Proverbs 4: Guarding Your Life with Wisdom
We all remember those times of discipline from our parents, the times when you thought you couldn’t hear that rant another time, and yet there you were hearing it again. The one where you always replied, “I know, I know.” Or maybe it was the famous warning you received each time they handed the car keys over. Or maybe it was your school teacher who reminded you each day about the upcoming midterm and how difficult it was going to be. Whatever the case for you, I’m sure you can think of a time when all you wanted to say was, “I know, I’ve heard it all before.”
Proverbs 4 may sound a bit like that when you first read it. The father (Solomon) repeatedly tells his son to be attentive, to accept, to listen to, to remember, and to keep wisdom. But there’s a reason for this continual emphasis. Though we may reply, “I know, I know,” we still forget and still turn away from wisdom when foolishness appears better. We need to be reminded of why this pursuit of wisdom is so important, and we need to be encouraged to keep chasing after wisdom because we will never fully attain it.
This Proverbs is divided into three parts in which Solomon reiterates his call to his son to hear him and listen to his sayings. Each begins with a call to treasure and pursue wisdom, but then goes on to teach us how and why we should. First we are called to value wisdom, next to stand strong against wickedness with wisdom, and then to guard our hearts with wisdom.
Value Wisdom (vs. 1-9)
Being a wise woman is a pursuit that begins with valuing wisdom. Do you value wisdom? Do you turn your attention to it (v. 1)? Do you hold tightly to it (v. 4)? Do you prize it highly (v. 7), do you honor it (v. 8), do you embrace it (v. 8)? Or do you abandon it? Do you consider other things and people more valuable than treasuring wisdom?
There are a lot of things grabbing for our attention: social media, Netflix, cellphones, boyfriends, family, music, hobbies, sports, and the alike. We can recognize how much we value and love each of these by the amount of time and effort we put into them. Our pursuit of godly wisdom is similar. If you truly value and treasure wisdom, you will spend time seeking it in God’s Word. If you do not value wisdom, it will be that much more difficult to set aside the time to grow in it.
The wise woman sees the important of being wise in God’s eyes rather than the world’s. She values godly wisdom and knowing God above all other pursuits in her life. She is filled with the desire to grow in godly wisdom, which leads her to study God’s Word more and more.
Standing Against Sin with Wisdom (vs. 10-19)
After the call to value wisdom, Solomon tells his son the reason why he should. The only way to walk the upright path is to have wisdom (vv. 10-12). If you want to walk with posture and not stray onto the side paths, you need wisdom to know where to place your feet. You will know how to wisely execute your life and which turns to take if you value and hold onto wisdom.
When you turn away from wisdom, it’s more difficult to discern the righteous path from the sinful one. The overgrowth of the path makes it more difficult to decipher one from the other. But with wisdom, you can recognize the wicked path and know not to enter it (v. 14). Then you can learn to avoid it, turn away from it, and pass on (vv. 15-16). This is how you can put off persistent sins in your life—you strive to avoid any association with that sin, and do not revisit any temptation of it.
The wise woman knows if she goes anywhere near that sin, she will be taking herself off the path of uprightness. The wise woman may need to throw out some books, unsubscribe from some magazines, delete some apps, and stop spending so much time with certain people, but that’s okay because she knows it will be what brings her closer to God and keeps her on the bright path that leads her in obedience to God. In such bright light, she will be less likely to stumble (vv. 18-19).
Guarding Your Heart with Wisdom (vs. 20-27)
For a third time, Solomon calls his son to hold tightly to wisdom and incline his ears to it, but this time it is so that he can watch over our hearts diligently because it is our life source (v. 23). In the same way your physical heart pumps life-giving blood through your entire body, so your spiritual heart is where all your decisions, thoughts, actions, and words are formed and sent out. Just as the damage to your physical heart can be fatal, so the damage to your spiritual heart can hurt the rest of your spiritual life.
You can guard your heart with wisdom. If your heart is informed and filled with wisdom, then wisdom is what will come out in your actions, words, and decisions. This pursuit of wisdom goes deeper than keeping yourself safe or making yourself wise in the world’s eyes, but it’s about keeping your heart wise so that you can be obedient to God on the heart level, not simply externally. Then you can walk the path of uprightness well because your heart can properly direct you.
On the path of uprightness, the wise woman keeps her heart fixed straight ahead. The wisdom she has treasured in her heart tells her that if she begins look to the side and wonder, “Maybe the edge of the sinful path will be easier,” then she will begin to stray. She keeps herself fixed forward, so that all her ways will be well established (v. 26).
Let’s be wise women who never grow tired of seeking wisdom. Like a mother who never grows exhausted of finding her precious child when she plays hide-and-seek, let’s diligently run after wisdom in full pursuit—valuing it, standing against wickedness, and guarding our hearts with it.