The Wisdom of the Precept
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:
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)