Here the Holy Spirit turns from the sad end of impious indifference and contempt, to enter on a new part of His design. He shows how the moral wisdom and right understanding is to be obtained, which consists in the fear of Jehovah and the knowledge of God, at least by the submissive and docile heart.
"My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and lay up my commandments with thee; so that thou wilt incline thine ear to wisdom, and apply thy heart to understanding; yea if thou cry after discernment, [and] lift up thy voice for understanding, if thou seek her as silver and search for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou apprehend the fear of Jehovah, and find the knowledge of God. For Jehovah giveth wisdom; out of his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom for the upright, a shield to those that walk in integrity; guarding the paths of just judgment and keeping the way of his saints. Then thou shalt understand righteousness and judgment and equity - every good path." vv. 1-9.
As we are begotten of God's will by the word of truth, so to receive His words, and lay up His commandments with one, is the constant condition of blessing. We see in Luke 10 our Lord deciding for Mary the good part which should not be taken from her. In this Martha complained of her sister's indifference. For she herself was wrong in judging Mary's sitting at His feet and hearing His word. It is really to incline the ear to wisdom, and to apply the heart to understanding. Yet this is not all, for at the beginning of Luke 11 our Lord shows the need and the value of earnest prayer also. So here to cry after discernment, to lift up the voice for understanding, follows according to God the reception of His words. We are called to dependence and to confidence in thus importunately looking up; for every good gift and every perfect giving is from the Father of lights, as Solomon could attest, who thus sought and found wisdom.
Our age can testify the zeal with which men seek silver and gold and other hidden treasures, as Solomon's day of magnificence and noble designs of an earthly sort was famous for its success; for that enterprise was conducted by his skill beyond any other monarch. Now it is the mere vulgar thirst for lucre to spend on vanity and self-indulgence to a degree without parallel in the breadth of its diffusion. But now, as then, the toils are immense, the dangers continual, the sufferings extreme, the experience full of bitter trial and frequent disappointment, the moral atmosphere shameless. But the quest demands in any case constancy and endurance and undaunted resolution; and thence does the Holy Spirit draw the lesson where no disappointment can be. "If thou seek her [wisdom] as silver, and search for her as for hid treasures, then shalt thou apprehend the fear of Jehovah and find the knowledge of God." Jehovah is full of goodness and mercy. So here He "giveth wisdom," when the heart is thus in earnest. It is the reversal of man's dream of education. Man is proud of his own acquisitions. "Jehovah giveth wisdom; out of his mouth [not of man's mind or heart] come knowledge and understanding." Where are we to find what "His mouth" gives out, but in His Word?
Solomon failed to maintain the brightness of his beginning; and old age found him foolish about his wives, and faithless about the glory of Him who had given him all that made him what he was at first. Still less could Solomon guarantee wisdom for the son that succeeded to his throne; none acted less wisely than Rehoboam, and his humiliation was not small. But "Jehovah giveth wisdom," He only and surely, to such as wait on Him with purpose of heart and diligently search into and value the treasures of that Word which He has magnified above all His name.
It is plain throughout that not intellectual activity is in question, but what is spiritual and for moral ends practically. Hence in verse 7 it is said, "He layeth up sound wisdom for the upright; a buckler [he is] to those that walk in integrity." There is assured a supply of what is valued most, and guardian care for those whose eye and heart are toward His revealed will in their ways. But it is wholesome to notice that He guards the path of just judgment; that is, His own chosen way, And He also preserves the way of His saints or godly ones. He knows the way which pleases Him, and He shows it to His own, who desire nothing more than to see and follow it. Christ it is who brought this out habitually and in manifold forms. See Joh_1:44; Joh_8:12; Joh_12:26; Joh_14:6. It is as real today as when He presented it in following Himself. Indeed the disciples far better knew its blessedness when He went on high and the Spirit came to be in them, who abides for us to know it now. "Then thou shalt know righteousness and judgment and equity - every good path." We ought to know it even better and in higher ways than a godly Israelite could.
