Well, many of you know I grew up the Hoosier State, the great state of Indiana. Any Hoosiers here this morning? Well, a few maybe. Okay. Long way away from the Hoosier State. Even though I grew up in the Hoosier State, every summer the Jones family would take our annual summer vacation to the Sunshine State. Now, you’ve got to understand, having grown up in northern Indiana, it was an incredible treat to go south. And we looked forward to it every summer. In fact, my grandfather was the one that led the charge on this. He took the same annual trek to a Gulf of Mexico paradise known as Treasure Island near St. Petersburg, Florida. Anybody been to Treasure Island before or down to the St. Pete/Clearwater area? Well, my grandfather who was, let’s just say, kind of a person of routine, he took the same vacation for like 20 or 25 years. My grandfather on my mother’s side. The same vacation. Stayed at the same hotel. Ate at the same restaurants, ordered the same food off the same menu at the same restaurant. His favorite was frog legs at the Fisherman’s Warf. Blah. I can’t imagine anything…some people really like it, I guess. And he also kept the same daily routine during his summer vacation. He would get up and take his swim down at the ocean at about 10:00 a.m., and then come back and have his lunch of peaches and cottage cheese. He had a strange diet sometimes. And then, you know, an afternoon swim at 3:00 in the afternoon. My grandfather was a person of daily routine. When he found something he liked, he stuck with it. Nothing would deter him. Not even the suggestion of a wonderful family vacation to the Grand Canyon. Oh, no. We were going to Treasure Island, Florida every summer. And it was a big family gathering with aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents and all of that. It was a wonderful time.
Treasure Island just sounds like a paradise, doesn’t it? In the history of the area, even dating back to the 18thcentury, there were pirates and smugglers and all kinds of treasure hunters that came upon part of the remote coast. But today Treasure Island is a small town. It’s a laid-back beach community. It’s an international vacation destination. But there’s not a whole lot of treasure hunting going on in Treasure Island these days, unless, of course, you think like I do that sitting under a coconut tree with a good book and the warm sunshine on my face is a treasure. And I do. And that’s why I now live in Virginia Beach where I can do that every day if I want to now, which is wonderful. I couldn’t do that in Indiana. We were a long, long way away from the beach. So I can tell you don’t appreciate how wonderful of a vacation that was for us growing up was going to the beach.
Now that I’ve got a little bit of your attention and you're ready to make your travel plans to maybe Treasure Island, let’s do a little treasure hunting in the book of Proverbs. Because that’s what Solomon encourages his son to do, starting in chapter 2. He wants to encourage him to go after wisdom as though he were on a treasure hunt going after hidden treasure, as it were. Listen to this beginning in verse 1. “My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” Now, generally speaking, there are two ways to motivate people in life. There is a positive way to do it, and there is a negative way to do it. If you were with us last week, we talked about…well, Lady Wisdom gave us some straight talk to smarty pants. And I love the way Solomon used the creativity of a literary personification of wisdom in this person known as Lady Wisdom to deliver some straight talk and to do maybe some negative motivation. She talked about the consequences of ignoring divine counsel. And she laid it out there in no uncertain terms. Now in chapter 2, Solomon drops the literary personification just for a little bit. He’ll come back to it in chapter 8 and chapter 9. But he drops the literary personification for some positive encouragement. He’s going to encourage his sons to go after wisdom as though they were digging for buried treasure and something as valuable as hidden treasure. I want you to imagine the pirates who sailed the seas in search for buried treasure. I want you to think about those treasure hunters who dive deep into the sea in search of that pearl of great price. I want you to consider what it takes to dig for gold, for silver, even for diamonds buried deep within the earth. And then I want you to think about what it takes to really get after wisdom and gain it. It requires the same effort. Wisdom from above, friends, is something you have to want so badly that you're willing to dive for it, you’re willing to dig for it, you’re willing to go after it like a treasure hunter would go after it, digging through all kinds of resistance in the earth to get to that gold, to get to that silver, to get to that diamond. And the resistance I’m talking about is the world, the flesh, and the devil that’s gonna fight you every inch of the way on your way to that hidden treasure.
And so Solomon wants his sons to get after wisdom with that kind of intensity and with that kind of effort. And he says as much through a series of about seven or eight imperatives in the verses that I just read, verses 1-5. He says, “Receive my words, treasure up my commandments, make your ear attentive, incline your heart, call out for insight, raise your voice for understanding, seek it like silver, search for it as for hidden treasures.” Are you beginning to get the idea that you’re gonna have to go after this? If you want the wisdom from above, it’s not gonna come to you automatically. You're going to have to prioritize it. You’re going to have to see it as the most precious thing you can go after in life, like treasure buried deeply in the belly of the earth. And it’s gonna take some effort on your part and my part to get after wisdom.
