Application of Wisdom – Proverbs 3
Read the Passage: Proverbs 3
Personal Benefits (3:1–12)
After describing the value of wisdom in Proverbs 2, in Proverbs 3 Solomon details some of the benefits of wisdom—both personal and public. First, in Prov. 3:1–12 Solomon discusses some of the personal benefits of gaining wisdom. Of course, many of the benefits of wisdom were already listed in the first chapter of this book (cf. Prov. 1:1–6); yet, the same themes are discussed throughout Proverbs. Some of the personal benefits Solomon identifies here include: a long life, peace, mercy, truth, divine favor, health, strength, and material abundance. While these benefits may be viewed as special divine blessings upon the one who gains wisdom, since mankind was created to do what God tells him to do, it is better to view these benefits as the natural result of keeping the Word of God. Recall that wisdom is simply the ability to apply God’s Word to daily living.
Prov. 3:5–6 are some of the most well-known and quoted verses in the book of Proverbs. Sometimes this passage is read as a promise of extra-biblical guidance—that is, the idea that God will reveal a special individual plan to those who trust in Him. Note, however, that when the term “ways” (Prov. 3:6) is used in the book of Proverbs it always refers to the general course of life, not to an individual will of God. Furthermore, the verb “direct” (Prov. 3:6), when used in conjunction with the term “ways,” communicates the concept of making smooth, not the idea of providing special divine guidance. This is why many translations render the last phrase in this passage, “He will make your ways straight,” or a similar rendering. Therefore, it is best to view Prov. 3:5–6 as a general promise of divine blessing for obeying Scripture, not a specific promise of extra-biblical revelation.
Pursuing Wisdom (3:13–26)
After describing some of the personal benefits of wisdom in Prov. 3:1–12, the natural assumption is that hearers should pursue wisdom. In Prov. 3:13–26, then, Solomon begins to describe the life of the one who has pursued and attained wisdom. In a similar manner to Prov. 3:1–12, in Prov. 3:13–18, 21–26 Solomon describes the great benefits of wisdom, as he mentions several of the same advantages cited earlier, including: personal happiness, length of days, riches, honor, pleasantness, peace, life, grace, safety, security, and protection. One of the more interesting and desirable blessings of wisdom is, “You will lie down and your sleep will be sweet” (Prov. 3:24). In light of the blessed nature of these benefits, we can conclude that Solomon was not using hyperbole when he wrote of wisdom, “All the things you may desire cannot compare with her” (Prov. 3:15).
Proverbs 3:19–20 is an interesting passage, for it teaches, “The Lord by wisdom founded the earth, by understanding He established the heavens.” Solomon will expand upon this idea in much more detail in Prov. 8:22–36. Observe that Gen. 1:1 reveals that God created the heavens and the earth, and John 1:3 and Col. 1:16 teach that the Son is the Person of the Godhead who did the actual creating—all at the Father’s command (cf. Heb. 1:2). Thus, we can conclude that Jesus is the very incarnation of wisdom. Later in the New Testament, we read, “Jesus . . . became to us wisdom from God” (1 Cor. 1:30) and in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). Further, Isaiah taught that “the Spirit of wisdom and understanding” are upon Jesus (Isa. 11:2). Therefore, when a believer gains wisdom from Proverbs, he becomes more like Christ.
Public Interaction (3:27–35)
Thus far in the book of Proverbs, when Solomon has described the benefits of wisdom, he has more-or-less focused on the personal blessings that wisdom affords. In Prov. 3:27–36 Solomon discusses some of the benefits of wisdom that come in public interaction. In Prov. 3:27–30 we read several things that we are not to do to our neighbors—namely, we are not to withhold good from them, we are not to devise evil against them, and we are not to strive contrary to them. In Prov. 3:31–35 Solomon warns his readers to not envy evil oppressors. With our limited view of the world, sometimes it may appear to God’s people that the unjust are being blessed and that the just are being persecuted. Indeed, this observation may be true for a fleeting moment, and is an idea often mentioned in Scripture (cf. Job 21, 24; Ps. 10, 37, 73). However, Solomon notes in Prov. 3:33 that God is aware of both the just and the unjust and that He will ultimately reward each with due justice.
- How would you describe the difference between worldly wisdom and spiritual wisdom? Do all believers eventually gain wisdom?
- Why is the idea of receiving extra-biblical revelation more attractive to many people than the discipline of studying their Bible?
- Which of the many benefits of wisdom that are mentioned in Prov. 3:1–26 is the most desirable to you?
- As you’ve matured in Christ, how has gaining wisdom changed the way you approach various areas of life? Where has wisdom made the greatest impact?
- Are you ever tempted to envy unjust oppressors? How can we be sure that God will eventually reward the just and judge the unrighteous?