"To receive instruction in wise behaviorRighteousness, Justice and Equity"
Notice that one has to receive instruction in wise behavior. It takes learning, concentration, and new information. We don't come equipped since the fall with this orientation. Since the fall of man in Adam, even though we may know the right thing to do, we are oriented toward the selfish thing.
The Hebrew word translated instruction is the word musar which means instruct, chasten, train, discipline. Therefore the idea is that one must come to the place where one is ready to enter into a training course to become a person who acts wisely. Wisdom does not automatically flow from us; in fact, we are automatically oriented toward self.
This suggests a picture of a learned master beginning a rigorous training process with a young disciple who wants to learn to be wise. The youngster has heard and watched the actions of the master and presents himself to be schooled so that he will not longer make life-killing, foolish decisions. The book of Proverbs is the ancient manual of that old master. It is Solomon's text book for the school of wisdom.
In fact, I write these devotional comments for my grandchildren and great-grandchildren that have not even been conceived yet so that they would be willing to enter into the school of God's wisdom. I want them to know that I was thinking about them years and decades before they were ever around. And that God knew everything about them before the world ever began. God had Solomon write this book so that in God's grace each of us could overcome our natural bent towards selfishness. Young men and young women, realize that wisdom is a rich treasure that must be learned.
So many times we must admit that we have acted foolishly and could wish that we would have thought through what we did with greater insight – that is what this book is for. It helps us realize that what feels right at a given moment is not necessarily the right or wise thing to do.
When a person who has learned wisdom has finished their life, they sit in their chair surrounded by people who love them preparing to go home to meet face to face the Supreme Being who they have been relating to for a long time.
Never forget that the ultimate goal of wisdom is living out the two great commandments: Thou shalt Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself. Life is relationships and wise people build them.
The word wise here is the word sakal which is close to the word understanding in the Hebrew. It emphasizes the intelligent understanding of what certain behaviors will do and what others won't do. It is sometimes translated insight (Jeremiah 3:15). It is clear that the goal of Proverbs is for one to look past his/her own urges or cultural impulses and examine all the potential actions in any given situation and choose the one that will result in God being honored, others being benefitted, and the individual being blessed. Wisdom looks for this action, and it is not ready to move until it finds that action.
Wise behavior always promotes relationships. It deepens and strengthens connections between people. Unwise behavior is selfish behavior. If unwise behavior were known, it would immediately weaken connection and bring disconnection between people.
The term “wise behavior” is broken into three sub terms in this opening lecture in the inspired school of wisdom. Wisdom's component parts are righteousness, justice, and equity.
This is the first of the words that describe the larger term “wise behavior.” This is the clearest moral action term. That which is right. The straight measuring rod. The commandments of God are the definitions of righteousness and the individual would be wise in working them out in his/her life. The Lord is described as righteous in all His ways and holy in all His works. What is interesting is that at times it is difficult to discern how God is being righteous in a particular action, so righteousness is at times a complex and daunting behavior. But the book of Proverbs is the training device for the task.
That which is right or righteous is not just inside the boundaries of the Ten Commandments; it is the opposite of the violation of the Ten Commandments. Look at each of the Commandments and go to the core of that command – or in most cases its opposite – and you find that which is truly righteous.
No other gods. True full-hearted worship of the Almighty.
No graven Images. Awesome reverence for the boundariesness of God. He cannot be contained or explained by anything in the three-dimensional, space-time world.
No taking the Lord's name in vain. Powerful and positive verbal worship on a regular basis.
Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy. A day set aside to pursue God and His demands and commands – desires and person.
Honor your Father and your Mother. Adding true value to your parents through your conduct, interaction, and speech
No murder. True love of your fellow man. A commitment to improving the lot of your fellow man, not just not destroying a person.
No adultery. True faithfulness. Deep committed love to one spouse all your life, creating an environment of committed love.
No stealing. Generosity of spirit. Hard work and saving in order to give to others
No bearing false witness. Truthing in love.
No coveting. Contentment with God's provision and desire to fulfill the full measure of your lot in life, not someone else’s.
Each of these are expressions describe what it means to be truly righteous. Righteous can never be a negation or defined as what one doesn't do. It is a positive in even a greater sense than wickedness is positive action in an evil direction.
This is the second of the descriptors of “wise behavior” stated above. The word is the Hebrew word sapat which means to lead or exercise the power of governance. In the ancient world there was not a separation of the powers of government into three branches, but instead there was the leader. When the Proverbs speak, it is designed to help the leader make the type of decisions that will be right. The Proverbs are a course in how to be a righteous king or a leader with integrity.
Thus the ability to govern or be a leader is critical to this discussion. That is why the Proverbs are full of references to the king. This is the supreme leader within an Old Testament setting. If a person understands how to deal with a king and how to act like a wise king, then they will be a great leader. We would say that the book of Proverbs is a course in leadership. Notice that the book refers to leadership and to comparisons: This is better than that; that is worse than this. It is in part in these comparisons that the foundations for wise decisions are made.
The book of Proverbs is designed to be a course in leadership development. How to rule well. How to be a good and wise leader. If one can see the truths of the book of Proverb being lived out, then it will begin to be true for you in your life. The book of Proverb was designed to be a course on how to be a great leader.
Each one of these words is a partial definition of wise behavior that is stated as the goal. This word equity carries with it the idea of moral uprightness. How to fully follow the Lord's commands. To be upright in every situation. The word comes from the idea to go straight ahead or to proceed on a level place. To apply uniformly or smoothly. Some have suggested that this is the idea of fairness. What is equitable is what is fair or balanced. The fact that this word is associated with leadership and governance would suggest that there will be some very difficult calls in leadership. That there will be times when two good things are demanded that seem to be in opposition to one another. Other times it will seem that the only choices are evil choices. But the book of Proverbs guides us around and through these conundrums towards the correct course even if it takes a while to see that course of action. Enter into this unique training program that was instituted over 3,000 years ago with the official stamp of God's breath. Begin growing in wise behavior so that you will enjoy all the life that God has for you.