Today begins the book of Proverbs. I’ll have to say right here at the start that there is a lot of really, really great stuff in here that I’ll not be able to address in my comments. If I manage to skip over a proverb that you think should not have been skipped over, let me encourage you to make a comment about it yourself in the comments below each posting.
On a different note, I’d like to point out here that the Bible uses a few terms here in ways that we may not be familiar with. For example, there’s the term “fool”. We use this term in modern times as another way of calling someone stupid. “Fool” in the Bible does carry a little bit of this meaning, but the main thrust of the word is a focus on a person’s immoral behavior — which then consistently leads to unpleasant consequences, which is, of course, foolish in the sense that we’re used to using it. In Prov. 1:6 there are three terms used for the contents of the book of Proverbs: proverb, figure, and riddles. A proverb is what we would think of as a proverb, a short pithy saying that’s easy to remember and applicable to a number of situations in life — e.g., “A stitch in time saves nine.” A figure is what we might call a metaphor, a comparison of a common, tangible image or story to explain a less tangible thing — e.g., “her eyes were sparkling jewels”. A riddle is what we’d call a parable, a story illustrating or teaching a moral principle. I’ll mention other terms as we might run across them.
The fear of the LORD (Proverbs 1:7) — Fear of the LORD is not mere terror of God; it is much, much more. It is respect, honor, and reverence that leads to obedience. It doesn’t exclude love but complements it. Most of us will understand and identify with how we could both love and fear our parents (often our fathers). And it is the fear of the LORD that is the beginning of wisdom; without it we fall into sin. This is the terrible mistake of framing God to our children and adults as a grandfatherly figure, who we need never fear, because He is all love and forgiveness. Our “wisdom” as humans is faulty. Our “self-control” as humans is in most cases weak or non-existant. We are easily persuaded to do evil and get hooked or enslaved to foolish things quickly. Without the fear of God to shed light, give us moral backbone, and get us to “wake up and smell the coffee”, we self-destruct — witness the world without God! Now, having said that, it is only the beginning. Hopefully in time, our fear will mature into love. But fools “know what they’re doing” and despise wisdom.
Seek her as silver (Proverbs 2:4,5) — Are you working as hard at increasing your knowledge of God’s word, increasing wisdom, as you are at making money. Isn’t that what the writer is urging us to do? We’ll cancel other appointments for making a little more money. We’ll get an education; we’ll sweat for it; we’ll work hard for it. What if we gave efforts at knowing God’s word and wisdom as we do to making money? Of course, I know that we all have to work for a living and can’t give 8 hours a day to study — but don’t you get the principle? Our grandparents (without TV and other diversions) knew the word and held convictions that we sometimes wonder where they got — maybe they got them from a deeper understanding of God’s word than we have today. They’d spend the evening reading and discussing Scripture, and that was the foundation of many an “uneducated” preacher that could quote Scripture better than any Ph.D. you’ve ever met.
Do not lean on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5) — We live in a world where the common wisdom is to listen to your heart rather than the word of God. I’m not sure where it really began to get traction — perhaps with Jiminy Cricket who urged children to “always let your conscience be your guide.” But regardless of where the snowball started rolling it has caused considerable damage to many a life, Christian and non-Christian. The problem is that, although our basic notion of right and wrong is inborn, our conscience gets educated by religion, family, and society. And if our clarification is off, our conscience will be off. Worse still, sometimes the things that God commands look painful, difficult, and even nonsensical; and we’re all pretty good at rationalization and justification, so that our conscience won’t hurt us. It’s this last point that this proverb especially focuses on, trust in the LORD and in His wisdom and in His counsel. Do not lean on your own understanding. Our “wisdom” is folly, short-sighted, and uninformed. God’s wisdom is eternal and informed in the extreme.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.