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Blog - Proverbs 2:2

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For all the blogs in this series, click here: Proverbs Commentary.

Proverbs 2:2

"So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding;" (Pro 2:2)


The first condition which must be fulfilled to find the knowledge of God is comprised of two steps which are given in the first two verses of Proverbs 2. As was noted in the comments on the previous verse, the first step set forth for understanding the fear of the LORD is for the seeker of truth to receive the words of God and hide them in his heart (Pro 2:1). God's words must be received and hidden within so that a man can take the next step which is to incline his ear unto wisdom and apply his heart to understanding (Pro 2:2). The phrase so that "denot[es] result or logical consequence; also sometimes = ‘in order that’" (OED). A man therefore cannot incline his ear unto wisdom until he has first received God's words with that same ear when they were offered to him; and he cannot apply his heart to understanding until he first has hidden those words in his heart upon their reception.

Wisdom is the "capacity of judging rightly in matters relating to life and conduct; soundness of judgement in the choice of means and ends" (OED). A man's judgment is only as good as his information. To judge rightly in matters of life, a man must of necessity first have truth in his mind. In that "thy word is truth" (Joh 17:17), a man must have knowledge of the scriptures before he is able to exercise sound judgment. Hence the reason that receiving God's word must precede receiving His wisdom.

So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom. To incline is to "bend or bow (the head, the body, oneself) towards a person or thing, and hence forward or downward; to bend or turn one's ear towards a speaker, to give ear, listen favourably, attend to" (OED). The Lord exhorts His children numerous times to incline their ear unto Him.

Jos 24:23 - Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the LORD God of Israel.

Pro 4:20 - My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.

Pro 5:1 - My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding:

Pro 22:17 - Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply thine heart unto my knowledge.

How many Christians incline their ear unto a talebearer who whispers secrets about another, being all too eager to hear the gossip, but make little effort to incline their ear unto God's wisdom? How many Christians incline their ear to the television for hours per day with perfect attentiveness, but doze off during an hour long sermon expounding the wisdom of God?

Acquiring wisdom requires effort. When a man is interested in what another has to say and desires to fully comprehend it, he will get close to the speaker, turn his head to ensure clear hearing, lean toward the man, and focus his mind on what is being said. The same level of exertion is required to learn the wisdom of God. Wisdom has to be attended unto (to direct the ears, mind, energies to anything - OED) (Pro 5:1). To incline his ear unto wisdom, a man must figuratively bow down toward the holy scriptures which are a transcript from the mouth of God: "for the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding" (Pro 2:6).

In these last days, God "hath manifested his word through preaching" (Tit 1:3) by way of pastors who "speak the wisdom God" (1Co 2:7) from the scriptures to God's children. If a man truly desires wisdom, he will expend energy to focus his mind when listening to sermons in order to hear with comprehension what is being taught, while figuratively, and sometimes literally, inclining his ear unto wisdom.

And apply thine heart to understanding. Not only does the ear need to be employed diligently to receive the instruction of wisdom, but the heart, in which the word of God is hidden, must be applied to understanding. To apply is "to bring oneself into close practical contact with a pursuit; to give or devote (any faculty) assiduously to some pursuit, or to do something" (OED). Every instance of the word apply in the Bible is used in reference to the heart, such as the following.

Psa 90:12 - So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

Pro 22:17 - Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply thine heart unto my knowledge.

Pro 23:12 - Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge.

To find the knowledge of God and to attain unto wisdom, the heart must be brought into close contact and devoted (applied) to the pursuit of understanding which is the "power or ability to understand; intellect, intelligence" (OED). It is true that the heart is the seat of the emotions, which is what too many Christians exclusively use it for; but it is also where the intellect resides, for man is said to understand with his heart.

1Ki 3:12 - . . . I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart . . .

Job 38:36 - Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart?

Pro 8:5 - O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart.

Isa 6:10 - . . . lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.

The heart is to be applied to understanding not emotion. Therefore, for a man to truly "find the knowledge of God" (Pro 2:5), he must use his intellect, not his feelings.

Pro 14:33 - Wisdom resteth in the heart of him that hath understanding: but that which is in the midst of fools is made known.

Pro 15:14 - The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge: but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness.

Most religion that passes for Christianity focuses on emotion rather than faith and reason. Remove the music programs from today's "churches," which only stir the emotions of the goats, but provide no food for the sheep, and those organizations would soon go out of business. Matthew Henry said it well:

Note, That way that sense directs the most will go; there is nothing so bad which the careless world will not be drawn to by a concert of music, or driven to by a fiery furnace. And by such methods as these false worship has been set up and maintained. (Matthew Henry, commenting on Dan 3:1-7)

If a Christian desires to truly know God, he must stop seeking an emotional experience and start applying his heart to understanding.


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For the previous blog in this series, click here: Proverbs 2:1.
For the next blog in this series, click here: Proverbs 2:3.

For all the blogs in this series, click here: Proverbs Commentary.