Yesterday we discussed that if you are a child of the One true God, the best prescription is to seek His wisdom: “My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God.” (Prov 2:1-5) While acquiring knowledge from God’s Word is noble, living virtuously requires applying His Word to our lives. “But don’t just listen to God’s Word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” (James 1:22)
When we understand what it means to fear the Lord, we will gain knowledge of WHO God is! “For the Lord grants wisdom! From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He is a shield to those who walk with integrity. He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to Him.” (Prov 2:6-8) The first two of these verses provide reasons for us to be confident as we seek wisdom and understanding from God.
But the last verse of this passage gives us examples of why we can be courageous in pursuing the wisdom of the Lord: “He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to Him.” (v 8) The two Hebrew words (natsar and shamar) used in this verse which are translated as “guard, watch over, or preserve”, literally mean to keep a watchful guard over, or to keep protectively. If God calls us to be a light (Matt 5:14), He will be the keeper of the lighthouse. If God calls us to be salt (Matt 5:13), He will ensure the salt does not lose its flavor. No one can stand against God. If He is our keeper, we too can live courageously (Rom 8:31).
Being courageous in pursuing God’s wisdom, “Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair, and you will find the right way to go. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy. Wise choices will watch over you. Understanding will keep you safe.” (Prov 2:9-11) In order to be just, wisdom and knowledge must enter into one’s heart and soul. We’re told that discretion and understanding will protect us.
Discretion is the quality of having and showing discernment, which will guard us. According to a common English adage, each person has two ears and one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we speak. That, in a nutshell, is a form of discretion that will guard us from many problems. Similarly, we’re told to “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry” (James 1:19). This one hit home this morning!
Having discretion can keep us from all of the trouble that being rash or having knee jerk reactions may cause. Likewise, understanding, as used in the book of Proverbs, is mastery of a subject. First Corinthians 6:12–20 tells us that we are to be holy in our bodies because we are joined together with Christ. Our body is no longer our own but belongs to Christ. Therefore, we are to show mastery over our body by being holy.
This is the understanding that will watch over us, and keep us safe from evil people. “Wisdom will save you from evil people, from those whose words are twisted. These men turn from the right way to walk down dark paths. They take pleasure in doing wrong, and they enjoy the twisted ways of evil. Their actions are crooked, and their ways are wrong.” (Prov 2:12-15)
Discretion and understanding protect us in order that we are kept away from evil. Justice was earlier defined as giving a person whatever they are due, what they deserve. This verse brings home that point specifically. What we are “due” from being discerning and understanding is deliverance from evil and those who speak falsely against us. The term “perverted speech” found in ESV version here is from the Hebrew word tahpukot, literally meaning something which is purposefully offensive, contrary, rebellious, or obstinate.
We are blessed when we don’t keep the company of those who are perverted. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night.” (Ps 1:1-2) Discretion tells us that although we’ve previously tried to have understanding with these mockers of Christ, Jesus said we aren’t to “waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you. (Matt 7:6)