times, including himself:
I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. -- 1Co.9:27
It's good advice.

Tom Pittman
Revised 2022 August 15