Opposing Duality

Opposition

As a middle school teacher, I am no stranger to the student generated question: “why?”  “Why are we doing this?”  “Why should I care?”  So I try to not just address the “what” and “how” of tasks and assignments but the “why” as well, especially when such tasks and assignments require students to tread unfamiliar territory.  The second chapter of Proverbs tends to be entitled, “Moral Benefits of Wisdom”.  It addresses the “why” of acquiring and attaining wisdom and understanding– which is God-given.  This is twofold, but simultaneously so.  One “why” is to obtain God’s guidance.  The other “why” is to avoid the society and enticements of the wicked.

That said, day three is Proverbs 2…

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1MY SON, IF YOU ACCEPT MY WORDS AND STORE UP MY COMMANDS WITHIN YOU, TURNING YOUR EAR TO WISDOM AND APPLYING YOUR HEART TO UNDERSTANDING— INDEED, IF YOU CALL OUT FOR INSIGHT AND CRY ALOUD FOR UNDERSTANDING, AND IF YOU LOOK FOR IT AS FOR SILVER AND SEARCH FOR IT AS FOR HIDDEN TREASURE,  5 THEN YOU WILL UNDERSTAND THE FEAR OF THE LORD AND FIND THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD.  FOR THE LORD GIVES WISDOM; FROM HIS MOUTH COME KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING.  HE HOLDS SUCCESS IN STORE FOR THE UPRIGHT, HE IS A SHIELD TO THOSE WHOSE WALK IS BLAMELESS,  8 FOR HE GUARDS THE COURSE OF THE JUST AND PROTECTS THE WAY OF HIS FAITHFUL ONES.  THEN YOU WILL UNDERSTAND WHAT IS RIGHT AND JUST AND FAIR—EVERY GOOD PATH.  10 FOR WISDOM WILL ENTER YOUR HEART, AND KNOWLEDGE WILL BE PLEASANT TO YOUR SOUL. 11 DISCRETION WILL PROTECT YOU, AND UNDERSTANDING WILL GUARD YOU.  12 WISDOM WILL SAVE YOU FROM THE WAYS OF WICKED MEN, FROM MEN WHOSE WORDS ARE PERVERSE, 13 WHO HAVE LEFT THE STRAIGHT PATHS TO WALK IN DARK WAYS, 14 WHO DELIGHT IN DOING WRONG AND REJOICE IN THE PERVERSENESS OF EVIL, 15 WHOSE PATHS ARE CROOKED AND WHO ARE DEVIOUS IN THEIR WAYS.  16 WISDOM WILL SAVE YOU ALSO FROM THE ADULTEROUS WOMAN, FROM THE WAYWARD WOMAN WITH HER SEDUCTIVE WORDS, 17 WHO HAS LEFT THE PARTNER OF HER YOUTH AND IGNORED THE COVENANT SHE MADE BEFORE GOD.  18 SURELY HER HOUSE LEADS DOWN TO DEATH AND HER PATHS TO THE SPIRITS OF THE DEAD.  19 NONE WHO GO TO HER RETURN OR ATTAIN THE PATHS OF LIFE.  20 THUS YOU WILL WALK IN THE WAYS OF THE GOOD AND KEEP TO THE PATHS OF THE RIGHTEOUS. 21 FOR THE UPRIGHT WILL LIVE IN THE LAND, AND THE BLAMELESS WILL REMAIN IN IT; 22 BUT THE WICKED WILL BE CUT OFF FROM THE LAND, AND THE UNFAITHFUL WILL BE TORN FROM IT.

PROVERBS 2:1-22, NIV

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To understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God there are, once again, deliberate actions to be taken on our part.  (Note all of the “ifs”.)  What are those actions?  Accepting the words of instruction / teaching, storing up the commands, turning our ear to wisdom and applying our heart to understanding, calling out for insight, crying aloud for understanding, looking for understanding as silver and searching for it as hidden treasure.  It’s a pursuit.  God has already made the first move, He has shown us His intentions and openly invited us to understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.  It’s our turn in response to show Him our intentions and accept His invitation.  If we will draw near, He will draw near to us (James 4:8).  Such a pursuit tests the authenticity of our commitment.  Starting to sound pretty relational?  (Proverbs 2:10 reinforces this– our hearts and souls are pretty intimate and personal pieces of our inner being.)

For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.  Another reminder of wisdom’s Source– the true reason for our pursuit.  There is NO space for misinterpretation here.

He holds success in store for the upright, He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,  for He guards the course of the just and protects the way of His faithful ones.  Who bestows all these good things?  The Lord God.  It has been established that understanding the fear of the Lord and finding the knowledge of God is an intentional and deliberate pursuit.  This pursuit is a process: i.e. ongoing.  It’s a “walk”, a “course”, a “way”.  What  “walk”, “course”, “way”?  One of victory and success!  Yet, this doesn’t come without conditions too.  This path of victory and success is characterized by uprightness, blamelessness, justice, and faithfulness.  Could we be / do this individually and independently?  I’ll go out on a limb and say, “nope”.  Remember the purpose of life: to know the Lord Jesus Christ better in an intimate and heartfelt I-know-Him-and-He-knows-me kind of way?  This pursuit naturally helps us do just that.  It builds a greater reliance on and relationship with God.  We cannot walk the path of victory and success which is characterized by uprightness, blamelessness, justice, and faithfulness without Him.

(I know you’re thinking that this post is beginning to qualify for the “list of longest posts”, but stick with me.  It’s just getting good!)

 Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path.  The understanding spoken of here is a discernment.  And discernment meaning a distinguishment, a separation.  So what is being distinguished or separated?  (Okay, here’s where the excitement rises for me!  I love the structure of this chapter!)  The rest of this chapter goes on to then contrast the path which is in opposition to the one of victory and success.  Having this wisdom will save (literally deliver from a strained or lacking relationship with God; spare and be safe from danger) us from the danger, unpleasantness, harm, and problems of sinfulness and wickedness introduced in chapter one– more bluntly: death (Proverbs 1:9).  (Also see Proverbs 2:18-19.  The consistency is BEAUTEOUS!)

Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you, wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse, wisdom will save you.  But didn’t it just explain a couple of verses earlier that God is the one who guards and protects, etc.?  Yes.  I believe it’s one and the same, for the Source and therefore Giver of these is God.

Thus you will walk in the ways of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous.  There is such encouragement in verse 20!  The New Living Translation (NLT) puts it like this: “Follow the steps of good men instead, and stay on the paths of the righteous.”  With “good men” and “righteous” being plural, it hints to me that others have walked this path.  It’s doable, not impossible.  And that’s encouraging.

For the upright will live in the land, and the blameless will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the unfaithful will be torn from it.  In verses 21-22, the contrast is succinctly recapped:  if you are upright and blameless your destiny is to live and remain but if you are wicked and unfaithful your destiny is to be cut off and torn away.

I’d like to propose an additional title for this chapter of Proverbs: “Opposing Duality”.  The choice between two very separate and contradictory destinies lies before us.  May we choose wisely!

Victoria

If you missed Proverbs 1:1-7, click here.

If you missed Proverbs 1:8-33, click here.

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