In chapter 4 and verse 7 Solomon says very pointedly, “Get wisdom, get insight, and whatever you get, get insight,” he says. You know, a lot of us have spent years getting an education. Nothing wrong with that. And these days it can cost a lot of money to get an education. But it’s possible to spend years in the classroom and a lot of money getting education and never acquire the wisdom to skillfully apply that knowledge. Solomon says whatever you get, whatever you go after in life, get wisdom. Not an education, not knowledge. Oh, that’s fine. That’s wonderful. But make sure you get wisdom, that wisdom from above. Make sure whatever you get, you get insight, God’s insight on how to live life successfully. Remember, we’ve said there are a lot of educated fools. There are a lot of uneducated fools. But the wise person is the one who sees the value, the preciousness of getting after this thing called wisdom from above. And whatever you do, whatever you get after, you get wisdom.
Now, all this talk about treasure hunting kind of reminds me of the words of Jesus found in Matthew 13. He talks about the kingdom of God this way. He says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field which a man found covered up. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls who, finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all he had and bought it.” Now, let’s be careful with this. Jesus is not saying you can buy our way into the kingdom of heaven. No, salvation is by grace and through faith, and that not of ourselves, it’s the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast. You don’t buy your way into heaven. But what He is saying here is that there is nothing in life of greater value than the kingdom of heaven. And when you discover that, you’ll sell everything in your life just to get that. And it’s gonna take that kind of effort. It’s gonna take that kind of understanding of the preciousness of this thing called wisdom from heaven and a strong effort on all of our parts to go after it.
So with that in mind, let’s talk about some of the hidden treasures of wisdom that Solomon uncovers for us in Proverbs 2. We’ve got three or four them that I want to mention from verses 1-22. And the first of these hidden treasures if you really go after wisdom, if you really put effort to becoming a man or woman of godly counsel and godly wisdom, the first of these treasures is what I call homeland security. Let’s read on in verse 6. “For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield,” listen to this, “he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.” Before we get after this idea of homeland security as one of the hidden treasures of wisdom, I just want you to circle the last two words of verse 8, those words “his saints.” Because what Solomon is about to say here and what I’m about to comment on is directed to a special group of people in the Bible known as His saints. What is a saint? Some people think that a saint is someone of perfect virtue and perfect character. If that’s the case, I’m not a saint and neither are you. Some people say, no, a saint is a canonized person in the Catholic Church like Mother Teresa or John Paul II or, you know, this elite group of spiritual people who were canonized in the Catholic Church. Again, that’s not the biblical definition of a saint. Other people might say a saint in the Church is somebody who bakes the pastor a triple chocolate cake on his birthday like somebody did this week. Now, we’re getting really close to sainthood. We’re getting really, really close to sainthood. Somebody on the staff did that this week. We love to celebrate birthdays on our staff, and it was mine this week. No, the biblical definition of a saint is really the holy ones of God by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Did you know that when the apostle Paul wrote his letters to the Corinthians…which, by the way, was a really messed up church. You talk about a fleshy, unspiritual group of people. The Corinthians, you know, 1 and 2 Corinthians, they were a really, really bad lot. But he calls them saints of God. Why? Because being a saint has nothing to do with your performance. It has to do with the holiness and the righteousness of Jesus Christ being credited to your account by faith in Christ. It has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with Him.
So with that in mind, in the context of the book of Proverbs we’re talking about people who are in the family of God. We’re talking about people who fear the Lord, who respect His counsel. Those are the ones who discover the hidden treasures of wisdom. Those are the ones for whom homeland security is at least a principle that they can expect to play itself out in their life. And let’s just talk about this homeland security a little bit as we did last time, applying it nationally and also applying it personally. I want to suggest to you that the best national security policy that can come out of Washington, D.C., the best homeland security policy that can come from any politician, here it is. Listen real carefully. Lean in a little bit to this. It’s very simple. It’s the fear of the Lord. Now, I’m not suggesting that there is nothing that the government can do to help keep our homeland secure. But what I am suggesting is that any politician who claims he or she can keep the homeland secure and that politician does not fear the Lord and respect God’s counsel, he or she is making that promise in vain. In vain. Because the Lord says, “I will be a shield to those who walk in integrity. I’ll keep the homeland secure.” Again, not a promise, but a principle. Generally speaking, this is the way life works. But if you reject God’s counsel as we have done as a nation for the last how many decades, even recently thumbing our nose at God’s plan for the marriage relationship between one man and one woman for one lifetime, why should we expect God to protect the homeland? If I read the scriptures carefully…not just here in Proverbs but elsewhere, just the history of Israel. When they turned away from God, He lifted His protection from the nation. And I’m not so sure if that’s not what has happened over the last 10 or 15 years as terrorism has befallen us. So the first principle, the first policy in homeland security and national security for Israel, for any nation quite frankly, is the fear of the Lord. You respect Him, and all this terrorism stuff, I think it’ll take care of itself. If we become one nation under God again, God will protect His people and a nation that honors Him and fears Him. I believe that with all of my heart. So remember that when you go into the voting booth. I’m not gonna tell you who to vote for. But I want somebody who at least respects our Judeo-Christian principles and the heritage there and who has an honor and a respect for God, who walks in the fear of the Lord. Because a leader in the White House or in any other house of Congress who does that, we have a much better chance of protecting the homeland.
