Explore: Value wisdom and learn

• The Explore the Bible lesson for March 2 focuses on Proverbs 1:1-19.

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• The Explore the Bible lesson for March 2 focuses on Proverbs 1:1-19.

In the history of mankind, there never has been a generation with instant access to more information than the one in which we live. At our fingertips—via the computer, cell phone or electronic tablet—we can research and learn about virtually any subject from anywhere on the planet.

With this enormous resource, however, we face two significant challenges as followers of Jesus. All this information comes to us without moral instruction, and if we are not careful, it can distract us from the fact that being more informed doesn’t necessarily make us wiser.

Moral direction

Centuries ago, what we now call Proverbs was set in place to provide the moral direction needed to use wisdom in ways that honor God. It also empowers us to demonstrate our total dependence on God in ways that enrich the human community as well as in ways that point others to God.

We certainly live in the most well-educated generation to populate the planet. However, the moral direction to use that knowledge in ways that honor God seems to be as lacking as ever. Wisdom is more than an accumulation of facts. It is the capacity to apply that knowledge in God-honoring ways.

Since there are 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs, some choose to read one chapter a day throughout the month. In uncanny ways, it seems that no matter which Proverb one reads on any given day, there is wisdom for that day’s needs.

In this week’s lesson, we focus on Proverbs 1:1-19, in which the author tells the reader his purpose in penning these words. It’s a broad-based agenda. The simplest people, the youngest people and even those who already are considered wise have something to gain from these words. All can benefit.

The fear of the Lord

The author also points out that, should we desire wisdom, we must know the place to begin in gaining it: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning.” That’s the starting point. There is no other reason or motivation for gaining biblical wisdom than fearing God.

To fear God does not mean to dread God or hide from him out of concern for safety as we might commonly use the word. In the biblical sense, to fear God means nothing less than respecting, honoring and humbling oneself before God as the author and sustainer of life.

Unless we submit ourselves to God, our search for wisdom will be futile. We’ll come to the end of the search with nothing more than a collection of remarkable witticisms without any way of using them that empowers us to live the life God gave us.

A young man who just received his driver’s license wanted to borrow his dad’s new luxury car. The father agreed. He also installed a GPS system that not only followed the car wherever it went, but also was set to kill the engine should the son go outside a predetermined perimeter.

The father was wise. What the father ultimately wanted, however, was for his son to internalize his father’s wishes so he would not only know how to drive the car safely but also desire to keep his father’s instructions. Knowledge is the intellectual capacity to use the equipment. Wisdom is the passion to use it properly because we want what the father wants.

Pursuit of materialism and pleasure

Wisdom also is the ability to live in our complex world and discern which way we should travel, regardless of how others are traveling. Voices of gross materialism (vv. 10-19), obsession with pleasure with no boundaries and many other moral challenges call to all of us every day, no matter what our age.

As a father speaking to a son, Proverbs says, “If sinful men entice you, do not give in to them” (v. 10). Even as an infant knows the voice of its mother apart from all others, the believer should seek to discern the voice of God in matters of morality apart from all the other voices that call.

The wise person will start each day with a surrender of himself or herself to the lordship of Christ so whatever voices call out during that day, the passion to hear the voice of God will override the temptation to listen to and follow all other voices.

Those who throw off moral restraint in order to gain whatever their heart desires soon will discover they have thrown away something even more valuable—their own lives: “They ambush only themselves! Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain; it takes away the life of those who get it” (vv. 18-19).

Those who seek the wisdom that will unfold in the book we are studying will find it. It is the promise of God. Those who choose to ignore it may find their knowledge, without wisdom’s guidance, leads to nothing but self-destruction.

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