The word of the day is “seek.” We would like to think that gaining spiritual understanding comes from the sudden unveiling of a revelation, a quick flash of insight. But our reading of Proverbs 2:1-22 teaches us we must search diligently for wisdom. And it assures us that this earnest search will be rewarded. Solomon writes, “If you seek perception with a strong voice, and if you seek her as silver and search for her as treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God” (OSB vs. 4-5). What, then, is necessary for our search?
Knowing What We Seek
When we search for something, we need to know what we are looking for. If we have no idea of what we are seeking, then anything we find will do. When we apply this observation to wisdom, we can say that if we do not know what wisdom is, we need to “receive” the “words of the commandments” of someone wiser than ourselves (OSB vs. 2:1) to find it. Such counselors already know what is to be known of wisdom. So we should accept their direction, for by their instructions, they can guide us and keep us on the path of understanding.
Paying Attention to Our Teachers of Wisdom
Moreover, if we are searching for something with the guidance of a teacher, we need attentiveness to follow his/her instructions. In the same way, in looking for wisdom, we should take the directives of our teachers to heart. Both The New King James Version and The Orthodox Study Bible speak of “inclining” one’s heart to understanding” (NKJV and OSB and Ovs. 2:2). The Hebrew word that the writer of Proverbs uses here comes from the thought of “stretching out” (Hebrew Dictionary #5186,186). The sense of the term is that one must stretch the heart and enlarge it so that it is able to hold the teachings “within oneself” (Proverbs 2:1).
Valuing What We Seek
Then too, when we look for something, we need to value it. We need to think it important enough to spend time and effort gaining it. We do not bother searching for things that have no meaning to us. But the things we “treasure,” that is, the things that matter to us, these we will look for until we find them. Therefore, the writer of Proverbs advises that when it comes to “perception,” we should “seek her as silver” (OSB vs. 4).
Asking for What We Seek
Again, when we seek something that someone else has, we often need to ask them for it. Accordingly, if we seek divine wisdom, we need to request God for it. James writes, “You do not have because you do not ask” (OSB James 4:2). But he goes on, “You ask, but you do not receive because you ask amiss” (OSB James 4:3). What then should we request of God? James replies, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives liberally and without reproach, and it will be given him” (OSB James 1:5).
In the same vein, The New King James translates, “If you cry out for discernment, and raise your voice for understanding… then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God” (OAB vs. 2:3). Like James, the writer of Proverbs teaches that we should address our appeals for wisdom to God since He is the source of wisdom. Therefore, Proverbs says, “For the Lord gives wisdom and from his mouth (OSB) comes knowledge and understanding” (OAB & OSB 2:5).
Seeking Until We Find
Finally, when we look for something, we need to search until we find it. If we are diverted from hunting for something, we cannot expect to come across it miraculously. Proverbs says, “Woe to those who forsake the path of uprightness” (OSB 2:13). If, in our search, we stray off the path of wisdom, then we will find ourselves walking in darkness (OSB 2:13). To persist in our pursuit of understanding, we should look to the Lord. The Orthodox Study Bible translates the counsel of Proverbs, “He [God] guards the way of His ordinances and will carefully guard the way of those who reverence Him (OSB 2:8-9). As we hunt for wisdom, we must be confident that we will find it in God’s good time.
In summary, wisdom must be sought. It does not come instantly or automatically. But to search for wisdom, we need to know what we are looking for. We need to value it. We need to ask for it. And we need to keep searching until, by God’s grace, we find it. Wisdom seeks those who seek her. Therefore those who seek wisdom in these ways will not be disappointed.
Amateur seekers of gold will often mistake “Fool’s Gold” for the real thing. The glitter of pyrite so excites neophytes, at least for a moment, that they confuse it for actual gold. What are the sparkling counterfeits to true wisdom that lead many astray in today’s world? What is necessary for us to avoid being fooled by these phony resemblances to the wisdom of Proverbs?