When smart people speak, men listen!
Solomon, the wisest man born to man, possessed the wisdom of God, and shared it with others by way of proverbs or wise sayings.
In Proverbs chapter one, Solomon urges continual growth.
—Never stop God-centered growing; it's the beginning of wisdom, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge" (7). Growing includes parenting. Parents play a huge role in teaching their prodigy how to navigate life. A wise son listens and learns from the authority that God has placed over him.
—Wisdom is accessible to anyone (outside, public square, chief concourses, and gate openings). There are no excuses to remaining unwise or ignorant.
—The life without wisdom does not end well, "They shall eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own fancies" (33). They will not be safe or secure.
In chapter two Solomon describes the life of one who pursues wisdom, and it isn't a casual pursuit, but intentional and disciplined. Wisdom, when obtained, protects and preserves the owner from evil.
In chapter three Solomon emphasizes the stewardship of possessing wisdom:
- Trust in the LORD; don't rely on your own understanding (3:5-6)
- Do not be a "know it all" (7a)
- Fear the LORD and depart from evil (7b)
- Honor the LORD with possessions (9-10)
- Welcome correction (11-12)
- Value the possession of wisdom (13-18)
- Observe the wisdom in creation (19-20)
- Guard the possession of wisdom (21-24)
- Don't life in fear (25-26)
- Do good to others (27-28)
- Guard your relationship with your neighbors (29)
- Don't be obnoxious (30)
- Don't envy an oppressor or copy their ways (31)
Solomon ends his list with the glory that settles on the humble and the shame that hovers over the wicked. Humility and glory are better than shame and wickedness.
In chapter four Solomon reflects on the benefit of wisdom by contrasting the path of the righteous with the way of the wicked. Wisdom brings honor and promotion. The wise guard their hearts, watch their words, and ponder their paths.
Sexual sin is a trap. Good parental training prepares both sons and daughters about its dangers. Proverbs chapters five and seven describe the lure, the enslavement, and the destructive nature of sexual sin.
The adulterous woman is both literal and symbolic. She exists in a female body and greed, murder, and other sins embody her. She sounds good ("enticing speech"—7:14-21), smells good, looks good, and promises immediate satisfaction. Solomon warns, "Remove your way far from her" (5:8); "Drink water from your own cistern" (5:15); and, fear the LORD: "For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and He ponders all of his paths" (5:21).
Sexual sin diminishes and destroys the image of God in men and women as they are driven by appetite alone, similar to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden.
Both chapters begin with the responsibility of parental training and the obedient response of learned children. A culture is only as strong as its parenting.
- Chapter six deals with a variety of subjects:
- A promise made is a debt to pay (1-5)
- Laziness is not a part of God's created order (6-11)
- Human flourishing depends upon people's honorable behavior (12-19)
- Good parental instruction prepares future generations for responsible behavior (20-35)
Without instruction, people remain immature, act immaturely, and create an environment where immaturity (lack of physical and moral restraint) becomes the norm.
Navigating the brokenness of life outside of Eden requires more than what man naturally possesses. Wisdom provides the navigation system—the guide—to successively navigate life.
Proverbs chapter eight and nine begin with an invitation from wisdom crying out to be heard, embraced and enjoyed (8:1-9; 9:1-5).
Both chapters reveal critical truths about wisdom:
- Wisdom enables its possessors to discern between truth and deception, between righteousness and wickedness (8:7-9; 9:5-9)
- Wisdom's value exceeds that of gold (8:10-11, 18-19).
- Creation itself reveals the wisdom of God (8:22-30).
- The fear of the LORD is the foundation of wisdom and it extends the life of those who possess it (9:10).
- Every day offers new challenges; therefore, every day requires wisdom (8:8:32, 34).
Another voice, Folly, calls out. Without the voice of wisdom, Folly will be heard.
Without wisdom, man self destructs.
Proverbs chapter ten offers wisdom in wise sayings, like beads of pearls threaded upon a string. Three main categories organize these sayings into contrasts between those who are wise and those who are unwise:
- Wicked and righteous
- Rich and poor
- Wise and foolish
Two types of people live outside of Eden: those who are wise and those who are foolish. Wisdom differentiates the two.
Get wisdom. She’s crying out to you.
Proverbs chapters eleven through chapter twenty-nine add a fourth category of wise sayings: the proud and the humble. “When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom” (11:2).
