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Posts Tagged ‘Proverbs’

Wonderment is a valuable thing. It causes you to ask questions and seek answers. But where might one find answers? For meaning and life, the best and reliable source is the Bible. For beauty and function the best source is the second book of revelation, nature (see “Two Books” for why).

I have been contemplating the idea of wisdom lately. As a grey headed grandfather of seven, I reckon I am supposed to have a bit of that. I have a bit perhaps but feel woefully lacking. By contrast, Proverbs 3:19 says, “The Lord by wisdom founded the earth, by understanding He established the heavens.” Certainly He has no lack of wisdom and did not have to acquire it, deepen it, or perfect it. Out of His abundance of perfect wisdom “the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6) Therefore, belonging to Him, I have hope of obtaining a measure of wisdom.

But what is wisdom, why do we need it, and how do we get it?

As I began to look in Proverbs, I observed in chapter two the use of four words in rapid succession, as if repetition meant they were different words for the same thing: wisdom, knowledge, discernment, and understanding. I wondered, how they are related and how they are different. Do they build upon one another or are they different words for the same idea?

I like to come to some level of completion or satisfaction in the study of an idea. I looked up definitions and key passages. I checked the Hebrew words for the various words. And that was when I realized that I was beginning a study that I will not soon finish. The same Hebrew word was frequently translated as different English words. Knowledge seems to be separate, but the other three somewhat interchangeable. I like for words to have exact meanings. Of course, language develops by usage and exact meanings are never going to happen. Even if someone prescribes a meaning, say Noah Webster for instance, the common misuse or connotative use can destroy any simple, straightforward use of a word. So I set out first of all to define terms as would be helpful in my study of them. Following are definitions I am developing for these four words drawn from dictionaries, the Scripture, and experience. 

Truth is information that aligns with reality. It is the basis of all pursuit of wisdom. “He who speaks truth tells what is right, but a false witness, deceit.” (Proverbs 12:17) I have added this word because of its foundational status. If there is no truth then seeking wisdom is a fool’s game never to be accomplished. We live in a culture that argues that there is no truth, but then all other discussion becomes meaningless. No one actually operates on the basis of no truth as seen in the fact that most people do life preservative avoidance moves to continue living (you know, things like stopping at red lights and not jumping off of cliffs without aid of parachute or wingsuit).

Knowledge is awareness and familiarity with truth, facts, skills, and propositions. Proverbs 18:15 says, “The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Prudence is acting now in a way that prepares for the future. Knowledge is useful for the future.

Understanding is the ability to grasp the meaning and value of knowledge and its relationship to other ideas. Proverbs 9:6 says, “Forsake your folly and live, and proceed in the way of understanding.” It is the man of understanding who may acquire and act by wisdom. Contemplating knowledge and how it should be applied leads to understanding. For this reason, it is rare for those who do not consider and muse to gain understanding.

Discernment is the process of evaluating the causes and outcomes of an event. Proverbs 1:2 says, “To know wisdom and instruction, to discern the sayings of understanding.” Instruction is a word meaning discipline and is part of a disciple’s knowledge. In the verse, discernment is making use of understanding.

Wisdom is appropriate action fitted to the situation based on consideration of prudent and right judgement. “Take my instruction and not silver, and knowledge rather than choicest gold. For wisdom is better than jewels; and all desirable things cannot compare with her. ‘I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion.'” (Proverbs 8:10-12) Wisdom is the goal because it helps the wise and those under the wise person’s care and gives glory to God, the Author of wisdom.

I have defined these terms in this order because I think that they build upon one another in this particular order. Truth is the basis of knowledge which may lead to understanding, allowing for discernment in a situation, upon which wisdom for action is developed.

Or more simply      T -> K -> U -> D -> W

Obviously, these skills develop in fits and starts and various orders as a situation, study, prayer, or illumination occurs, but I think they are well thought of in this order because of increasing complexity and need of the preceding ones to accomplish.

If I develop clarity on how they are differentiated and taught in Scripture, I will try to share that here. Until then, may God give us wisdom for the living of these days so that we might be like “the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times.” (I Chronicles 12:32)

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This poem is quite simple

Similar to a pimple

Which has really a short life

Full of passion and much strife

 

It causes a stir and pain

May nearly drive you insane

But soon will come to a head

Then burst, forgotten and dead

 

But note how it leaves a scar

The complexion ever mar

Cover it to make it small

Or accept me warts and all

 

Best to never have begun

From quarrels and strife you run

Better bring kindness and truth

Than discord and be uncouth

The first two verses of this poem came to me one day when I was considering strife and its ill effects. I knew generally where I wanted to go with it, but could not see how. Just this morning when I brought it up from my drafts file, the way forward began to dawn upon me. In one sense I might like to have developed the kindness and truth way of doing things more. On the other hand, the first and third lines preclude such a tome, and the short version seems to have punch.

The truth I see behind my verse comes from Proverbs:

17:14 “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out.”

3:3 “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.”

26:17 “Like one who takes a dog by the ears is he who passes by and meddles with strife not belonging to him.”

15:18 “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, But the slow to anger calms a dispute.”

See also Proverbs 6:14,19; 10:12, 13:10, 16:28, 17:1,19; 18:6,18; 20:3, 22:10, 26:21, 28:25, 29:22, 30:33. Evidently, avoiding strife and those who promote it is a valuable consideration and pursuit.

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Last Sunday my pastor preached from Proverbs 6:16-19. He began by assuring us that the purpose of the passage, as well as his sermon, was not to condemn but to help. God points out our sin for the purpose of warning us so that we might come to Him for help. His second point was how far short we fall, yet how gracious God is. My heart was stirred by the sermon and I reflected on it later in the week, I put many of the pastor’s thoughts into the following poem. I hope that you find it admonishing, instructive, and encouraging.

His grace is spread abroad in us
By manifold and diverse ways

That cleanses us from deadly sins
To live for Him all of our days

To end six sins which God so hates
His character pure they offend
Even seven sins He abhors
By fierce judgment He shall attend

No more haughty eyes glaring pride
Now like the humble Savior be
Eyes that show compassion and love
That all might His grace and truth see

Enough of tongues that concoct lies
Denying and obscuring truth
God’s truth will set you free, He said
Renewing your years as in youth

Hands that shed innocent blood, stop
The Savior’s blood was shed for you
Now like the Master’s healing hands
Helping the poor and infirm, too

Hearts devise wicked plans to scheme
Transgress the righteousness of God
A heart of compassion put on
Equity more than just a nod

Feet run rapidly to evil
While rebellion rules in the heart
Submit to the Savior and live
In healing conflict do your part

False witnesses uttering lies
Gossip and slander destroy lives
Put away filthy, silly talk
Be instead one who for truth strives

One spreading strife among brothers
Strikes a note of profound discord
Seek unity with the brethren
Dwelling in peace with one accord

By God’s help we pursue these things
Bringing all glory to our Lord
Blessings come to ourselves and kin
Others encouragement afford

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