The Wisdom of the Precept

The Wisdom of the Precept

Robert Wurtz II

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They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. (Proverbs 1:30–31 KJV)

Proverbs chapter 1 is sort of the preface to this great book of wisdom. It begins with a what some have called, “grace in one hand and a sword in the other.” That is to say, if one responds rightly to the word of God they will receive grace; nevertheless, if one rejects the word of God they will be judged accordingly. It is a proposition and a warning wrapped up in one theme; like two sides of the same coin. God bids us to choose which side we want; and to choose wisely.

In one sense the book of Proverbs is born out of the experience of wise men, who were inspired by the Spirit of God. All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable. Theologians will tell you that the genre of Proverbs is “wisdom literature.” This simply means that the book contains practical wisdom that is inspired of God. It is not the “book of promises” it is the book of Proverbs. A proverb is a short saying that contains truth or advice; a promise is a declaration that God will do something. If we get confused here we may misinterpret the intent of the book and diffuse expectations that are not intended — causing chaos and confusion.

A cursory read of the book of Proverbs lends one to believe that it is written from a father to his children; or from a wise teacher to his young pupil. Conventional belief is that wisdom comes with age (Job 12:12); however, this is not always the case (Job 32:7). Godly wisdom comes from the Lord — who has been known to destroy the wisdom of the wise (1 Corinthians 1:19). In other words, one does not always come to the right conclusions by circumstances alone. Therefore, the word of God is given to guide us along and give us clear perspective. 

Obviously, children have little experience in life and they need to be taught wisdom. This is what the writer of Proverbs is doing. He is teaching wisdom to those who have no context with which to relate to events as they happen in life. We read in Hosea 4:6a, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me.” Many people are clueless about serious issues in life because they have never gone through the experiences necessary to teach them. This is why God’s word is so important. It gives us God’s perspective about things in such a way, that if we will simply believe what He has said we will be spared of the consequences of ignorance. However, as we read throughout the scriptures, there are people who reject wisdom and knowledge and are left to eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. By the time we get to Hosea’s time the people were being destroyed because they rejected knowledge. 

What many people desperately need is experience in life. The problem is, experience cannot be rushed. It cannot be fabricated from man’s devices. Life experience has the power to greatly alter perspective. Until we have “been there” or “walked in those shoes” we really have no idea what we are dealing with. I often say that “One is no longer at a loss to understand the wisdom of God’s commandment after they’ve been on the receiving end of a transgression.” In other words, being on the receiving end of a transgression shows us the wisdom of God’s design in giving the precept. However, this is not only true of transgressions, it is true of life in general. When you go through difficult things it gives you compassion and understanding for people who suffer similar things. Paul writes to the Corinthians:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Corinthians 1:3–4 NKJV)

Paul is saying that when we go through tribulation and are sustained by God’s comfort, we are then able to comfort others who go through difficult circumstances. “God is the compassionate Father characterized by mercies (from oikteiroœ, to pity, and here in plural, emotions and acts of pity). He is the God of all comfort (from parakaleoœ, to call to one’s side). Paul has already used it of God who gave eternal comfort (2 Thess. 2:16). The English word comfort is from the Latin confortis (brave together).” (A. T. Robertson) 

Life is filled with injury, most of which never show on the outside. The careless counselor says, “just get over it” and shows no real compassion and offers no real comfort. However, God wants us to know in His word that He understands what people are going through. The Psalmist once wrote, “In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted.” (Psalms 77:2 KJV) Sometimes injury and loss is like that. It is hard to allow ourselves to be comforted because of the emotion of it all. 

Scripture Gives Context

We have this verse in Matthew 2:18 describing how those dear mothers felt when the murderous Romans brutally butchered their baby sons. “In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.” I have six children and eight grandchildren, and have never lost one of them. It is impossible for me to feel the weight of this verse as do these precious mothers and fathers. However, I can pause and allow it to sink in until I “co-passion” or feel compassion for the people. how dreadful an awful was this dastard and devilish deed! Nevertheless, in Rama there were moms and dads who have a profound appreciation for the commandment, “thou shalt not kill!”

The time would fail to give Biblical examples of the great suffering of people who were lied on, committed adultery against, stolen from, and other like things. All of these examples and scriptures demonstrate the wisdom of His precepts. Proverbs contains such examples. It demonstrates the contrasts between the victimizer and the victim. For example, the adulteress says to the adulterer “stolen waters are sweet and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” (Proverbs 9:17) They then partake and wipe their mouths as if they have done no evil. (Proverbs 30:20) All the while, the victim will not spare when he takes revenge. He will accept no compensation; he will refuse though you multiply gifts. (Proverbs 6:34–35 ESV) Why would God teach us this? Because we don’t always experience these things ourselves, and God wants us to know the gravity of them so that we can try to relate to the situation. The victim thoroughly understands the wisdom of, “thou shalt not commit adultery.” However, most people do not and would simply take a “get over it” attitude. 

Our age is characterized by chronic flippancy. Our world would change over night if Christians in particular would simply just believe what God has said in His word and try to understand the wisdom of why He commanded what He did. There is a reason for everything and when we disregard God’s word there are grave consequences. The key is prevention. God’s precepts cannot be improved upon. If we disregard them we will surely eat of the fruit of our own way, and be filled with our own devices. If we willingly or passively reject knowledge, we will suffer the fate of the Israelites.

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me.” (Hosea 4:6a) 

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