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Lesson 1: The Call of Wisdom *

Introduction: Would you like to be smarter? Would you like to know exactly the right thing to say in difficult situations? In the employment related courses that I teach in law school, I include a "mini-course" on Bible-based emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is nothing less than wisdom. There are numerous studies that show that employees who are emotionally intelligent are more successful. Here is something you might not know: Employees are not generally fired because they are incompetent. Most of the time it has to do with their inability to get along with others. The Bible texts I use to teach emotional intelligence generally come from the book of Proverbs. The great news is that our study this quarter is the book of Proverbs and wisdom. Let's dive into our first lesson!

  1. Table of Contents

    1. Read Proverbs 1:1-2. Have you looked at the index of a book to see if you would be interested in reading it? Proverbs starts out with an index. What do these verses indicate that we will find inside this book? (We can learn about how to be wise and how to have better insight.)

    2. Read Proverbs 1:3. What other subjects will we learn about in Proverbs? (Justice. Acting prudently.)

    3. Read Proverbs 1:4. We are born with a certain level of general intelligence that it seems cannot be greatly increased. Is wisdom like that - we are stuck with whatever we got at birth? (No. This tells us that the "simple," meaning those who are not too smart, and the "youth," meaning those who are immature, can learn wisdom, they can become emotionally intelligent.)

    4. Read Proverbs 1:5. Is Proverbs only for those in need of remedial lessons on wisdom? (No. Whatever your level of general and emotional intelligence, Proverbs can improve your wisdom and discretion.)

  2. Sources of Wisdom

    1. Read Proverbs 1:7. What is the source of true wisdom? (God.)

      1. In what sense is the word "fear" used here? (It seems to be a call to respect God's view of things.)

      2. One commentary said this fear had "nothing to do with the superstitious and childish fear of divine punishment." Do you agree?

    2. Read Revelation 14:9-10. Is this angel spreading superstitious and childish fear? ("Superstitious" refers to the "supernatural" - which would include the work of God. A fear of divine judgment makes sense. "Childish" fear also makes sense in light of Matthew 18:2-3. Jesus said there that laying aside pride, and becoming more like children, is an important attitude for learning.)

    3. Look again at the last part of Proverbs 1:7. What do you think about the different shades of fear and the idea of looking to God for wisdom? (Notice that Proverbs 1:7 says "fools" despise God's wisdom. It seems foolish to me to ignore the ultimate fate of those who are lost. Fearing God ranges from respecting His opinion because He loves us and wants us to live better lives, to acknowledging the terrible downside of eternal death. I think all of this comes properly packaged in the phrase "fear of the Lord.")

      1. Is it improper, or a violation of the principle of love, to talk about the destruction of the wicked? (When my children were young, we worried about them running into the street and being killed by a car. When a squirrel was killed in the road, my wife took the kids down to the road and had them look at the smashed squirrel. It was a powerful lesson. I can see wisdom "beginning" with this very basic point.)

      2. What kind of motivation does God give us in Deuteronomy 28? (Those who regularly read my lessons know I regularly refer to Deuteronomy 28. Just as we saw that Proverbs is for both the simple and the already wise, so God teaches us at many levels. Just as with children, He starts out with rewards and punishments, but then leads us to a more educated view of our relationship.)

    4. Read Proverbs 1:8-10. What other sources of wisdom are available? (Our parents.)

      1. Is there a limit on this? (If you look at verse 10, it warns us about being enticed by "sinful" men. The assumption here is that you have godly parents.)

      2. Why are garlands and chains mentioned in connection with taking the advice of your parents? (These are badges of honor.)

      3. How selective should we be about where we obtain our wisdom? (We need to be selective. Verse 10 tells us that God-given and God-consistent advice is what we need. The advice of those whose life is inconsistent with God's advice should be avoided.)

    5. Read Proverbs 1:11-14. What is the goal of this advice? (To use violence to make money.)

    6. Read Proverbs 1:15-16. Why is it important not to "go along" with people like this, or "set foot" on their paths? Why not just say "Don't join them in their evil?" (This is a very important point in American law. If you are driving the car carrying several "bad" friends, and one jumps out and commits some crime, if you simply drive them away from the scene of the crime you are guilty for the crime! The Bible says "stay away!" This is great legal advice.)

    7. Read Proverbs 1:17-19. What does Proverbs mean about the visible net? (Normally, you trap birds with a snare (net) that is hard to see. Proverbs says the problem with the kind of bad behavior described above is obvious to anyone with wisdom. Instead of the evil behavior gaining money, it destroys the life of the evildoer.)

  3. Wisdom's Appeal

    1. Read Proverbs 1:20-21. Where does the call for fearing God take place? (Not only at church, but in the public square! It is everywhere if you look.)

    2. Read Proverbs 1:22-23. How does this differ from the world's view about following God? (The world claims that Christians are stupid and uneducated. Proverbs says the reverse is true. Those who reject God are simple (not too smart), mockers and fools.)

      1. How can we show love towards pagans, and at the same time suggest they are the true fools?

      2. Making fun of your opponent (mockery) is a powerful weapon in debate. When God calls pagans "mockers" does He mean that this debate tool is off-limits to Christians? (Notice that mockery seems to be contrasted to knowledge. It seems that arguments based on mockery instead of knowledge should be off-limits.)

      3. If we repent, what will God do? (He will fill us with wisdom. He will teach us His ways.)

    3. Read Proverbs 1:25-26. Now we see that God mocks those who reject His advice. Now can we mock the pagans?

      1. Notice that the mocking is in reaction to disaster and calamity. How does that affect your opinion? (This is difficult. The picture I see is that God mocks those who mocked Him. Disaster for sincere people is an opportunity to share the gospel in love.)

  4. The Pursuit of Wisdom

    1. Read Proverbs 2:1-4. What kind of effort is required in the pursuit of God's wisdom? (We need to make a serious search - just like we were looking for buried treasure!)

    2. Read Proverbs 2:5-6. As we mentioned earlier, general intelligence is something essentially determined at birth. What about wisdom, can anyone have it? (Only those who are serious about finding it can have it. The good news is that anyone has the potential to be wise. The bad news is that this is a matter of works - we need to work at it.)

    3. Read Proverbs 3:1-2. Once we acquire wisdom is it a permanent part of our life? (We can forget God's principles. The goal is to internalize them. To make them a part of how we think and how we live.)

  5. Wisdom's Result

    1. Read Proverbs 1:32-33. Do our decisions regarding God have consequences?

    2. Read Proverbs 2:6-8. What aspect of God's care keeps being repeated here? (God's protection. God is a "shield," a "guard" and "protect[ion].")

      1. Do you think that God actively intervenes to protect those who follow His advice? (God's active intervention is certainly possible, but I think this mainly refers to the natural consequences of certain actions. Following God's advice (showing wisdom) protects you against a lot of bad things in life.)

    3. Friend, are you willing to put in the effort to acquire God's wisdom? Why not commit to that today, so that your life will be on the path to improvement!

  6. Next week: From Ears to Feet.
* Copr. 2015, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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