"To know wisdom and instruction, to discern the sayings of understanding..."
The word know is interesting in that it is the Hebrew word yada, which is expressed in all the different verb forms in the Old Testament but is always a form of knowing that involves that which comes through the senses – experiential knowledge; almost Aristotelian knowing, growing out of sense experience or other’s sense experience. Solomon does not want to give us theories about how to live life, but he wants to pass on what really works and how to make the best choices. He wants us to know that this way that does not seem right to us is the best way – the wise way. Because of the experience we have had in watching others, hearing his words, observing life, he does not want us to have to wait until we have experienced the negative consequences of being a fool.
There are three crucial tasks in this verse that Solomon lets us know this inspired book is designed to accomplish.
Wisdom is the first and the foremost. It is often defined as the application of knowledge in a proper or ethical way. While this is true, it is a much broader, richer term in this Hebraic understanding. Wisdom throughout the book is that action or choice or speech which is difficult to find – not instinctual – that causes God to win or be glorified, others to win, and us to win. There is a choice or action in every situation which is the wise one. It may cost us in the short term, but it will pay off in the long term. Consistent actions of wisdom – finding the triple-win choice or action consistently, is a rich life. It will have setbacks and difficulties, but there is much protection and reward. This book, inspired by the Holy Spirit and penned through the writing of King Solomon, is the distillation of how to find and live the triple-win choice or wisdom.
The second thing that this book is designed to accomplish is that it is it self-instruction – not in the simple sense of a set of instructions but in terms of training. If the plans and actions of this book are followed, it is the training manual for an unbelievable life. You will not just intellectually know the right thing to do, but you will be trained to respond that way in the various situations of life. Constant attention to this book and its sayings will train your mind to perceive what you do not perceive at present and to react and act in a way that now you find impossible. This is the course on people dynamics and applied moral ethics. It is this book that will form the role-playing manual for a new way of living.
To know instruction is to know how others would rebuke you if they had the chance. The idea of instruction is education in what you don't know or don't see or don't want to see. To become a wise person is to be willing to look at yourself honestly and work where the work is needed, not just where you want to work. The wise person seeks instruction and seeks realistic views of himself or herself. An interesting question to ask yourself is: If God were to openly rebuke me right now for three things, what would they be?
The third aim of this book is an ability to perceive the sayings of understanding. This phrase is lost to modern hearers because we do not see its incredible power or claim. The word understanding is the word bina. It carries a relational connotation with it. It carries a sense of interconnectedness – how this relates to that in ways we don't suspect. This book is claiming that you will be able to see the hidden relationships between saying this and this other thing happening in your life. Why when this happens, friends come or flee. When you do this, it strengthens your marriage or destroys it. There are invisible strings or webs of relationships between things that we would not normally perceive or see, but biblical understanding means seeing these cause-and-effect devices. The book of Proverbs consistently tries to open peoples' eyes between seemingly independent actions and choices.
The book of Proverbs is worth spending great time in – over and over again – because it offers to help us find the triple-win choice or action in every situation. It offers to train us so that our natural reaction is no longer going to subvert our way; and it offers to show us the invisible connections between actions, relationships, and choices that cause everything to change on the chess board of life with a single move.