I’d like you to turn to Proverbs 24. Let’s go to the book of wisdom.
I was asked to address this topic: How do you know if you’re marrying the right person?
I have a very simple answer; we could actually just pray and I could be done. Here’s the simple answer: During your premarital counseling, did you use Rob Green’s book? During your dating and engagement, did you use Sean Perron’s and Spencer Harmon’s book? Even before you were in a relationship, did you use Marry Wisely, Marry Well written by Ernie Baker? There’s the simple answer; we can pray. I think we need to spend a little more time than that, though.
For some, the answer to this question would be the type of methodology that you use—courtship or biblical dating or whatever the methodology is that you want to term. I’m going to say that the biblical methodology is wisdom and that the emphasis in Scripture is not on a particular methodology, but on whether you use wisdom.
Let’s think about the need for wisdom in the days that we’re living in. That ought to go without stating. We sense what’s going on in our culture, but let me just give you some statistics so that I can create in you the sense that we really do need wisdom. The opposite of wisdom is foolishness, and there’s a whole lot of foolishness going on in building relationships right now.
How do we know there’s foolishness going on?
- Over 50% of couples cohabit now before they get married. Because some would just say, “Well, that’s wise, it’s wisdom,” here’s why that’s foolish. You can tell wisdom by its fruit, and you can also tell foolishness by its fruit. Cohabitation leads to a higher rate of divorce than those that don’t cohabit before being married. You need to tell all singles and young people that statistic. Cohabitation is just not wise. There’s a lot of foolishness going on in the way people are building relationships.
- Did you know that right now in the United States—brace yourself—48% of all births are outside of marriage? That tells you that there’s a lot of foolishness going on in relationships in the United States. You can tell wisdom by its fruit, and you can tell foolishness by its fruit. Here we are, wanting to work with a couple to help them establish a godly and really solid relationship, and they’re bringing children into the relationship. That’s a hard way to start a relationship.
- We all know about the devastating effects of all the sexual experimentation that’s going on. I’m counseling two men right now. One man, in particular, has looked at pornography from the time that he was a little boy—and I’m going to tie in another subject with this—and his parents never intervened. His parents knew about this. I don’t know what they were thinking (“This is just cute” or whatever was going through their minds), but from the time that he was a little boy, he has been viewing pornography, and he has carried that into his marriage. Now I’m counseling them. He’s in his mid-20’s and that has had an incredibly bad effect on his marriage. All the sexual experimentation shows the foolishness of our culture.
I mentioned parents, so let me tie in something about parents. I think there’s even foolishness with parents and the way parents are not parenting. For many years at Master’s University, I had the privilege every semester of teaching the “Marriage and Family” class, which would typically range from 30 to 50 students and even up to 70 students from time to time. Every semester, I would do an anonymous survey asking them things like: What are your fears and concerns about marriage? I gathered all kinds of good information. It was one of the motivations of why I wrote the book Marry Wisely, Marry Well because I wanted young people to have hope that their marriage does not need to be a statistic if they start building earlier in their relationships.
Another one of the questions I asked was, Did your parents have the sex talk with you? Very, very few of my students out of all the hundreds and hundreds of students that I had over the years at The Master’s University in “Marriage and Family” class—an extremely small percentage of the students—said that their parents actually sat down and had that talk with them. I find that appalling in the days that we’re living in that parents are not bucking up and having that tough conversation with their children.
So there’s a lot of foolishness going on in our culture. That means we need wisdom.
Now I want to show you a beautiful passage of Scripture that directly addresses wisdom in building relationships. Proverbs 24 is where we’re going to start. Then we’re going to go back to Proverbs 2 and answer in detail, What is biblical wisdom? so that we can get an answer to our question, How do you know if you’re marrying the right person? Look at Proverbs 24.
