Lesson 1

September 30 - October 6

First Things First

Lesson graphic

Sabbath Afternoon   September 30

LEARNING IS INTENDED TO MAKE US WISE. What, though, is wisdom? Education is a vital component to success in today's world. But when we think it is the only means to success, we usually lose sight of the purpose and importance of true education. Then education becomes a frantic struggle for academic success, with financial security as the ultimate aim.

"Our ideas of education take too narrow and too low a range. There is need of a broader scope, a higher aim. True education means more than the pursuit of a certain course of study. It means more than a preparation for the life that now is. It has to do with the whole being, and with the whole period of existence possible to man "—Education, p. 13.

William Cowper stated, "Knowledge and wisdom, far from being one, have ofttimes no connection." Unless our learning acquaints us with the Source of all wisdom and righteousness, unless through His power we are being restored to His image, unless we fix our sights on the far reaches of eternity and value everything in this life accordingly, all acquired knowledge, learning, and skill will fall short of true education, for they do not make us truly wise.

This week's lesson will answer the following questions: What are wisdom and righteousness? and Why does the Lord invite us to seek them?


   I. What Is Wisdom? (Prov. 1:1-7; 2:10, 11).

  II. The Value of Wisdom (Prov. 4:5-7).

III. How Do We Get Wisdom? (Prov. 2:1-6; James 1:5).

IV. What Is Righteousness? (Prov. 2:7-10; 21:3).

 V. Righteousness and Wisdom (Prov. 2:1-6, 9).

MEMORY TEXT: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding" (Proverbs 9:10).  

Sunday  October 1

WHAT IS WISDOM? (Prov. 1:1-7; 2:10, 11).

The value of receiving God's wisdom forms the theme of the book of Proverbs. Solomon emphasizes that wisdom is to direct every area of our lives. Wisdom unites holiness and the common duties of life. Wisdom is to think and act as God would think and act in any situation.

What is a proverb?  What does Solomon state as the purpose of his proverbs?  Prov. 1:1-6.  

DEFINITION. The Hebrew word translated "proverb" means "to compare." A proverb comprises a brief statement of practical wisdom in which one truth is briefly expressed through comparison or contrast (see Prov. 10:20). Most of the proverbs contain two or three lines corresponding in structure and length and arranged for purposes of comparison and contrast.

What is wisdom? (Prov. 1:7) ______________________________________________________ 

How is it related to knowledge? (Prov. 2:9, 10) _______________________________________ 

To whom is wisdom available? (Prov. 1:20-23; 8:1-5) _________________________________ 

There is no true wisdom apart from "the fear of the Lord" (Prov. 1:7; 9:10). Where the context indicates, this fear does not refer to being afraid but to reverence and deep respect. (See Exod. 20:20.) The ability to act wisely stems from a heart united with God and an ear listening for His guidance--"This is the way, walk ye in it" (Isa. 30:21).

In some eras of history, people regarded philosophical knowledge as having supreme value. In our age, many people view scientific knowledge as of greater value than either philosophical or religious knowledge. The kind of knowledge God invites us to receive, however, is an experience in holiness. To know by experience Christ's saving grace opens for us the gates of God's eternal city.

What is of greater value to you, an education that the world respects or a personal union with Christ?  Explain.  How would you advise a young person if she or he were confronted with a choice between achieving recognition in the world and obeying the commandments of God?  

Monday  October 2

THE VALUE OF WISDOM (Prov. 4:5-7).

How do the following scriptures describe the value of wisdom? Why are these descriptions so appropriate?

Prov. 4:5-7 ___________________________________________________________________

Gal. 5:17-26 __________________________________________________________________  

Nothing can compare in value with the life that is "hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3). When we put away the old life of sin and let Christ control our mind, body, emotions, motives, and plans, our ethical and moral practices will be wise. (See Col. 3:5-10.)

In contrast to the fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:19-21 lists the fruit of the flesh. How is today's society exhibiting this fruit? How can having the fruit of the Spirit in our lives improve our lifestyle? (Examples: Joy, peace, and patience can reduce stress. Temperance gives us a foundation of self-control through Christ upon which all grace and victory depends. For further study, see Temperance, p. 201.)

List some of the advantages enjoyed by those who obtain true wisdom. Prov. 2:10-22; 4:6-13; 8:14-16, 18; 9:10, 11.

Prov. 2:10-22 _____________________________________________________________

Prov. 4:6-13 ______________________________________________________________

Prov. 8:14-16, 18 __________________________________________________________

Prov. 9:10, 11 ____________________________________________________________ 

"Discretion will protect you" (NIV). "Love for truth leads to a consideration of right and wrong and a purposing in the heart to avoid that which is evil. Daniel had thus counted the cost and determined not to partake of meats offered to idols,. . . whatever might be the outcome. Such preconsideration arms against temptation and protects from failure under sudden pressure (Dan. 1:8)."—The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 953.

What other people in the Bible can you think of who, because of their love for truth, purposed in their hearts to avoid evil?  What do their lives teach us about wisdom?

