Have you ever found yourself asking the question, “what is the right thing to do?” or perhaps you have been asking, “what is true, or, what is the will of God for me?” I have found myself asking these questions many times. These are questions we all ask at some point in our lives, and sometimes on a daily basis. Today, I stumbled across a passage in Proverbs that teaches me how to answer these questions when I find myself asking them. These three questions are answered with the three “ifs” of Proverbs 2.
“My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver; and search for her as for hidden treasure; then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord God gives wisdom; from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding; He stores us sound wisdom for the upright, He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; He guards the paths of justice, and preserves the way of His saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice, equity and every good path. When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul, discretion will preserve you, understanding will keep you.” Proverbs 2:1-10
The writer of Proverbs says that “IF we receive” his words we will get the answer we are seeking. To receive means to take and carry along with you. So what are we to take and carry along with us? His words, what he is speaking to us. He is going to show us how to find the will of God for our lives within these three simple “IF’s”. We are to take God’s word, read it, receive it and carry it along with us everywhere we go. The more time you spend in God’s word, the more understanding you will gain. I did not understand a whole lot when I first became a Christian, but as I spent time reading His word and taking what He was saying to me with me, it began to make sense, it became real to me and I was able to store it up within me: which leads us to the next step in our journey through the “IF’s” today.
We take God’s word and we receive it, now we are to treasure His word, His commands to us. To treasure something means to hide it. Jesus tells us in Matthew 13:44 that “the Kingdom of God is like a treasure hidden in a field, a man found it and hid it…” The word of God is to be treasured; it is to be cherished within our daily lives. Treasure is something that is highly valued, more so than any other thing or object in your life. God’s word should be so treasured by us that we hide it and give all that we have for the joy of it. This hiding of the treasure of God’s word will lead us to want to do the next step our wise teacher is showing us today.
We will “incline our ear to wisdom”. We all want to know the truth; we all want to hear truth. We are living in a world filled with lies and deceit. Pontius Pilot asked Jesus, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) He too wanted to know and to hear truth. The more we treasure God’s word, our ears will prick up at the sound of truth. The word incline is defined as the pricking up of the ears of an animal. When you call a dog’s name, they prick up their ears and give you their full attention. When we read God’s word our ears should be in full attention to what He is saying to us. While we are giving Him our full attention, we will be able to do what is next, which is applying it to our hearts.
While we are paying attention and our ears our pricked, we are to then apply all that we are gaining and make it real in our lives. We are not only to read the word of God, but the purpose is to apply it. Apply means to influence, we allow God to influence our lives when we give out attention to His word. We allow it to come in our ears, into our hearts and out our feet. We begin to walk in the commands that He has given us because we take His word with us, we give attention to His word, and we treasure His words. If we do not apply what we are learning, then we will never fully understand the wisdom and the love and the purpose that God has for us. We will be like a boat in a lake without a motor, being taken wherever the current wants us to go. Truth and wisdom will never find us and we will never gain the answers we seek if we do not apply God’s word to our lives.
This leads me to the second “IF” in our passage today. “If we cry out for discernment and lift up our voice for understanding” the Lord will hear us. James says that if anyone lacks wisdom; let him ask of God who gives it to us freely. (James 1:5) To cry out for discernment means that we call out to God and ask Him for the insight that we seek. Many times I have read my bible and understood absolutely nothing of what I just read. But I have cried out to God, the Author, who has given me the understanding that I needed. Insight is a word used to describe discernment. Insight is a “spiritual quality that enables a person to appreciate God’s mind and will in matters of behavior, truth and providence.” (Easton’s Bible Dictionary) When we do not understand what we are reading, ask God to show you and help you gain the understanding of what you are reading.
Lastly, we come to our third “IF”. “If you seek her as silver and search for her as hidden treasure,” who is “her”? She is wisdom. Wisdom is defined as knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action.” (Webster’s Dictionary) We all want to know what is the right way to go, what does the Lord want me to do in this situation or in that situation, we all want to know what His will is concerning us, and we can know the answers to all these questions by following the steps laid out for us in Proverbs 2:1-4. Wisdom is not winning the Nobel Peace Prize; wisdom is the day to day understanding of what God desires from you, and walking it out. Wisdom will always lead you where the Lord desires to take you. He is the Father of all wisdom; all wisdom comes from Him and is perfect and pure.
We can have the wisdom that we need to walk this path we have been given. All we have to do if follow the path of “IF”. Receive God’s word; carry it with you where ever you go. Pay attention to His teaching, and apply it to your heart so that you begin to walk it out. Cry out to Him when you do not understand, ask Him what He desires, what is His will, and He will show you. Seek and search for the treasure that is given to anyone who asks, and will bring us in the way that we should go.
Our part of this walk is found in the “IF’s” of Proverbs 2:1-4, God’s part is found in verses 5-10. He promises to give you wisdom when you ask for it, He promises to shield you and protect you, to guard your ways. He promises to preserve you and bless you, and give you understanding in all that comes your way. “When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul, discretion will preserve you; understanding will keep you.”(vs. 10) You will walk in the will of the God when you allow wisdom to become the treasure of your soul.
May we all allow His word to guide us, guard us, keep us and protect us in the way that He desires us to go. May we allow Him to speak to us, and may our hearts and ears and mind and soul be attentive to all His words, that we may live with Him forever and ever. Amen and Amen.