Proverbs 4:1-27 Pay Attention! Wisdom Is Life-Changing!

Memory Verse: Proverbs 4:23

4:1-9 Generational Teaching: Aquire Wisdom/Knowledge At Any Cost

  • 4:1-2 The father’s continued admonition to his children to acquire wisdom should not be overlooked, but it should emphasize the importance of what he is trying to communicate. Children often need things repeated more than once to learn them. So then, the repetition is written for our benefit to emphasize the importance of what is being said and to help us learn the lessons—especially if we didn’t get it the first time. Like the children being addressed here, we need to hear (pay attention) to the instruction (message) of a father and attend (be attentive) to know (gain) understanding. The children weren’t only to listen out of respect for their father but because their father is giving good doctrine (precepts, teaching)—his teaching is worthy to be received. Thus, he continues to encourage them to not forsake (abandon) his law (teaching, instruction).
  • 4:3-4a The father then connects with the children, explaining that he has walked the path that they are currently walking. He explains that he too was a son to his father, still tender (gentle), and the only beloved (the only one) in the sight of his mother. His father taught him also, and said unto him (Note: Fathers, are we teaching our children wisdom?):
  • 4:4b Let your heart retain (hold fast) my words—he was to take hold of his father’s words with all his heart and in his heart—the core of who you are. He goes on to say, “Keep my commandments, and live”—meaning that his commandments were for their benefit and safety in life, not only in this life, but a heart turned to the Lord leads to everlasting life.
  • 4:5-6 Get wisdom! Get understanding! Forget not and do not decline (turn away) from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will preserve (protect, guard, keep) you; love her, and she will keep (watch over, guard) you.
  • 4:7-9 “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom”—meaning the beginning of wisdom is this: to get wisdom—again emphasizing the importance of wisdom itself. And though it might cost all your possessions (“getting”), get understanding (insight). Exalt (treasure, prize highly, cherish) her and she shall promote (exalt) you; embrace (to lovingly and tightly hold in your arms) her and she will bring you honour. She will place on your head an ornament of grace and she will bestow on you a crown of glory (splendor, beauty)—these symbols of honor show that she will honor you—making you beautiful in wisdom and character.

4:10-19 Wisely Choosing The Right Path Will Lead To Blessings

  • 4:10-13 The father continues teaching his son to hear and receive his sayings, because the years of his life will be many—wisdom can give you long life. This father has taught (instructed, directed) his son in the way of wisdom and he has led him in right (upright, straight) paths. Thus, when his son walks, his steps will not be hindered (straitened), and when he runs, he will not stumble—wisdom can give you protection. Therefore, the son should take firm hold (“take fast hold”) of instruction, and do not let it go. He needs to keep (guard) her, for she is his life.
  • 4:14-19 The father reminds the son of the two paths in life: (1) Do not set foot on the path of the wicked (wickedness, godlessness) or walk in the way of evildoers (morally bad and wrong). Instead, avoid it, do not travel on it, turn away from it and go on your way. This wrong path is dangerous specifically because they do not sleep unless they have done mischief (evil, morally wrong act), and they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone fall (stumble). The eat, sleep and breathe wickedness: “For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence.” The way of the wicked is like darkness—meaning they do not know what makes them stumble. (2) On the other hand, the path of the just (righteous) is as the shining light (the light of dawn, the morning sun), that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day (the full light of day)—from first light of the sun in the morning until noon when the full brightness is shining down, so is the one who follows God and thus increasingly shines forth His righteousness through wisdom.
    Psalm 19:8; 119:105, 130

4:20-27 Wisdom: An Upright Heart Results in Upright Living

  • 4:20-22 The father for a third time in this chapter continues teaching his son, telling him to “attend to my words” and to “incline thine ear unto my sayings”—meaning pay attention and listen up! He continues saying, “Let them not depart from thine eyes; Keep them in the midst of thine heart”—meaning to treat them with the utmost importance. He needs to do this because they are life to those who find them, and health to your whole body—repeating the claim that wisdom can give you long life, protection and health.
  • 4:23 An Upright Heart: Do keep (guard) your heart with all diligence (vigilance), because out of it are the “issues of life”—the heart represents the “inner person” or the real orientation, belief, motivation, and attitude of a person. It is from the heart that we think, feel and make decisions. It is the source from which everything we do in life is issued from. We need to intentionally guard our hearts above all else because everything we do flows from it. What are you actively doing to guard your heart, thoughts, character?
    Mark 7:21-23; Luke 6:45
  • 4:24 Speak Straight—speak what is right, truthful, and good: Put away from you a froward (deceitful, crooked, perversity) mouth, and put perverse (devious, corrupt) lips far from you. What we say matters to God and we need to remove all wrong speech from our lives. What are you actively doing to cause sinful speech to go away from you?
  • 4:25 Look Straight—focus on what is right, and be resolute to do right: Let your eyes look right on (directly forward, straight ahead), and let your “eyelids look straight before thee”—fix your gaze directly before you so that you know where you are headed. Stay focused. Be a truthful and honest person that can “look others in the eyes” without shame. What are you actively doing to stay focused on the right path—thus keeping from stumbling?
  • 4:26-27 Walk Straight—think on what is right, and do what is right: Ponder (consider, give careful thought to) the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established—meaning we need to be steadfast in all our ways, to carry out our lives properly, and to live in a correct manner—so that all our ways will be sure. If we find out that you are swerving, then you should remove your foot from evil (immoral behavior), and do not turn to the right or the left—meaning any deviation from walking on the straight path is wrong. What are you actively doing to consider all your ways and thus living your life purposefully, intentionally, and righteously?

Review Questions

  • What did the father’s father tell him?
  • How are the two different paths described?
  • What does it mean to speak straight?
  • What does it mean to look straight?
  • What does it mean to walk straight?

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