Proverbs 2 by Robert Dean

Choices may fall into the category of wise and not so wise. The only way to discern this fine line requires a great deal of preparation through immersing oneself in the Word of God over time, because human viewpoint has a way of seeping through the most minute weak spot in our armor. Priority and passion for God’s instruction is a choice. It is the required foundation of the path to wisdom. Understand the essence of meaning behind the phrases, “Receive my words” and “Hide my commandments.” See how these concepts are themes which run throughout scripture. Understand the profound importance of memorizing scripture and the protection, strength and recovery exclusive to its availability in our minds.

Click on the notes link below to access the Scripture Memory Plan Dr. Dean mentioned during this class.

Conditions for Knowing God

Proverbs chapter 2

This brings us to the second lesson in this series. The theme of Proverbs really is on the theme of making wise choices. As we have pointed out, Hebrew wisdom isn't the same concept as we have in sophos [sofoj] in Greek culture. In the Hebrew culture of the Old Testament it has to do withy the application of God's Word in various circumstances and situations in life. A lot of times in the decisions that we make the choices that we have are not always between sin and not sin, they are choices between the good and the better, the not so wise and the wise. It takes time to develop and mature in our understanding of the Word, in our understanding of life, to be able to live wisely. It is not something that happens over night, and it is not something we can ever develop if we expose ourselves to the teaching of God's Word once a week.

We live in a world today that is so overpowering in its message and in its influence in our lives that probably if we had a sort of a veil lifted from our eyes so that we could truly and accurately see all of our opinions, ideas, thinking and values exposed in the pure, blinding, righteous light of God's holiness then we would appalled at how much of our thinking is worldly and not biblical, and how much of our thinking is human viewpoint and not divine viewpoint.

We all reach certain comfort zones in our spiritual life and we also reach plateaus spiritually but we have to stick to it, and that is one of tests of spiritual growth—endurance. This means sticking it out in Bible study, studying the Word, because no matter where we are in the Word of God, whether we are dealing with prophecy, salvation, the spiritual life, marriage, or whether we are dealing with things that are more abstract like the baptism of the Holy Spirit, all of those that we learn are part and parcel of shaping the way we are to think and look at the world around us and to evaluate the circumstances, situations and decisions that come up. And it that change in the way we think that enables us over time to think wisely and not foolishly, accurately and not carelessly. 

Proverbs is focused on that: the lessons of a father to a son. But as we read through these sections of Proverbs with the father saying to his son, the father isn't just passing on his opinions, his ideas about life. This isn't the father saying I want you to think like I think. The father in this case is Solomon who has been gifted with wisdom more than any other human being in all of history, and so the wisdom that he is giving to his son isn't Solomon's personal opinion, it is the eternal wisdom of God. So the wisdom that he is teaching is not just simply his own view. So there is this slight movement that goes back and forth between what the father is instructing his son and then it becomes apparent that this is what God is instructing all of us. And one of the primary roles of the parent is to communicate divine viewpoint to the children.

The issue ultimately comes down to volition. Volition just resonates behind every single verse in Proverbs: that as we read these wise sayings we are struck by the fact that each of us needs make a decision. Are we doing this, or are we living by our own ideas, our own values, our own concepts and opinions, what makes us comfortable; or are we focused upon that which will please God and that which conforms to His creation, establishment principles, and what He has revealed in His Word?

In the second chapter of Proverbs is the second lesson, a challenge to the son to protect himself from the wicked, from evil. And the way to do that is by internalizing the Word of God into our heart, into our soul, so that every aspect of our thinking is shaped by God's Word. One of the problems that we will run into as we go through life is that the more we do that the more we will be distant from the culture around us, the more our friends and family will think we are just a little bit strange and that we are taking this "Bible stuff" just a little too seriously. But everything we think and everything we do needs to be evaluated in the light of God's Word. This what the writer of Proverbs is doing with his son. That is why he addresses every issue he can related to life in the book of Proverbs and why so many people love it because it is seems so intensely practical.

