Do not forget nor turn away from the words of my mouth."
This is the first commandment that David gave to Solomon. After a lengthy build-up in the beginning of Proverbs 4 about the wonder of being taught by the father and the importance of remembering what dad taught, this is actually what dad taught.
How to make the triple-win choice within the boundaries of God's morality and how things are related to one another – especially those things that seem unrelated.
This is the word purchase, buy, or gain in some way. Since this is a command, it means that the idea must be to procure wisdom that you don't have. You must be willing to listen to the advice of others. More than that, you must be willing to pay for wise counsel to help you avoid the pitfalls of others. Since the opposite of wisdom is foolishness which leads to wickedness, we can assume that Solomon is being taught about how to live a righteous life and how to make decisions in which every righteous person and God wins through the things you decide. It is easy to do the impulsive thing and to be tempted to do the wicked thing. But we must realize that it is wisdom that truly wins the day, and you do not always have it in yourself. Trusting yourself alone for your decisions is a good recipe for disaster. There is a need to purchase or gain by sacrifice, if necessary, the best course of action.
Wisdom is the ability to discern the best course of action in any given situation which will result in a win for God's glory, a win for others, and a win for yourself. The wisdom of the ancients was regularly capsulated in pithy sayings called proverbs or riddles so that they could be more easily remembered. These sayings were meant to inform you of directions to go when these directions were counterintuitive. The instructions of the wisdom literature was the collected wisdom of the ages by those who had lived both good and bad and in the case of the biblical wisdom literature, it was inspired by God. Thus this God-breathed set of counterintuitive guides were to keep you from making the same mistakes that 90% of the population makes because it seems right to them.
David was saying to Solomon, his son, that you must always be on the lookout for practical knowledge that truly works. We would almost call these the slogans of life and the bits of truth that make life work. I believe David is saying that these practical bits of knowledge that make life work are everywhere, and we must collect these so that we will know what to do when the time comes. They must fit the triple-win parameters, but they themselves are lessons that we need to make life work. Let me give you some examples:
Always put God first
Never have the first argument with your wife
Put your wife on a pedestal
A penny saved is a penny earned
A team can accomplish more than a talented individual
God can do more with your 90% than we can with a 100%
Set goals and go after them
Cease striving after wealth
Some of these sayings are Scripture and some are things we pick up from parents, mentors, teachers, and others. We must make sure that they are true, and we must hang on to them so that they will guide us when we don't know what decision to make. We can then pull out these bits of wisdom from our memory bank and apply them to the triple-win grid and the current situation and see if they fit.
Jesus gives us a helpful corrective about these bits of wisdom. Not all of the slogans of wisdom that we have rattling around in our brains are actually wisdom. They may, in fact, be the opposite of wisdom. Jesus says, "If the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness." In other words, if every time you dip inside yourself for a bit of wisdom to help you in a certain situation and the wisdom that you pull up is actually wrong, then you are going further afield when you do what you think is wise. Let me give you some examples.
Let's say that you are playing a game and you wonder which move to make. Up pops the slogan "Winning isn't everything; it’s the only thing." You let that idea guide you to be ruthless in some game so that you can win, but you lose the respect of the people you are playing with.
Let's say that you are in your 20's and you are at a party and there is an attractive young lady who seems to be interested in you. You are not all that interested in her, and you do not see a long-term future with her at all. You dig into your bag of wisdom and up pops, "You only go around once in life, so go for the gusto" This tells you to fake interest in the young lady at the party because you don't want her interest to be wasted.
There are hundreds of these little bits of bad wisdom floating around in every culture. They turn us aside from righteousness and the blessings of God.
One of the things that we have to make sure that we gather is actual wisdom and not pithy slogans from our culture that are actually bad advice.
The other thing that David told Solomon was that he should acquire understanding or insight. This is the Hebrew word bin. The word means to discern between and to grasp the connections. I am amazed at the number of times people miss the obvious connections between things and then are baffled why they have problems.
Let me give you a few examples:
There is a connection between what you eat and what you look like and weigh. All kinds of people do not see the connections between the amount of food they are consuming and the way they look, feel, and perform. There are only a few people who can eat everything and not gain weight. These people have different connections and problems, but we want to make them the norm.
There is an absolute connection between what we say to people and whether we are close friends and they like us. But I watch people say the rudest things to their spouse, their children, their colleagues and expect to have a good relationship with these people. I watch people treat clients, customers, and strangers with kinder words and better manners than the people closest to them. The people closest to you should receive the kindest words from you.
It is entirely possible that David is saying to Solomon to memorize these pithy sayings in which is contained the collected wisdom of our civilization and culture and those of other cultures. For this is clearly what Solomon did. He collected the wisdom literature, committed it to memory, and even himself wrote and spoke thousands of proverbs – some of which were inspired by God.
David, the father of Solomon and the prophet of God, was telling Solomon that one does not have to learn by experience; one can grow beyond his peers – and even the leaders – by committing to memory the counterintuitive directives of life.