Proverbs 4 is divided into three sections, each continuing the pattern of addressing ″my son″ (vv. 1, 10, 20).
The first section (vv. 1-9) stresses the supremacy of wisdom: she is to be embraced at all costs (v. 7), and cherishing her will pay a rich dividend (vv. 8-9). The appeal is made across generations: the father was taught by his own father (vv. 3-4), and he now passes the exhortation on to the third generation, saying: ″do not forget my words or turn away from them″ (v. 5). These words have stood the test of time.
The second section (vv. 10-19) repeats the picture of the two paths. The son is to stay on the path of wisdom (v. 11) and avoid the path of the wicked (vv. 14-15); the father is setting the son on the straight path (v. 11).
The lifestyle of the wicked is wholeheartedly evil; they are so addicted to doing evil that they cannot sleep without it (v. 16). Their staple diet is wickedness and violence (v. 17). One path is gloriously bright, and the other, ever-deepening darkness (vv. 18-19).
Note the commands to ″listen″ (v. 10), ″hold on″ (v. 13), ″do not set foot″ (v. 14), and ″avoid″ (v. 15). The wise life means always being on the alert and making disciplined, conscious decisions to pursue wisdom.
The third section (vv. 20-27) encourages the young man to check his spiritual health, attitude, and behaviour. He is to guard his heart and his whole inner life, especially his thoughts (v. 23). He is to rid his mouth of perversity (v. 24), for ″the mouth speaks what the heart is full of″ (Matthew 12:34). He is to keep his eyes focused on the straight path (Proverbs 4:25)-the way of wisdom, the way of the Lord. This will keep his feet on firm ground and from drifting into evil (vv. 26-27).
Proverbs reminds us that being on the path of wisdom is not a one-off choice, but a lifetime of saying ″yes″ to wisdom and ″no″ to the way of the wicked. As Paul reminds Titus, the grace of God ″teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age″ (Titus 2:12).
What are the benefits that the wise will enjoy?
Check your own thoughts, words, and actions. What do you find about your heart, mouth, eyes, and feet in the light of Proverbs 4:23-27?