ROUTE 66, WEEK 6, The Book of Proverbs

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GOD HAS ALL THE ANSWERS

The Book of Proverbs

Impact Christian Church

Pastor Steve With 07/10/2016

I. No other book of the Old Testament appears to be quite as difficult to outline as the book of Proverbs. Like the dictionary, it seems to change the subject with every verse.

2. Proverbs begins with a brief introductory preface in the first six verses. This is followed by a series of ten different discourses from a father to his son, filled with very practical exhortations on how to face some of the problems of life. That carries us over to the beginning of chapter 10, and so far there have been no proverbs. But in chapter 10 we have a collection of proverbs that are noted for us as the proverbs of Solomon, the wise king of Israel, the son of David.

When Solomon became king he had a vision of God in which God asked him what his heart desired above everything else. Solomon asked that he be granted wisdom. Because he asked for this instead of riches or fame, God gave him all three.

Therefore, these are the wisdom proverbs of the wisest king that Israel ever had. This second division runs through to chapter 25 which begins another collection of proverbs said to be the proverbs of Solomon which were copied down by the men of Hezekiah, the king of Judah, after Solomon’s death. The book closes with a postlude in chapters 30 and 31 that brings before us the words of two unknown individuals, Agur, son of Jakah, in chapter 30, and Lemuel, king of Massa, in chapter 31.

The book of Proverbs expresses the conclusion of the will of man. Together, the books of Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes give us the cry of the soul of man. In Psalms you have the emotional nature, which is one part of the soul function. Ecclesiastes deals with the function of the mind — the search of man’s reason throughout the earth, analyzing, evaluating, weighing and concluding on the basis of what is discoverable under the sun, that is, by human reason. But in the book of Proverbs we have the appeal to the will of man and the conclusion of the will; therefore, this book is all about the things man should decide, the choices of life. This is beautifully set before us in the introduction to the book.

First, there is a title in Verse 1:

“These are the proverbs of Solomon, David’s son, king of Israel.”

Proverbs 1:1

And then we read the Purpose of the Book (Verses 2-6):

“Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise.  Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, to help them do what is right, just, and fair. These proverbs will give insight to the simple, knowledge and discernment to the young. Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser.  Let those with understanding receive guidance by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables, the words of the wise and their riddles.”            Proverbs 1:2-6

In other words, this is designed for people in every division and age of life, from childhood through youth and maturity, in order to understand what life is all about. The book of Proverbs is very practical and is recommended especially for those who are just beginning to try to solve some of the mysteries of life.  Also, if you are just moving out for the first time into contact with the world and its ways and mysteries, this is an excellent book of admonition.

Verse 7 gives the key to the whole book. And, since Proverbs is the book that deals with life, this is also the key verse to all of life and is one of the greatest verses in the Bible. It states the summary and conclusion of this book:

“Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” Proverbs 1:7

This whole book approaches life from the position that God has all the answersGod is all-wise; God knows everything. There is nothing that is hidden from his knowledge. He understands all mysteries, sees the answer to all riddles. He sees below the surface of everything. Therefore, the beginning of wisdom is to reverence and fear God.

The “fear of the Lord” mentioned in the Old Testament isn’t a craven sort of fear that God is going to do something to you. There are two kinds of fear. There is the fear that God might hurt us, a fear experienced by those who are trying to run from God.

This word “fear” really means reverence or respect. Obviously, if God has all the answers, then the one who has the key to life is the man or woman who learns early to respect God and believe him and understand that he tells us the truth.

II. The greatest thing in my Christian experience is that here in the book of God I have found the truth.

  1. I can’t trust many of the other sources from which I get information and counsel and advice. I have found, through very sad experience sometimes, that what I thought was right was very wrong.
  2. But here is the source of truth — God has spoken. Therefore, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. It is not the end; it is the beginning. And only the man who has in his heart a continuing respect for God’s wisdom can begin properly to evaluate and understand life.