By the way, this is not just theoretical knowledge for me. We have six children—three boys and three girls. They’re all adults now. What that boils down to is lots and lots of conversations about relationships. Five of them are married now, and I’m very thankful for our in-law children. There were times when I was a professor at The Master’s University that boys were pursuing my girls, and my girls would come home and tell me, yet again, that another guy was initiating conversation with them. I felt like I needed a tennis racket so that I could swat the boys away from my girls. I could tell you lots of funny stories about that, especially when they found out that the girl’s father was Dr. Baker from The Master’s University. One young man’s face blushed because they all know that I taught “Marriage and Family” class and the implications of that.
Turning back to Proverbs 24. Proverbs 24 addresses wisdom. This just fits our topic perfectly. We’re talking about “Crafting a Covenant.” I know that it says “Biblical Guidance on Dating and Engagement,” but I want to go back even a step further because I’m absolutely convinced that premarital counseling is not enough for the days that we’re living in. There are no 7 or 14 sessions of premarital counseling that are going to prepare a couple for marriage with the climate that we’re now living in. There’s just too many things going on, and we need to start earlier with our discipleship of young people to be preparing them for this second most important decision that they’re going to make in life other than becoming a follower of Jesus Christ. I’m desperate for God’s Word as an answer. I need an answer for this. Proverbs 24 starts giving us an answer, and it just fits perfectly.
How do you build a house wisely? By wisdom.
Verse 3: “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.”
The first half of that verse is talking about foundation, and we’ll talk about that in a moment. I also stated the principle before that you can tell wisdom by its fruits.
You see here this overarching theme that goes all through Proverbs—sowing, and reaping. You sow this way, and you reap this result. That’s the message I want to convey to young people even earlier than dating. Are they really ready to date? How do we help them get ready to date? How do we help them get ready for romantic relationships? By teaching them that what you sow is what you’re going to reap, and generally speaking, if you sow this way—this is the thinking shown in Proverbs—generally speaking this is what you’re going to reap. More than likely if you do this in your life, more than likely you’re going to reap this in your life. That’s the theme of the book of Proverbs. There’s so much in the Book of Proverbs about wise relationships.
Let’s think about the foundation being wisdom. You notice there in verse 3, “By wisdom a house is built.” But what’s the foundation? It’s built, and it’s established by understanding. The word established is the idea that it is made firm, which has to do with the foundation. So it’s wisdom and understanding. When we get to Proverbs 2, I’ll elaborate a little more on what the Bible means by wisdom and understanding, but by wisdom and understanding you lay a foundation. I believe we’ve got to start earlier with laying the foundation so that we can send young people into dating and send them into premarital counseling with a better foundation of what it takes to have healthy relationships.
Now, as part of this foundation, it fits best to really think deeply about this. It’s obvious that part of this foundation—even though it’ll come up in Proverbs 2 again—is a relationship with Jesus Christ. I’m going to start weaving principles all through this. I have about 10 or 12 principles that I think you can get out of the text that we can be teaching young people to be thinking to themselves in relation to whether a relationship is healthy. I wrote Marry Wisely, Marry Well trying to answer two questions:
- How do you make the right choice of a spouse?
- How do you get yourself ready for relationships even before you’re in a relationship?
Foundational to all that is that Christ is the foundation of all of this, right? The solid foundation on which we must build relationships is whether you have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Now, I can’t just say that and keep running with the outline. I need to bear down a little bit with that.
Let’s think about it. The days have come to an end where we can settle for, “Well, he’s a nice Christian boy because he goes to church, so it’s going to be alright. He has grown up in church, so it’s going to be alright.” Or “She’s a Christian girl. We’ve been in youth group together.” I want to know what the foundational commitments of this person’s life are, not just whether they prayed a prayer and asked Jesus to be their Savior. The way I like to say it is: your relationship with Christ is the source from which all else flows, and the gospel is not just a message to believe. The gospel is a person to follow. It’s not just whether this person has a verbal commitment to Jesus Christ; it’s whether there is fruit in the person’s life and evidence that foundationally in the person’s life this person is committed to Jesus Christ. That’s foundational.
Because I like U.S. history, for years, I’ve liked this statement from Harvard’s founding statement. It’s about education, but it communicates what I’m trying to communicate. In Harvard’s founding statement—you’ve probably heard this—it says: “Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life, John 17:3, and therefore, to lay Christ in the bottom as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisdom, let everyone seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of Him.” That’s just absolutely foundational, not just for education but for the topic that we’re considering. What are the foundational commitments of this young person’s life?
