Pay attention to wisdom

My son, pay attention to my wisdom, turn your ear to my words of insight, that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge. For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it. ~Proverbs 5:1-6 NIV

WomanWhether or not you accept wisdom from God could save your life. Not only does this passage imply that, it also serves as an introduction to the rest of chapter five.

You are urged to pay attention to God’s wisdom. “Attention” means:

  • the act or power of carefully thinking about, listening to, or watching someone or something,
  • notice, interest, or awareness, or
  • special care or treatment.

You’re expected to know this, and to do something about it. As you incline your ears toward the Lord, he has special words of insight on this. Why? So that you can make intelligent decisions, while your lips repeat God’s word quietly to yourself.

By contrast, the lips of an “immoral woman” drip with honey. They look good, and sound good. But in the end, you’ll find they are meaningless. Such an immoral woman doesn’t even know the course her life is on.

This chapter of Proverbs ends with verses 22-23, which say, “The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them; the cords of their sins hold them fast. For lack of discipline they will die, led astray by their own great folly.”

God knows you’ll be tempted. But through prayer, rather than your own great foolishness, you can be forgiven.

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Refusing to listen?

How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings. But since you refuse to listen when I call and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand, since you disregard all my advice and do not accept my rebuke, I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you; I will mock when calamity overtakes you — when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you. ~Proverbs 1:22-27 NIV

hurricaneThis passage from the end of chapter one in Proverbs asks a direct question. And it demands a simple answer.

How long, it wonders, will fools delight in mockery and hate knowledge? You know people like that. Perhaps you’ve been like that. Maybe you are like that.

Genuine repentance will result in the Lord pouring out his knowledge before you. He’ll actually make his teachings known to you.

But ignoring God’s call brings a hefty price. He’ll laugh at you when disaster strikes. Or when calamity like a storm overtakes you, he’ll mock you. Just when you think you can’t take any more stress, hardship, or trouble, the Lord will lengthen it.

Ready to accept God’s terms? Then take some time to pray, and agree with him about the situation. He won’t reject your appeal. He is ready to share his thoughts with you!

The listening ear

Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a ruling rightly given. Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is the rebuke of a wise judge to a listening ear. ~Proverbs 25:11-12 NIV

JudgeThere is only one kind of gold. But there are two ways of receiving it.

First, there are “apples of gold in settings of silver.” That seems short for a really fancy kind of jewelry. More importantly, it parallels a just ruling.

Imagine the satisfaction of learning that a judge rules in your favor. That means that he really listened to you, and respected your argument.

The second is a liittle less satisfying, and a lot more difficult to do. Consider what “the rebuke of a wise judge to a listening ear” means. Again, it ends up being beautiful jewelry. But the circumstances are very different.

Merriam-Webster defines a rebuke as “to speak in an angry and critical way to someone.” Listening to a judge speak to you in this manner could be humiliating. But the difference here is the wise judge, and the listening ear. That’s a rare combination!

Are you listening – really listening – when someone gives you solid advice? If you are, it could be just what you need to hear.

Keep your good name

A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. ~Proverbs 22:1 NIV

Business NamesHosting a domain, starting a new business, or having a baby are all situations that require thought. When beginning a business, the owner should spend some time thinking about the name. After all, a business is only as good as its name, they say.

The same idea goes for your personal name. Your parents may have had something in mind when they selected your birth name. But even if they didn’t, you still have a reputation in your community or among members of your church.

The New Living Translation renders this as, “Choose a good reputation over great riches…” The implication is that one should actively think about the logical possible outcomes of a decision. Will this idea to make money affect your good reputation, or not?

Secondly, this verse offers insight on wealth creation versus your own value. Will chasing that silver or gold cause someone to think differently about you?

There is nothing wrong with creating wealth. The Bible is full of accounts of men and women who’ve earned their share along the way. But there are many traps to be aware of, too.

This is an important question – especially if you’re young. Are you thoughtfully choosing to maintain your reputation? Once it’s lost, a good name may be very difficult to find.

Don’t shut your ears

Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered. ~Proverbs 21:13 NIV

Not ListeningWhen you shut your ears, you’re not listening. And if you listen just for a moment, you can hear the cry of the poor.

One sure way to provide assistance is to send your money to a reputable group or organization that is working with them. Another is to pray for those less fortunate than you.

But the real danger here is having God not listen to us. Proverbs 15:29 says, “The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayers of the righteous.” Maybe not today, but at some point in the future, you’ll cry out to God. And you’ll wonder why he’s not listening.

The poor will always cry. Are you listening?

Are you listening?

The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin. ~Proverbs 10:8 NIV

Listen CarefullyA story about a young boy in 1 Samuel 3 personifies the first half of this verse:

The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions. One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, “Here I am.” And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down. Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” “My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Note first that Samuel answers the Lord the very first time he is called. But he isn’t sure who is calling him. Samuel runs to Eli, the priest who was mentoring the boy. After this happens three times, Eli deduces that it is God who is calling Samuel. Being a man of wisdom himself, Eli instructs Samuel to respond with “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

As Samuel hears God call him once more, he responds exactly as Eli told him to reply. So Samuel can be commended for listening — both to God and to his human authority. Even better, Samuel obeyed Eli’s instructions. And he was rewarded with a stunning personal encounter with the living God, Creator of the universe.

The second half of Proverbs 10:8 is supported by the truth of Ecclesiastes 5:1-2:

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.

Who is the “chattering fool?” The one who is quick with his mouth and hasty in heart. The person who speaks repeatedly without thinking is sure to come to ruin. James 1:19 is also a strong reminder of this principle: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…”

Are you listening? Or are you too busy verbalizing your own thoughts and opinions to really hear when God speaks?

There is no rest

When a wise man has a controversy with a foolish man, The foolish man either rages or laughs, and there is no rest. ~Proverbs 29:9 NASB

ArgueFamed American author Mark Twain once remarked, “Never argue with a fool. Onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.”

Who is a foolish person, according to the scriptures? In the book of Proverbs, fools are described as those who:

  • despise wisdom and instruction (1:7)
  • hate knowledge (1:22)
  • are complacent (1:32)
  • display dishonor (3:35)
  • bring grief to their mother (10:1)
  • spread slander (10:18)
  • die for lack of understanding (10:21)
  • think of wickedness as a sport (10:23)
  • will serve the wise (11:29)
  • can’t conceal their anger (12:16)
  • proclaim and display folly (12:23, 13:16)
  • bring harm to their companions (13:20)
  • tear down their own household (14:1)
  • mock at sin (14:9)
  • are arrogant and careless (14:16)
  • are quick-tempered (14:17)
  • reject their father’s discipline (15:5)
  • despise their mother (15:20)

Proverbs 29:9 correctly predicts that a fool will either rage or laugh when his inferior knowledge or intellect are exposed. He cannot win on the merits of his position, and he knows it. He resorts to deflection by way of an angry tirade or laughing, as if his opponent’s position is completely absurd.

Arguing with a fool is a complete waste of your time. Fools lack integrity. There can be no constructive conversation with them until they repent of their folly. Indeed, there is no rest.

Have you ever been the fool? Ponder today whether or not the Lord ever looks at you as displaying the character flaws listed above. Give thanks to your heavenly father for his forgiveness and mercy as you seek godly wisdom today.