How Should We Approach The Proverbs?
Dividing the Proverbs into seven clear collections will allow you to see the book and all God has for you in it. Dr. Bruce Waltke provides an outline to aid in understanding the scripture’s context and purpose. This sermon will explore the first section: The Proverbs of Solomon, starting in 1:1 and going through 9:18. Here, we will find context for the entire book and a collection of poems praising wisdom. The fear of the Lord truly is the beginning of wisdom.
The first collection consists of three sections: the main title (1:1) and a preamble (1:2–7), a prologue (1:8–8:36), and an epilogue (9:1–18). The prologue consists of 12 units, totaling 14 distinct literary pieces comprising Collection one. It will be helpful to understand both the purpose and goal of Proverbs. We find the purpose stated in 1:2 “To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight.” The goal of this book is found in 1:7 (aka the motto) “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” Taken together, these provide an excellent foundation.
What Does The Fear of The Lord Imply?
In 2:5 and 9:10, we see a connection between what comes from the mouth of God and in recognition of Him who speaks, Him who reveals; only then can anyone know of God, know God. When used in the Bible, fear can be emotional, an awareness of evil without emotional fear, reverence/awe, righteous or pious behavior, or formal worship. In Job 1:1, we see that Job’s recognition of this Holy God motivated him to turn from evil. One who fears God lives righteously. They don’t make excuses for their sins and justify their choices based on temptation or rights.
In Proverbs 9:10, there is a clear indication of where wisdom and knowledge come from; it is from the Lord alone. To be wise in the ways of scripture, you must turn away from evil. It can seem complicated because of our sin, but it is evident in scripture that any wisdom and understanding is from God. Derek Kidner notes, “The wisdom in proverbs is God-centered. The prize Proverbs offers is wisdom and still further wisdom. The secondary purpose of Proverbs is to introduce the reader to a style of teaching that provokes his thought; getting under his skin by thrusts of wit, paradox, common sense, and teasing symbolism.”
Proper Relation to The Lord
The beginning, as stated in 9:10 (The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of The Holy One is understanding), denotes a proper relation: a worshipping submission (fear) to the God of the covenant, who has revealed himself by name. In its complete sense, knowledge is a relationship dependent on revelation and inseparable from character. When we fence off (as we must) limited fields of knowledge for special study, we must remember the missing context or our knowledge is precocious and distorted, as at the fall, and we end by knowing less.
Moving from 1:8 to 1:19, God’s instruction to Moses (Deuteronomy 6:1-6) had not changed. The primary agency was the father was to teach the son. This was not chauvinism but the burden of teaching, taking the initiative and guiding the son. Note that Solomon marks out your father’s instruction and your mother’s teaching. These are aligned; not man-made patriarchy, but a God-ordained commission for the father to teach the son.
Key Points From 1:8 to 1:19
- Verse 8- Hear and do not forsake the father’s instruction and the mother’s teaching. The repetition of ‘your’ is striking. Your father’s, your mother’s, your head, your neck.Verses 11 to 14- They, with us, let us, let us, let us, we will, we will, with us, we shall. These parallels stress and set apart the son’s choice to hear and not forsake his parents over the world’s pull, of sinners, of “peer pressure.”
- Verses 8, 10, 15- We see a book end with the phrase ‘My son.’ Whose are you?
- Verses 15 & 16- We feel the pull along the way. This way and path feature prominently here. “Do not walk in the way. Keep your feet from their path. Their feet run to evil.” The way of the wicked v. the righteous is always evident. Just watch your feet.
- Verses 17 & 18- It is exposed that not only is this choice clear, it is stupid. The wicked are blind to their designs compared to a simple bird that can see the trap set in the daylight. But they (foolish sinners) set a trap that they will fall for. They set out to shed others’ blood only to set their trap and ambush their own lives.
- Verse 19- This summarizes that the way of the wicked results in their own demise. A perfect example of this is found in Esther 7. Haman set a trap, building a gallows to hang Mordecai, but he will be hung on the gallows he built. Paul expands on this in Galatians 6:7. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.”
- Whom do you listen to? Parents aren’t perfect, but they know more than you. You would do well to heed them.
- Mentors, older, more experienced believers, provide guidance. Be on the alert. Easy, fun, promiscuous; even adults can act like teens. Solomon spends more time explaining the sinner’s enticement than his brief admonition to listen/heed his parent’s instruction.
- Every day, 100’s of times a day, we get to choose which path we take. Proverbs make the choice clear for us.
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