So how do you know if you’re marrying the right person? Well, what are your foundational commitments to the person of Jesus Christ?
You know that Colossians chapter 2 addresses that being rooted and grounded in Him and wisdom are embodied in Jesus Christ. At the end of the sermon of the mount in Matthew chapter 7, as the Lord is giving His conclusion to His inaugural sermon, He’s talking about the wise man and the foolish man. In that account, it’s the wise man—which is what we’re talking about here, wisdom—who not only hears the teachings of the Lord but acts on them. I love the picture again because we’re trying to help young people build a house and are talking about how to start wisely by starting earlier in building the house on the foundation of Christ. If you’re living out who Jesus Christ is, Matthew 7 says that because there’s this trajectory of acting on the teaching of the Lord, you can withstand the storms. We’re living in a culture where there is a tremendous amount of storms hitting relationships. Let me say it again just for the sake of emphasis that the time has come to an end where we can just settle for, “Well, he’s a nice Christian boy; she’s a nice Christian girl; they grew up in church; everything’s going to be alright.” What is that person’s commitment to Jesus Christ foundationally? That’s crucial.
Now, look at Proverbs 24 again. Verse 4 is wonderful. Sowing and reaping. What are the blessings of building wisely? What do you reap?
Verse 4: “And by knowledge, the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.”
Now, we know that we don’t believe in the prosperity gospel, so that’s not talking about real riches. It must be talking about relational riches, family riches. Proverbs talks a lot about how it’s better to have not much food but love in the house than being a wealthy person, and there’s hatred in the house. Proverbs is talking about just the riches of family life that have a solid foundation.
As I mentioned before, Rose and I have six children, five of whom are married. We have nine grandchildren now, and we’re actually at a stage in life where we’re reaping some of the blessings of this. I would tell you that I am a humbled, blessed man. In the midst of the culture and as I see marriages falling apart and hear horrible, horrible stories in my counseling office, I go home, and I hug my wife because I am so thankful for our solid relationship and the blessings that we have. We have 22 members in our family. We were supposed to have a family reunion just a few weeks ago, but Hurricane Irma came. We were supposed to meet at our church’s campground called Hilliard Campground, but we were not able to because of Hurricane Irma. Our kids did not feel safe driving south into a hurricane for our family reunion. First, we moved it to Atlanta. Someone graciously gave us their beautiful home to use in Atlanta. But then one of our kids called and said, “Dad, we’re not feeling safe even driving to Atlanta right now.” We ended up in Richmond, Virginia, at our daughter’s little house with 22 people, and the rooms were filled with precious and pleasant riches. We had grandchildren coming out our ears in the little rooms of the house. I just praise God that I’m getting to experience a little bit of what verse 4 is talking about, and it’s by the grace of God.
Now, how do you build this wisdom? This raises the thought, “Okay, well, I hear the need for wisdom. Our culture is foolish. Young people are growing up in that culture, so what do we do to help them with wisdom?” I’m trying to make the argument that we need to start earlier and that premarital counseling is not enough. If you’re a youth pastor or a college pastor, I am urging you—almost begging you—to start earlier. Do some type of relational discipleship and relational mentoring. We can’t wait any longer to just do premarital counseling and think that that’s going to be enough.
Turn back to Proverbs 2. Proverbs 2 tells us about wisdom. This is the best chapter I know of in all of the Bible to address wisdom because it tells us the procedure for getting wisdom. I warn you; you’re going to have to brace yourself. It’s a grueling procedure. This is a very precious gift from God, and He wants to give it to people that are serious. He gives it—He wants to give wisdom—but are you serious about digging for the riches? It’s a grueling procedure, but it’s well worth it. Then in the middle of the chapter, we’re going to see the predictable outcome, and at the end, we’re going to see the relational product. There’s so much in the chapter, and we could get bogged down in all the details of, What does ‘discretion will guard you’ mean? and, What does the Hebrew word “inclined” in “inclining your heart to wisdom” mean? Instead of getting bogged down in all the details of the passage, I’m going to do this two ways.
