At the heart of wisdom is God. For he made all things and knows all things intimately. The beginning of wisdom is not pursuit of ourselves but pursuit of God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all right knowledge (prov 1.7) and a Christians orientation for life is trust in the Lord and not in our own understanding as we submit to him he guides us and makes our paths straight (prov 3.5-6).
In the context of that the writer of proverbs writes on two topics and than reveals the character of God in response to wickedness.
1-5 – financial commitments
The first situation that wisdom is applied to is being a guarantor for a neighbour. There is a warning against this because of the binding nature of such a pledge. Wisdom is not saying don’t be a guarantor for another but be aware of the situation you are placing yourself in. For your neighbour could default on their loan and you become responsible for their debt.
The writer then goes on to say what your response can be to being in that situation. The NIV study bible breaks it into four steps which I found have clarity to the text –
1) Go – get into action. Don’t sit and hope it will go away
2) to the point of exhaustion – follow up the issue
3) give your neighbour no rear – badger your neighbour
4) allow yourself no sleep – do it immediately.
This section finishes with imagery that helps us feel the trapped nature of being a guarantor. We are like prey that needs to be freed or we will be destroyed. There is an inevitable risk to financial generosity with others and wisdom says be thoughtful and purposes about how you handle that situation.
6-11 – work and laziness
The next part of the passage speaks of work. The reader is to think of an ant and how an ant works. It doesn’t wait to be told what to do by someone else. It simply works to gather and provide.
For the sluggard rests and sleeps and finds themselves in poverty because of their own laziness (v9-11). Procrastination is the foregoing of action until a time deemed more suitable. It is really putting off something until you really have to do it. This choice inevitably has costs for other things and responsibilities that might come our way. If I am putting off something I could be doing now when I am doing it I have to say to opportunities that may arise. Laziness and procrastination are not virtues but at their heart selfish. Our time is not our own but it is Gods gift to us. Let us not waste it.
12-19 – wickedness as detestable to the Lord
To finish this section wisdom describes a particular type of person. A trouble maker and villain. Someone whose words are corrupt and who uses winks, signals, and motions in order to deceive another. Their aim is evil deceit and the result is often conflict. The end result is disaster. Wisdom invokes a sense of Gods justice here as he moves from the disaster that will befall the troublemaker/villain (v12-15) to the things God hates (v16-19).
He hates and detests –
- Haughty eyes – a perspective or attitude characterised by pride
- A lying tongue – deceit is what they speak
- Hands that shed innocent blood
- A heart that devises wicked schemes
- Feet that are quick to rush into evil
- A false witness who begins and perpetuates lies
- And someone who stirs up conflict in community
As we see what God hates. We also learn of what he loves. The things he longs for in his people. Those who are humble and Godly, those are slow to anger and act in grace, those who seek the truth and the good of Gods people.
Jesus is the fulfilment of everything God does not hate, of everything God loves. In Him we are loved and not hated.