Proverbs 8:17 (ESV) … “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.”
Having seen wisdom reigning, Solomon heard wisdom’s voice saying, “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.” Solomon was telling us whom wisdom loves. Love is reciprocal. It is a two-way street. Those of us who seek after wisdom will always find wisdom seeking after us.
We do not have to wait until we are old to seek wisdom. The older we get, the more set in our ways we may become. The sooner we start looking for wisdom the better. Joseph, Samuel, David, Solomon, Josiah, and Daniel all sought wisdom early in life.
Consider Samuel. Even before he was born he was the subject of importunate prayer. When he was born Hannah “called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the Lord” (1 Samuel 1:20). When Hannah brought Samuel to Eli she said, “For this child I prayed” (1:27). For this child she never ceased to pray.
Hannah gave her little boy back to God just as soon as he was able to dress himself, comb his hair, and run around the house. When she handed him over to Eli, she redoubled her prayers. And little Samuel sought the Lord early. He loved the Lord and the Lord loved him. And little Samuel found the Lord—or rather the Lord found him. Samuel responded early to the spiritual education the old priest gave him. Soon he knew as much as Eli about the burnt offering, the meal offering, the peace offering, the sin and trespass offerings, the table and the showbread, the golden lampstands, the golden altar, and the veil. Soon he knew much more than Eli. Wearing the little coat his mother had made him, Samuel became a feature and an attraction at the tabernacle.
As his young heart opened like a flower to divine truth, and as his godly mother prayed to water the seed as it was sown, little Samuel heard something Eli never heard—or at least, to give him the benefit of the doubt, no longer heard. Samuel heard God call and speak to him by name.
Like his illustrious Lord when He was manifest in flesh, Samuel grew in favor with God and man and God was with him. Soon all Israel knew that God, who had been silent so long, was talking again. The dark days of the judges were about to end. A new day was dawning. People called Samuel “the seer” because he was able to see into the hearts of men and into the heart of God.
Solomon also heard wisdom’s voice saying, “Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver” (Proverbs 8:18–19). Solomon was telling us what wisdom lavishes. The riches offered by wisdom are durable. Other riches have a habit of disappearing, but wisdom once acquired cannot be squandered.
The difference between wisdom’s riches and other riches is illustrated by James Michener in his book Caribbean. He brilliantly summarized a basic difference between British colonies in the Caribbean and the Spanish settlements. All Spain wanted was gold and silver—more and more wealth. The purpose of Spain was to obtain silver from eastern Peru and gold from Mexico. The bustling new cities of Panama, Porto Bello, Cartagena, and Havana all saw great treasure ships weigh anchor. Splendid galleons and escorting battleships left in vast convoys for Spain year after year. In spite of fever, pestilence, storm, and voracious buccaneers, pirates, and privateers, the treasure fleets sailed to Seville. This gold and silver tide was the envy of all the other nations. They thought, as the Spanish king thought, that all this treasure, wrung with callous cruelty from Spanish possessions in the New World, had made Spain rich and powerful.
“Not so!” said Michener. The control of vast treasures of silver and gold is not what makes a nation great. England’s power and wealth were based on something more solid than bullion: the character, integrity, and industry of its citizens at home and abroad. A nation’s true wealth lies in its people, especially in its workers, farmers, craftsmen, artisans, and builders. English settlers in the Caribbean and in other British colonies around the world rolled up their sleeves and went to work, and trade flourished between the mother country and her colonies. The character of British citizens, when all is said and done, was based on the Bible. The Bible was the book that Spain—in the grip of pope and priest, superstition and the Inquisition—so greatly despised and so foolishly burned.
Solomon heard the voice of wisdom saying, “I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment: That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures” (Proverbs 8:20–21). Solomon was telling us where wisdom leads. There is a right way and a wrong way to obtain riches, if riches we must have. Riches that are not acquired “in the way of righteousness” cannot bring happiness.
Consider the way Mr. Bumble tried to improve his financial situation in Charles Dickens’ classic Oliver Twist. Mr. Bumble, the village beadle, was the man who beat and bullied poor little orphaned Oliver. Mr. Bumble in the course of his parochial duties called on the Widow Corney to whom he made himself waggishly pleasant. The widow however was called away on an errand. Dickens wrote:
Mr. Bumble’s conduct on being left to himself, was rather inexplicable. He opened the closet, counted the teaspoons, weighed the sugar-tongs, closely inspected the silver milk-pot to ascertain that it was of the genuine metal, and, having satisfied his curiosity on these points, put on his cocked hat corner-wise, and danced with much gravity four distinct times around the table. Having gone through this very extraordinary performance, he took off his cocked hat again, and, spreading himself before the fire with his back towards it, seemed to be mentally engaged in taking an exact inventory of the furniture.…
… As there were no sounds of Mrs. Corney’s approach, it occurred to Mr. Bumble … to allay his curiosity by a cursory glance at the interior of Mrs. Corney’s chest of drawers.
… Mr. Bumble, beginning at the bottom, proceeded to make himself acquainted with the contents of the three long drawers … arriving, in course of time, at the right-hand corner drawer.… Beholding therein a small padlocked box, which, being shaken, gave forth a pleasant sound, as of the chinking of coin, Mr. Bumble returned with a stately walk to the fireplace; and, resuming his old attitude, said, with a grave and determined air, “I’ll do it!”
Well, so he did. He married the Widow Corney. It took the new Mrs. Bumble just two months to reduce the once haughty beadle to a state of abject servility. Dickens gave us another glimpse of that same living room. Mr. Bumble was once more alone, reminiscing gloomily over his fallen fortunes and eight short weeks of marriage.
“And tomorrow two months it was done!” said Mr. Bumble, with a sigh. “It seems a age.… I sold myself … for six teaspoons, a pair of sugar-tongs, and a milk-pot; with a small quantity of second-hand furniture, and twenty pound in money. I went very reasonable. Cheap, dirt cheap!”
Mr. Bumble’s way of improving his financial fortunes was the way of folly. Wisdom’s path never leads to regrets.