- I’m going to give you a flyover—like 10,000 feet—of what the chapter is about and just kind of give you a chance to see the flow of thought in the chapter because I believe it is directly addressing what we’re trying to answer in this session: Have you used wisdom to establish the relationship?
- I’m going to go back and hit some of the details and talk about the implications.
Then what we’re going to do is wrap it all up with 8 questions that a young person could be asking to discern, Is this a wise choice in the relationship? How do I know I’m marrying the right person?
Verses 1-4 are about the grueling procedure. Let me read a couple of verses. I’m going to come back later when I do my more in-depth view of it to tell you a little more detail and give you an illustration about this.
Proverbs 2:3-4 says: “For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures…”
This is a very special gift, so the Lord wants to give it to serious people. It’s a valuable gift. The Lord wants to give it to people who are serious about getting this gift. We’ll talk more about the grueling procedure in just a moment in, attitudes and actions. I also want to address why is it such hard work to get it.
Then in the middle of the chapter, you have what I think of as the predictable outcome. If you do this work, this is the predictable outcome that comes out of it. Starting in verse 5, if you do this hard work and you’re willing to dig, then you discern the fear of the Lord, and you discover the knowledge of God. Just so you get the flow of thought, the first thing that happens is that you get the Lord. Then, out of relationship with the Lord, the next thing that happens, according to verse 8, is guarding the paths of justice. As we’re about to see, that’s really important because young people need guarding these days because there’s a lot of people they need to be guarded from. There are perverse people in our culture. There are men and women who would like to take advantage of our young people. This wisdom says that if you’re willing to do the hard work to get wisdom, then you get the Lord, and out of relationship with the Lord, He guards the paths of justice. That will become very pointed in just a moment. We’ll come back later and define what this wisdom is and what is a biblical definition of wisdom so that we can be teaching our young people even earlier how to know if they’re following a path of wisdom. Therefore, the predictable outcome is: you get the Lord and then you get Him guarding the paths of justice. We’ll come back and talk about that in more detail.
Then, in conclusion, there’s a relational product. One of the things that I love about the Book of Proverbs is the type of thinking of: “My son, stay away from that kind of woman. Here are the characteristics to look for of the type of woman you don’t want to be around. And my son, this is the type of woman you want to be around.”
There’s all kinds of advice in Proverbs about what wise relationship choices are. As I stated before, you can tell wisdom by its choices. Wisdom in the Book of Proverbs is pictured like a path that you’re on. It’s the path of your life, the track of your life. It’s showing that you can tell wisdom by the choices you’re making along the path of life. Proverbs 2 is about relationship choices. Let’s look at it here in conclusion of our flyover view.
You cry out for wisdom, you do the hard work, you get the Lord, He starts to guard, and then what does He do in relationships in verse 12? He “delivers you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things.” Do you think our young ladies need that? Do you think they need wisdom to know that’s not the type of guy they want to be around? They need wisdom in how to make right relationship choices. Verse 13 continues: “From those who would leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness.” Then verse 14 describes them as perverse: “They rejoice in the perversity of evil.” Just to give you a sense of the questions that we ought to be training our young people even earlier before they start even getting into romantic relationships, the question here would be, Is this person trying to get you to do perverse things? Well, that’s not a wise choice and we ought to be training our young people how to think about relationships and what makes solid, wise relationships.
Look at the end of the chapter. There’s not only promises in this chapter for ladies of how wisdom will keep them away from perverse men. There’s also promises for men, such as verse 16, “to deliver you from the strange woman, from the adulteress who flatters with her words.” According to the end of verse 18, it’s the type of woman whose tracks lead to death. I need to teach my sons how to make wise choices of that’s not the type of woman or girl you want to be around. Look at her track record. Look at the trajectory of her life. She’s not going the right direction in life. I want to warn my sons of wisdom in relationships.
