This Week's Focus Passage

Proverbs 13:20 ‘Walk with wise men, and thou shalt be wise.’


This Week’s Focus Passage: Proverbs 13:20

‘Walk with wise men, and thou shalt be wise.’


There are a multitude of expressions, warnings, guidelines, directions, in the Scriptures, that have the features that we see in this text from Proverbs; namely, the feature of what we may call ‘pro and con,’ or in biblical language perhaps, ‘yea and nay.’ We speak of the entirety of this verse which is well worth citing. In this verse we witness both a positive and its negative corollary; both the result of walking with wise men and the negative result of becoming a companion of fools.


Walk with wise men, and thou shalt be wise; But the companion of fools shall smart [be broken] for it.—Proverbs 13:20.          


This speaks of the company that we keep. ‘Birds of a feather flock together,’ is a well-known axiom. But here it is not only that they flock together, but that they become alike. We have witnessed, on the seacoast, the amazing pelicans; how that they fly in a pattern that surely must be envied by both our navy’s Blue Angels, and the army’s Thunderbirds. It must be a case of imitation; each one following the pattern set by the one in their immediate purview. It is not simply a case of ‘flocking together,’ but becoming precisely alike; following a pattern. Follow the pattern of wise men, and thou shalt become wise; follow the pattern of foolish, or evil, men and thou shalt become evil. We consider a classic example [we use the term ‘classic example’ guardedly, because we are not certain of all that it means, or may mean] in 1 Kings 12, regarding the son of king Solomon, namely, Rehoboam. This son and successor of Solomon and his ‘foolish’ behavior provide for us a remarkable example of the point that the author [likely and ironically, Solomon] of this proverb is seeking to make. Upon the death of king Solomon, Rehoboam went to Shechem where all Israel was to make him king in the room of his father. In this assembly of Israel, Jeroboam stood up as a spokesman for a majority of the tribes. He set before Rehoboam some conditions under which they would happily become his servants. Jeroboam spoke in 1 Kings 12:4 the following conditions for a peaceful transition:


Thy father made our yoke grievous; now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee. 


Rehoboam asked to be given three days to consider their demand. We are informed that his use of these three days resulted in the following diverse courses that he took. 


And king Rehoboam took counsel with the old men, that had stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, saying, what counsel give ye me to return answer to this people. And they spake unto him, saying, if thou wilt be a servant to this people this day, and will serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever.

And here is the key statement for us to find in the context of this history of the nation of Israel which will result in the division of the tribes into two nations, that of Judah, and that of the ten tribes under Jeroboam—the reality that this was prophesied and directed by God does not discount the responsibilities of the individuals involved in its fulfillment]. This key of which we speak is the response of Rehoboam to the counsel of his father’s advisors, ‘the old men.’ Rehoboam’s response to the point:

But he forsook the counsel of the old men which they had given him, and took counsel with the young men that were grown up with him, that stood before him. 


Joseph Caryl, on Job 5:3, has defined a fool to be one, “who acts without counsel, and whose will is too hard for his understanding; he hath no reason for what he doth, but because he hath a mind to do it.” Was this not Rehoboam’s sin, yea, his folly? David has joined foolishness and sin together in Psalm 69:5, where he wrote, O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee. Matthew Henry has treated, of this verse, the words ‘foolishness, and sins,’ as veritable synonyms, when he wrote in his commentary, beginning with a reference to our God, “He knows the corruption of our nature: Thou knowest the foolishness that is bound up in my heart. All our sins take rise from our foolishness.” Henry equates foolishness with sin.

The alternative is that of walking with the world. We know what the apostle John has plainly said about that manner of life. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.—1 John 2:15. And also, We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in the evil one.—1 John 5:19. Do we not repeatedly, in the Word of God, have these choices set before us; either Jehovah or the world; it’s righteousness or wickedness. We are daily confronted with such choices. Joshua, the son of Nun, famously set forth this choice toward the end of the book bearing his name. See Joshua 24:14-15. 


Now therefore fear Jehovah, and serve him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River, and in Egypt; and serve ye Jehovah. And if it seem evil unto you to serve Jehovah, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve Jehovah.


Joshua called upon the people to make a choice; whom they would follow; Jehovah or the world: will you walk with God, or will you walk with the world? 


Is this not likely one of the purposes of the church of Jesus Christ? Is this not one of the blessings of fellowshipping with believers of like precious faith? Is this not what Paul has taught in his letter to the church at Ephesus. He has written to us about the body, the church and its members; how we may, and should, walk together in fellowship one with another. He has given many admonitions to the point, such as grow up in all things into him, who is the head, even Christ; from whom all the body [is] fitly framed together through that which every joint supplieth. Put on the new man. He wraps these things up with this wonderfully gracious admonition. Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, even as Christ also loved you. If we wish to truly be wise through walking with wise men, let us seek to walk with the absolutely wisest among men, even Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, for he is Himself, Wisdom incarnate. 

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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