“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
~Proverbs 1:7 (NRSV).
Called “the Prologue” the first seven verses of this the most famous of biblical wisdom books consist really a top-end introduction to what the rest of the meal’s going to be like. And instead of putting on weight we’ll put on knowledge.
Time and again the later themes will remind us of these earliest clues to the acquisition of godly wisdom and understanding.
Wisdom Opens Us Up to Learn
It could be argued very well from the biblical viewpoint that those who’ve had their eyes opened to see the gospel and had their ears opened to hear the gospel have allowed wisdom to open their hearts and minds. This is undoubtedly the blessing of the Lord. This is what verse 2b of chapter 1 is talking about.
Righteousness, Justice and Equity (or Fairness)
This triad of wisdom principles comes up again and again. The godliest of nations are constructed on these very statutes. They are not just godly statutes; they’re wisdom statutes, meaning they work with an uncanny reliability, known to the very nature of life itself. They’re presented again for us in chapter 2 which in many ways is a refrain—at least in part—of chapter 1.
Proverbs has many subtle patterns of repetitiveness because it’s a teaching text, most particularly the first nine chapters—where a father teaches his son the rudiments for effective living. Righteousness, justice and fairness are three key attributes of holiness that this father implores his son to gain. All else is loss in comparison.
Wisdom – for Both the Simple and the Wise
Everyone needs Proverbs, or more broadly, wisdom. It is custom designed, for instance, to make wiser the simple, teaching them shrewdness, knowledge and prudence (verse 4). So, the young find their true home in Proverbs; a seminary for living. It’s a school for both the young of age and the young of heart and mind; “young” being the metaphor for ‘not-yet-very-wise’. (There are many forty and sixty-year-olds who’d perhaps never previously discovered [or applied] Proverbs’ wisdom.)
For the wise too, Proverbs is a cacophony of God’s grace and knowledge; a compendium for life. Through Proverbs they will acquire even more skill for their relationships with God, others and themselves.
As Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message, Proverbs is a “manual for living, for learning what’s right and just and fair.”
Proverbs 1:1-7 is thick with meaning. It’s stupendous for signalling the biblical growth ahead of us as we venture, ushering us through that inviting door to real life, getting us boldly into the glorious expanses of living wisdom inside this garden known to house the ‘tree of life’ (Proverbs 3:18).
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.