Job had asked, long before this, Where shall wisdom be found? Whence cometh wisdom? (Job 28:12, 20) and he had given this general answer (Job 28:23), God knoweth the place of it; but Solomon here goes further, and tells us both where we may find it and how we may get it. We are here told,
I. What means we must use that we may obtain wisdom.
1. We must closely attend to the word of God, for that is the word of wisdom, which is able to make us wise unto salvation, Prov. 2:1, 2. (1.) We must be convinced that the words of God are the fountain and standard of wisdom and understanding, and that we need not desire to be wiser than they will make us. We must incline our ear and apply our hearts to them, as to wisdom or understanding itself. Many wise things may be found in human compositions, but divine revelation, and true religion built upon it, are all wisdom. (2.) We must, accordingly, receive the word of God with all readiness of mind, and bid it welcome, even the commandments as well as the promises, without murmuring or disputing. Speak, Lord, for thy servant hears. (3.) We must hide them with us, as we do our treasures, which we are afraid of being robbed of. We must not only receive, but retain, the word of God, and lodge it in our hearts, that it may be always ready to us. (4.) We must incline our ear to them; we must lay hold on all opportunities of hearing the word of God, and listen to it with attention and seriousness, as those that are afraid of letting it slip. (5.) We must apply our hearts to them, else inclining the ear to them will stand us in no stead.
2. We must be much in prayer, Prov. 2:3. We must cry after knowledge, as one that is ready to perish for hunger begs hard for bread. Faint desires will not prevail; we must be importunate, as those that know the worth of knowledge and our own want of it. We must cry, as new-born babes, after the sincere milk of the word. 1 Pet. 2:2. We must lift our voice for understanding lift it up to heaven; thence these good and perfect gifts must be expected, Jas. 1:17; Job 38:34. We must give our voice to understanding (so the word is), speak for it, vote for it, submit the tongue to the command of wisdom. We must consecrate our voice to it; having applied our heart to it, we must employ our voice in seeking for it. Solomon could write probatum est—a tried remedy, upon this method; he prayed for wisdom and so obtained it.
3. We must be willing to take pains (Prov. 2:4); we must seek it as silver, preferring it far before all the wealth of this world, and labouring in search of it as those who dig in the mines, who undergo great toil and run great hazards, with indefatigable industry and invincible constancy and resolution, in pursuit of the ore; or as those who will be rich rise up early, and sit up late, and turn every stone to get money and fill their treasures. Thus diligent must we be in the use of the means of knowledge, following on to know the Lord.
II. What success we may hope for in the use of these means. Our labour shall not be in vain; for, 1. We shall know how to maintain our acquaintance and communion with God: “Thou shalt understand the fear of the Lord (Prov. 2:5), that is, thou shalt know how to worship him aright, shalt be led into the meaning and mystery of every ordinance, and be enabled to answer the end of its institution.” Thou shalt find the knowledge of God, which is necessary to our fearing him aright. It concerns us to understand how much it is our interest to know God, and to evidence it by agreeable affections towards him and adorations of him. 2. We shall know how to conduct ourselves aright towards all men (Prov. 2:9): “Thou shalt understand, by the word of God, righteousness, and judgment, and equity, shalt learn those principles of justice, and charity, and fair dealing, which shall guide and govern thee in the whole course of thy conversation, shall make thee fit for every relation, every business, and faithful to every trust. It shall give thee not only a right notion of justice, but a disposition to practise it, and to render to all their due; for those that do not do justly do not rightly understand it.” This will lead them in every good path, for the scripture will make the man of God perfect. Note, Those have the best knowledge who know their duty, Ps. 111:10.
III. What ground we have to hope for this success in our pursuits of wisdom; we must take our encouragement herein from God only, Prov. 2:6-8.
1. God has wisdom to bestow, Prov. 2:6. The Lord not only is wise himself, but he gives wisdom, and that is more than the wisest men in the world can do, for it is God’s prerogative to open the understanding. All the wisdom that is in any creature is his gift, his free gift, and he gives it liberally (Jas. 1:5), has given it to many, and is still giving it; to him therefore let us apply for it.
2. He has blessed the world with a revelation of his will. Out of his mouth, by the law and the prophets, by the written word and by his ministers, both which are his mouth to the children of men, come knowledge and understanding, such a discovery of truth and good as, if we admit and receive the impressions of it, will make us truly knowing and intelligent. It is both an engagement and encouragement to search after wisdom that we have the scriptures to search, in which we may find it if we seek it diligently.
3. He has particularly provided that good men, who are sincerely disposed to do his will, shall have that knowledge and that understanding which are necessary for them, John 7:17. Let them seek wisdom, and they shall find it; let them ask, and it shall be given them, Prov. 2:7, 8. Observe here, (1.) Who those are that are thus favoured. They are the righteous, on whom the image of God is renewed, which consists in righteousness, and those who walk uprightly, who are honest in their dealings both with God and man and make conscience of doing their duty as far as they know it. They are his saints, devoted to his honour, and set apart for his service. (2.) What it is that is provided for them. [1.] Instruction. The means of wisdom are given to all, but wisdom itself, sound wisdom, is laid up for the righteous, laid up in Christ their head, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and who is made of God to us wisdom. The same that is the Spirit of revelation in the word is a Spirit of wisdom in the souls of those that are sanctified, that wisdom of the prudent which is to understand his way; and it is sound wisdom, its foundations firm, its principles solid, and its products of lasting advantage. [2.] Satisfaction. Some read it, He lays up substance for the righteous, not only substantial knowledge, but substantial happiness and comfort, Prov. 8:21. Riches are things that are not, and those that have them only fancy themselves happy; but what is laid up in the promises and in heaven for the righteous will make them truly, thoroughly, and eternally happy. [3.] Protection. Even those who walk uprightly may be brought into danger for the trial of their faith, but God is, and will be, a buckler to them, so that nothing that happens to them shall do them any real hurt, or possess them with any terrific apprehensions; they are safe, and they shall think themselves so. Fear not, Abraham; I am thy shield. It is their way, the paths of judgment in which they walk, that the Lord knows, and owns, and takes care of. [4.] Grace to persevere to the end. If we depend upon God, and seek to him for wisdom, he will uphold us in our integrity, will enable us to keep the paths of judgment, however we may be tempted to turn aside out of them; for he preserves the way of his saints, that it be not perverted, and so preserves them in it safe and blameless to his heavenly kingdom. The assurances God has given us of his grace, if duly improved, will excite and quicken our endeavours in doing our duty. Work out your salvation, for God works in you.