Introduction (Proverbs 4:1-4)
In Proverbs 4, Solomon is speaking as a father, giving advice to his son about the importance of seeking wisdom. Conversely, He is warning his son to avoid the path of the wicked and the negative consequences of acting foolishly.
When I was in middle school, there were a few friends I hung out with that were troublemakers. I remember my dad once telling me to choose my friends carefully because it will directly impact my own behavior. He was absolutely right. Unfortunately, one of those friends had passed away from a drug overdose and that could have easily been me, apart from the grace of God.
As a father today, I tell my kids the same thing. You are who you hang out with. One day, we found out from our middle son that the kids on the bus were bullying and cursing frequently. Therefore, we stopped taking them on the bus and drove them to school isntead. It took more time out of our day, but it’s worth protecting our children from violence and foul language.
The path of wisdom (Proverbs 4:5-13)
In section two of Proverbs, the author focuses on the path of wisdom. He mentions how to get wisdom, avoid the path of the wicked, and the importance of treasuring wisdom. Moreover, he says that wisdom will protect the one who upholds it and exalt the one who cherishes it.
As a graduate from seminary, I joke how it’s impossible to obtain a “Master of Divinity.” While I understand this is the technical way of handling a degree, we are never a master of the divine. As Christians, we are constantly learning Scripture and growing in the knowledge of the truth. One way to know you are cherishing wisdom is to be constantly learning, cultivating a mindset of curiosity, humility, and open-mindedness.
Wisdom is also equated by the author as “your life.” This mindset really elevates the value of wisdom to the point where it can completely change your life. Wisdom can have a transformative impact in several ways: through better decision making, improved relationships, an increased resilence in the face of adversity, and personal growth of your values and beliefs that will give you confidence towards becoming the best version of yourself.
As I age, I have learned through my failures of when to talk and when to listen. It has been my experience that as you grow in wisdom, you will listen more and talk less. I am hoping to get better at this every day, and even remind myself during a conversation to, “listen and wait to respond.” Or, instead of giving my opinion, just keep asking questions to let the other person continue the conversation, sharing with me what’s on their heart and mind.
The benefits of wisdom (Proverbs 4:14-19)
In verses 14-19, Solomon speaks to the benefits of wisdom. He reemphasizes avoiding the path of the wicked, examines how wisdom can help you enjoy a good night’s sleep, and give you a brighter path moving forward.
I heard of a story where a doctoral student in Physical Therapy was getting ready to graduate. He went on Spring break with a group of friends shortly before their commencement. They got pulled over by a cop for speeding. Then the cop noticed one of the friends was high and checked the car to find out he had marijuana in his pocket.
While the student in the car was sober, because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, with the wrong crowd, he was arrested for being associated with an illegal substance. Unfortunately, that was on his record and he was unable to find a hospital that would give him a residency. He ended up having to leave the profession and find another job. What a sad story. This is why it’s crucial to associate with people who will build you up rather than tear you down.
Furthermore, the author uses imagery to talk about the righteous like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. To contrast this, he speaks of the wicked like deep darkness, not even knowing what makes them stumble. The author uses the language of darkness because it is devoid of light and it also reveals that they are blinded by their own sinful desire and cannot see the way to true righteousness.
The phrase, “they do not know what makes them stumble” suggests that the wicked aren’t even aware of the consequences of their actions. They are so blinded by their own sin, thinking they are living a good life, but in reality, they are headed for destruction. The Bible teaches that many people will be surprised on that day when God will judge the living and the dead. Professing themselves to be wise, they will be judged as fools.
There are other scholars who suggest that the word for stumbling referred to in this verse may also have spiritual implications, such as the inability to recognize or accept God’s truth, or the risk of falling away from the faith. Essentially, they are spiritually drunk in their depravity and can’t see clearly out of it–and this leads to a hardness of the heart.
The importance of guarding your heart (Proverbs 4:20-27)
In the next several verses, the author focuses on the importance of listening to instruction, guarding your heart, and staying on the right path. In Proverbs 4:22, Solomon says, “For they are life to those who find them, and health to one’s whole body.”
This statement suggests that the wisdom found in Proverbs is not just a set of rules to obey, but a way of living that can bring joy, health, and purpose. Moreover, “health to one’s own body” shows the physical benefits of living a wise and righteous life. For instance, when you are being honest, you will not be plagued by guilt, regret, or anxiety because your transparency is evident by you and others around.
In the last verse, the writer contends: “Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” This verse is a reminder to stay on the straight and narrow path in life and to avoid the temptations that can lead us astray.
Jesus taught us that “broad is the way that leads to destruction,” and there are many who follow that sinful path. And narrow is the way that leads to life, and only a few there be that find it. As Christians, it’s vital that we stay on that narrow and focused path.
In college, I swam competitively and needed to train myself everyday to stay focused. Before our races, my coach would help us envision standing on the block, listening to the sound of the referee hitting the start button, diving into the pool, counting how many strokes to take before doing the flip turn, keeping a streamline position, and finishing the last 15 yards without any breathing. This vision helped us stay on track toward our goals.
As Christians, it’s vital that we concentrate our efforts on living for God in everything we do. We should be cognizant not only of what we say, but how we say it. When we wake up in the morning, beginning in prayer, our minds will be prepared to face any obstacles.
Conclusion (Proverbs 4:1-27)
To summarize, Proverbs 4 highlights the importance of staying on the right path by living a righteous and virtuous life. The chapter begins with a plea from the father to his son to take heed to listening to his teachings and hold strongly to the Lord’s wisdom and understanding. Moreover, the chapter stresses how vital it is to avoid the pitfalls of sin, guarding one’s heart and mind, and the need to avoid negative influences and harmful associations. In the end, Proverbs 4 teaches us to pursue wisdom, avoid wickedness, and give glory and honor to the Lord.
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