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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Using God's Means for Gaining Wisdom
Text:Proverbs 2:1-22 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Running the race
 
Preached:05/18/2014
Added:2014-06-23
Updated:2014-10-20
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Pastor Ted Gray

05/18/14 – a.m.

“Using God’s Means for Gaining Wisdom”

Proverbs 2:1-22

“If” is one of the smallest words in any given language.  It is comprised of just two letters of the alphabet, one vowel, one consonant linked together.  Yet that one word “if”, like a small rudder on a great ship, has changed the course of every individual. For instance: If you would have chosen a different career, how would it have changed your life? Children, if your parents didn’t live in the country you were born in, if you grew up in Russia or some other country, can you even begin to imagine what your life would be like? There are so many “ifs” in life and so often they dramatically effect our destiny.

We see that truth in the chapter before us.  In this chapter the Lord gives us some very important “ifs.”  He promises that if we do what He tells us to do, then there will be great blessings in our lives and we will be spared from many sorrows.  In the first 4 verses we see the word “if” three times, followed by the word “then” twice, in verse 5 and verse 9. The Lord is giving us conditional clauses: If you do what He says, then there will be great blessing.

These conditional phrases of “if” and “then” in no way reduce God’s sovereign rule. Nor do they elevate what we do to such a degree that our actions bind or restrict our sovereign God. Rather, we see that the conditional phrases “if” and “then” are God’s means for us to accomplish His goals and purposes in our lives. The passage before us could serve as a commentary on those well known verses in Philippians 2:12-13: ...My dear friends, as you have always obeyed - not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence - continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.­

God will indeed bless us if we do what He commands, but we can never take the credit for obedience, for it is God who works in us to will and to act according to His good purpose.­ Nor does that mean that by obeying God’s Word we will be blessed in the material sense. God will bless, but because of our inability to see His ways, we often fail to see that His blessings may initially be disguised in sorrows and hardships.

Accepting His Word; Heeding His Commands

The first conditional clause – the first “if” is there in verse 1. It is in the context of a godly parent teaching their child. God says to all His children, “...If you accept My words and store up My commands within you..”.

There is no greater “if” than this. How many on the last day will cry out, “If only I had accepted God’s Word...”? There are many who hear the Word of God, but they refuse to accept it as God’s Word. The acceptance of the Word of God requires an open ear and a softened heart, as verse  2 says, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding...  

Praying for Insight

A crucial part of having an open ear and receptive heart to receive God’s Word is found through prayer. Verse 3 says, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding.  There are countless millions who hear the Word of God, but without prayer for insight, the Bible is foolishness to them. That is why in our witness to the world we pray for open ears and softened hearts.

That is also why when we read the Bible we must do so prayerfully. The Holy Spirit works through the Scripture; without His work, the Bible is foolishness.  As Paul told the Corinthians,  ... the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  And again, he wrote: The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor. 1:18, 2:14).

That is also why we pray before the study of God’s Word. We recognize the importance of verse 3 – to call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding so that the Holy Spirit applies the Word of God to our lives.

Seeking  Treasure

The third use of that little word “if” is in verse 4: If you look for it,­ that is, the wisdom of the Lord, as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.

Verse 4 is telling us to seek the wisdom of God’s Word as one would seek treasure. When we lived in Oregon there was a young man who on rare occasions stopped in to be a part of our church service on Sunday evening.  He rarely attended, and if he did, it was because the weather was especially bad.  We were always glad to see him and encouraged him to come and worship with us regularly.  But he wouldn’t.  The reason why is because he had a small mining claim on a river in the Siskiyou Mountains between northern California and southern Oregon. Every day off, every vacation day, every weekend, every spare moment was spent at that claim site panning for gold.

He was doing what verse 4 tells us to do – to search as one would search for hidden treasure.  But he was searching for treasure in the wrong place. The real treasures are not found in the material world. The true, eternal treasures are found in the wisdom of the Word of God.