In the Hebrew Proverbs chapter two is actually one poem, one whole thought; it is not broken up. There are two sections to it and there is a division that occurs between verses 11 and 12. Verse 12 starts a new pattern that is a mirror or reflection, as it were, of what is taught in the first half of the poem.

The first half of this poem pertains to the development of the son's character. Part of the responsibility of believing parents is to train children to develop their character. And this involves some thinking on the part of parents. Parents need to evaluate this and the best place to start is with the book of Proverbs. So the first part pertains to character: how do you really train children in terms of character? Now the application for all of us is that this is what God is doing in our life as a part of our sanctification. He is renovating our character and forming it into the image of Christ. So we are to let the Word of God transform our thinking, as Paul says in Romans 12:2, so that our character imitates Christ's character.

The first four verses lay down the conditions for this growth. We see that as we pay attention to the "if" word which is the expression of a conditional clause: "… if you will receive my words And treasure my commandments within you," v. 1; "if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding," v.3; "If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures," v.4. That is the foundation. What does this entail? This entails making the Word of God not only our priority but also our passion. No matter what our vocation is our avocation should be to know the Word of God intensely, passionately; and this should drive us where everything else that we do in life is simply so that we can learn the Word and grow to spiritual maturity. Everything else is to feed that. So the foundation for developing character is the priority of the son to be humble and listen, and internalize the Word.

As a result of that we come to fear God and to know God, and this is seen in vv. 5-8. Verse 5 tells us the result of the "if" clauses: "…you will discern the fear of the LORD And discover the knowledge of God." Then there is an explanation that comes in verse 6: "For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth {come} knowledge and understanding." It doesn't come from the science department or the history department of the university. It doesn't come from human sources; it comes from God's Word. He gives us the information we need to ultimately organize, interpret, understand that which we see in our created world.   

Proverbs 2:7 NASB "He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; {He is} a shield to those who walk in integrity, [8] Guarding the paths of justice, And He preserves the way of His godly ones." If we are following the "if" conditions then this is what God does on the other side. He guards; He stores; He protects; He preserves.

All of this is designed with a spiritual goal in mind. That is, we are to learn righteousness so that this becomes part of our core character. Verses 9-11, "Then…" If you do this, vv. 1-4, then you will understand God, vv. 5-8. Then, v. 9 "Then you will discern righteousness and justice And equity {and} every good course." This isn't a sort of academic understanding; it is an understanding that permeates our thinking and how we do things. We do things according to righteousness and justice. This occurs because "wisdom," verse 10, "will enter your heart And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul." This in turn protects us, preserves us through discretion and understanding. [11] "Discretion will guard you, Understanding will watch over you."  

Proverbs 2:12, the second half of this chapter, NASB "To deliver you from the way of evil, From the man who speaks perverse things." It pertains to the way in which wisdom protects and preserves the son from the influence of evil—that influence that comes via the culture, via the peer group, via the television, the media, etc. If we want to protect our children from the influence of the world the only way to do that is to instill the Word of God into them from an extremely young age. It is never too soon to start teaching them the Word of God.

So this internalization of the world delivers us from evil and the man who speaks perverse things. [13] "From those who leave the paths of uprightness To walk in the ways of darkness; [14] Who delight in doing evil And rejoice in the perversity of evil. [15] Whose paths are crooked, And who are devious in their ways."

Notice something as we go through these verses. This goes back to what we have seen about making choices. Verse 7, God is a shield to those who walk uprightly. There is this emphasis on the path, the way, the walk. All of these relate together. Which path are we going to go down?  Verse 8, "the way of His godly ones." "Every good path," verse 9. As we go through the Proverbs we should circle these words that are similar and used again and again. This helps to trace through these main ideas. 

It is the Word of God that protects us from the influence of the wicked and the evil in vv. 12-15, from the immoral woman in vv. 16-19, and as a result in the last few verses we keep to the paths of righteousness. Proverbs 2:20 NASB "So you will walk in the way of good men And keep to the paths of the righteous. [21] For the upright will live in the land And the blameless will remain in it." In contrast, [22] "But the wicked will be cut off from the land And the treacherous will be uprooted from it." There are consequences to sin and evil.

