The Holy Spirit makes bold challenges in verses 12 and 16 of Proverbs 2. The Spirit claims that through the pursuit of wisdom, a follower of God can be saved from the power of bad, corrupting company and from sexual sin.
The first five verses of Proverbs 2 provide the answer. For wisdom to save you, you must pursue it with passionate, consuming intensity. Wisdom driven by passion is the most valuable skill that a human being can learn. Being wise is not just knowing a lot of information; it is applying truth to life—24/7.
And what do these fine-sounding words look like in action, in everyday life? Well, here is one biblical example that shows wisdom in action. It is the example of Joseph when he was sexually confronted by Potiphar’s wife. From previous encounters with this woman, Joseph knew of her desires; he knew the intensity of this confrontation. This time she would not take no for an answer. We pick up the story in Genesis 39:10-12:
10 She kept putting pressure on Joseph day after day, but he refused to sleep with her, and he kept out of her way as much as possible. 11 One day, however, no one else was around when he went in to do his work. 12 She came and grabbed him by his cloak, demanding, “Come on, sleep with me!” Joseph tore himself away, but he left his cloak in her hand as he ran from the house. NLT
Wisdom meant running? In this case, yes! For Joseph, the honor of God drove him. Earlier in the narrative we are told how Joseph answered the would-be adulteresses’ first overtures:
“Look,” he told her, “my master trusts me with everything in his entire household. 9 No one here has more authority than I do. He has held back nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God” (Genesis 39:8-9).
In a foreign culture, where gods other than the LORD were worshipped, Joseph lays it on the line. What he was being asked to do was a great sin against God. So, when she “traps” Joseph when all of the other servants are out of the house, he knows the honor of his God is at stake. He is aware of how dangerous the temptation is. He knows the time for reasonable protest is over. He does what some might think is rash and foolish: he tears himself from her grip and flees. Joseph demonstrated that he knew how to manage people. He was not naïve. He knew that he would be subject to the lies of this dishonorable woman. But he runs anyway, because he will not sin against his God. He is vulnerable to her whims, but by running from the temptation he entrusts himself to the care of the God who had rescued him from the pit. Honoring God was more important to Joseph than his reputation before men.
Yes, wisdom meant running. For Joseph, at that time, running was wisdom in action.
Someone might say, “Well, how was Joseph saved?” All his integrity got him was to be thrown in jail for something he didn’t do!
Joseph was saved because he lived for God. Even in prison Joseph honored his LORD. And then, in God’s own time, He elevated Joseph to the second most powerful position in Egypt. I wonder how comfortable Potiphar and his wife were feeling the moment they learned that Joseph would be in charge.
This story is an example of wisdom—wisdom that is being pursued as if nothing else really matters. This second chapter of Proverbs says exactly that: acquiring God’s wisdom must drive his people more than anything else. The protection is in the pursuit.
More on this in the next post.