In chapter 1, verse 8, you have the beginning of the ten discourses to a son from his father. They begin with the child in the home, dealing with his first relationships. Then they move to the time when the child begins to broaden his experience and widen the circle of his understanding and make friends. There are very wise and helpful words here concerning a youngster’s choice of friends, pointing out the powerful influence friends can have at this age. Therefore, the most important thing for a child to learn as he grows up is how to evaluate and choose his friends.

Then, in chapter 3, you have the young man as he grows up and leaves home. As he makes his way into the city, he is immediately confronted with all kinds of pressures and temptations. There is a thoughtful word of warning here concerning some of the temptations he will meet. It speaks very delicately and yet frankly about the pressures of sex and about what wrong steps in response to these pressures can do to a life. Also, there is an admonition concerning getting involved in wrong financial transactions. These are very practical warnings. The whole of this section is summed up in chapter 3, verses 5 and 6:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:5-6

This is a word to the young man or woman who wants to find the secret of life, who wants to be a success. I have never yet met young people who didn’t want to be successful. In my experience with young people no one has ever said, “My ambition is to be a bum down on skid row.” The way to success is to trust in the Lord with all your heart, and although God has given you reason and expects you to use it, don’t rely on that as the final answer. Where God’s word or God’s ways have shown you something different, trust that instead of what you feel.

Here is the result (verses 6-8):

“Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones.” Proverbs 3:7-8

How I wish that someone had given me those verses when I first began to move out into the world. A young man sat in my study not long ago and told me a heartbreaking story. When he left his home and moved out into the city, he did what he thought was right and what he hoped would supply fulfillment to his life. But he drifted downward and got involved in dope until he was mainlining heroin and experimenting with LSD, having fantastic hallucinations. He ended up as a procurer for a prostitute on the streets of San Francisco before God suddenly awakened him and he realized what had happened.

That is the kind of thing that the writer of Proverbs is seeking to avoid by pointing out that life can never be understood except in relationship to God. Life is simply too big for us to handle by ourselves. No matter how good the advice seems to be, if it isn’t consistent with what God has told us, it is not to be trusted. And that is the conclusion that is reached through these opening chapters. Chapters 8 and 9 personify the two ways of life. Wisdom is seen as a beautiful woman, calling those who follow her to come away into the place of victory and achievement and success in life, while folly, or foolishness, which thinks everything it does is right in its own eyes, is personified as an evil woman — attractive, alluring, tempting us to step aside into death. It is a marvelously-beautiful poetic passage.

Beginning with chapter 10 we have this first collection of the wisdom of Solomon — all very pithy, practical words of advice covering every possible situation of life. Therefore, this is a book that ought to be read again and again, until its wisdom permeates your life. Much of it will be committed to the mind and memory, and you will be able to recall it in times of pressure.

This first collection is made up mostly of contrasts, in which the writer sets two things side by side and shows the good and evil results of various attitudes and actions. As you read this section through, you will see these antitheses. For example, in chapter 10, verse 10:

“People who wink at wrong cause trouble, but a bold reproof promotes peace.” Proverbs 10:10

That, of course, is the contrast between the sly, deceitful, stealthy look that is expressed in a wink, in contrast to the man who frankly and forthrightly speaks his mind, even though what he says is not very welcome. But the result of that kind of frankness is peace.

Also, in chapter 10, verse 26, is a very expressive proverb:

“Lazy people irritate their employers, like vinegar to the teeth or smoke in the eyes.” Proverbs 10:26

Any parent who has sent his child on an errand and the child has dawdled along the way knows what this means. As vinegar sets the teeth on edge and smoke burns the eyes, so is the person who is entrusted with a message who dawdles along the way.

Chapter 11, verse 22, is descriptively practical:

“A beautiful woman who lacks discretion is like a gold ring in a pig’s snout.” Proverbs 11:22

Can you imagine that? An ugly pig with swill dripping from its mouth and a gold ring affixed to its nostrils Gold signifies value — but in the wrong place. So is a beautiful woman who hasn’t learned that beauty is not the outward form but the inward beauty of spirit.

“Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything.” Proverbs 11:24

There is the value of generosity over stinginess. Then, in chapter 12, verse 4:

“A worthy wife is a crown for her husband, but a disgraceful woman is like cancer in his bones.” Proverbs 12:4

These are self explanatory, aren’t they?