Now let’s go back and do a little more in-depth view now that you feel comfortable with the chapter and get the sense of the chapter and the flow of thought. Isn’t it a great chapter for the topics that we’re talking about: How do you get wisdom in relationships? What’s the product of wisdom in relationships?
Let’s go back and think about verses 1 to 4 in a little more detail. Let me give you a few illustrations to make this more real.
The Grueling Procedure
Is it really worth it? If you talk to the married women that we deal with, they say things like, “You know, he cheated on me when we were dating, and he actually had a baby by another woman while we were dating, but I married him anyway.” Do you think she should have made a wiser choice?
Is it worth it? If you talked to some of my counselees, my counselees would say, “Yeah, all the work is worth it. Now, here I am after 20 years of marriage and I’m having to get serious about the Lord and I’m having to go back and try to start all over.” I had a couple just a couple of weeks ago say to me, “It’s like we’re starting all over. We’ve been married 15 years and we’ve been doing it wrong for 15 years. We have to tear this whole thing down, and start over.” I thought, “Praise God. I’m glad that you’re thinking that way and if you think that way, your marriage can be saved because you have been doing it wrong.” But don’t you wish somebody would have been mentoring them properly 15 or 20 years ago about how to make wise choices in relationships?
I’m going to read verses 1-4.
“My son, if you will receive my words…”
Notice the attitudes and actions that all bleed together here. You receive my saying, so there’s no rebellion here. There’s openness. There’s a willingness to be taught the word of God. Then there’s an excitement:
“…And treasure my commandments within you,
Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding;…”
I’m just going to make a parenting comment and tell you something that Rose and I worked on very hard with our children because we knew we were going to have to have hard conversations with our children. The way I think about it is, I need a relational bank account and I need to have a lot of equity built up, so the sequence is relationship, relationship, relationship, relationship, hard conversation. I just withdrew some money out of the savings account or out of equity. I built on relationship and worked hard on relationships so that my children then are more inclined to hear me when I try to speak truth into his or her life.
“…For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding;
If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures;…”
This speaks of actions and crying for discernment. You’re going to have to lift your voice. You need to pray and say, “Lord, I need wisdom.” I had already made so many stupid relationship choices by age 18, and I remember crying out when I got serious about the Lord, “Lord, I’m tired of being stupid. Would you give me some wisdom, please?” I was on my knees, literally crying out to God, “I’m tired of making stupid choices. Would you please help me, Lord?”
The second half of this verse is where one of my illustrations is going to fit in. “If you seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures…” then there’s amazing blessings that come. Sowing and reaping. We need to start by creating the climate where we have relationships so that we can speak truth into our young people’s lives so that they have an openness to hear the word of God, and then they’re going to have to dig. It’s well worth it, because it’s going to save them a lot of relational pain if they’ll do the hard work of getting wisdom on the front end. I don’t know if Benjamin Franklin really said this or not—and it’s kind of weird to quote anything related to marriage to Benjamin Franklin if you know anything about his history—but Benjamin Franklin supposedly said, “Before marriage, keep your eyes wide open; after marriage, keep them half-closed.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that statement. I want to teach young people to have their eyes wide open before they make relationship choices.
Now, just so we get the sense of the intensity here: seek as for silver, search as for hidden treasures. You’re going to think this is really weird, but that’s okay. I collect Civil War relics, and years ago I actually owned a metal detector. I was one of those weird people, you know, knocking on doors asking for permission to go on people’s property and battlefields so that I could dig up Civil War relics. This one time when I was in college during a spring break, I talked a friend into going relic hunting with me at Antietam Battlefield in Maryland. It was before one of the most intense parts of the battlefield was National Park. It’s called the Miller Cornfield. I wanted to go relic hunting there and I wanted to go relic hunting at another battlefield not too far away called South Mountain Battlefield. I was sure that we were going to find a treasure trove. I was just absolutely convinced. I had my friend all psyched up with the bullets we were going to find and just all the cool stuff we were going to find.
