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"Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path." (Pro 2:9)
Proverbs chapter two began with the LORD giving conditions (desiring, asking, and seeking) which must be met to find the knowledge, wisdom, and understanding of God (Pro 2:1-4). Upon their fulfillment, the LORD gives the desired reward through His revealed word (Pro 2:5-6). Along with these blessings, the LORD also protects and preserves both His saints and their way (Pro 2:7-8). The culmination of the process of asking and seeking on the part of the believer, and giving and protecting on the part of God, is the ability of His saints to understand righteousness, judgment, equity, and every good path (Pro 2:9).
Then shalt thou understand righteousness
. By use of the word then
, which betokens a condition, one must conclude that the knowledge and wisdom which God gives in His word are a prerequisite to understanding righteousness, for the possession of them precedes it (Pro 2:6-9). Righteousness
is "justice, uprightness, rectitude; conformity of life to the requirements of the divine or moral law; virtue, integrity" (OED). For a man to be righteous, he must conform his life to the requirements of God's law; but in order to do so, he must first understand
the law of God which is "the word of righteousness" (Heb 5:13). Thus, the aim of obtaining the knowledge and wisdom of God is to understand both what godly living is and how to attain unto it. Knowledge is therefore not the end of the Christian life, but the means of it; for, "knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth" (1Co 8:1).
Then shalt thou understand . . . judgment
. The next godly attribute that the acquisition of knowledge and wisdom facilitates is judgment
. As was noted in the comments on the previous verse, judgment
is the ability to use the faculties of wisdom and discernment to make sound decisions to arrive at correct opinions while navigating the course of life. The most effective way to understand judgment
is to study God's perfect example of it found in His word.
Psa 119:160 - Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.
Psa 147:19 - He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel.
When a man comprehends the judgments of the LORD, which "are true and righteous altogether" (Psa 19:9), he will understand how to exercise sound judgment himself, having a divine pattern to follow.
Then shalt thou understand . . . equity
. The next attribute that will be understood as a result of finding the knowledge of God is equity
is "the quality of being equal or fair; fairness, impartiality; evenhanded dealing" (OED). Having understood righteousness and judgment, which are inward and personal virtues, the knowledge of God next leads a man to understand equity
, which, when properly understood, affects not only himself, but also his dealings with his neighbor.
The word order in Proverbs 2:9 is in keeping with the two great commandments of the law. The first and greatest commandment embodies righteousness
(conforming one's life to the divine law): "thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind" (Mat 22:37). The love of God is shown by keeping His commandments (Joh 14:15), which is righteousness by definition. The second great commandment encompasses equity
(evenhanded dealing with one's fellow man): "thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself" (Mat 22:39). Loving one's neighbor as oneself is accomplished by treating him how one desires to be treated, or, in other words, fairly
Proverbs 2:9 also follows the pattern set forth by the apostle James: "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable
, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality
, and without hypocrisy" (Jam 3:17). When a man receives God's wisdom, which is first pure, then peaceable and without partiality
, he consequently first comes to understand righteousness
and then equity
It is fitting that the seeker of truth will come to understand righteousness, judgment, and equity in that order, for this is the order in which the Almighty operates.
Psa 98:9 - Before the LORD; for he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity.
Then shalt thou understand . . . every good path
Isa 11:4 - But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
. The understanding granted to the diligent seeker of truth doesn't end at righteousness, judgment, and equity, but includes the comprehension of every good path
. There is no honorable course that a Christian can walk for which the word of God will not prepare him by imparting to him the understanding necessary for a prosperous journey thereupon.