Gain Wisdom and Accept Discipline
JEHOVAH GOD is the Grand Instructor of his people. He educates them not only about himself but also about life. (Isaiah 30:20; 54:13; Psalm 27:11) To the nation of Israel, for example, Jehovah gave prophets, Levites—especially the priests—and other wise men to serve as teachers. (2 Chronicles 35:3; Jeremiah 18:18) The prophets taught the people about God’s purposes and attributes and outlined the right course to take. The priests and Levites had the responsibility of teaching Jehovah’s Law. And the wise men, or elders, provided sound counsel on the matter of day-to-day living.
Solomon, son of David, was outstanding among the wise men of Israel. (1 Kings 4:30, 31) Upon seeing his glory and riches, one of his most distinguished visitors, the queen of Sheba, confessed: “I had not been told the half. You have surpassed in wisdom and prosperity the things heard to which I listened.” (1 Kings 10:7) What was the secret of Solomon’s wisdom? When he became king of Israel in 1037 B.C.E., Solomon prayed for “wisdom and knowledge.” Being pleased with his request, Jehovah gave him knowledge, wisdom, and an understanding heart. (2 Chronicles 1:10-12; 1 Kings 3:12) No wonder Solomon came to “speak three thousand proverbs”! (1 Kings 4:32) Some of these, along with “the words of Agur” and those of “Lemuel the king,” were recorded in the Bible book of Proverbs. (Proverbs 30:1; 31:1) The truths expressed in these proverbs reflect God’s wisdom and are eternal. (1 Kings 10:23, 24) To anyone desiring a happy and successful life, they are as indispensable today as they were when first uttered.
Success and Moral Cleanness—How?
The objective of the book of Proverbs is explained in its opening words: “The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, the king of Israel, for one to know wisdom and discipline, to discern the sayings of understanding, to receive the discipline that gives insight, righteousness and judgment and uprightness, to give to the inexperienced ones shrewdness, to a young man knowledge and thinking ability.”—Proverbs 1:1-4.
What a lofty purpose “the proverbs of Solomon” are to serve! They are “for one to know wisdom and discipline.” Wisdom involves seeing things as they are and using that knowledge to solve problems, attain goals, avoid or avert dangers, or help others to do so. “In the Book of Proverbs,” states one reference work, “‘wisdom’ signifies skillful living—the ability to make wise choices and live successfully.” How important it is to acquire wisdom!—Proverbs 4:7.
The proverbs of Solomon also provide discipline. Do we need this training? In the Scriptures, discipline conveys the sense of correction, reproof, or chastisement. According to one Bible scholar, it “denotes the training of the moral nature, involving the correcting of waywardness toward folly.” Discipline, whether self-imposed or administered by others, not only restrains us from engaging in wrongdoing but also motivates us to change for the better. Yes, we do need discipline if we want to remain morally clean.
The purpose of the proverbs then is twofold—to impart wisdom and to provide discipline. Moral discipline and mental ability have numerous facets. Righteousness and justice, for instance, are moral qualities, and they help us to adhere to Jehovah’s high standards.
Wisdom is a blend of many factors, including understanding, insight, shrewdness, and thinking ability. Understanding is the ability to see into a matter and discern its composition by grasping the connections between its parts and the whole, thus getting the sense of it. Insight calls for knowledge of reasons and an appreciation for why a certain course is right or wrong. For example, a man of understanding can discern when someone is heading in a wrong direction, and he may instantly warn him of the danger. But it takes insight on his part to comprehend why the person is gravitating in that direction and to come up with the most effective way to rescue him.
Shrewd people are prudent—not gullible. (Proverbs 14:15) They are able to foresee evil and prepare for it. And wisdom enables us to formulate wholesome thoughts and ideas that give purposeful direction in life. The study of the Biblical proverbs is indeed rewarding because they were recorded so that we may know wisdom and discipline. Even “inexperienced ones” who pay attention to the proverbs will gain shrewdness, and “a young man,” knowledge and thinking ability.
Proverbs for the Wise
The Biblical proverbs, however, are not only for the inexperienced and the young. They are for anyone wise enough to listen. “A wise person will listen and take in more instruction,” says King Solomon, “and a man of understanding is the one who acquires skillful direction, to understand a proverb and a puzzling saying, the words of wise persons and their riddles.” (Proverbs 1:5, 6) A person who has already acquired wisdom will increase his learning by giving attention to the proverbs, and a man of understanding will sharpen his ability to steer his life successfully.
A proverb often expresses a profound truth in very few words. A Biblical proverb may take the form of a puzzling saying. (Proverbs 1:17-19) Some proverbs are riddles—perplexing and knotty statements that require unraveling. A proverb may also contain similes, metaphors, and other figures of speech. Understanding these takes time and meditation. Solomon, the composer of so many proverbs, certainly grasped the nuances of understanding a proverb. In the book of Proverbs, he undertakes the task of imparting that ability to his readers, something to which a wise person would want to pay attention.
The Beginning That Leads to the Goal
Where does one begin the pursuit of wisdom and discipline? Solomon answers: “The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge. Wisdom and discipline are what mere fools have despised.” (Proverbs 1:7) Knowledge begins with the fear of Jehovah. Without knowledge there can be no wisdom or discipline. The fear of Jehovah, then, is the start of wisdom and discipline.—Proverbs 9:10; 15:33.