But it started to rain, and that started to mess with my metal detector. Hours and hours and hours, I went up and down South Mountain Battlefield in Maryland, not finding even a bullet. Usually you at least find a bullet, and I wasn’t finding anything. I spent hours, and hours, and hours. We went back to our campsite, slept for the night, and I said, “Tomorrow, we’ll find something.” Hours, and hours, and hours, and he and I were just getting exhausted at the end of the second day. We still hadn’t found a thing, and we were about to give up and drive back to Washington D.C., where we were both in college.
Then during the last hour that we were going to spend out on this battlefield, I walked up to one last farmhouse and knocked on the door, asking if I could use my metal detector out in their cow pasture. They answered, “Sure.” I went out into the cow pasture, we were about to give up, and I heard this very faint signal. I started digging and I put my metal detector down in the hole and it’s still down in there. I got 18 inches down in the hole and found a buried harmonica only 20 feet away from the Confederate line. Now my mind was just spinning with the scenario of what happened, such as if this fell out of a Union soldier’s pocket as he was charging the Confederate line. After all those hours and hours of sweating and digging and frustration, I struck it rich with a Civil War harmonica.
There’s more to the story. I take it home with my treasure, and I made a fatal mistake: I left it on my mother’s kitchen counter. Knowing that I was going to be home the next weekend, I thought, “I’ll clean it up and put it in the display case next weekend when I get home.” I got home the next weekend and I said, “Mom, where’s my harmonica?” And she said, “You left that dirty, rusty old thing on my kitchen counter. I threw it away.” At least I have the memory.
It’s going to take hard work to get this wisdom, but it is well worth it in the relationship choices.
I raised the question: Why is it such hard work? Let me answer it.
- Remnant sin
Remnant sin makes it hard work, right? We have a lazy streak to us and we don’t like this kind of hard work, so remnant sin is one answer to why it’s such hard work.
- We learn wisdom in the process
Here’s another reason why I think the Lord allows it to be such hard work: in the process we actually learn wisdom. What happens when you’re trying to dig for wisdom and you’re failing? Well, you’re getting down on your knees and you’re crying out for more wisdom. You fail and then you end up reading a book that you didn’t want to read because you failed again and thought you were farther along in the process then you really were. We fail and God even uses the process to help us learn wisdom.
- Wisdom is a very valuable gift
I already mentioned the third reason why I think it’s hard work and why I think the Lord makes it such hard work: this is a very valuable gift. Wisdom is such a treasure. Look at what chapter 3, verses 13-15 say about wisdom:
“How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding. For her profit is better than the profit of silver and her gain better than fine gold. She is more precious than jewels; and nothing you desire compares with her.”
I’m trying to raise the bar here for what we do with young people and show that we need to be teaching them relational wisdom even before they start dating. You may start thinking, “Wow, I deal with a whole lot of really immature, young people. Is it possible for them to learn this wisdom?” The only thing that I can say to that is, “Well, you have a father talking to a son here in the Bible, and if the Bible sets this as the precedent, it must be possible.” It is possible to raise young people to be wise in their relationship choices. The only thing that I can stand on when you’re thinking about all those immature teenagers or maybe college students that you’re dealing with is: the Bible says it, and if the Bible says it, that gives me a precedent for what I need to do with young people.
The Predictable Outcome
Now, what’s the predictable outcome? I already mentioned it: you get the Lord. Isn’t that a beautiful predictable outcome? You’re crying out for wisdom, and then verse 5 says, “Then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God.” You learn about God. God’s ways start to become who you are in the way you think about life. Then, out of that flows verse 6, “…the Lord gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Guess what? Best that I can tell, that is the clearest verse in the Bible for defining what wisdom is biblically: knowledge + understanding = wisdom. What is biblical wisdom? It’s not just like the Greeks would think, “I know a lot of information, and information is maturity.” In the Bible, it’s what are you going to do with all the information? It’s knowledge plus discernment. The Hebrew word is not only knowing good and evil, but knowing better and best. I gather information (knowledge), and therefore I need to teach young people the right questions to ask to gather the information they need about the person that he or she is interested in pursuing. Then I ask, How do I apply the knowledge? That’s discernment.
Knowledge + understanding = wisdom.