No doubt there will be many people on the last Day who will wish that they had searched out the Scriptures the way that young man had searched for gold in the riverbeds of the Siskiyou Mountains.

Wisdom and Understanding

There are definite reasons why the Lord puts these conditional clauses before us. The “ifs” of accepting His word, searching His Word and praying for insight into His Word are the means that God uses to provide us with wisdom and understanding.

We see the word “then” at the beginning of verse 5: then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.  Verse 6 adds: For the LORD gives wisdom, and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.

In any experience as complicated and as confusing as life can be, how valuable, how crucial to have true wisdom, knowledge and understanding! Wisdom is the practical application of knowledge. And that wisdom is found in this book, the Holy Bible. This is the Book that gives us the direction on how to live our lives.

Many look for wisdom, understanding and knowledge in the philosophies of this world. Others look for wisdom and knowledge in the mystic experiences of false religions. Still others look within themselves, believing that the key to wisdom, knowledge and understanding is hidden within each one of us, in our human potential and “goodness.”

Such people will always come up empty. For true wisdom, knowledge and understanding come only to those who accept God’s Word.  The Bible gives us the spiritual focus to see Christ Jesus in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3). The Bible, in passages such as the one before us, give us practical instruction on how to live a Christ-centered, God glorifying life. When we accept the Bible as the authoritative Word of God, and begin to truly search out His Word as one searches for treasure, praying for insight and wisdom, then God will provide the guidance, wisdom and knowledge that is so necessary in our journey through life.

Protection

The wisdom, knowledge and understanding of God’s Word also gives us victory and protection against the falsehood of the world. Verses 7-8 assure us: He holds victory in store for the upright, He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for He guards the course of the just and protects the way of His faithful ones.

Just as God’s blessings are not always in the way of material blessings, but sometimes come in the form of storm clouds, so too His protection of His faithful ones doesn’t mean that their lives will be free from those who oppose the Lord and His people.

When the National Football League had their draft for new players in 2014, there was a lot of focus on Michael Sam, the gay football player who was drafted by the St. Louis Rams. Anyone who watched the news during the draft, just causally, undoubtedly saw the kiss he gave to his lover.  He was hailed as a hero.

Meanwhile, Tim Tebow who is an equally gifted, if not more gifted athlete, has been rejected by NFL teams because of his Christianity. Precisely because he does accept God’s Word as the direction for his life, because he is a man who prayerfully searches out the Bible, he is held in disdain by our culture. Instead of playing in the National Football League he is opening a chain of restaurants featuring chicken.

But he holds the spiritual victory. The Lord is still shielding him. The Lord guards his course, even though the world has disdained it and refused to accept it. And that is true for all God’s children. All those who seek to faithfully live out God’s Word in their lives will find God to be faithful and true. They will find the truth of the familiar hymn:

Every joy or trial falleth from above,
Traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love;
We may trust Him fully all for us to do;
They who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.

Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.

Living by the Word Saves Us from the Ways of Wicked Men

In verses 12-19 we are given further blessings that come to those who live by the wisdom of God’s Word. First, when we live by the wisdom of God’s Word it saves us from the ways of wicked men. Verses 12-15 teach: Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, who leave the straight paths to walk in dark ways, who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways.

Those verses aren’t telling us that we will be spared from meeting devious people. Or that we will never have to work with perverse people, or have them as neighbors. But it does mean that if we live by the wisdom of God’s Word, searching it out and praying for wisdom then we won’t become like the wicked men all around us.

Any of you who have served in the military know how easy the wickedness that surrounds you can rub off on you. You hear others swear and before you know those words are forming on your lips. The practices all around you of drinking and carrying on can lower your resistance to sin and temptation. And those situations aren’t just in the military – they are in the workplace, the classroom, and in your neighborhood. Our entire social scene is dominated and saturated with the wickedness of men. In those situations the way you preserve yourself is by being in the Word of God.

In the words of verses 9-11, even in such a scenario, even in a sinful, fallen world, then you will understand what is right and just and fair - every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.

