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Sun, Feb 17, 2013

8 - The Shield of God [b]

Proverbs 2:5-8 by Robert Dean
The prior four verses are the “if you will” verses which highlight volition and challenge commitment. Then what? Are the next verses a formula for predicting deliverance from adversity and ending in wisdom? Deliverance doesn’t precede wisdom. Wisdom precedes God’s protection. Passion of focus on intimacy with God and His Truth is liable to incur intense arrows of distraction to tempt and challenge every decision one makes to follow wisdom. Is this obstacle course ours to negotiate? God is the defender of His Truth. When we are absorbed in His truth He becomes our personal shield. A shield doesn’t prevent arrows. It deflects arrows which seek to diminish God’s Truth with the lies which lead to death and obstruct our path to wisdom.

Click on the notes link below to access the Scripture Memory Plan Dr. Dean mentioned during this class.

Series:Proverbs (2013)
Duration:49 mins 28 secs

The Shield of God. Proverbs 2:5-8

 

We are now focusing on the impact of God's Word as a protection to our life. This functions in a coupler of different ways. Number one, it is the Word of God itself as it is taken in to our soul and changes the way in which we think and react to life. But as we do that and as we walk, as the text says, uprightly—in conformity to God's revelation—then God Himself becomes that shield for us. This is very much a part of the whole metaphor of the spiritual fortress that we develop and build within our own souls as we incorporate into our thinking the principles of God's Word, exchanging the errors, personal opinions and biases that we have learned from parents, peers, professors, etc. for the eternal truth of God's Word.

 

What we find in Proverbs chapter two in its structure, the second lesson in the instruction of the father to the son, is that the first four verses laid down the condition for successful or wise living. These are all expressed in conditional clauses: v. 1, "If you receive my words; v. 3, "If you cry out for discernment; v. 4, "If you seek her as silver." The focal point in these first four verses is on our volition. The results of this are indicated by the phrase "then" which we see at the beginning of verse 5 and again at the beginning of verse 9. The first section, [5] "Then you will discern the fear of the LORD," (verses 5-8) focuses on the results in our relationship with God, and the second part (vv.9ff to the end of the chapter) focuses on the results in reference to relationship with people.

 

What we see here in Proverbs 1:8 through 9:18 are several lessons from the father to the son. The father in this case isn't passing on his own experience, his own biases and opinions about life; he is representing God. He is passing on the truth of God's Word. He is following the mandates of Deuteronomy 4:6-9: the parents are to continuously teach the Law to their children. It is the primary responsibility of parents to teach their children, and this is one of the primary ways in which our spiritual heritage is passed from one generation to another.

The second lesson is to seek wisdom. This is the first four verses of chapter two. It is the appeal to the volition. If we make that decision and commitment in our own life—doctrine, number one—to make that a priority every single day, to be reminded of God's Word, to have what we have learned reinforced by hearing it again and again and then applying it in our life. If we don't make that a commitment then we fall off the path that God has set before us and we fall prey to all of the ambushes that the system, the peers, the evildoers around us set as traps. So we are to seek wisdom to find the knowledge of God first and foremost: that knowledge of God, of who He is, developing an intimate, close relationship with God based on what we learn in His Word. That alone can protect us and shield us from self-destruction.

 

As we go through life we are faced with challenges. But what the Word of God says is that there are untrackable—you can't sit down and draw a straight line of cause and effect between the cause, being the doctrine that is in our soul and the effect, meaning the way things come into our life. There are these untrackable consequences as opposed to unintended consequences. As we watch a believer who grows to maturity we observe in their life that generally speaking there are problems and issues and things that just won't hit them because they make wise decisions to avoid certain traps. The unbeliever operating on human viewpoint constantly seems to be dealing with self-induced misery, self-generating crises. And if they just learned to live life wisely they would avoid a lot of the traps, a lot of the pain, a lot of the problems that come into their life. Caution: Just because we are walking with the Lord doesn't mean that we don't go through certain types of suffering. We live in the devil's world.

 

But generally speaking the person who lives in the basis of the value system of the world around us is on a path of self-destruction, defined in Scripture as death. It is not physical death; it is a death-like existence. And they are just constantly dealing with problems and crises, nothing ever seems to work. Believers operating on wisdom go through some times like that, we understand that, but generally speaking over the course of life there are some people we watch who just never get it together. Even though we may not see it what is going on in the background is that they are just living according to the dictates of their sin nature so often that they don't and can't make wise decisions. 