So what’s true nationally, well, let’s say is also true personally. Because, remember, Solomon is talking to his son here. This is counsel form a parent to a child. And he says, “Listen, the Lord gives wisdom. From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Oh, I know you went to that high-fallutin’ university down the street there and got all that knowledge. You got yourself “edumacated.” But there is no true education apart from the knowledge of God. You know that, don’t you? And the fear of the Lord. Solomon’s already made that clear to his son in chapter 1 verses 1-7. Now he’s reiterating that. “From his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield,” a shield of protection, “to those who walk in integrity.” I know of no other person who walks in more insecurity than the person who does not walk in integrity, doing the best he or she can in the power of the Holy Spirit to honor the Lord and to walk in His ways. Solomon said wisdom will guard the paths of justice and walk over the way of His saints. It’s one of the hidden treasures of wisdom. You get after this, valuing it more than anything, any other pursuit in your life—the knowledge of God, the wisdom from above—and what you’re gonna find is that one of the treasures you discover is God protects His kids. He watches over those who honor Him and honor His Word.
Number two, here is another hidden treasure of wisdom. It’s character development. It’s character development. Let’s read on in verses 9-11. “Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you.” Solomon, in his Old Testament proverbial kind of way, is describing this idea that wisdom produces a strong sense of personal ethics and the development of personal character. By the way, you do know that as a follower of Jesus Christ, it is the normal Christian life to grow in Christ-like character and to grow in godly wisdom. That’s part of the normal Christian life, but it’s not automatic. Yes, God loves you just the way you are. And we can all take great comfort in that. But did you know this? He loves you too much to leave you that way and to leave me as the old stubborn self that I am. No, He’s in the business of transforming us into the image of His son. That means change is about to happen in your life and in my life if we’re really getting after this wisdom thing.
In fact, if you turn in your Bibles to 2 Peter 1, go with me there for just a second. Hold your place in Proverbs 2. We’ll go back there. But 2 Peter 1:5 says, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love…” Do you understand the progression of godly character there in and (0:19:00.0) the development of godly virtues? Verse 8, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And keep in mind, there is nothing in what Peter said there that says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. There is an old Greek and Hebrew word for that. It’s called hogwash. You don’t understand, you know, what theologians call the process of sanctification. That’s what God does to us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit as we grow up in Christ. He is sanctifying us, setting us apart, making us more like Jesus. And, yeah, sometimes that’s a painful process, is it not, friends? The Bible says of Jesus in Luke 2:52 even as a young boy He grew in “wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and men.” Do you know how many times I’ve prayed that for my own kids as they were growing up? It’s a great prayer, (0:20:00.0) parents. That God would raise them up in wisdom. That they would grow in wisdom, that’s, let’s say, intellectually; in stature, physically; in favor with God, spiritually; and in favor with men, horizontally. You’ve got all the bases covered there. It was normal and natural for Jesus, even in His humanity, to grow in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and favor with man. It’s a normal part of the Christian life as well to have the expectation that we grow in those ways as well. But as I said earlier, it’s not automatic.