Verses 16 through 22 give a little discourse on the tongue and the dangers and the blessings of it:

“A fool is quick-tempered, but a wise person stays calm when insulted.” Proverbs 12:16

That is, a fool blurts out what he feels and never tries to control himself. He simply reacts to everything that comes along. But the prudent person learns to control themselves, ignoring insults and moving to the heart of the matter.

Chapter 12, verses 18-19, 22:

“Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing. Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies are soon exposed.”         Proverbs 12:18-19

“The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who tell the truth.” Proverbs 12:22

Then, in chapter 13, verse 24, is that well-known verse for parents:

“Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children.Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.” Proverbs 13:24

Chapter 14, verse 12, again refers to the underlying secrets of life.

“There is a path before each person that seems right, [And how often we think that we know the answers! But the whole counsel of this book is that our own reason and wisdom are never enough],

but it ends in death.” Proverbs 14:12

Therefore, “Trust in the Lord and lean not to your own insight” that is the application.

Then chapter 14, verse 31:

“Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but helping the poor honors him.” Proverbs 14:31

Here is the word on the need to recognize the unity of life. The “I-It.” relationship is an insult to someone. The “I-Thou” is the only thing that expresses the concern of a Christian.

Chapter 15, verse 11:

“Even Death and Destruction hold no secrets from the Lord. How much more does he know the human heart!” Proverbs 15:11

What a wonderful way to say that the deepest mysteries of life are known to God, We don’t understand Death or Hell. We don’t know what Destruction or the pit — involves, but God does. How much more does he know the secrets of the human heart, and can tell us the right way.

Verse 17 of the same chapter is very pointed:

“A bowl of vegetables with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate.” Proverbs 15:17

Who would not prefer to sit down at a table where there is only bread and water but a wonderful atmosphere of love, than to a table loaded with goodies where everyone growls at each other?

Chapter 16, verse 13:

“The king is pleased with words from righteous lips; he loves those who speak honestly.” Proverbs 16:13

There are other verses in Proverbs about a king. When you read them, remember that God looks at every man as a king; therefore, this is about you. God sees you as a king over the kingdom of your life. If you read with this perspective, these words on rulership and kingship will be of great profit to you.

Verses 20 and 22 link together:

“Those who listen to instruction will prosper; those who trust the Lord will be joyful.” Proverbs16:20

“Discretion is a life-giving fountain to those who possess it,

    but discipline is wasted on fools.” Proverbs 16:22

And what is wisdom? Well, it is stated in verse 20, “Those who listen to instruction will prosper.”

In chapter 16, verse 32 is one that many of us need to hear:

Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city.” Proverbs 16:32

That verse is often quoted but seldom believed. What a change it would make in life if we really understood that the person who learns to to be patient, to control their anger…is a greater hero than the person who conquers a city.

Chapter 17, verse 15:

“Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent—both are detestable to the Lord.” Proverbs 17:15

Yet how often we fall into that error — justifying the wicked and making excuses for people who do wrong, condemning the righteous and finding fault with them.

Verse 28 of the same chapter is very wise:

Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent.” Proverbs 17:28

Or, as someone has well put it, “It is much better to remain silent and let everybody think you are a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

Chapter 18, verse 8:

Rumors are dainty morsels that sink deep into one’s heart.” Proverbs 18:8

There is the explanation of why we love to gossip. What sweet morsels these are. How we love to sink our teeth into the reputation of another; how good it tastes, and yet how evil to do.

Then in verse 22 there is a word for lovers:

“The man who finds a wife finds a treasure, and he receives favor from the Lord.” Proverbs 18:22

This from a man who had a thousand of them.

Verse 24:

“There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24

This is a reminder that there is one who will tell you the truth, even if it hurts, and that is a friend. There are many friends who will tell you anything they think you want to hear, but they are no friends.

Chapter 19, verse 3:

“People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord.” Proverbs 19:3

Isn’t that strange? When a person’s own foolishness brings them into trouble, who does they blame? The Lord. Or if they are married, they blame their spouse,  kind of like Adam did in the Garden.