 

In contrast, the believer who is positive and living on the basis of wisdom is just going to avoid a lot of issues, situations and circumstances because he doesn't make decisions that are going to put him in those negative situations. He is not going to go down certain paths that are loaded with snares and traps and temptations that can lead to self-destruction. So the challenge for us is do we really, really want to know the Word of God. There are a lot of people who think they are positive because they listen to the Word, they come to Bible class two or three times a week. But the measure of our positive volition isn't how thick our doctrinal notebooks are, it doesn't have anything to do with how many times we come to Bible class, it has to do with what we do with what we learn when we come to Bible class. We have to come to Bible class consistently and frequently because we have to counter the message from the world system around us.

 

We are bombarded much more than we ever imagine with the message of the world, the value systems of the world. It comes across through news shows that we watch, through people we listen to (maybe on talk radio), from our peers, our family, teachers, professors, and it is 24/7. We are constantly under a barrage of worldly chatter; we just can't avoid it. One of the great self-deceptions of our sin nature is to think that by listening to the Word of God being taught for 45 minutes or an hour once a week that can counter seven days of worldly chatter and worldly influence. We are deceiving ourselves. The reality is that one day when this life is over with we are going to be standing before the judgment seat of Christ and it is not going to matter what we did in life; what is going to matter is how much of the Word of God transformed our thinking so that we lived our lives walking in fellowship, applying the Word of God consistently so that our character was transformed, in order that we are prepared for the next stage which is to rule and reign with Jesus Christ in heaven. And the rewards that we receive at the judgment seat of Christ are going to be directly related to how we grew and matured as believers in this life, and the capacity that we developed. That is what developing wisdom is all about and what these challenges are all about.

 

So in this second lesson the father begins in the first four verses stating what the conditions are. We have to receive the Word. We have to treasure, value above everything else, the commands of Scripture, with the result that we "incline our ear to wisdom, apply our heart to understanding." It is our focal point. Verse 3, "For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding." He ramps it up. It is not just receiving the words or treasuring it but it is crying out for it. That is the next level of pursuit of the Word. You are desiring it so much you are screaming for it. You want more; you want to learn more. Then the fourth condition is [4], "seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures." That is putting a high priority on the Word of God above everything else in life.

 

From there we go to the conclusion. Proverbs 2:5 NASB "Then you will discern the fear of the LORD And discover the knowledge of God." What verses 5-8 actually focus on is the prerequisite. People say all the time they would like to know God, but they have to put forth a little effort and study the Word, and eventually they will get it. God is not going to disclose Himself to us through the Word if we are not taking the time to truly understand the Word. So the first result in these conditions is that we grow in our knowledge of God and our intimacy with Him.

 

Then the second result has to do with our day-to-day decision-making and our relationship to people around us. Proverbs 2:9 NASB "Then you will discern righteousness and justice And equity {and} every good course [path]." The concept of the path plays out a lot in the second part of this chapter. That is the direction of our life and the choices we make as we go through day to day as we move forward. That has to be built upon an understanding of what is right. That is the concept of righteousness, that which conforms to God's standards. We discern the path and the way to go only comes as a result of following the conditions of verses 1-4. 

 

Proverbs 2:5 NASB "Then you will discern the fear of the LORD And discover the knowledge of God" – only if we follow the first set of conditions in vv. 1-4.  Then there is an explanation indicated by the first word in verse 6, "For the Lord gives wisdom." That "For" in the Hebrew indicates an explanation. Proverbs 2:6 NASB "For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth {come} knowledge and understanding." How does this work? If we treasure the commands, the wisdom of God, and cry out for it we will understand the fear of the Lord and the knowledge of God. Why? Because this knowledge and this understanding comes only from God. Job 28:12-28. God gives wisdom. We can't find it in any other place.

 

Proverbs 2:7 NASB "He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; {He is} a shield to those who walk in integrity." That is where it leads; there is a progression here. First we seek Him with everything we have, then we will develop that relationship with God. As that develops then God begins to dispense to us wisdom and knowledge. This comes through divine revelation. Then we are told that God has treasured this up, stored this up for us. It is through that wisdom that we have the result of His protection in our life. This comes both from His Word and from His sovereign oversight of our life. He is a shield. He guards and He preserves. That is the protection of the soul fortress that we have in our life, the protection of God.

 

As we get into this passage we see again some of the key words that we find throughout Proverbs talking about various synonyms for wisdom. Verse 5, "Then you will understand the fear of the Lord." Here the verb is bin, the verb form. There is a related noun in verse 6, tebuna, the noun for understanding. This has to do with making decisions between things. It has to do with evaluation and then making a choice. "…And discover the knowledge of God." This is a knowledge that is application. It is related to epignosis [e)pignwsij] in the New Testament. gnosis [gnwsij] is the basic Greek word for knowledge. It is intensified with the prefix epi [e)pi], a preposition, indicating that it is an applicable knowledge. It is not just abstract information, it has gone from information to usable, applicable knowledge. When it is applied consistently we learn from it and we develop skill at application. That is when it becomes chokmah, wisdom. Proverbs 2:6 NASB "For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth {come} knowledge and understanding." That is a reference to special revelation. Knowledge comes from no other source than God. 

