“My child, if you accept my words and treasure up my commandments within you...”
~Proverbs 2:1 (NRSV).
And so come the promises on condition thereafter.
I liken Proverbs 1 and 2 to Genesis 1 and 2 and Psalms 1 and 2. Having started on one foot in each of the initial chapters of each book we find little rapid departures in the following, despite the similarities.
This helps us have confidence that we’re dealing with a God that really does understand and deal in the mysteries and complexities of life. There are no ‘pat’ answers.
Proverbs 2 has a reasonably simple twofold light-dark structure about it which pivots on the child who’s being instructed turning an attentive ear to wisdom. In this way it’s similar to Proverbs 1 and the chapters remaining through Proverbs, particularly chapters 1–9.
‘If’ Is the Operative Word – Proverbs 2:1-11
Like much Scripture, the promises contained in Proverbs 2 are conditional on that third word in the profiled verse... “My child, if...”
So begins a series of three short descriptive images in verses 1-4 for the mind to comprehend what’s involved in understanding the fear of the Lord (verse 5)—which leads to very many blessings detailed in verses 6-11.
The truth is what we do and don’t do regarding wisdom has both immediate and lasting consequences so far as wisdom is concerned. If we go Wisdom’s way blessing will follow us. Then we will understand “every good path” (verse 9).
The Opposite Contrast – Proverbs 2:12-19
Rather like Psalm 1, which features three contrastive verses each, Proverbs 2 changes tack markedly at the halfway point, almost like a golfer playing eighteen holes does, but this halfway point is not a turning for home. It describes the lot for those who don’t lend their attentive ear to wisdom (for we’re all attentive to something).
Like the passage we found in Proverbs 1:8-19, this section advises us not to go the way of people “who speak perversely, who forsake the paths uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness, who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil; those whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways” (verses 12b-15 [NRSV]).
There’s no wisdom in these, only folly; and, in that, regret... always.
Wisdom Saves Us
We’re all too easily lost to sin in no more salient a way than sexually. Wisdom, however, will save us from the “loose woman” (verse 16) or the charismatic man who does not have the moral candour to match.
Perhaps this is the very mark of virtue on each person alive. How do they handle their sexuality? A “loose” approach bounds us for trouble. There are predators about everywhere.
But Wisdom will guard us.
A Punchy Summary – Proverbs 2:20-22
Very reminiscent of Psalm 1 is this punchy little morsel imploring us to guard our wisdom. Again, it’s heavily contrastive and compelling in reason.
Go with Wisdom. The other choice has no logic or sense about it.
In life we must make the bed we lie in. Always better are we in making a clean bed.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.