At our house there are three cats – not so much by our choice but by theirs. Venus lives inside, Grey lives in the front yard and Joy lives in the back. It is a reasonable arrangement for them, because, basically, they only tolerate each other. Quite often in the evening, our inside cat, will lay at the sliding door, watching for the backyard cat. And on several occasions, Judy has commented, “Venus is looking for Joy.” And I can’t help but to reply, “Isn’t everyone” or “Aren’t we all.” Built into every human being is a desire for joy and happiness. Admittedly, there may be a thousand definitions of joy and happiness, but by whatever definition they use most people want some.
Solomon makes a statement which should eliminate more than 9,990 of those human definitions. He says, “HAPPY is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.” If someone wants to be truly happy in this life, he needs to find wisdom and spiritual understanding. You young people need to meditate on this verse, because it is true, and it could give definition and substance to your life which will separate you from all your friends.
Solomon tells us about the search.
Picture a miner – a man in search of gold or silver – both of which are mentioned in this context. Or maybe he is a hunter of rubies – again, something mentioned by Solomon. How is it that he “finds” it? He may travel all the way to the Yukon, or South Africa, or some other remote, ore-bearing place. He knows the kind or rock or soil in which to search, so that is where he spends his time. He may have all the right equipment, expertise, experience and time. But, ultimately, it is by the grace of God that he finds what he seeks. He may call it “luck” – but we Christians know better.
The happiness and joy to which Solomon refers, is “found” only by someone blessed by God. It is a gift. But, oh, what a gift. Throughout his history, man has been seeking gold – often in an effort to become happy. The Americas were initially explored because men wanted more gold. And it has made some people very rich. But true happiness and joy are of infinitely more value than gold and silver.
Solomon then reminds us of the value of this happiness.
“The merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold.” This word “merchandise” is Biblically unique. It is found in only three verses in Proverbs and Isaiah. It speaks of earning a profit through trade. The miner is blessed by the Lord to find a vein of gold or silver. He pulls it out of the ground and sells it to a smelter. The smelting company refines it and sells it to a wholesaler, who sells it to a silver or gold smith. That craftsman works the gold into an object, which he sells to a dealer. The dealer puts it in his gallery, and a wealthy dentist buys it for his wife. At every exchange there is more value placed on that little bit of gold. “The merchandise of (wisdom) is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold.”
In what does the value of gold and sliver lay? There is value in stocks and bonds, and there is value in a $50 bill. But the value of gold and silver is entirely different – they have intrinsic worth – it is built into mineral. Although their price may go up and down, gold and silver always have some value in themselves. But a piece of paper has value only as long as the company or the government says that it has value. Gold IS value – and so is wisdom – so is a knowledge of the Lord.
“She is more precious than rubies.” As I have said before, I have never considered jewelry as wealth to me personally. To me a ruby may be pretty; jade is interesting; a diamond may sparkle; but I don’t collect them. On the other hand when a diamond is given in love, or as a part of a marriage vow, it increases in value. And when that ruby or emerald or sapphire has been given to a person by her grandmother it is valuable. But generally, how do rubies have any value or appeal? To me the answer is in their beauty, but not their ability to pay the mortgage. That diamond is beautiful because of what it represents, more than the fact it can cut glass or drill through metal. Ah, but wisdom is more precious than rubies and diamonds by its very nature.
In what ways? What do they provide?
Again, we have to ask – What is this wisdom to which Solomon refers? It isn’t something which is picked up after fifteen years in a school where someone has earned a few letters to mention after his name. This wisdom is not the same thing as experience gained in working the goldfields of the earth.
“Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD.” “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.” The wisdom to which Solomon refers is that special relationship to Jehovah, which brings every corner of a person’s life into proper synchronization. Without the Lord, we are like a herd of sheep, running in every direction, and running the risk of wolves. And I am not thinking about everyone scattering like sheep. I’m talking about the various parts of one person scattering and being picked off by predators. I’m thinking of the hearts and hands, the mind and feet of each individual. This wisdom begins in reverence towards God, which results in repentance, faith and reconciliation. In this wisdom God gives us purpose, direction and hope – an eternal hope. “(Eternally ) happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.”
Solomon gives us several specific blessings which flow out of this relationship with the Lord. He speaks of “riches and honour.” Picture, if you will, one of the wealthiest man in all the world, speaking about riches – Solomon. And the monarchs of other nations were traveling hundreds of miles to honor this man with more riches and all kinds of adulation. Of what kind of riches and honour was Solomon thinking? I suppose that it doesn’t matter, because it is the Holy Spirit who is speaking to us. For some, there is no greater wealth and honour than children who know the Lord, love the Lord and serve the Lord. And can anyone place a dollar amount on peace? The Lord Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” What about the value of a friend – a loved one. – “There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” David counts his blessings when he says, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”
In the ways of wisdom are “pleasantness and peace.” The United Nations has, this week, increased its sanctions against North Korea, which could cost that government a billion dollars a year. They have not stopped their missile testing, proving that they could strike nearly anywhere in America. I hope that your consideration of that fact doesn’t terrify you. It might be exciting, knowing that we are nearer to some of the prophesied events of the Tribulation, and that should only excite us more about the soon return of the Saviour. Peace is a valuable commodity, a valuable piece of merchandise, and only the children of God have it in sufficient quantities and in a quality which can be of help to people.
The word “pleasantness” refers literally to “beauty.” Moses used that word in Psalm 90:17 – “Let the BEAUTY of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.” David said, “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the BEAUTY of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.” The wisdom to which Solomon refers is the only way that sinners, like us, will be able to “behold the BEAUTY of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.” Isn’t there value in that?
Another blessing in this wisdom is in “life and length of days.” “She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her.” What blessings there are in trees – any tree? Usually they aren’t given much thought. But on countless occasions Judy and I have spoken about the trees in our back yard. There are the dogwoods with their different colored flowers and the cedar in which the birds like to hide. We love the larch with its soft needles and magnificent height. Together they cool the yard, the garden and the flowers below them. They hide the birds and the cats. They are a part of the divine gift of oxygen which we must all have. “Blessed is the man… (whose) delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”
Solomon speaks of “length of days.” Generally speaking, who is more likely to live a long life, the man who takes care of his body or the man who abuses it? The man who eats properly, rests properly, and gets some exercise? or the man who takes meth, smokes cigarettes, swims with sharks and visits prostitutes? As I’ve said, the wisdom of God gives people structure for their lives – good guidance – direction. And those things naturally produce long lives, even before God’s miraculous grace steps in.
And what is the source of this wisdom?
It is not Solomon’s purpose at this point to tell us. But elsewhere in Proverbs and throughout the Word of God, we see that the source of wisdom is in the grace of God. BUT don’t think that because it is the gift of God, it would be inappropriate to ask for it. We are to seek for it like the miner looks for that vein of gold.
Pray to possess it yourself, and pray for the Lord’s blessing on others, including your children and grandchildren.