That gives us our overview. We now look at the first part, vv. 1-5. Proverbs 2:1 NASB "My son, if you will receive my words And treasure my commandments within you." The result, v.2, you "Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding." Verse 2 is a parenthetical explanation inserted in the midst of these conditions. The conditions are in vv. 1, 3, 4, 5. This is telling us that the foundation is really a course or a path of knowledge. The challenge here is a volitional one, i.e. are we willing to make this the priority to receive his words and to treasure his commands? The first condition, "if you will receive my words and treasure my commandments," is the foundation for everything in the chapter. If we are going to avoid the path of unrighteousness, the path of divine discipline, the path of self-destruction, the path that leads to temptation, then the starting point is verse 1. We have to receive the words of God and we have to treasure those commands.

What does that mean? "Receive my words" doesn't sound like a very strong expression. What does it mean to receive or accept? Does that just mean I believe that is true, or I accept, or is there something more going on there? The two verbs are synonyms of one another and they emphasize the significance and the seriousness that is embedded in these two verbs. Receiving the words isn't just something like somebody hands you something, you take it and appreciate it and put it in your pocket and move on. It is the idea of taking something but it is also a word for grasping or seizing it, taking and making it one's own possession. The word is often used in military contexts of a conquest where a city or a town is taken by one military power, seized from another country and made part of one's own country. It is the idea of actively grabbing something and making it part of one's own thinking, one's own being, where it is one's very own thoughts. If you acquire my words so that they become your words and your thinking, is the idea.

This is parallel to the second line, "treasure my commands within you." It is the Hebrew word tzafan which means to hide something. It has the idea also of storing something up, of concealing something, but also the idea of internalizing. So between these two words we get the idea that we are to take the Word of God and stress its value and importance so much that we are taking it into our own thinking. These ideas are repeated several times in Proverbs. We have a statement of this at the very beginning of Proverbs in 1:3: that we are to receive the instruction of wisdom—righteousness, justice, judgment and equity. We are to take it and make it part of our own thinking. Proverbs 4:10, "accept/receive my sayings," get them into your soul and make them part of your thinking. The result: "the years of your life will be many." Proverbs 8:10, "Take/receive my instruction and not silver, And knowledge rather than choicest gold." This is a theme that runs through Proverbs: we are to buy the truth and sell it not. It is more valuable, as David said in Psalm 19, than gold. The most valuable thing we can have is the Word of God in our soul. Proverbs 10:8, 11 also talk about this. "The wise of heart will receive commands." We think of that mistakenly as a legalistic thing but in the Old Testament the commands and prohibitions of the Mosaic Law established the protocols for their spiritual life, whereas in the New Testament we may not be under law but there are still hundreds and hundreds of commands and prohibitions for every believer. It is not a way of gaining God's favor but now that we are in His family it lays down the protocols and the standards for living as a member of God's family.

"But a babbling fool will be ruined." He doesn't receive the commands and this leads to a collapse in his life. [9] "He who walks in integrity walks securely, But he who perverts his ways will be found out." Proverbs 21:11 NASB "When the scoffer is punished, the naive becomes wise; But when the wise is instructed, he receives [embraces, makes knowledge his own] knowledge."

This is also seen in the New Testament. Colossians 3:16 NASB "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms {and} hymns {and} spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God." We are to internalize the Word of God. This is the New Testament counterpart to a principle that is laid down in the Old Testament in the Mosaic Law in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Observe here the importance of this passing on of truth generationally.

Deuteronomy 6:4 NASB "Hear [listen, pay attention], O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone is one!" Technically this word echad doesn't emphasize solitary monotheism (the Lord is one), but in the context it is an exclusiveness as opposed to worshipping the gods of the pagan culture. In Israel there was one God, not many gods. [5] "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul [Heb. all your all, i.e. everything that you are] and with all your might.[6] These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart." We have to internalize it. This is the same idea that we have in Proverbs 2:2, "apply your hearts to understanding." It has to enter into us and become part of us. [7] "You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up." This should be the norm always in family conversation. Every issue in life should always be brought back to the Bible is some way or sense. This is the heartbeat of our thinking. [8] "You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. [9] You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." Everything we do in life needs to be influenced by the Word of God because we have internalized it and made it a part of who we are.