Are you seeking the kind of wisdom that comes from God or that which the world respects?  How would you define the difference between these two kinds of wisdom?  

Tuesday  October 3

HOW DO WE GET WISDOM? (Prov. 2:1-6; James 1:5).

How should we seek for wisdom? Prov. 2:1-6; Jer. 29:13; James 1:5.  

Jesus' parable of the treasure hidden in a field provides a classic illustration of the value of the heavenly treasure and the effort we need to make to obtain it. (See Matt. 13:34.) Spiritual wisdom is part of this treasure, and while it is a gift of God, He gives it only to those who earnestly seek it.

"Jesus is going from door to door, standing in front of every soul temple, proclaiming, 'I stand at the door, and knock.' As a heavenly merchantman, He opens His treasures and cries, 'Buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear.' The gold that He offers is without alloy, more precious than that of Ophir; for it is faith and love. The white raiment He invites the soul to wear is His own robe of righteousness; and the oil for anointing is the oil of His grace, which will give spiritual eyesight to the soul in blindness and darkness, that he may distinguish between the workings of the Spirit of God and the spirit of the enemy. 'Open your doors,' says the great Merchantman, the possessor of spiritual riches, 'and transact your business with Me. It is I, your Redeemer, who counsels you to buy of Me.' "—Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, pp. 965, 966.

To buy requires more than mere desire or words of appreciation. It suggests a covenant contract. Notice that the above Spirit of Prophecy quotation illustrates this relationship.

God gave Solomon wisdom that "excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt" (1 Kings 4:30). "The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere" (James 3:17, NIV).

Time is money and life. Every day each of us spends time in trade for one kind of treasure or another. With whom are you doing your business? Of what character are your transactions?  

Have your priorities become confused as to what constitutes true wealth? What do you put first each day?  

What influences do you allow to govern your decisions? What goals direct your conduct?  

Wednesday  October 4

WHAT IS RIGHTEOUSNESS? (Prov. 2:7-10; 21:3).

What characteristics do the righteous have? Prov. 29:6, 7; 11:30; 12:3. How do we obtain righteousness? Prov. 2:7-10.  

The Bible never separates the believer's righteousness from Christ's dwelling in the heart. The covenant relationship with God, by which His Spirit reigns within, is the only source of righteousness. (See Rom. 8:9, 10; 10:6-10.) The power to think righteous thoughts and do righteous deeds is available only to the person who has friendship and fellowship with Christ.

"So we have nothing in ourselves of which to boast. We have no ground for self-exaltation. Our only ground of hope is in the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and in that wrought by His Spirit working in and through us."—Steps to Christ, p. 63.

What two types of activity does Proverbs 21:3 contrast, and how does God relate to each? Compare Isaiah 1:10-18.  

Can't you almost hear the Lord's frustration mingled with heartbreak for His wayward people? "Come!" He pleads. "Let Me give you a solution to your situation. I can change your sinful heart. Sacrifices were intended to remind you of the Messiah to come, but only I can take away your sin. Even though your sins are like crimson, I can make them as white as snow." (See Isa. 1:10-18; Amos 5:21-24.)

Unless the carnal mind is crucified, there is no salvation. (See Rom. 8:6.) Any kind of sacrifice with an unsurrendered heart is only a form of godliness without the power. God rejects all rituals and human performances in the absence of His righteousness. This alone renders the heart right and just.

Jesus became human that He might reveal beyond all question what God is like and what He really wants of His people. The Lord declared, "Lo, I come. . . to do thy will, O God" (Heb. 10:7; see also Ps. 40:8). It was not merely to prove it could be done that Jesus lived a life of harmony and obedience. His life revealed what was in His heart. He offers this same experience to all who will receive it. (See Ezek. 36:26; Heb. 8:10.)

As you examine your heart critically, on whose righteousness do you tend to depend: Christ's or your own?  

Do you feel God accepts you because of the good things you do or because of what Christ has done and is doing for you?  

Thursday  October 5


Explain the relationship between righteousness and wisdom. Prov. 2:1-6, 9; 23:23, 24.  

In the Old Testament, those having wisdom are not necessarily the "wise" of the book of Proverbs. They may be: (1) those who practice magic arts (Exod. 7:11; Isa. 47:9, 10); (2) those with special skills (Exod. 36:8; 2 Chron. 2:12); (3) those who are clever, sly, or cunning (2 Sam. 14:2); (4) those who have the practical wisdom to handle the perils of life (Prov. 6:6; 14:24); (5) cultured, educated people (1 Kings 4:29); and (6) those who accept commandments and instruction (Prov. 3:1; 8:33).

In contrast, the kind of wisdom that the book of Proverbs discusses is the righteousness that results from a covenant relationship with God. When the Lord has control of a mind through the power of His Spirit, that mind is a wise, righteous mind.