It’s not automatic for you or for me to grow in godly character and in godly wisdom any more than it is automatic for, let’s say, some athletic team to win on the field. Most of you know our kids are athletes. They’re both NCAA athletes. My son is playing basketball at Wheaton College. My daughter goes to Villanova next year to play softball. And I was talking to my son recently. He had a really incredible observation about winning and champions. And they’re having a really tough season. They’re like 5-14 this year. It’s a rebuilding year, they say. But he says, “You know, Dad, everybody on the team wants to win.” And who wouldn’t? I mean, if you’re an athlete and you’re on the team, you want to win. He says, “But, Dad, not everybody hates to lose.” And there is a big difference between the two. There is a difference between winners and losers, champions and chumps on the athletic field. Everybody wants to win. But do they hate losing as much, if not more, than they want to win? I know a lot of people who come to church, and they call themselves Christian. “Yeah, I’d like to be like Jesus.” But do you hate sin—the sin that you’ve been coddling for so long—do you hate sin as much, if not more, than you want to be like Jesus? Do you hate foolishness as much as you desire wisdom? Oh, you’ve got to get after wisdom like it’s the most precious thing you have ever gotten after. But I don’t know that that’s even enough. To desire it so much…you’ve got to hate…Amos 5:15 says, “Hate evil; love good.” And there is something in this development of godly character and godly wisdom where there is a balance in both. And there is something inside me as I look inside my own self and that part of me that’s not rightly related with God. I’ve got to hate that. Hate that maybe even more so than I want to say, “Yeah, I want to be like Jesus today.” Until I really hate sin and the way it destroys my life like God hates it, maybe I’ll never really get after this thing called wisdom and let the Holy Spirit do His part in shaping me and molding me and transforming me into the image of Christ like He is resident in me to do. You follow me there?
These are just some of the hidden treasures of wisdom. When you get after it like it’s the most precious thing in your life, get after it like it’s hidden treasure, buried treasure, and you’re gonna plow through all the resistance—the world, the flesh, and the devil—to get to this thing called wisdom, you’ll discover homeland security. You’ll discover character development. Thirdly, you’ll discover that this wisdom will deliver you from the evil man and, later, from the adulterous woman. But let’s just talk about the evil man for now. Verse 12, “Delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness, who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil, men whose paths are crooked, and who are devious sin their ways.” What does this sound a lot like? Well, it sounds a lot alike chapter 1 verses 10 and following when Solomon talked about choosing friends wisely. Remember that a couple of weeks ago? And he tried to guide his son away from the corrupt crowd that wanted him to run along with him. It’s the same crowd here. Men of perverted speech. They forsake the paths of uprightness. They walk in the ways of darkness. They rejoice in doing evil. They delight in the perverseness of evil. Their paths are crooked, and their ways are devious, Solomon says. Wisdom, God’s wisdom, will deliver you from that. When you saturate your heart and your mind with wisdom from above, you’re gonna be able to discern when this is a bad crowd to go with, and you’ll make the right choice hopefully.
My grandfather, when he went on his family vacations and he planned for them…this is before the days of, you know, GPS. He would have loved a GPS. Today when we want to go from this place to that place, we just type in an address and “boom,” seconds later we have the pathway. It usually gives us three different paths, right? And it requires a little bit of wisdom to know which path is the best. But before those days, my grandfather was a member of the AAA Motor Club. Remember the AAA club? They’re probably still in existence. And my grandfather, who was a meticulous planner of everything, including his vacations, two weeks, even two months before he’d make his trips down to the AAA Motor Club. And he’d sit with the person who would get out all the maps of this state and that, all the states that we would go through. And they would take a highlighter, and they would map the best path. It was great to sit down with the AAA Motor club because they had the latest information about which road to take and which road not to take. It might look okay on the map to go this way, but they would say, “No, there’s a lot of construction on this one. Or this is only a two-lane road. You need to be on the big superhighways.” And it showed my grandfather the right path to travel. Did you see the word “path” there in verses 12-15 describing this evil man? “Men whose paths are crooked.” You need something equivalent to the AAA Motor Club, this wisdom from above to guide you away from those crooked paths so that you’re taking the best paths in life and you’re living life skillfully.
The same counsel is for the idea of being delivered from the adulterous woman. Solomon goes on in verse 16. And he says, “So you will be delivered from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words, who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God; for her house sinks down to death, and her paths to the departed; none who go to her come back, nor do they regain the paths of life.” What a warning Solomon gives. And it’s the first time he mentions the forbidden woman, the strange woman, the adulterous woman. He’s gonna have a lot to say about it in chapters 5, 6, and 7. And in a few weeks we’re gonna talk about making wise choices about sex. But he introduces it here to his son. He says, “If you get wisdom, and above anything else you pursue in life you get God’s insight on life, it’ll not only help you deliver you from the evil man, but also deliver you from the adulterous woman.” Notice, the evil man uses perverted speech, but the adulterous woman uses smooth words. She’ll flatter you. Or he will flatter her. Let’s just turn it around. Tell you what you want to hear. Draw you into their seduction. Flattery is not communication, as somebody once said. Flattery is manipulation. And the strange woman, the adulterous woman, the adulterous man, we might say too, is masterful at this, at manipulating a situation and drawing you into that seductive net. You need wisdom from above. You need a heart that is digging deep into God’s wisdom to steer clear of that. Because the world, the flesh, and the devil is gonna come at you tomorrow. I know it will. I know it will. And you’re gonna need God’s wisdom to steer clear of that.