In the New Testament in Romans 12:2 we have the injunction: "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing [renovation] of your mind [thinking], so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [sufficient]." We have to start there; we have to know the Word of God.

There are a couple of things to think about on how to internalize the Word of God. First of all there is the challenge for everyone that we need to be better at memorizing Scripture. That is one way in which we internalize it—not just listening to the teaching of the Word, not just taking notes; but to memorize Scripture. It is important because Jesus set this as a pattern for us in His humanity. It wasn't just that Jesus knew all of the Scripture that He quoted. In fact, He quoted from 24 different Old Testament books, and some have said that He quoted the Scripture in one way or another over 180 times in the Gospels. Jesus was consistently quoting from the Old Testament. He didn't do that out of His deity, He did that out of His humanity. That means He had to learn and memorize Scripture as he was growing up as a child and as a young man. He had to internalize the Word. We need to follow His leadership.

Second, we are commanded to do it. Colossians 3:16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

The third reason we need to memorize Scripture is Romans 12:2. It is fundamental to this whole process of changing our thinking. The dynamics of memorization are fascinating because what you have to do is repeat the verse over and over and over again. You have to think about it, reflect on it, repeat it over and over again. One way to memorize Scripture is to write it out several times and to recite it several times. The more you do that the more you think about what those words mean and what the connections are, the more it drives your thinking into the underlying thought structure of the verse. So you memorize not just the words but you understand what it expresses in terms of its basic thinking.

A fourth reason for memorizing Scripture is given in Psalm 119:11 NASB "Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You." It is vital for us in dealing with sin. Memorizing the Word of God, internalizing it, is vital to winning in spiritual warfare and dealing with our own sin nature.  

A fifth reason to memorize Scripture is that it enables us to develop a skill in terms of utilizing the armor of God. Ephesians 6:17 NASB "And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Jesus used the Word of God to counter the temptation of Satan. It is more of a defensive weapon and a counter attack weapon. That is how we would use the Word of God. It is used in our defense, and so it is developing that skill by memorizing the Word. When you need to claim a promise and you don't know the promise, you can't do it. So we have to memorize Scripture in order to do that.

Sixth, it is the means for keeping us on the right path and not going down the wrong road. This is seen in Psalm 119:9 NASB "How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping {it} according to Your word."

Seventh, it is foundational to the whole principle of meditating on Scripture. Joshua 1:8 NASB "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success." This is not talking about material success, it is talking about success in terms of God's plan for your life, whatever that may entail. David reflects upon this in Psalm 1:1 NASB "How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!" Notice the progression: walking, standing, sitting. [2] "But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night." Result: [3] "He will be like a tree {firmly} planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers."

Again and again the Word of God relates success in life, successful living—not in terms of business or professional success, but in success in living as God would have us to live in terms of internalizing the Word of God.

Another reason to memorize Scripture is that is strengthens our ability to communicate the gospel to unbelievers.

Scripture memory helps our prayers. John 15:7 NASB "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you."

Scripture memory will improve our study of the Bible. As we read in one place in the Word we are going to think of some other verse that we have memorized in some other part of the Word, and so suddenly the Word becomes much smaller because we have a much better grasp of it.

Practical guidelines

Write verses out on note cards. Stick them somewhere where you can look at them.

Audio Bibles. Listen to the Bible in your car, family training with your children.

Set goals for yourself. Memorize a verse a week or a verse a month, whatever it is.

Find an app!

Put it to song—kids in prep school.

Read the verse over and over again.

We need to memorize the Word. There may come a time even in this country when we don't have access to a Bible. It has happened in many other places. All you are left with is what you have memorized.