It is important to remember that this book is not a verse-by-verse exposition. It is exposition, but due to the nature of the text, we must follow its existing structure. Dr. Bruce Waltke discusses the importance of our prayers as we study so that we “become porous, so the spirit of what was taught becomes part of our personality. This is where the spiritual life and exegesis kiss one another and need one another.”
This quote reminds us that we can lean too far into the details of our study and not have anything truly impress on us. The extremes of being too far in the details or only focusing on how the text makes you feel are equally wrong.
Phillips Brooks commented that pain and suffering are where God makes us malleable so that He can put an impress on our soul. So when you read this literature, don’t hurry through it. Instead, seriously say, ‘God, I need to hear from you, and I need you to change me, but I need the right information.’
The Purpose of Proverbs
To recap the purpose of the book, we go to Proverbs 1:2-6. Wisdom plus knowledge equals expert skill. We define wisdom by usage, not simply in the word itself. You can know about something, or you can know something; there is a difference. Wisdom is a neutral word. Satan is wise, but he uses that wisdom for evil. We use wisdom for our good.
Dr. Bruce Waltke says, “When wisdom is used for good, it is righteousness which is serving the community according to the Word of God.” Wisdom is not who to marry, how many children to have, or whether you should adopt. Many Christians identify with this. When wisdom is used correctly, it is good for righteousness for the community of God’s people. The goal of Christianity is not to be the best person but to grow and mature into what Christ wants us to be.
The Key To Proverbs
The key of the book is the fear of the Lord. In Proverbs 1:7, we learn that it is an objective revelation, something we know. It’s not about what you perceive. The objective truth here is, ‘What is God saying?’ To clarify this further, we look to Proverbs 2: 1-2. He is saying that his words are a commandment; they are not up for debate.
Some cultures believe that the ear is in front of the heart or vice versa. Solomon’s words are a synonym for commands. He is giving the law of God and asking, ‘What are you going to do with this?’ You will get expert skills if you have the information and apply it through knowledge. So, the only way to know if you’re using wisdom correctly is if it benefits God’s people.
In Proverbs 22:4, humility is parallel to the fear of the Lord. Humility is to be broken, accepting, and emptied of pride, and then this text can fill us with the objective revelation of God, i.e., explicitly following God at His word. You do this because you believe in God seriously. We naturally want to be correct, but choosing to be humble is rewarded with riches, honor, and life.
His words are true. His promises are true. His warnings are valid; we must trust Him completely. Ask yourself, ‘Do you believe His threats are real?’ We live in an age of over-forgiveness. Yes, Jesus does forgive us, but we exploit the promises of God. When we consciously sin, knowing the consequences, we abuse His grace. He does forget our sins and remove them as far as the east is from the west, but Proverbs tells us that conscious sin is unwise and there will be consequences.
I’ve often talked about justice being a two-edged sword. Dr. Bruce Waltke says, “Justice punishes the oppressor and delivers the oppressed.” There are consequences if we take God’s word seriously. Therein is the fear of the Lord. It’s not a threat to make us worry but rather a question of whether or not we believe it.
Wisdom At The Gate
This is a significant theme in the book. The gate is important. It defended the city, protected the inhabitants, and the elders sat at the gate. It was almost like a spiritual chamber of commerce. This was where transactions, disputes, land deals, and trading took place. When you come to a city, where are you going? There are different paths to take. The book of Proverbs says, ‘When you come to the gate, you better choose the right path.’
Proverbs 1:20-22 shows us that wisdom shouts; she is available, clear, and above the city’s clamor. She calls out to the naïve, ‘How long, oh naïve ones, will you love being simple-minded?’ The naive is a big subject in this book. The naive person is uncommitted. They are not fools or irredeemable, but they’re close.
An excellent way to illustrate it would be a middle school or high school-aged child that’s living in the world. They’ve been in a Christian environment, they know the story, and maybe they even went to a youth group. In their life, however, they are playing the odds. Before you go down that path, you have an opportunity. Don’t do it because the consequences are real. Wisdom calls for a decision. This is a matter of life and death. Rejecting the offer will have tragic consequences and even eternal consequences.
Proverbs 2: The Result of Looking For Knowledge
Chapter 2 is a Hebraic alphabetic poem. Each of the 22 verses begins with the sound of each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. We can not translate these to English, but it helps us know the passage’s structure. The book contains 22 verses, split into two groups of 11 and further broken down into subsets with a 4-4-3 pattern.
Beginning in Proverbs 2:1, we are reminded that these commands are God’s words. In Proverbs 2:3-5, we must pay attention to the if/then that the scripture presents. If we cry out and seek, then we will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God. This answers the question, ‘What is the fear of the Lord?’ Proverbs 2:7 tells us that if God says something, it’s objective truth and revelation. It’s a fact that can’t be altered or amended. Finally, Proverbs 2:8 brings us back to the fact that He will guard the path that leads to justice. He will preserve the right way for us to walk.
Proverbs 2:12 makes it clear that there is no ambivalence or agnosticism. You’re either on the path of righteousness or the path of wickedness. If you have to think twice about it, it’s probably wrong. Proverbs 2:14-16 mentions a woman who personifies evil and the opposite of wisdom. She leads you down a path of darkness. Proverbs 2:19 represents the people in your life who have gone down a dark path and seem irredeemable. Because they have made sequential decisions over the years, the idea of God and faith is far removed from them.
The primary point of Proverbs 2:5 is to look for knowledge. It’s not knowing about something. It’s knowing it. You can watch a video about a bike, work at a bike shop, take one apart, and put it back together, but until you ride it, you don’t know it. You can know God, or you can know about him. Two very different things. You won’t know it until you experience it. Once you experience it, you’ll know it. The promise is that you will know God, not about him, but you will know Him.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Do you know Him? Have you trusted in Christ and Christ alone? He lived, He died, and was buried to confirm His death. Three days later, He came out of the grave. He transcended death. He took away the power of death. No one else has ever done that. He offers forgiveness of sin, a new relationship, and eternal life. Unless you’re trusting in Christ and Christ alone, you don’t know God. It’s a choice and a gift. We’re not smart enough to get there on our own.
The faith that you have to believe in Christ is a gift. He gave it to you. God calls His people, and we respond by faith. Don’t take the mystery away from it. You’ll have doubts at times, but do you believe it? Did you put your trust in Christ, and Christ alone, to do what you cannot do for yourself? That’s the beginning of wisdom, and it comes from faith.