originally published June 5, 2011
In the first Psalm, David contrasts the ways of the righteous and the wicked. In the first chapter of Proverbs, Solomon does the same thing between the wise and the foolish. He goes on to encourage his sons (and by extension all readers) to pursue wisdom.
David was a poet and a musician. He not only wrote songs and played instruments, but he made trumpets for the temple musicians. In Biblical times the Psalms were sung. Think of this book as their hymnal. Solomon was David’s son, and world renown for his wisdom. The book of Proverbs is a collection of wisdom sayings, some perhaps written by Solomon himself and others collected. In both cases, righteousness and wisdom must be pursued. One must seek after them, like walking down a path. There is more than one path, and we must think about which we are choosing.
David tells us the righteous are like trees planted by rivers of water. The tree roots dig in, firmly holding the tree in place while it is abundantly nourished. The righteous person digs into the Word of God the same way. By being firmly rooted in his Word, by meditating on it, the righteous person is not tossed about from one idea or teacher to another. The wicked are driven as in the wind. One might try a little of this or a little of that, looking for what suits them or provides answers. They might dabble in Christianity, a little Oprah, a little Scientology and so forth. Some arrive at the idea there is no God (Psalm 14:1). The righteous are firmly rooted in the truth, standing on solid ground, and hold fast even when the world falls apart around them. Righteousness and wickedness, and their ends, and compared so that the reader can choose wisely.
Solomon goes on in Proverbs 1 to personify wisdom as a woman standing in the street calling out seeking followers. Wisdom, like righteousness, must be sought after. The righteous meditate in the law of the Lord (Psalm 1:2) meanwhile the foolish despise instruction (Prov 1:7). No matter how “smart” one may naturally be, wisdom doesn’t just fall into anyone’s lap. I’ve heard it said that even when opportunity knocks we must get up and answer the door. Solomon has a lot to say about laziness as well. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; it is the first step in the right direction. The way to wisdom is a path one must choose to walk.
We often think of wisdom as coming with age and experience. There is nothing more sad than an old fool – wisdom is not guaranteed. The fool rejects instruction. Some will simply choose not to learn from their mistakes, and refuse to listen to wise counsel. They will grow old lacking wisdom despite the many experiences they had to learn from. Jesus tells his followers that if any lack wisdom to ask of God, who gives to all liberally. If we fear the Lord, meditate in his law and word, and ask him for it, we may become wise. It is a choice and a lifestyle. The path to wisdom and righteousness may be difficult, but we are promised the reward will be great. Laziness may appear to pay off right now, just as the wicked appear in this lifetime to prosper. But David also mentions the judgement. On Judgement Day Jesus will separate those that are his from those that not, like dividing the wheat from tares.