I have a quote from Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, which says:
“Biblical wisdom is both religious and practical, stemming from the fear of the Lord. It branches out to touch all of life as the extended commentary on wisdom in Proverbs indicates. Wisdom takes insights gleaned from the knowledge of God’s ways and applies them in the daily walk.”
We’re about to apply it to the following questions that I want to teach my young people the answers to:
- How do you stay away from perverse men?
- How do you stay away from the adulterous woman?
What happens, then? Look at verse 7, if you would, please. You get the Lord, He teaches you wisdom, and then He is a shield to those who walk in integrity. Additionally, according to verse 9, you discern righteousness and justice and paths of life. “I should go this direction.” Every good course.
Now look down through the verses. I just want to point out a couple of phrases because you know this type of thinking in Proverbs.
“There is a way that seems right unto a man, but the ways thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25) The idea of the way of a person’s life or, in other terms, the path of a person’s life.
It’s all down through here:
Verse 8: guarding the paths of justice
Verse 9: wisdom will teach you every good course, or the path of life
Verse 12: to deliver you from the way of evil
Verse 13: from those who leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness
Verse 15: whose paths are crooked, who are devious in their ways.
You can tell a lot about a person’s life from their trajectory—where are they headed and what choices are they making along the path of life. That’s one of the themes of the Book of Proverbs. Again, I need to teach young people how they can discern what’s going on in the path of life.
I really love verse 10, and then we’ll get to the relational product, and then some questions to help young people discern whether they are making wise choices about relationships.
I just love this because I’m a biblical counselor. Verse 10: “Wisdom will enter your heart.” Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. Let the heart word just jump off the page at you. What do we mean by heart? I’m going to take it in the full sense of the way we understand heart in biblical counseling—that your heart is your mind, your will, your emotions, and your desires. That’s what the words mean. You’re thinking about life, your decision-making about life, what stirs your emotions, and even your passions or your appetites—that’s your heart. Your heart has been perverted by Genesis chapter 3, and it is being sanctified by the Holy Spirit because of the Lord Jesus Christ. As I learn wisdom, the wisdom starts to enter my mind, my will, my emotions, and my desires. Do our young people need their minds, their wills, their emotions, and their desires to be influenced by biblical thinking and biblical wisdom? It’s just wonderful what wisdom says that it will do for a young person who especially is needing help being guarded from poor relationship choices, which is what the whole chapter is about.
The Relational Product
I’ve already mentioned it. I don’t need to mention much more, but how do you stay away from the way of evil (verse 12)? Wisdom will guard you. It’ll give you discernment to know how to stay away from the way of evil and from:
- the perverse man (the man who speaks perverse things);
- a person who would leave the paths of justice to walk in the ways of darkness;
- a person who delights in doing evil;
- a person whose paths are crooked; or
- from the adulterous woman that would break her marriage covenant. I understand verse 17 as talking about the marriage covenant when it says “that leaves the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God.” That word companion is the Hebrew word for friend. I learned from Jay Adams years ago that a way to define marriage is a covenant of companionship and this is one of the passages that puts both of those words together. Malachi 2:14 is the other one that defines marriage as a covenant of companionship. Therefore, my sons need wisdom how to stay away from that type of woman.
Verses 20-21 then describe the fruit this way: “…you will walk in the way of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous, for the upright will live in the land and the blameless will remain in it.”
Let’s conclude with some questions. I’m going to just mention some of them and I’ll drill down a few of them a little bit deeper.
- Is the person a follower of Christ?
I do not mean that they prayed a prayer at age five and they remember that they went to church. What I mean is, Is there evidence in this person’s life that they’re committed to the Lord Jesus Christ? That’s what I mean by that. Where’s this person headed? What’s the foundational commitments of this person’s life? Because Christ is the foundation of wisdom and knowledge, so what is the evidence that we’re really dealing with a follower of Jesus Christ?
- What’s the person’s attitude and actions toward the Word of God?
