In the opening verses of Proverbs 2 the secret that so many have sought in vain is revealed: how to find the knowledge of God. After all, there is very little mystery about it. The Christian need not be scholarly and profound to understand the Scripture. It is a certain condition of soul, rather than a well-equipped mind, that is required. God has given His Word. He exhorts us to search it in dependence on His Holy Spirit, who guides us into all truth.
These verses do not suggest a careless reading or cursory examination of the Scriptures. The soul is exhorted to “receive” these words. The sayings of God must be received into the heart where they are to be stored. The ear must be inclined to wisdom; the heart applied to understanding; the mouth crying after knowledge; and the voice lifted up for spiritual intelligence. The whole being is thus devoted to the search for the truth. The earnest seeker must dig into the Word of God as a man searching for silver or hidden treasure. He will not be content with surface findings. When God’s words are valued more than our necessary food, the result is certain: “Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God” (5).
Diligent Bible study is on the decline even among those who value precious truth. Reading books about the Bible is very different from searching the Word for oneself. Notes and expositions may be helpful. But these works of uninspired men must not be permitted to take the place of the sure Word of God. Such one-sided study will cause men to draw their thoughts from one another instead of from God. This will result in dry intellectuality rather than fresh, vigorous spirituality.
Searching for truth must always be followed by walking in the truth that is found. God will defend those who earnestly desire to live in the power of His truth. He will guard them and preserve their way. By diligently seeking His truth they will daily increase in the knowledge of every good path. This is very different from merely holding to a certain theological system or school of Biblical thought. It is not so much “holding the truth,” as being held by that truth. There is a vast difference between the two states.
There are many “vain talkers and deceivers” who boast of their knowledge of prophetic and dispensational teaching. Yet their unguarded ways and careless life bring shame on these solemn and precious truths. As they continue in this life their conscience is seared and their heart is hardened until the most searching ministry fails to make any impression on them.
The proper attitude for one who really holds the truth is set forth in these verses. When wisdom and knowledge are embraced they give discretion that preserves from evil and guards from false ways.
Two enemies are seen attacking the young man: the evil man and the strange woman. “The evil man” is the man who walks in the pride of his heart and in independence of God. This way of life seems very attractive to the young, appealing to their natural mind. To follow the evil man is to leave the straight paths of righteousness and to walk in the ways of darkness (13). But when one receives the truth of God and allows it to control his life he will be delivered from the perverse paths of the evil man.
The Word of God is also given to deliver the young man from “the strange woman” (“adulteress” in niv). Again and again we catch glimpses of this strange woman flitting in and out of the book of Proverbs. Who is she? Does she speak of anything more than impurity and uncleanness? The primary meaning is clear on the face of the passages that concern her. As the enemy of morality and virtue, she seeks to ensnare the young and unwary. Forsaking the guide of her youth and forgetting the covenant of her God, she gives herself up to impure pleasures and soul-destroying lusts. Those who have been ensnared by the strange woman must live with the consequences of their unclean ways. Even sincere repentance will not erase the shameful memories.
Could there be a secondary meaning in these many warnings concerning the strange woman? In the evil man we saw independence from God—rationalism gone wild. Whereas the strange woman represents false religion that eventually will be headed up in “Babylon the great, the mother of harlots” (Revelation 17:5). How devious are her ways! How subtle and deceptive her solicitations! And how truly can it be said that “her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead.”
Only the Word of God can preserve the soul from her corruptions and keep one’s feet on the paths of life. These verses, like the rest of the Old Testament, speak of earthly rewards since the heavenly rewards were not revealed yet. Here we read of the earthly hope of the godly Israelite: He will dwell in the land when the lawless Gentiles and the transgressing Israelites will be rooted out of it.
Ours is a far better portion. We have an inheritance reserved for us in Heaven where Christ the forerunner has entered for us. How much greater is our responsibility to see that our steps are ordered according to the Word of the living God!