“Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge, for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, if all of them are ready on your lips. That your trust may be in the Lord, I have made them known to you today, even to you.” (Proverbs 22:17-19)
It’s always good to return to the premise of a book or article to remind ourselves of the writer’s objective. In the passage above Solomon reminds us that he wrote his proverbs for the reader “to know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth” (1:1-4) He goes on to say, “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance… The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (1:5, 7).
In chapter 22, verse 17 he instructs us to turn toward him to hear wise words and then to apply our hearts to learn them. Imperatives (commands or instructions) in Scripture often follow indicatives (truths); in this case, instruction comes first. Those who are smart and secure will listen to the words of wise, godly people and learn from them. In fact, the most effective way to learn, to take in new knowledge, is by reading, watching, or hearing from those more informed than us. By listening to others in humility and making application of biblical knowledge we develop wisdom. We do this not in idle curiosity but trusting in God, since that is their purpose (v. 19). Let us not overlook the admonition to keep these words on our lips for greater wisdom, and that others might benefit from them (v. 18).
Do you diligently pursue wisdom by reading doctrinal articles, listening to biblically based sermons, and studying Scripture exegetically? Or do you expect to learn passively without working at it? If our Savior, Jesus Christ, had approached his task passively in this life, he would not have qualified as our Redeemer. He actively obeyed his Father by applying the Law to every aspect of life, for our benefit. “Apply your heart to instruction and your ear to words of knowledge.” (Proverbs 23:12)