 

Verse 7,"He stores up sound wisdom for the upright." Here is a totally different word for wisdom: tushiyyah, which has to do with a skilful application of wisdom as well. He is a shield to those who walk uprightly. He shields, He guards and He preserves.

 

The Multiple Facets of Wisdom in Proverbs

 

Chokmah – has to do with skill or prudence, being wise. This is often not a choice between right and wrong but what is best and better. Often we settle in life for that which is a little more comfortable. It is not wrong, not against God; it is just a little easy. Wisdom is the ability and discernment related to making those kinds of choices, doing that which is best instead of that which is better, so that we pursue excellence in the spiritual life.

 

Musar – instruction, is a disciplined instruction. This is when you are really disciplined in your own study. Thinking through again what was taught and relating it to how it applies in our own life.

 

Bina – understanding. This is really the concept of discernment, being able to look at a situation and think about it in terms of its spiritual dimensions. One of the great examples of discernment in the Scriptures occurred in the life of David in the confrontation with Goliath. There was no discernment or wisdom at all in the camp of Israel. David responded to Goliath's challenge by saying, "What is with this uncircumcised Philistine?" David understands that the issue is who controls the land that they are on. The land God promised to Israel has been invaded by the Philistines and they have no right to be there because they are not heirs to the covenant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. What signifies heirship to that covenant? It is the sign of the covenant—circumcision. So what David is saying by his question is that this guy has no right to be here. He has the discernment, the understanding to see right away the real issue at stake in the whole conflict. He says they are just going to rely on the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and we are going to defeat these Philistines. He is able to see past all the chatter, all the negatives, all the detail, to focus on what the real spiritual issue is. That is discernment or understanding.

 

Skhl – the idea of craftiness. The negative is that the serpent was the most crafty in the garden. It is someone who is able to think in terms of all the details of a situation or a problem. It has to do with being able to therefore make prudential or wise decisions.

 

Da'at – applicable knowledge.

 

Mezimma – purpose, discretion. The root of this word has something to do with a rope initially used in sailing vessels in guiding and directing the vessel. So it has to do with planning and purpose and direction.

 

Tushiya – wisdom for successful living. Chokmah emphasizes the skill aspect; tushiya emphasizes more the results of that skilful living in one's life. 

 

So when we make doctrine our priority the result is that we will understand the fear of the Lord and find knowledge of God. It starts with our volition. God has already revealed Himself to us non-verbally through general revelation, also referred to as common grace—the knowledge that God makes available to every human being. Whether a person is a believer or an unbeliever he has access to a certain amount of knowledge related to the creation and he can learn it through the study of creation. Whether he can organize it and come up with the right information depends upon getting the revelation from God that is the key to organizing that—special revelation. That is what the Lord gives in verse 6 and what He provides through special revelation from His mouth.

 

Often what we have heard is that spiritual truth cannot be discerned except by the Holy Spirit, or unless you are regenerate. That can't be absolutely true. There was the whole Old Testament period when not one single believer had the Holy Spirit to enlighten his mind to the knowledge of God's Word. We have the psalmist crying to God to enlighten his kind all the time. How was this done? It was done at a level that was not as intense or intimate as what comes in the church age. That is one of the distinctions between the New Testament period and the Old Testament period. We also have example of unbelievers in both the Old Testament and the New Testament who come to a certain knowledge of biblical truth and they are not regenerate. The Bereans in Acts 16 were not saved yet. There is a knowledge of biblical truth at a very elementary level that an unbeliever can access.

 

There is a clear understanding of the significance of Scripture to those who are regenerate. 1 Corinthians 2:14 NASB "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised [discerned]." A clear understanding comes only to those who are regenerate through the illuminating ministry of God the Holy Spirit.

 

In common grace the Lord implants a certain amount instinctive wisdom in animals. This is described in Proverbs 30:24-28. To the farmer, we are told in Scripture, God gives basic knowledge for growing things. Isaiah 28:26-29. Also there is a basic sense of moral right and wrong, Job 22:22; 32:8.

 

Here we see a more in-depth perception of the knowledge of Scripture. This goes beyond just understanding the vocabulary and the basic superficial meaning, but to truly understand the application in one's own life. It is not some sort of mystical insight, it comes like anything else in life. If you read anything twenty or thirty times that has to do with any kind of production, the more you read about it and think about it the more insight you derive into how to apply it. That is what we see here. The more we pursue the study of the Scripture the more God will help us to understand it and enlighten the eyes of our souls so that we see how this is to be applied.