A righteous person is wise in a multitude of ways, many of which the book of Proverbs spells out. The author is not saying that we become righteous in God's eyes when we act in a wise manner. Rather, the message is that when we come to know the Lord—as it is our privilege to know Him—our thoughts, words, and deeds are wise because Christ has become our righteousness and wisdom. (See 1 Cor. 1:30.)

From a human perspective, wisdom is to engage in both good and evil. Human wisdom seeks to become wise in all things and does not settle on anything as absolute truth.

God's wisdom, on the other hand, is to know the difference between good and evil and to choose only the good. The power to choose the good and practice it is made possible through the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord.

Humankind lost ready access to God's wisdom at the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Everyone seeks wisdom, but how many really comprehend what wisdom truly is? In the book of Proverbs, God reveals His wisdom as the answer to human inquiry.

It is notable that all so-called sacred writings outside the Bible basically teach the necessity of a balance between good and evil as the foundation of wisdom. In contrast, Proverbs explains wisdom as being centered in God, with each proverb depicting a contrast between God's way and the world's way. The message of Proverbs is indeed the good news that a divine power is available to help us live in harmony with God. "He guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones" (Prov. 2:8, NIV).

How can you recognize God as the Source of all true wisdom? What are you doing about it?  

Friday  October 6

FURTHER STUDY:  Study the following New Testament passages on the subject of wisdom: 1 Cor. 1:25-30; 2:6-16; 3:19.

Read "The Source and Aim of True Education," pp. 13-19, in Education.  

"A knowledge of God is the foundation of all true education and of all true service. . . . This knowledge is the essential preparation both for this life and for the life to come."—The Ministry of Healing, p. 409.

"The fear of the Lord lies at the very foundation of all progress; it is the beginning of wisdom. Your Heavenly Father has claims upon you; for without solicitation or merit on your part He gives you the bounties of His providence. . . . As you are bought with a price, even the precious blood of the Son of God, He requires that you make a right use of the privileges you enjoy. Your intellectual and moral faculties are God's gifts, talents entrusted to you for wise improvement, and you are not at liberty to let them lie dormant for want of proper cultivation, or be crippled and dwarfed by inaction. It is for you to determine whether or not the weighty responsibilities that rest upon you shall be faithfully met, whether or not your efforts shall be well directed and your best."—Fundamentals of Christian Education, pp. 85, 86.

1. Why is wisdom so important, and why do we need to search it?  Why isn't it easier to acquire?  Or is it?  Explain.  
2. Why aren't people more interested in looking for and finding wisdom?  Why do people find it so hard to revere and respect God?  
3. How can you prove to a nonbelieving friend that God's wisdom gives greater rewards than the world's wisdom?  
4. You will notice as you study that Proverbs refers to wisdom in the feminine.  Why do you think this is so? See Revelation 12; 21:9.  As you read Proverbs, could you substitute the word church for the word wisdom?  How would doing so increase your understanding of the church? 

SUMMARIZE  this week's lesson by answering the questions asked at the beginning of the week: What are wisdom and righteousness? Why does the Lord invite us to seek them?

The fear of the Lord—a relationship of reverence, admiration, and trust—puts the seeker of wisdom in touch with its Source. It enables us to view life from the perspective of eternity and to make decisions accordingly, placing us in the line for ultimate success.  

InSide Story

The Robbers Repent

J. H. Zachary

Every week Pastor Karro Rao gathered the tithes and offerings from the churches of his district in the South Western Mission of Papua New Guinea to take to the mission office. The week's offerings usually amounted to close to 3,000 kinars (U.S. $1,500).

As he made his way along the narrow road, a bamboo pole suddenly fell across his pathway and four robbers surrounded him. One wielded a knife; another a homemade gun. "Are you carrying money?" they asked.

"Yes," the pastor answered truthfully.

"Then hand it over," one man ordered.

"I can do that," the pastor answered. "But you must know that this money does not belong to me. I am a pastor. This money was given by my church members for the work of God. I have 5 kinars of my own money that I will give to you, but I urge you to not touch God's money."

"Give us all of the money!" the robbers ordered threateningly.

Pastor Rao gave the bandits all the money he was carrying. After the bandits disappeared, Pastor Rao hurried to a telephone and called the mission office to report the theft. Then he asked the office staff to pray that God would help get the money back.

Six days later Pastor Rao was walking along the same pathway when a bamboo pole again dropped across the path in front of him. This time the pole had a plastic bag attached to it. It was his money bag. Before he could retrieve the bag, the same four criminals surrounded him. "Please take this money and give it for God's work," one man said.

Curious, the pastor asked, "What happened to make you change your mind?"

"We wanted to buy some beer and get drunk. But when we tried to open the bag of money, our hands began to shake so violently that we could not open it."

Pastor Rao answered, "Thank God! He loves you so much, and He has a better life planned for you. I am sure that you do not want to spend the rest of your life hurting people."

Pastor Rao developed a friendship with these men, and within a few months one of them was baptized. The others are still preparing to experience that better life that Pastor Rao has promised them.

J. H. Zachary is coordinator of international evangelism for The Quiet Hour and a special consultant for the General Conference Ministerial Association.

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