Commentary on Proverbs 2:4-5 by William Arnot – Part 1
The following is an excerpt from William Arnot’s “ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS: Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth”.
SEEK AND YOU SHALL FIND
“If you seek her as silver . . . you shall find the knowledge of God.”
— Proverbs 2:4, 5.
WISDOM continues still to cry unto men with the affectionate authority of a parent. The incarnation of the Son is God’s grand utterance to mankind. The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. He came to make known the Father. “No man has seen God at any time: the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”
Such is the speaker, and such the theme. Wisdom cries, “Incline your ear unto wisdom.” Christ calls on men to come unto Christ. It was He who opened the Scriptures; and He taught from them the things concerning Himself. He is Prophet and Priest. He gives the invitation; and the invitation is “Come unto me.” It is Christ offering Christ to sinners; the teacher and the lesson alike divine. The preacher and the sermon are the same. He is the beginning and the ending. He is all in all.
The matter of the whole passage, 2:1-9, consists in a command to seek, and a promise to bestow. The same speaker, at a later day, condensed his own discourse into the few emphatic words, “Seek, and you shall find.” In this passage there is a needful expansion and profitable repetition of these two great pillar thoughts.
The seeking is in verses 1-4; the finding in verses 5-9. A Father speaks, and He speaks as unto children. He demands a reasonable service, and promises a rich reward.
In the fourfold repetition of the command there seems an order of succession; and the order, when observed, is both comely (pleasant) and instructive. It combines the beauty of the blossom and the profit of the fruit:
1. Receive my words, – and hide my commandments.
2. Incline your ear, – and apply your heart
3. Cry after knowledge: – lift up your voice for understanding.
4. Seek her as silver: – search for her as for hid treasure.
1. “Receive my words.” This is the first thing. Practical instruction must ever begin here. The basis of all religion and morality is the word of the Lord, taken into the understanding and heart. When the sower went forth to sow, some fell by the wayside, and the fowls (birds) came and devoured it. This is the first danger to which the published truth is exposed. It does not enter the ground at all. It tinkles on the surface of the mind, like seed on a beaten path, and next moment it is off, no one knows where. It never penetrated the soil; it was never received. Corresponding to that first danger is the first counsel, “My son receive my words;” and if there should be any doubt about the meaning of the precept, the clause which balances it on the other side supplies the comment, “hide my commandments with you.” Our adversary the devil goes about like a roaring lion, or ravening bird, seeking whom he may devour. He carries off the word from the surface of listless minds as birds carry away the seed that lies on the surface of unbroken ground. The word of God is a vital seed, but it will not germinate unless it be hidden in a softened receptive heart. It is here that Providence so often strikes in with effect as an instrument in the work of the Spirit. Especially, at this point, bereaving (being deprived) providences work together for good. Even these, however, precious though they have been in the experience of all the saved, are only secondary and subordinate agencies. Sorrow is not seed. A field that is thoroughly and deeply broken may be as barren in the harvest as the beaten pathway. The place and use of providential visitation in the divine administration of Christ’s kingdom, is to break up the way of the word through the incrustations (hardening work) of worldliness and vanity that encase a human heart and keep the word lying hard and dry upon the surface.
Everyone is capable of perceiving the difference, between merely hearing the word and receiving it. It is a blessed thing to have that word dwelling richly within you; felt in all its freshness touching your conscience and enlightening your mind, during the busy day and in the silent night, giving tone to your spirit within, and direction to your course through life.
The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. Behold, He stands at the door and knocks; if any man open, He will come in. To as many as receive Him, He gives power to become the sons of God.
2. “Incline your ear.” The entrance of the word has an immediate effect on the attitude of the mind and the course of the life. The incoming of the word makes the ear incline to wisdom; and the inclining of the ear to wisdom lets in and lays up greater treasures of the word.
In practice it will be found that those who hide the word within them, feeding on it as daily bread, acquire a habitual bent of mind towards things spiritual. On the other hand, when the truth touches, and glances off again, like sunlight from polar snows, it is both a symptom and a cause of an inclination of the mind away from God and goodness. The great obstacle to the power and spread of the gospel lies in the averted attitude of human hearts. The mind is turned in another direction, and the faculties occupied in other pursuits. How hopeful the work of preaching becomes when the lie and the liking of the listener’s soul is towards saving truth. When the heart is applied to it, some portion of the word goes in, and that which has obtained an entrance prepares the way for more. To him that has that little will be given much, and he shall have abundance. A man inclines his ear to those sounds which already his heart desires; again to turn the ear, by an exercise of will at God’s high command, to the word of wisdom, is the very way to inoculate (protect) the heart with a love to that word passing the love of earthly things. The lean (inclination) of the disciples’ hearts in the days of old drew them to Jesus; and Jesus near, made their hearts burn with a keener glow. The ear and the heart!—precious gifts. He that has a ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says. He that has a heart to love, let him love with it the altogether Lovely. The ear inclined to divine wisdom will draw the heart; the heart drawn will incline the ear. Behold one of the circles in which God, for his own glory, makes his unnumbered worlds go round.