The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. — Proverbs 1:7
The last two years of high school and the following four in college were defining years in my life. Though I had little religious background, part way through high school I understood enough about the Gospel to yield my life to the Lord. As I began to live for Him, Christian role models were critically important to me. One person who had a great influence on my life was a man in our church we called Brother Mike.
By the time I knew him, Mike was an elderly gentleman. Because he had been born in another country, he spoke with a thick accent and had difficulty reading English. He worked as a janitor in the local high school, where I am confident he did a conscientious job.
Unquestionably my college professors and even many of my fellow students had more academic knowledge than Mike. Yet he possessed wisdom: he reverenced God and had committed his life to Him. When we met at church, he invariably had a big smile. He spent much time in prayer and testified often of the joy he felt in his heart. Many around me were searching for meaning in life — generally in all the wrong places — but Mike had found it in Christ.
My final memory of Mike is especially poignant. During a Sunday evening service, he suddenly suffered a serious heart attack. Several of the men carried him to a back room, while the rest of us went to prayer. In just a short time, he left this world for a far better place.
Today’s focus verse says that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Mike did not have much formal education, so some may have assumed he was not very smart. However, he had the kind of wisdom that is of eternal value because he reverenced the Lord and obeyed His Word. Meanwhile, many of my fellow students and teachers seemingly had no concern for God’s wisdom and instruction, which made them foolish in God’s sight.
Love for God and a determination to follow His teaching are attitudes that will benefit us now and throughout eternity. Mike knew that, and he is now in Heaven, experiencing eternal rewards. Let’s follow his example, and make sure our focus is on acquiring true wisdom.
A proverb can be defined as a concise saying that gives advice or a practical principle. The Book of Proverbs is a collection of these, mostly written and assembled by King Solomon. God met with him one night after he had presided over an immense sacrifice to the Lord in Gibeon (see accounts in 2 Chronicles 1 and 1 Kings 3). When asked what reward he would like from God, rather than riches or honor, Solomon requested wisdom so that he would know how to lead God’s people. God was so pleased with this response that He blessed Solomon with great wisdom, enabling him to acquire a vast amount of knowledge concerning the world in which he lived and giving him the ability to apply it astutely.
The first chapter of Proverbs sets the tone for the entire book. Verses 1-7 indicate that Proverbs was intended to educate, and those of any age or gender can profit by the instructions in this book. King Solomon wanted his people “to know wisdom” — to acquire it, not just to be aware of it. The four terms in verse 3 — wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity — are different aspects of truth, a quality which God values highly. Verse 7 has been considered a key text for the whole book. In it, “the fear of the Lord” means to have awe and reverence for God.
Practical teaching begins in verses 8-9 with an exhortation to heed the guidance of one’s parents, and a promise of benefit for doing so. Verses 10-19 describe the lawless who try to entice others to join them. Robbery was common in the land of Israel through all the years of its history, and often there was no regard for the lives of the innocent. Great and quickly-acquired wealth was the lure. However, the writer said such people were setting a trap for themselves. Even birds are able to avoid a net put out to snare them, but the evil people described would be caught because of their greediness.
Wisdom is often personified as a woman in the Book of Proverbs, and verse 20 is the first time this literary technique is used. In verses 20-23, wisdom earnestly calls for people to heed her. She calls the simple ones (those who listen to both good and evil), the scorners (those who defy God and scoff at godliness), and fools (those who have hardened their hearts and are stubborn). Her call is universal — it goes out to everyone.
Verses 24-33 show the results of refusing to heed wisdom. The determination not to follow wisdom’s counsel promises sure disaster. The implied spiritual application is that those who refuse to heed God’s call to yield to Him will one day regret their decision. In the last verse of the chapter, wisdom promises blessings to those who will abide by her instructions.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. Introduction (1:1-7)
A. The author of the book (1:1)
B. The purpose of the book (1:2-4)
C. The theme of the book (1:5-7)
II. The superiority of the way of wisdom
A. The teachings of wisdom (1:8-33)
1. The exhortation to listen to wisdom (1:8-9)
2. The warning against evil companions (1:10-19)
3. The invitation to wisdom (1:20-33)
a. The call of wisdom (1:20-23)
b. The dangers of rejecting wisdom (1:24-33)
A proper reverence for God and obedience to His instructions will start us down the path of acquiring true knowledge.