I’m a starting a new sermon series this Sunday on the Book of Proverbs.
Some things you should know about Solomon’s great book of wisdom.
1) Proverbs is a Story-Line about a Young Student Entering The World.
It’s easy to see Proverbs as a random book of platitudes, but 1:8 says, Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. This is exactly what a father would tell his son before he goes off to college or the wider world. And from there, the student weaves in and out of wild tempting adventures like Pinocchio or Harry Potter or your average teen movie.
The book continues with the refrain My son at least 25 times. The student comes close to addiction, adultery, stealing, cheating, hoarding, and killing, but unlike Solomon himself, the young man stays clean. He’s finally married in Proverbs 31.
2) Proverbs has Two Main Voices: Wisdom and Folly.
These competing voices are expressed all over the Bible: Spirit and Flesh, the Truth and the World, God’s Commands and Satan’s Lies, the Light and the Dark.
In the end though, there’s really no competition. A lie exposed by the truth doesn’t hold the same weight in the open, and the Voice of Wisdom is going to continually drag out the vampire-lie into the sun. John 3:20 — Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
The example I use is: Imagine at the local fair when you find out exactly how a carnival game is rigged. After you discover the trickery, you (probably) won’t pay more money to keep playing the game.
3) Proverbs has a cast of characters that each say something about Wisdom and Folly.
Just a small sample of the rich variety of characters:
The Wandering Fool
The Ruling King
The Shouting Wife
The Righteous Man
The Godly Wife
4) Proverbs is not a book of promises, but of principles.
There are some promises in there, but mostly Proverbs is about the way we should go. Some are disappointed in following Proverbs and not getting the expected outcomes, but the point is that we should choose God’s Wisdom regardless of how things turn out. We follow God who gave us wisdom Himself; we don’t chase His rewards.
But still, even a non-Christian who follows Proverbs will lead a much more harmonious life. The hope is that we all see the Source of wisdom, the righteous Authority of that wisdom, and how the Ultimate Authority demands Ultimate Obedience. The reality is that when we read Proverbs, there is an inescapable Tension of who we should be and who we really are.
Which leads us to —
5) Proverbs ultimately points to Jesus.
1 Corinthians 1:30 says —
It is because of him [God the Father] that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
John 1:14 says —
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
If we were to make Proverbs a sort of Wisdom-Exam, then of course we all fail. God’s Law here exposes our utter failure to keep the Law itself. That sort of helplessness points to someone who can do everything we can’t do in and of ourselves: to keep the Law, to bestow us righteousness, to reconcile us back to God.
The young innocent student of Proverbs is a foreshadow of the one who would keep the Law perfectly. The only one who bridges the Tension of Proverbs is the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He would become obedient even to die on a cross in place of our sins (Philippians 2). He never sinned but died like he did, on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21). And it’s his resurrection that raises us spiritually dead incompetent souls to life. It’s also His Spirit that empowers us to follow His Wisdom. Jesus is both Wisdom Embodied and Wisdom Fulfilled. Proverbs is about Jesus.