The fear of God is not a morbid dread of him. Rather, it is a profound reverence and awe. There can be no true knowledge without this fear. Life is from Jehovah God, and life is, of course, essential for our having any knowledge. (Psalm 36:9; Acts 17:25, 28) Furthermore, God created all things; so all human knowledge is based on a study of his handiwork. (Psalm 19:1, 2; Revelation 4:11) God also inspired his written Word, which is “beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) Thus, the focal point of all true knowledge is Jehovah, and a person seeking it must have a reverential fear of him.
Of what value are human knowledge and worldly wisdom without the fear of God? The apostle Paul wrote: “Where is the wise man? Where the scribe? Where the debater of this system of things? Did not God make the wisdom of the world foolish?” (1 Corinthians 1:20) Lacking godly fear, a worldly-wise person draws wrong conclusions from known facts and ends up a ‘mere fool.’
A “Necklace to Your Throat”
The wise king next addresses the youth: “Listen, my son, to the discipline of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother. For they are a wreath of attractiveness to your head and a fine necklace to your throat.”—Proverbs 1:8, 9.
In ancient Israel, parents had the God-given responsibility of teaching their children. Moses exhorted fathers: “These words that I am commanding you today must prove to be on your heart; and you must inculcate them in your son and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7) Mothers too had considerable influence. Within the framework of her husband’s authority, a Hebrew wife could enforce family law.
Throughout the Bible, in fact, the family is the basic unit for imparting education. (Ephesians 6:1-3) For children to obey their believing parents is for them to be figuratively adorned with a decorative wreath of attractiveness and a necklace of honor.
“It Takes Away the Very Soul of Its Owners”
Before sending him to the United States for higher education, an Asian father advised his 16-year-old son not to get involved with bad people. This advice echoes Solomon’s warning: “My son, if sinners try to seduce you, do not consent.” (Proverbs 1:10) Solomon, however, pinpoints the lure they use: “They keep saying: ‘Do go with us. Do let us lie in ambush for blood. Do let us lie in concealment for the innocent men without any cause. Let us swallow them down alive just like Sheol, even whole, like those going down into a pit. Let us find all sorts of precious valuables. Let us fill our houses with spoil. Your lot you ought to cast in among us. Let there come to be just one bag belonging to all of us.’”—Proverbs 1:11-14.
The lure clearly is riches. On the basis of making quick profits, “sinners” seduce others into involvement in their violent or unjust schemes. For material gain these wicked ones do not hesitate to shed blood. They ‘swallow their victim down alive just like Sheol, even whole,’ robbing him of everything he has, just as the grave receives the whole body. Their invitation is to a career in crime—they want to ‘fill their houses with spoil,’ and they want the inexperienced one to ‘cast in his lot with them.’ What a timely warning this is for us! Do not youth gangs and drug dealers use similar recruiting methods? Is not the promise of quick riches the temptation of many questionable business propositions?
“My son,” advises the wise king, “do not go in the way with them. Hold back your foot from their roadway. For their feet are those that run to sheer badness, and they keep hastening to shed blood.” Predicting their disastrous end, he adds: “For it is for nothing that the net is spread before the eyes of anything owning wings. Consequently they themselves lie in ambush for the very blood of these; they lie in concealment for their souls. Thus are the paths of everyone making unjust profit. It takes away the very soul of its owners.”—Proverbs 1:15-19.
“Everyone making unjust profit” will perish in his own course. The very ambush that the wicked lay for others will become a trap for themselves. Will deliberate evildoers change their course? No. A net may be in full view, but birds—creatures “owning wings”—fly right into it anyway. In a similar way, the wicked, blinded by their greed, go ahead with their criminal acts, even though sooner or later they will be caught.
Who Will Listen to the Voice of Wisdom?
Are sinners actually aware that their course is disastrous? Have they been warned of the outcome of their ways? Ignorance is no excuse, for a very pointed message is proclaimed in public places.
Solomon declares: “True wisdom itself keeps crying aloud in the very street. In the public squares it keeps giving forth its voice. At the upper end of the noisy streets it calls out. At the entrances of the gates into the city it says its own sayings.” (Proverbs 1:20, 21) In a loud and clear voice, wisdom is crying out in public places for all to hear. In ancient Israel the older men gave wise counsel and rendered judicial decisions at the city gates. For us, Jehovah has caused true wisdom to be recorded in his Word, the Bible, which is widely available. And his servants today are busy publicly declaring its message everywhere. God indeed has wisdom proclaimed before all.
What does true wisdom say? This: “How long will you inexperienced ones keep loving inexperience, and how long must you ridiculers desire for yourselves outright ridicule . . . ? I have called out but you keep refusing, I have stretched out my hand but there is no one paying attention.” Foolish ones give no heed to the voice of wisdom. Consequently, “they will eat from the fruitage of their way.” Their own ‘renegading and easygoingness will destroy them.’—Proverbs 1:22-32.
What, though, of the one who has taken the time to listen to the voice of wisdom? “He will reside in security and be undisturbed from dread of calamity.” (Proverbs 1:33) May you be among those who gain wisdom and accept discipline by paying attention to the Biblical proverbs.
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True wisdom is widely available