Proverbs, by definition, come from wise individuals throughout history who have condensed their observations on life into short, clever sayings, that are useful in our daily lives and in making decisions. These sayings offer some kind of wisdom in all kinds of topics and can be applied in all aspects of human lives.
Unlike the Torah or the book of prophets that are full of God’s command wherein you can find the “thou shall” and “thou shall not” commandments that come directly from God, the book of Proverbs is wisdom literature that is markedly different.
So, instead of being an authoritative God, Proverbs is like a dad talking to his son:
“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” – Proverbs 1:8
In the preceding books, God was saying His commands through Moses or the prophets in the form of “thus says the Lord”, “thou shalt”, and “thou shalt not”. Now, in the book of Proverbs, we have a series of speeches that are filled with “listen to your parents”. This just proves that Proverbs is a book of human wisdom and observations about life from older and wiser individuals shared with the younger generation and the generations to come.
But is the book of Proverbs merely filled with human wisdom and not of God? And if it is, why is it included in the Bible? These are some of the questions that we are going to address as we go on with our study of the Proverbs sermon series.
Proverbs Sermon Series: Overview
The book of Proverbs is one of the three wisdom books of the Bible that offers wisdom by having “the fear of the Lord”.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom…” – Proverbs 1:7
These three wisdom books: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job, addresses the same set of questions in their own different and unique perspective. And Proverbs addresses these questions through incredible insights that we would not see on our own.
The book is divided into three sections mainly: Chapters 1-9, the introduction to proverbs; Chapters 10-29, the center section that contains all of the Proverbs; and chapters 30 and 31, the conclusion. And the purpose of the book is to help us gain wisdom for us to live well in our daily Christian walk.
Unlike the word knowledge, the wisdom that we are talking about here comes from the Hebrew word “Khokmah” which refers to much more than knowledge and also refers to action. Simply put, wisdom is applied knowledge or skill that we can gain just like what was written in Exodus 31:1-3
“Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with Khokmah(wisdom), with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills—”
This understanding leads us to another question, how to gain Khokmah or wisdom? To answer this, let’s go to another key idea of this book which is “The fear of the Lord”.
The Fear of the Lord
As mentioned earlier and in Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom…”. Now, the fear that we are talking about here is not about terror or having to live a life fearing death and whatnot. But the fear that we are talking about here is reverence, in awe of God, and the fear of sinning against God –– just like how we fear of sinning against our parents.
In other words, fear is a moral mindset that helps us recognize that we are not God and we are not the ones who define what good and evil are or what is right and wrong. Instead, we need to humble ourselves, embrace, and acknowledge God’s definition of right and despite the inconvenience, it might bring us.
But this passage is so common that sometimes it is being overlooked. Christians tend to have a mindset that no matter what happens, God can understand –– even if we don’t properly “fear” God.
This is why it is important to properly understand what this fear is so that we can go back to the basics of following God –– to revere His Holiness and live a righteous life.
Wisdom of man or of God?
Now that we fully understand what the fear of the Lord is, let us now tackle if the book of Proverbs is from human wisdom or from God?
Well, we did say that proverbs come from wise individuals throughout history who have condensed their observations on life into short and clever sayings. But is Proverbs merely human wisdom? The answer to that is no.
Proverbs is God’s divine wisdom revealed through human wisdom throughout history. Let’s look at the life of the wisest man in the Bible as our example that can be found in 1 Kings 4. And that person is non-other than, King Solomon.
“God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. 30 Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 He was wiser than anyone else, including Ethan the Ezrahite—wiser than Heman, Kalkol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol. And his fame spread to all the surrounding nations. 32 He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. 33 He spoke about plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also spoke about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. 34 From all nations people came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.” 1 Kings 4:29-34
This passage tells us that King Solomon was the wisest person to the point that it was described that his wisdom is greater than all Egypt. He spoke thousands of proverbs, songs, all kinds of topics, and people from all nations would come and listen to his wisdom.
But these things would not have happened if the first part of this passage did not happen, and that is “God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight…”
It was God, the source of all wisdom, who gave Solomon the wisdom to speak thousands of proverbs. The wisdom to write thousands of songs. The wisdom to speak about animals, reptiles, and fish. And the wisdom that can make the people from all nations gather just to listen to him.
Although King Solomon is the wisest man in the Bible, it was God Himself who made him what he was. With this, we can be assured that the wisdom that we can find in the book of Proverbs is not just merely human wisdom, but divine wisdom that comes from God manifested through human wisdom.
Proverbs Sermon Series: The Father’s 10 Speeches
Chapters 1 to 9 are filled with speeches and poems that we can’t find any one-liner proverb. Instead, what we find here are ten speeches of a father to a son about how the son should carefully listen to wisdom and cultivate the fear of the Lord. It also encourages the son to live a life of virtue, integrity, and generosity. These will help the son live a life of success and peace.
But these chapters do not only contain encouragements and instructions for success, these chapters also contain warnings about folly, evil, and stupid decisions that may or will lead to cultivating selfishness and pride –– all leading to ruin and shame.
So, the son should prioritize the fear of the Lord and the pursuit of wisdom as his highest goal in life. With these, we will be able to live a well and good life in God’s world.
So, here are the following ten speeches of the father to the son:
“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction, and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.”
2. Proverbs 2:1-5
“My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding— indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”
3. Proverbs 3:1-2
“My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.”
4. Proverbs 3:11-12
“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son, he delights in.”
5. Proverbs 4:1-9
“Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching. For I too was a son to my father, still tender, and cherished by my mother. Then he taught me, and he said to me, “Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown.”
6. Proverbs 4:10-19
“Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many. I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life. Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way. For they cannot rest until they do evil; they are robbed of sleep till they make someone stumble. They eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence. The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.”
7. Proverbs 4:20-27
“My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the[c] paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”
8. Entire Proverbs 5
“My son, pay attention to my wisdom, turn your ear to my words of insight, that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge. For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end, she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it.”
9. Proverbs 6:20-35
“My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction are the way to life, keeping you from your neighbor’s wife, from the smooth talk of a wayward woman. Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes. For a prostitute can be had for a loaf of bread, but another man’s wife preys on your very life. Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished. People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving. Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it costs him all the wealth of his house. But a man who commits adultery has no sense; whoever does so destroys himself. Blows and disgrace are his lot, and his shame will never be wiped away.”
10. Entire Proverbs 7
“My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you. Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and to insight, “You are my relative.” They will keep you from the adulterous woman, from the wayward woman with her seductive words.”
A little disclaimer, this is not the end of our study of the Proverbs sermon series. Instead, we will continue with our study on the next article starting with the discussion of the ten speeches and four poems of lady wisdom. With this, continue to stay in tune as we discover the meaning and wisdom literature of the book of Proverbs.