Solomon goes on to summarize in verses 20 and 22. He says, “So you will walk in the way of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous. For the upright will inhabit the land, and those with integrity will remain in it, but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.” Proverbs is masterful in giving us kind of two choices in life. It kind of reminds me of Robert Frost’s poem. You know, I came to that two roads diverged in a wood, to that place where I had a choice to make. And Robert Frost says, “I chose the path less traveled by.” Remember that one? Probably memorized it as a kid. I obviously didn’t. But it kind of reminds me of even the words of Jesus, where He says, you know, there is a wide path that the world travels on. And it’s all patted down and worn out because lots of people go that way. But it leads to destruction. And then Jesus says there is a narrow path and a narrow road. And Jesus, in His wisdom teaching, Proverbs, you know, just lays out the pathway of the wise, the pathway of the foolish, the pathway of the righteous, and the pathway of the wicked. And if you want to be on the right path in life, if you want to discover come of these hidden treasures of wisdom that will help you live life skillfully and successfully, then you’re gonna have to want this more than you want anything else in life. You’re gonna have to “receive my words,” Solomon says. “Treasure up my commandments. Make your ear attentive to it. Incline your heart. Call out for insight. Raise your voice for understanding. Seek it like silver. Search for it as for hidden treasures,” because you see nothing else in life that is quite as precious as the wisdom of God.
Is there any pursuit in your life that comes before that? Whether it’s education or business or finding a mate in life, respect, whatever it might be. Anything in life that is more precious than the pursuit of God, as A.W. Tozer once said. No, there is nothing more precious. And nothing that will give you the skill to live life with wisdom and with skill, and to do it from God’s perspective, to stay out of the ditch. Boy, I’m so glad that my grandfather went to the AAA Motor Club and got the best path, because we never ended up in the ditch. You ever been on a journey somewhere and you end up on the wrong road? Just a few weeks ago when I got stranded in Chicago a month or two ago because of that snowstorm, we ended up driving back to Virginia. And we left at midnight Chicago time. Now, I’m the early morning guy. My wife is the night owl. So she took the nightshift. And I got in the backseat, and I fell asleep real quickly. And I woke up at about 4:00 in the morning when it was my turn to drive. But later I learned that coming out of Chicago the GPS took us through a really, really bad part of Chicago. I’m glad I wasn’t awake during that time. God’s wisdom will never guide you that way. Not in life. It won’t send you along a path that leads to destruction. So make sure you’re drawing upon it every day. Make sure you’re giving time to God. It may mean that you have to get up earlier than anybody else in your house and just find some time and a quiet place where you get alone with God. And you open up this book. And you let Him speak to you, and you have a time of prayer. And you pray through your day and say, “Lord, I need wisdom for this or wisdom for that.” You do that consistently every day, and you’ll be surprised how this book we call the Bible—not just the book of Proverbs, but all of God’s Word—becomes a roadmap for life. And it’ll take you down good paths that lead to life and not to destruction. Let’s pray together.
Father, thank You so much for Your Word. It is pleasant to our soul, Father. And the more we get wisdom, the more we just delight in it and we want more. I just pray that You would give us such a deep hunger and thirst for righteousness and that You would fill us with that. And, Father, if there is anybody here that has traveled down an unwise path, You have an amazing way of rerouting us on a pathway that leads us back to the cross of Christ. And maybe there are some here today that have never met this Savior who is full of all the wisdom and knowledge of God, this One who is Jesus. Would You lead them on a path that comes straight to the foot of the cross to see a Savior who died for them on the cross and shed His blood for them, paid the penalty for their sins so they wouldn’t have to? And would You give them the faith to believe right now in this place at this time? Because, Father, we don’t have any guarantee of tomorrow, let alone the next moment. So in this divine appointment, Father, would You just draw men and women and souls to You today? And for those of us who know Christ and, yes, we’ve placed our faith in Him, help us to walk in wisdom. And where we lack wisdom, Father, we pray that You would give it to us and give us the faith to believe. Not the kind of faith that wavers like the waves of the sea, believing one minute and doubting the next. But, God, give us a consistency of belief and faith in our hearts that only comes from You. And we pray this in the name of Jesus our Savior and for His sake, amen.