“A king's wrath is a messenger of death, and a wise man will appease it. In the light of a king's face there is life, and his favor is like the clouds that bring the spring rain.”
Proverbs is full of practical advice, and that is certainly what Solomon gives us here. A king has the authority to punish or reward, and the wise person recognizes that reality and responds accordingly.
I think, however, that this proverb also uses the example of an earthly ruler to illustrate the reality that God is the ultimate king. A wise person “appeases” God’s wrath and seeks the Lord’s favor. It is foolish to provoke the Lord with defiant disobedience.
On the other hand, in the light of God’s grace there is life, and his favor brings eternal blessings to us. The wise person recognizes God’s greatness, repents of sin, receives forgiveness in Christ, and then responds in obedience.
“How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.”
This verse emphasizes wealth vs wisdom. It is possible, of course, to be wealthy and wise. Wealth is not intrinsically bad. However, in this verse Solomon draws a contrast between wealth and wisdom in order to teach an important principle.
In this passage material wealth represents power, pleasure, image, greed, and doing what advances self. In contrast to self-centered greed, wisdom is about living by God’s standards, being humble, and doing what is right and helpful. Solomon tells us that wisdom is to be preferred over wealth, a message already given in Proverbs chapter 2:
“My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” (Proverbs 2:1-5)
If you want true wisdom, you can’t dabble. It is not a casual, occasional pursuit. You must seek wisdom as you would seek treasure. You must recognize the immeasurable value of wisdom. You must seek it relentlessly, with all your heart. Ask for it. Cry out for it. Search for it.
Chapter 2 also describes the blessings you receive if you pursue wisdom with this kind of diligence.
“Then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.” (Proverbs 2.5-8)
The relentless pursuit of wisdom will bring you face-to-face with the Creator. Wisdom doesn’t come from somewhere, it comes from Someone. Seek the Lord and you will see his greatness and holiness. You will see the truth he has spoken in scripture. You will begin to understand his purposes and plans, and you will learn the principles he has given for how he wants you to live and work in the world he created. Most importantly, the Lord will teach you how to apply wisdom to the situations and people in your life.
We are told that it is through wisdom that the Lord gives us protection: He is our “shield,” and he “watches over us.” Note that we receive the Lord’s protection if we “walk in integrity” and we stay faithful to “the way.” If you deviate from the way, then you are no longer under God’s shield. You are no longer under his protection.
Is this not common sense? Even the secular world speaks of “at risk” behavior. To reject God’s standards is to remove yourself from his protection and put yourself at risk.
*Note: This passage from Proverbs 2 says that wisdom “guards the paths of justice.” That means that without wisdom and adherence to God’s standards there can be no true and lasting justice in our lives or in our nation.
The people, politicians, and pundits who are calling for justice need to return to God and his standards, for that is the source of justice. But as long as “gold and silver” continue to be their actual goal, justice will not happen.
Trust God, do the work, and seek wisdom for the priceless treasure that it is. Justice will follow.