Get wisdom (Proverbs 4)

What is the most important thing that a Father can pass on to his son? What is the most precious thing you can inherit as a son?  We often focus on the material things, inheritance tax has been a source of much debate in UK politics as politicians seek to maximise or restrict the amount of wealth that parents can pass on to their children. We also hope that parents have passed on good genes so that we will enjoy health, longevity, good looks and a modicum of intelligence. Perhaps as well, if nurture is as important as nature, we expect dads to pass on life skills to their sons.

Yet Proverbs 4 suggests that there are more important things for dad’s to pass on to their sons.  Solomon’s desire for his son, Rehoboam is that he will acquire wisdom.

If you are to get wisdom, pay attention to wise parents

Solomon tells his son to “get wisdom” and “get insight” (v5).  Where will he get it though?  The answer is right at the start of the chapter where the son is told to be attentive to his Father (v1).   Just as Solomon had learnt from his own dad, David, so should Rehoboam learn from his (v3-4).

One of the responsibilities God charged the Israelites with in Deuteronomy was to teach their children God’s law, his ways and his wisdom.[1]  This helps us to understand the vital importance of the 5th Commandment. We are to honour our parents because this means paying attention to them as they teach us God’s Word.  It also makes sense of the mutual submission we see in Ephesians 6, the parent knows that their children are not to honour them by obeying their every whim, rather the parent serves the child by focusing on teaching and modelling holiness.

If there is a spiritual concern here, then that reminds us that people benefit from spiritual fathers in the church, mature Christians who look out for younger Christians and encourage then to grow in the Lord.

Note as well how Jesus models this father-son relationship in John 5 as he describes his unity with the Father, so that

“ the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father[d] does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing.”[2]

We are also reminded that it is the fear of the Lord that is the beginning of wisdom. Pay attention to earthly parents but ultimate wisdom is found in our heavenly father.

If you are to get wisdom you will find it in God’s Word

Notice the language in these proverbs. Wisdom is associated with commandments and precepts.  Solomon’s Father David may have owned those commands as his own but the descriptions of wisdom here remind us thar it is found in God’s Word.  David and Solomon looked to the Torah to know how they were to live.

I believe in something called “common wisdom” it arises our of common grace and general revelation so that everyone has access to wisdom whether or not they believe in God. It is why we can learn from wise secular thinkers, teachers and  leaders. However, if I really want to find wisdom for life, I must turn to God’s Word.

Peter recognised that Jesus, the living word was the one who had the words of eternal life, so that when offered the chance to leave Christ he had to acknowledge that there was nowhere else to go and no-one else to turn to.  Christ is the one in whom all the treasures of true wisdom are found.

If you are to get wisdom, choose your company carefully

Psalm 1 identified the blessed, happy, wise person as one who is rooted in God’s Word and who avoids ungodly company. There are echoes of Psalm 1 here in Proverbs 4. Solomon’s son too must root himself in God’s word but there is more to it.

  • He must avoid wicked company (v 12-19)
  • He must forsake wicked ways (v23-27).

Wisdom is about righteousness. It is first and foremost a moral quality rather than an intellectual one. As Christians, when we talk about righteousness, we start with justification. We receive Christ’s righteousness, we are good in him and we are wise in him. 

However, righteousness is also about sanctification and our willingness to grow in godliness by following Christ and learning from him to become more like him

For Reflection

Who are the Father figures that you look to for wisdom?

In what ways are you growing in wisdom and godliness?

What are you passing on to future generations?


[1] Deuteronomy

[2] John 5:19 -20.

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