“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 in one way in the initial chapters of each book we find rapid departures in the following, despite the similarities.
This helps us have confidence that we’re dealing with a God who genuinely understands and deals in the mysteries and complexities of life. There are no formulaic answers.
Proverbs 2 has a 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 remaining chapters, 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 three short descriptive images (verses 1-4) designed to help the mind comprehend what’s involved in understanding the fear of the Lord (verse 5) — which leads to extensive blessings detailed in verses 6-11.
The truth is, what we do and don’t do regarding Wisdom has both immediate and lasting consequences. If we go Wisdom’s way, blessing will follow us, and 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 direction at the halfway point, much like a golfer turning after the ninth holes does, but this halfway point is not a turning for home. It describes the consequences in store for those who don’t lend their attentive ear to Wisdom.
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 moral candour.
Perhaps this is the mark of virtue on each person alive. How do we each handle our sexuality? A “loose” approach bounds us for trouble, because there are predators about everywhere.
But Wisdom will guard us.
A Punchy Summary – Proverbs 2:20-22
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 lie in the bed we make for ourselves. It’s always better, therefore, if we make a clean bed.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.
This article is an excerpt from my book, Grow In GOD. All author proceeds from this book go to Compassion