Living by the Word Saves Us from the Seductress

The wisdom that comes from the Word of God also spares us from the temptation of the seductress. Verses 16-19 assure us: It will save you also from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words, who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God. For her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead.  None who go to her return or attain the paths of life.

Our culture glamorizes adultery and all other forms of immorality. The inclination of the human heart is to be like Samson and be a Philistine skirt chaser. We all know where he ended up. With his eyes gouged out he finally brought down the Philistine temple and all within it, killing more in his death than in his life. He is a tragic example of the truth of verse 18: For her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead.

It is only those who by God’s grace put the “ifs” into action - who accept God’s Word as the blueprint for their lives, pray for understanding and then search it diligently, living it out in their lives, - who are spared.

Those who refuse the means God has given do not have the wisdom and understanding needed to protect themselves. Instead, they become like the fool described in chapter 7:21-23: With persuasive words she (the adulteress) led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk. All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life. 

Walking as the Righteous

A third thing that biblical wisdom gives to us is an ability to walk in the way of the righteous. Verse 20-22: Thus you will walk in the ways of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous.  For the upright will live in the land, and the blameless will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the unfaithful will be torn from it.

Our world is like a military minefield. You need to walk with great care. You have the wicked men who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil. Just that one phrase from verse 14 is an amazingly accurate description of much of our society.

And you have the seductress, the immorality of our culture that is praised as entertainment and flashed before us in every media outlet imaginable. No wonder we need wisdom in the way we live, the wisdom of God’s Word to direct us in His path and to keep us from the wickedness that is all around us.

The day will come, verse 22 promises us, when the wicked will be cut off from the land. Verse 21 and 22 are eschatological – they point us to the end, to the life to come when the upright will inherit the new heavens and the new earth, and the wicked will go to their eternal punishment.  But in the meantime how crucial that we glean the wisdom of God’s Word for our journey through life.

Maybe you’ve seen the billboards down south in the “Bible belt” that spell out the word “BIBLE”  and then give this acronym: “Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth.”  That is exactly what this chapter is telling us. The Lord is warning us that there are many wicked men and adulterous women who would love to lead us astray, that without the wisdom of His Word we will be lost in the journey of life; we will be ship wrecked on the voyage to heaven if we do not follow the wisdom of His Word. 

Wisdom and Understanding to Live Godly Lives

“If” is such a small word. Just two letters. A vowel and a consonant, - but like a small rudder on a large ship that little word “if” changes the course of our lives and determines our eternal destiny.  For instance, if you and I were more accepting of God’s Word and His commands, how would it change our lives?  So often it seems we spend as little time in the Word of God as we can, instead of as much time as we possibly can.

When we began our study of Proverbs we noted that many Christians, such as Billy Graham, make it a practice to read a chapter of Proverbs per day. That’s a good thing to do. But in addition, how important it is to systematically read through the entire Bible day by day.

How would our lives be changed if we spent more time prayerfully reading God’s Word, in the words of verse 3, calling out for insight and crying aloud for understanding?  How often do we take the easy way out and say, “I don’t understand those hard passages of Scripture, so I just won’t read them?” – while all the while there is great wisdom, knowledge and understanding found in those passages if we would prayerfully search them out and study them as one searches for silver and gold.

I read that Death Valley, California received its name “Death Valley” because so many miners lost their lives there, looking for silver and gold. How many of us would be willing to sacrifice our very lives to uphold and live by the Word God has given us? How would our lives be changed if we loved the Word of God more than life itself?  If we were willing to sacrifice our self for the Word of God, as martyrs around the world do everyday?

Do you see the application?  We must use the means that God has given us, including those three conditional “ifs” in in this passage. They are part of the means that God gives to us so that we have the wisdom, knowledge and understanding to live godly, Christ-centered lives, protected from the evil all around us as we live to the honor and glory of our triune God. Amen.

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 05/1, Rev. Ted Gray

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