The preservative power of wisdom is next shown in guarding from moral perils, whether of iniquity or of corruption.
"For wisdom shall enter into thy heart and knowledge be pleasant unto thy soul, discretion shall watch over thee, understanding shall keep thee: - to deliver thee from the way of evil, from the man that speaketh froward things; [from those] who forsake the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness; who rejoice to do evil - delight in the frowardness of evil; who in their paths are crooked, and pervert in their course; - to deliver thee from the strange woman, from the stranger who flattereth with her words; who forsaketh the friend of her youth and forgetteth the covenant of her God. For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead; none that go unto her return again, nor attain unto the paths of life; - that thou mayest walk in the way of the good and keep the paths of the righteous. For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it. But the wicked shall be cut off from the land, and the treacherous shall be plucked out of it." vv. 10-22.
How admirable is the wisdom Jehovah gives the heart! and not less on the negative or dark side than on the positive, especially where the knowledge that accompanies it is pleasant to the soul. Discretion and discernment follow with vigilance against an evil world. Violence and greed are not the only dangers but the way of evil through deceitful speech. Silence is not always golden; but "the tongue of the just is choice silver" (Pro_10:20); or, as the New Testament exhorts, "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt." How powerful is the soft and pure answer, not only to turn away wrath, but to check heat and pride and will! It is dangerous to hear froward things; it is wicked to speak them. How soon after this the paths of uprightness are forsaken to walk in the ways of darkness! - evil words allowed lead to a walk which God's light never illumines. How sad the descent in rejoicing to do evil! - delighting in the frowardness, or deceits of evil! It is to glory in the worst shame - how crooked in their paths and perverse in their course! Truly their judgment is just.
But the discretion that flows from wisdom is no less efficacious to guard from "the strange woman" (v. 16) and her flattering words, where lust reigns, not love, and selfish passion, not true affection and tender regard. Debauchery is all that could be expected from her that forsakes the guide of her youth, and forgets the covenant of her God.
We do not hear the glad tidings of grace in this Book. There is no gospel call throughout. It addresses those who are under the law and the covenant, whoever else may profit by it. It is very excellent for any man that has ears, and those who know most of grace and heavenly privilege will most prize it; its voice direct is to the ancient people of God, to Israel. For them all flows simply and easily. There is no strain of a single sentence or word, no need of accommodation, no lending it a sense which it does not truly contain or convey. In it therefore, "Jehovah" appears regularly, and "Elohim" rarely used has its exceptional force.
By the way, remark how the notion of various writers here or anywhere indicated by such designations is the shallowest of dreams. It may afford pleasant pastime to men who, not knowing God (or, at least, beguiled and blinded by such), find in its cultivation a field for imagination and ingenuity without truth, conscience, or love, a mere linguistic or intellectual tour de force whetted by the keen will to damage and deface every landmark of divine authority.
It is evident that corruption, especially when it takes the form of the violation of a holy relationship, is as hateful to God as it is destructive to man. See how Babylon and its counterpart is spoken of and dealt with in the Revelation. So here it is said that "her house inclineth unto death, and her path unto the dead." This, Israel as a people had to prove before Christendom existed to follow the fatal wake. It is no less true of individuals. "None that go unto her [the corrupting woman] return again, nor attain unto the paths of life."
Wisdom then from Jehovah it is that insures discretion to walk in the way of the good and to keep the paths of the righteous. So were led the faithful of old; but how much brighter is the light of life in following Him whose ways and words here below we know from God as of none else! Yet was Jehovah's word, before He shone in this world of darkness, a lamp to their feet and a light to their path. And the day hastens when it will be made manifest to every eye that "the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it." What was plainly attested in the days of David and Solomon is but a witness to the full display of this truth in the coming kingdom, when "the wicked shall be cut off from the land, and the treacherous shall be plucked out of it."