Proud people, by nature, are self-reliant, unbending. Humility recognizes the weakness of self-reliance and seeks help—seeks wisdom.
Chapter ten introduces a number of synonyms to these four categories: upright, unfaithful, blameless, unjust, hypocrite, ruthless, merciful, ungodly, sinner.
These synonyms grab our attention as we observe our behavior and that of others. They register in our hearts as we seek to understand ourselves and others, as we seek identity—a name.
The wise sayings of Proverbs function as a mirror, revealing dangers lurking in our hearts looking for an outlet.
The proverbs offer a running commentary on the actions of those lacking wisdom. These actions work as a spotlight identifying areas yet unaligned with righteousness. They convict the reader of the continual need of wisdom, of understanding.
Finally, reading the consequences of opposing contrasts warm the heart and warn the heart.
They warm the heart: Where wisdom gains entry, is loved and valued, more wisdom is desired.
They warn the heart: Life has a way, like the movement of the wind, of directing our heart away from God. Reading the proverbs recalibrate our thinking and adjusts our ways.
The Book of Proverbs operates as both a window and a mirror.
We see what we could be—mirror (righteous and upright) and we see where we are and what we are—mirror (wicked, unrighteous).
Both establish identity (how we see ourselves) and inform our purpose (the plans, work, walk, path and pursuits of the righteous, the plans, work, walk, way, and pursuits of the wicked).
Proverbs reveals the practice or behavior of righteousness. Righteousness impacts how one:
- Regards God (fear, humility, trust) —“In mercy and truth Atonement is provided for iniquity; And by the fear of the Lord one departs from evil” (Prov.16:6. See also 8:13; 14:16); “Whoever trusts in the LORD, happy is he” (16:20b)
- Accumulates and spends his resources
- Stewards his words, relationships (marriage, parent, friend, employee/employer, opposition, the elderly), time (laziness, diligence), and life (limited days)
- Disciplines his desires and speech (whisper, slander, sweet)
- Responds to rebuke/correction by God through others
- Guards his heart and thoughts (anger, bitterness, sexual sin, etc.)—“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (16:32. See also Prov. 14:29; 19:11).
- Listens to counsel and make decisions
- Lives life (fear the LORD or ignore Him), “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good”—15:3
- Leads others (in humility, justly, generosity, etc.)
We all have a natural bent toward sin. Only those who are born again have a spiritual bent toward righteousness. Righteousness is both a status and behavioral. It is obtained by faith trusting in Christ’ substitutionary atonement, and it is worked out by cooperating with the Spirit’s presence.
The wisdom writer records both positive and negative reactions throughout Proverbs. For example: "An evildoer gives heed to false lips; a liar listens eagerly to a spiteful tongue" (17:4). "Gives heed" and "listens eagerly" are reactions that reveal the internal condition, status, or character of the heart, "An evildoer" "a liar".
The wisdom writer states, "The LORD tests the heart" (17:3) using the refiner's fire as an illustration. Under fire, silver and gold experience transformation. The impurities from within rise to the surface and form an easily definable scum on top which is discarded. The precious elements continually go through the refining process until the impurities are depleted and no scum forms. The fire reveals what is impure and separates it from the impure.
Everyone reacts to slander, calamity, rebuke, contention, wealth, poverty, injustice, etc. These externals function as tests, revealing what's within our hearts. The LORD uses these to reveal character.
Reactions connect the distance between thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions.
- "He who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished" (17:5b). This glee or gladness is a sinful attitude of spite.
- "A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity" This "loves at all times" is a righteous attitude of grace and loyalty.
- "He who sins hastens with his feet (19:2). Impetuous actions quickly follow sin. (David committed adultery and he quickly tried to cover it us by deceiving Uriah. When that didn't work, he resorted to organized murder.
Throughout the proverbs the wisdom-writer uses active verbs: “seeks” "loves" "exalts" "justifies" "accepts" “spares" "rages" "answers" etc, to highlight the status of the heart.
Work is an another example: one values work and does so diligently; the other devalues work and is lazy. Reactions reveal the attitude or bent of the heart. The bent of the heart becomes a “way,” “path," or habit in which he walks.
Therefore, the wisdom writer urges attention be given to reactions. The outward reaction reveals an inward problem.