That Principal Thing: Proverbs 4
I have always loved the fourth chapter of Proverbs. It’s just like the comforting voice of a friend when things are a little bit crazy. Telling you things you already know, but likely forgot in the midst of the battle. And these days, that’s just too easy to do.
The seventh verse sums up the first portion of this Proverb:
Proverbs 4:7 – Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.
Instruction. Good doctrine. Law. Commandments. Life!
I see these first verses as a kind of overshadowing of Jesus. Because in a manner of speaking, these are all things He said when He walked this earth.
John 7:17 – If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
Acts 2:42 – And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine [given to them by Jesus] and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Mark 7:9 – And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.
Jesus’ doctrine was God’s doctrine. Many people put aside the entirety of the Old Testament because we are, supposedly, covered by the NEW Testament. To an extent this is true. After all, we no longer stone our children to death for disobedience!
But it is not for us to pick and choose. It takes careful study of the full text of the Word – the Bible calls this “rightly dividing” the Word of Truth – to understand what Jesus meant when He said He did not come to do away with the law, but to fulfill it.
What Wisdom Can Do
There’s just something about living in the Truth, as a direct and complete turning away from the traditions of men. I guess it really started to dawn on me when I realized so many things taught across the pulpit are NOT Biblical. And for me, that started with the topic of Baptism.
That’s why Solomon speaks so highly of wisdom in the book of Proverbs. Here, we have a man who had been the richest and wisest King ever to be, or who has ever been since. And yet, for lack of wisdom, which he so fluidly taught, he wound up an entirely different person in the end.
He makes it a point to speak of how wisdom will preserve your life, straighten your steps. And he talks about how to avoid leaving wisdom behind.
Don’t let go of instruction, he said. And we know he was talking about pure instruction from God. In the Old Testament, there was the Law. In the New Testament, there was Jesus. And the advice holds true through the ages. Even today!
Solomon says NOT to enter the path of the wicked, or to go in the way of evil men. Who else’s Mom said “Bad company corrupts good manners”? I know mine did! And I found that out to be true, in my own life. It’s best to not even start down that path! As Solomon says in Proverbs 4:15 – Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away. This was serious business, folks!
Listen To Me!
After expounding a little more about the path of the wicked and how awful it is, Solomon said, Attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. (Proverbs 4:20).
Again, Solomon reiterates the need to seek wisdom and to not let it depart, in any way. But he goes on further, saying you should guard the heart with diligence, and that perverse lips should be put far from thee.
There’s just something about talking that leads to change of emotions which leads to downright character flaws!
Ask me how I know!
When Jesus was questioned about why His disciples didn’t wash their hands before eating, Jesus spoke of how it’s not what goes into a person that defiles them, but rather, what comes out.
Speech is powerful. Sermons are offered this way. Court cases are determined by it. Elections are won and lost through talk. And we could go on and on.
How much more important is it, then, that we would watch our mouth at every turn? What about the way you speak to your spouse? Your children? Your coworkers? How about your neighbors?
What would people say about the words that come out of your mouth?
I pray God that mine are known for being life-giving, and not life-stealing!
What does it mean to you when you read the book of Proverbs? Does it seem like just a collection of rules and regulations? Or do you see the wisdom that Solomon was trying to pass down to his son? Do you see a heavy burden? Or do you see freedom?
It’s interesting, as some Proverbs are more straightforward than others. And some seem harsher than others too. Still, I see a direct correlation here with what Solomon was trying to make his son understand, and what Jesus was trying to make us understand through the doctrine He gave His disciples, which was then passed down to us.
I tell you, when Jesus returns, He’s not coming for a conglomeration of denominations who are at odds with their brothers and sisters over some non-salvational principle. He is coming for ONE church… THE church.
Lord Jesus, I come before the Throne humbly today, to ask that You would give Your people a heart of unity, a heart of hope and promise, and a heart that seeks to truly KNOW You! I love Your Word, Lord, and I love Your doctrine and Your commandments! They are truly life to my entire body, and the greatest peace I have ever known. I ask that You open those eyes that cannot see right now, for whatever reason, Lord…only You know…and shine Your glorious light to expel darkness so that Your Truth might be revealed. I’ll never fail to give You the praise, glory, and honor due You, and ask all these things in the mighty name of Jesus! Amen.