I believe this wisdom is actually rooted in the Word of God. There are some people in counseling theory that would argue and say that the wisdom that Proverbs is talking about is just kind of out there and it’s sage wisdom that anybody can learn. That does not make sense in the context of the Book of Proverbs because this is a Hebrew writer, he has a theistic worldview, and with a Hebrew theistic worldview, you’re going to think wisdom comes from the Word of God. I want my young people and my children to be saturated with the Word of God. Having six children and being a pastor, I couldn’t disciple all six all the time. One of the things we did with that was have family worship and that was our discipleship tool with our family—having regular times of just thinking through biblical principles with our family. Let me show you from Psalm 119 a great cross reference. Turn to Psalm 119:129-131. Psalm 119:129-131 says: “Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul observes them. The unfolding of your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple. I opened my mouth wide and panted, for I longed for Your commandments.”
I’m convinced that the wisdom that Proverbs 2 is talking about is found in the Word of God. Therefore, ask yourself about this person that you’re interested in: What is his or her attitude toward the Word of God? Doesn’t that sound like an important question to ask? If I have a person that doesn’t care about the Bible and is not showing evidence in his or her life of being relationally committed to Jesus Christ, stay away from that person. That’s not the kind of person that’s going to help you lay a foundation to have a solid marriage.
- Does this person understand that life is about the glory of God?
The hero of Proverbs is God. You’re crying out for wisdom, and who do you get? You get the Lord. That’s what you get in Proverbs 2. That’s what the writer is pointing you to: focus on the Lord. You need the Lord. Romans 11:36 is my favorite verse in the Bible: “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” Does the person you are interested in have an understanding that life’s about the glory of God? I’m supposed to live to please God, even if it’s a 19 year-old understanding of that. Life’s about living to please God.
- What’s the trajectory? What’s the track record of the person? Where are they headed?
I mentioned that the word way or path is an important word in the book of Proverbs, so what’s the trajectory of this person’s life? Now when I start talking like this, it’s easy to start sounding perfectionistic and as if the person has to be perfect. Let me just kind of diffuse that and remind us all: we believe in progressive sanctification. Praise God. Therefore, it’s not about perfection, it’s about direction. You’re not looking for the perfect spouse, but you’re looking for where that person is headed in life. What’s the trajectory of the person’s life?
- Why are you attracted to the person? (my favorite question)That’s the heart question. My favorite chapter in the book Marry Wisely, Marry Well is the chapter on attraction. That just intrigues me. Maybe it’s just because I’m a weird counselor and I’m interested in subjects like that, but where does attraction come from? I tried to wrestle through that in the chapter in the book on attraction of: Why are we attracted? I talked about secular theories and I talked about what I hope is a biblical view of attraction. I believe it’s all tied in with the affections of the heart. What are you loving? What are you hoping for? Why are you attracted to that type of person?
- Has this person tried to get you to do perverse things?
I already raised that question.
- Does this person understand God’s purposes for marriage?
This chapter defines marriage as a covenant of companionship. To answer the question “How do you know you’re marrying the right person?” ask whether the person understands God’s purposes for marriage and that it’s a covenant of companionship. Covenant is so important for the days that we’re living in.
- Does this person understand the deep commitment and maturity that are necessary for marriage?
Let me read you a statement out of Marry Wisely, Marry Well. I found this from Baker’s Dictionary of Theology. No relation, though I wish it was. Keep this in the context. I just heard about parents really, really celebrating their 17-year-old’s marriage, and I thought, “I’m not sure, parents, if that was really wise for you to really get behind that and fully endorse your 17-year-old daughter’s marriage.” Keep that in mind as I read this statement.
Baker’s Dictionary of Theology says this in their article on marriage: “To sunder one’s parental relationships and join oneself in intimate, life-long union with the person who hitherto has been a stranger demands a considerable degree of maturity as expressed in a capacity for self-giving love, emotional stability, and the capacity to understand what is involved in committing one’s life to another in marriage. Marriage is for those who have grown up.” Therefore, ask, Does this person understand the maturity that’s necessary for marriage? Marriage is a covenant of companionship. Is this person your friend?
In the book I give a whole bunch of other questions that young people can ask.
In conclusion, how do you know if you’re marrying the right person? Did wisdom guide your choice? What guided your choice in choosing that person?