Chapter 20, verse 9:

Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart; I am pure and free from sin?’”           Proverbs 20:9

That is a question that no one can answer, but anyone who asks it honestly is on his way to finding the Savior.

And verse 27 of that same chapter is one of the most important verses in the Bible on understanding human life:

The Lord’s light penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive.”   Proverbs 20:27

That is what God made our spirits for. Our essential nature is to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit. He is the light. We are the lamp. When the lamp of the spirit holds the light of the Holy Spirit he searches the innermost part of a life and we begin to understand ourselves for the first time.

Chapter 21, verse 9, gives a straightforward comment from a married man:

It’s better to live alone in the corner of an attic than with a quarrelsome wife in a lovely home.” Proverbs 21:9

And verses 30 and 31 of the same chapter:

“No human wisdom or understanding or plan can stand against the Lord.  The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.” Proverbs 21:30-31

God overrules. Someone once said to Napoleon, “Man proposes but God disposes.” Napoleon, in his arrogant ignorance, replied, “No, Napoleon proposes and Napoleon disposes.” That was before the battle of Waterloo.

Chapter 22, verse 6 is a famous verse:

“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older,                              they will not leave it.” Proverbs 22:6

I think this should really be translated, “Train up a child according to his way,” which means, find out what is in a child and bring them up so that what God has hidden in them may be developed and brought out. And when they are old they will not depart from that.

Chapter 24, verses 28-29 give a practical word on relationships with your neighbor:

“Don’t testify against your neighbors without cause; don’t lie about them. And don’t say, “Now I can pay them back for what they’ve done to me! I’ll get even with them!’” Proverbs 24:28-29

Even here, you see, is a clear recognition of the golden rule.

In chapter 25 the second collection of proverbs begins — those copied by the men of Hezekiah. Verse 2 is a wonderful one:

“It is God’s privilege to conceal things and the king’s privilege to discover them.” Proverbs 25:2

If you want to have a royal experience I suggest you start searching out things that God has concealed in his Word. That is the glory of kings — to find what God has hidden.

Verse 17 of that chapter:

“Don’t visit your neighbors too often, or you will wear out your welcome.”        Proverbs 25:17

Very practical.

Chapter 26, verse 2:

“Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse will not land on its intended victim.” Proverbs 26:2

Therefore, if somebody says something nasty about you and it is not true, don’t worry about it. Nobody will believe it. Those who do are not important. This chapter has some very helpful words about troublesome people in general. In chapter 26, verses 3 through 12 there is a series on fools and how to handle them. Verses 13 through 16 tell what to do about sluggards and what is wrong with lay people. Verses 17 through 23 concern meddlers and how to handle them. Then, verse 24 to the end of the chapter is about the loveless — those who hate.

As we skim through, we read this in chapter 28, verse 27:

“Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to poverty will be cursed.” Proverbs 28:27

We must not shut ourselves away from life. Those people who say they are too busy to help the poor are coming under the condemnation of the truth in this verse. We need to see what life is like around us.

Chapter 29, verse 1 is an often-quoted one:

“Whoever stubbornly refuses to accept criticism will suddenly be destroyed beyond recovery.” Proverbs 29:1

Then, in chapter 30 you have the words of Agur. No one knows exactly who this man was, but the words are very practical, concerning some of the wonders of the earth.

And in chapter 31 the words of King Lemuel are recorded, concerning what his mother taught him on how to be a king.

The last of the book is a wonderful description of a virtuous woman. If you are a young girl looking for a model woman, I recommend this passage to you. If you are a young man looking for a model wife, I suggest you read it through. It sets forth marvelously the strength and glory and beauty of womanhood and the unique contribution that women can make to life.

This is the book of Proverbs. You might read it through once a month. It has thirty-one chapters, which would fit every month that has thirty-one days. One chapter a day will do it. Why not try it?

Prayer:

Thank you, our Father, for this very practical book and for the admonition it gives our hearts to remember that life can never be understood, can never be handled, can never make sense until we approach it with trust in you and remember that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. We thank you in Christ’s name. Amen.