The "If" Factor

 

This summer our students have been participating in a video Bible Study in the book of Proverbs called P4: Proverbs during Pandemic for Plymouth Park. If you would like to see some of these videos, you can click here to visit our Student Ministry YouTube channel.

 

In the third week of our study, we covered Proverbs 2:1-5, which is an exhortation to seek wisdom. These verses read as follows:

 

My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
listening closely to wisdom
and directing your heart to understanding;
furthermore, if you call out to insight
and lift your voice to understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it like hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and discover the knowledge of God.

 

We believe King Solomon to be the author of most of the book of Proverbs, including these verses above. You will notice that these words are addressed to his son; Solomon wrote the proverbs as a way to pass practical knowledge and wisdom to his children. He was telling them, in everyday language, how to live righteously and follow the commands of God.

 

He begins chapter 2 by saying that if one accepts his words and if one seeks and pays attention to wisdom, then they will understand the fear of the Lord. You might not have noticed it, but the word “if” is used three times in the span of these five verses. “If” might be short word, but it is a very important word. “If” signals that there is a condition to be met. According to King Solomon, it is only if his son accepts his words, only if he calls out to insight, only if he seeks for wisdom like silver, that he will then understand the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God.

 

As an aid in studying this text, I consulted the New American Commentary on Proverbs written by Duane A. Garrett, who does a great job of explaining the seriousness of the “if” clauses. But what really struck me was at the end of this section, where he offers a challenge to the church. Here is what Garrett has to say about these verses:

 

This whole text hinges on an enormous “if” clause (vv. 1–4). The “if” represents a decision that every young man must make. He can either go in the way of Wisdom and find life, true love, and most importantly God, or he can turn his back on her and find only bitterness, isolation, and death. One cannot opt out of making this decision or choose a little of one and a little of the other. If the church, however, fails to present this stark decision to young people, many will go in the wrong way and never even know they had a choice (italics added).[1]

 

You might say, “Well our students should already know to choose wisdom.” Maybe so, but sadly, some don’t. And so, as Garrett put it, it becomes our job as the church to make this decision clear to our students. We must relay to them that there is a decision to be made between wisdom and foolishness. Though it may be obvious, we must also relay to them that the right choice to make is to seek wisdom and to embrace it (while at the same time reminding them of the perils of foolishness).

 

We can do this in our main teaching times, but the best way to do this might be with one-on-one relationships and conversations. Next time you see a student, whether at church or elsewhere, have a quick conversation with them and encourage them to seek wisdom. In the end, the choice will be theirs, but let us do all that we can to see them choose wisdom.

 

[1] Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, vol. 14, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 74.