The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel:In looking again at Proverbs 1, I see the first 7 verses simply telling us how we can read and benefit from the vast wisdom of Solomon, that he was granted by the LORD.
To know wisdom and instruction,
To discern the sayings of understanding,
To receive instruction in wise behavior,
Righteousness, justice and equity;
To give prudence to the naive,
To the youth knowledge and discretion,
A wise man will hear and increase in learning,
And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel,
To understand a proverb and a figure,
The words of the wise and their riddles.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
Fools despise wisdom and instruction.
But that begs the question, how are we "to know wisdom and instruction" when we hear it? It's great to have that as a goal, but how do we achieve that? Since Proverbs 22 states that "foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child...", and we were all children at some point, how in the world do we get that wisdom and knowledge and not be foolish?
First of all, let's define the term foolish. In the Bible, a fool is defined as one who acts as if there is no G-d (Psalm 14:1, 53:1). Webster defines foolish as "marked with, or exhibiting, folly; void of understanding; weak in intellect; without judgment or discretion; silly; unwise." None of those definitions are desired, to be sure. So, how is this avoided, if foolishness is bound up in our hearts from the start?
Perhaps just reading the wisdom found in Proverbs imparts knowledge and encourages introspection. As an adult, I enjoy this type of endeavor, but what about our children? I'd like to suggest that constant and diligent training on the part of parents, which is our mandate in the Shema, is the solution to the problem of foolishness in the heart of a child. Training, correcting, re-directing and discussion in the comfortable setting of home and family is the ideal place to share the knowledge we have gleaned from the wisdom of Solomon. Beginning with understanding that comes from meditation and prayer on the part of the parents, wisdom can be passed along to even the youngest child when it is couched in language they understand. As the children grow in age and a more clear understanding of their faith, they can then read, meditate and prayerfully ponder the wisdom of Solomon, hopefully incorporating it into their lives. I believe this is the only way we can actually 'know wisdom', if we affirm that the ultimate wisdom comes from the hand of the Master Himself.
Which brings me to my next question; if we know wisdom in our head, can we apply it in our life?
In the heat of the moment, I personally have found it challenging to stop and consider wisdom. What I mean is that, in my experience, I have grown the most from wisdom that is imparted by the LORD Himself, through prayer and communion with Him. Because I have asked, He has been gracious to strengthen me in wisdom and knowledge, giving me the self-discipline and guidance of the Holy Spirit to handle difficult situations. And isn't that what we need wisdom and knowledge for in the first place?
I have a simple belief that if you ask Him for wisdom, He will grant it along with the ability to apply it. So many times it is just a Scripture that comes to mind while praying about a situation, or a song of praise. Other times wisdom 'pops' out at me while I am reading Scripture, listening to good teaching or talking with a close friend. Those gems of wisdom are always welcome and I treasure them as a gift from the Master. And it only leads me to ask for more.
Behold, I will pour out my Spirit on you;
I will make my words known to you.