 

We know that wisdom and true knowledge only comes from God. Proverbs 8:22 is personification of wisdom. It says, "The LORD possessed me (wisdom) at the beginning of His way, Before His works of old. [23] From everlasting I was established, From the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth. [24] When there were no depths I was brought forth, When there were no springs abounding with water." Wisdom precedes the creation of mankind. It is in the mind of God.

 

It is described in the New Testament under two passages on inspiration. 2 Peter 1:20, 21 NASB "But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is {a matter} of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." The prophet didn't make up what he wanted to say. He didn't generate what he wrote from his own mind, it came from outside of his mind. The Greek expresses it a little differently: prophecy never came into existence by the will of man.

Do "Know this first." Peter is saying you have to understand this because this is why we emphasize Scripture as the foundation for everything in life. All prophecy does not derive [come into existence] from one's own interpretation or explanation. The word there, ginomai [ginomai] is the word that means something that comes into existence. The content of Scripture didn't have its origin in human will, but men spoke from God by being carried along by the Holy Spirit. The word that is used there for being carried along is the same word as used for blowing a sailing vessel across the water. So the Holy Spirit is being compared to this unseen force that is directing and moving the individual prophets in the writing of Scripture.

 

2 Timothy 3:16, 17. In the context Paul is talking to Timothy about his experience growing up. His experiencing in learning the Scripture growing up was in the pre-Pentecost period before the church age began. He had heard a lot of doctrine before the Holy Spirit came. This is the point made earlier that a certain amount of doctrine is available and understandable apart from the Holy Spirit, but it is basic, foundational.

2 Timothy 3:14, 15 NASB "You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned {them,} and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." When he is talking about the Scriptures here he is not talking about the New Testament at all, because nothing in the New Testament had been written at that point when Timothy was a child and young man. So verses 16 and 17 focus, in terms of direct interpretation, the Old Testament, although it is applied to the New. 

 

"All Scripture is inspired by God …" The Greek word theopneustos [qeopneustoj] which means it is breathed out by God. God is the one who originates the Scripture; it is from His mouth, so to speak, and He exhales it through the Holy Spirit's moving upon the prophets. "… and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work."

 

God is the one who provides us with wisdom. Proverbs 2:7 NASB "He stores up sound wisdom for the upright …" This word for the upright really focuses on those who live with integrity.  The upright are those whose lifestyle does not deviate from the path of righteousness, from the divinely revealed code of conduct for the believer.  God is storing this and dispensing it. So it is a matter of volition, learning what you can, applying that, and then God gives more understanding and wisdom. He is not going to give you a lot until you have gone through this step by step growth process. The results are then described. "… {He is} a shield to those who walk in integrity." This shield metaphor is used many times in the Scripture, and there are some great promises.

 

Psalm 3:3 NASB "But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head." God is the only protection we have.

Psalm 18:2 NASB "The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." When we are walking with the Lord He is our total and absolute protection. It doesn't matter what is going on around us, He is going to sustain us. That doesn't mean that we are not going to have some difficult emotions in the midst of challenging circumstances. Even Jesus in His humanity dealt with difficult emotions but He didn't let those emotions drive Him in wrong directions. We go through all kinds of things that generate these emotions. The issue is: are we going to apply doctrine and not yield to that, or are we going to let the emotions run riot?

 

Psalm 18:30 NASB "As for God, His way is blameless; The word of the LORD is tried; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him."

Psalm 28:7 NASB "The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him." We have joy and we praise god because we have seen Him function as our shield and our protection.

Psalm 33:20 NASB "Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield."

 

Lastly, Proverbs 2:8 NASB "Guarding the paths of justice, And He preserves the way of His godly ones." As we walk down this path of righteousness God is the one who sets up a guard or protection around us. We can't draw a direct line of cause and effect. This is the consequences that we can't draw patterns on. It is expressed in Proverbs 3:5, 6—He makes our paths straight. He guards those paths and directs us unseen in the background, because we have made this commitment and have this desire to study and know the way. "And He preserves the way of His godly ones [saints]"—those who are walking in faithfulness to God.

 

But the issue, the starting point, is our volition. Are we going to make the Word a priority? Are we going to continue? So many Christians just play games with God and they just have a superficial attachment to God's Word. They don't really give themselves over to it. They don't cry out for it, they don't scream for it; they just say, okay it is convenient for me to go to church this Sunday. It's a little tough for me to get there Tuesday and Thursday night and I constantly forget to plug in and turn the computer on to live stream. No, that is not going to cut it. Christianity won't work for you unless you make it a priority. And Christianity is the only thing that is going to work for anybody because it is the only path of truth.