“All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them. They are all straight to him who understands, and right to those who find knowledge” (vv. 8–9).- Proverbs 8:1–11
Proverbs is well known for its short aphorisms that convey much truth despite their brevity. What many people are unfamiliar with, however, is the structure of the book and the way in which it is presented as instruction from a father in the old covenant community to his son. This is evident in Proverbs 1–9, which serves as a prologue to the book and a challenge for the son to steer clear of the foolish ways of violence and adultery. In this section, the adulteress comes to represent these sins and acts of foolishness, but in Proverbs 8, we are introduced to Lady Wisdom, the only companion who can guide a young man in the way he should go. Of course, as the book of Proverbs was written for the entire covenant community, the lessons apply equally well to women—divine wisdom is the means by which we will avoid evil and live righteously.
Having portrayed the adulteress as smooth and seductive in her enticement to sin, our author presents Lady Wisdom as one who also speaks (Prov. 8:1–5). Unlike the evil woman, who speaks in secret and hides her plans from her husband (7:10–20), Lady Wisdom calls out boldly and publicly. She makes her declaration at the gates of the town (8:3). Since the entrance to the town or city was the place where people gathered to do business and engage in commerce, we are to conclude that what the personification of wisdom has to say will touch on all aspects of the life of both individual and community (see Ruth 4). Lady Wisdom is not limited in her discourse to narrowly religious matters, but what she has to say can equip the son for all of life. We cannot help but think of Paul’s teaching on the sufficiency of Scripture in 2 Timothy 3:16–17. Scripture—which contains the wisdom of God revealed to His people through the prophets and Apostles—is sufficient to equip us for every good work. No matter what we do or what position we enjoy in life, God has something to say about how we are to serve and glorify Him where He has placed us.
Lady Wisdom’s words are righteous, having nothing crooked in them. They are straight to those with understanding (Prov. 8:8–9). Here we see the close link between righteousness and wisdom in the book of Proverbs. True wisdom always leads to personal righteousness, and personal righteousness enables us to grow in God’s wisdom. Thus, wisdom is far more valuable than any earthly good (vv. 10–11). It teaches us how to please the Lord, the One who holds in His hand everything with which wisdom is concerned.
Western society places a strong focus on education, but we seldom see a corresponding concern for righteousness. Consequently, while we can benefit from education, we must be aware that education in itself cannot produce wise people. We find wise people only where righteousness has been made a part of education. Parents at home and the corporate body of the church must teach the righteousness of God in order to produce wise leaders of His people.
Passages for Further Study