“My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures. Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:1-6) KJV
Wisdom, having solemnly warned rebellious scorners, now instructs her dutiful children. The dark question long before asked-“Where shall wisdom be found?” (Job 28:12, 20, 21)-is now answered. It is here set before us, as the fear and knowledge of God (Verse 5); a principle of practical godliness (Verses 7-9);
The rules for its attainment are such as the simplest comprehension can apply. Carefully pondered, and diligently improved, they will furnish a key for the understanding of the whole word of God. Let us examine them more distinctly.
Receive my words– Let them be “the seed cast into the ground of an honest and good heart” (Luke 8:15)-a heart prepared of God. (Chapter 16:1.) Read the book of God as one who “sat at the feet of Jesus, and heard his word.” (Luke 10:39.) Like the Bereans, “receive it with all readiness” (Acts 17:11); like the Thessalonians, with reverential faith, acknowledging its supreme authority (1 Thess. 2:13.) Hide my commandments with thee. Carry them about with thee as thy choicest treasure for greater security (Col. 3:16, with Matt. 13:44); as thy furniture always at hand for present use. (Chap. 4:20, 21; 8:3. Job 22:22). Let thy heart be the hiding-place for the treasure. (Luke 2:19, 51. Ps. 119:11.) Satan never snatch it thence.
But there must be an active, practical habit of attention. Yet to incline the ear, and apply the heart–“who is sufficient for these things?” Oh! my God! let it be thine own work on me-in me. Thou alone canst do it. Let it be with me, as with thy Beloved Son-“Waken my ear morning by morning to hear the learned.” (Isa. 50:4.) So let me under thy grace “incline mine ear, and hear, that my soul may live.” (Ibid. 55:3.)
Without this spirit of prayer-there may be attention and earnestness; yet not one spiritual impression upon the conscience; not one ray of Divine light in the soul. Earthly wisdom is gained by study; heavenly wisdom by prayer. Study may form a Biblical scholar; prayer puts the heart under heavenly tutorage, and therefore forms the wise and spiritual Christian. The word first comes into the ears; then it enters into the heart; there it is safely hid; thence rises the cry-the lifting up of the voice. Thus, “the entrance of thy word giveth light, it giveth understanding to the simple.” (Ps. 119:130.) God keeps the key of the treasure-house in his own hand. “For this he will be required of” (Ezek. 36:37) to open it unto thee. We look for no other inspiration than Divine grace to make his word clear and impressive. Every verse read and meditated on furnishes material for prayer. Ever text prayed over opens a mine of “unsearchable riches,” with a light from above, more clear and full than the most intelligent exposition. David (Ps. 119:18, &c.) and his wise son (1 Kings 3:9-12) sought this learning upon their knees; and the most matured Christian will continue to the end to lift up his voice for a more enlarged knowledge of God (Eph. 1:17, 18.)
But prayer must not stand in the stead of diligence. Let it rather give energy to it. The miner’s indefatigable pains; his invincible resolution; his untiring perseverance; seeking, yea, searching for hid treasures,-such must be our searching into the sacred storehouse. To read, instead of “searching the Scripture,” is only to skim the surface, and gather up a few superficial potions. The rule of success is-Dig up and down the field; and if the search be discouraging, dig again. The patient industry of perusal and re-perusal will open the embosomed treasure. “Surely there is a vein for the silver.” (Job, 28:1.) Yet what miner would be content with the first ore? Would he not search deeper and deeper, until he has possessed himself of the whole; not satisfied with taking away much, but determined to leave nothing? Thus let us daily explore “the length, and the breadth, and the depth” of our boundless stores, until we be “filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 2:18, 19.)
This habit of living in the element of Scripture is invaluable. To be filled from this Divine treasury; to have large portions of the word daily passing through the mind; gives us a firmer grasp, and a more suitable and diversified application of it. Yet this profit can only be fully reaped in retirement. We may read the Scripture in company. But to search them, we must be alone with God. Here we learn to apply ourselves wholly to the word, and the word wholly to us. This enriching study gives a purer vein of sound judgment. The mere reader often scarcely knows where to begin, and he performs the routine without any definite object. His knowledge therefore must be scanty and ineffective. Nor is the neglect of this habit less hurtful to the Church. All fundamental errors and heresies in the Church may be traced to this source-“Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures.” (Matt. 22:29.) They are mostly based on partial or disjointed statements of truth. Truth separated from truth becomes error. But the mind prayerfully occupied in the search of Divine truth-crying and lifting up the voice-will never fail to discern the two great principles of godliness-the fear and knowledge of God. There is no peradventure nor disappointment in the search-Then shalt thou understand. The Lord giveth wisdom; it cometh out of his mouth. None shall search in vain. (Job 32:8. Isa. 48:17; 54:3. Jam. 1:5, 17. Comp. Gen. 41:38, 29. Exod. 4:12. Dan. 1:17.) Never has apostasy from the faith been connected with a prayerful and diligent study of the word of God.