The Book of Proverbs
Pr Edi Giudetti
This week we will be looking at the Book of Proverbs.
Last week we concluded what is sometimes referred to as the “Poetical Pentateuch”. Recognising that the book of the Psalms are in fact five books of devotion and praise unto the Lord. It is Referred sometimes as the “Poetical Pentateuch” because its five books recall to mind the actual Legal Pentateuch known as the five books of Moses, or The Law of Moses. Pentateuch signifying a five fold unity of the book.
While the first five books are the Law from God to man, the five books of the Psalms are the praises of man to God.
Structure of the Proverbs interestingly enough is also five fold.
We cannot help but to notice that the first nine chapters form a distinct introduction to the Proverbs and the value of Wisdom in particular.
Then we have the first volume of actual Proverbs from chapters 10 – 24, the second volume from chapters 25-29, we have Agur’s prophecy in chapter 30 and conclude with Lemuel’s identifying of the most Virtuous Woman in chapter 31.
The Bible’s Proverbs
Throughout the centuries there have been nations that developed codes of laws and wise sayings historically. We have Proverbs that have existed from ancient times in Babylon, Ancient Egypt, Canaan, Mesopotamia, Greece, even China had its sages of ancient wisdom. We have records of sayings in India and other eastern societies. In the last two and a half thousand years we have volumes of books given by the philosophers of history who did all they could to explain Life and reality as they knew it, through wisdom.
But how do we compare the wisdom of the world with the Wisdom of God?
I have this morning desired to provide to you a single collection of works that have contained with them what was believed to be the greatest works of the western world who’s topics range and cover a vast list of issues;
You may spend ten years reading this volume of work only once. What you will find within these pages cannot be missed, for you will come to the end of the reading being more knowledgeable but in the end, none the wiser. Why?
Because what you will discover is that the sixty volumes of the Great Books of the Western World are filled with often contradictory ideas that lead one to conclude that this is simply the best effort that man can do. Leaving the decision regarding wisdom up to you. What is right or wrong with regard to the views of the philosophers becomes a choice of our own personal preferences rather than an absolute knowledge of what is actually true respecting wisdom.
It is true that contained in this collection are books by notable Christians such as Augustine, John Calvin, Rene Descartes, John Milton, Blaise Pascal, Desiderius Erasmus etc .
But included in this mix is also some Plato, Aristotle, Voltaire, Darwin, Sigmund Freud, Voltaire, Dostoevsky, David Hume etc etc.
You may desire to retain to memory some of the things some of these men have written of that you might personally agree with, but what is sure is that you will never have confidence that what they have written is eternally true.
As I noted in an earlier sermon, one of the more popular helps people have enjoyed is a book by Dr Victor Frankyl called ‘Mans Search For Meaning’, but it is a book that ultimately leaves us empty of any true knowledge or virtue as it posits the best man can do in a world without God. Perhaps a more apt title to the book should in fact be “Mans Search For Meaning…without God”. Without God no true meaning can be possible, a world that came about by chance can have no ultimate meaning or purpose, but purposeful creation by a benevolent being can.
Therefore Wisdom without its source is left in a vacuum to find its way into hearts which may accept of reject its premises. But wisdom given by God is absolute and a sure way of knowledge that can be trusted as true.
So a choice might be before you; The Great Books of the Western World runs to sixty volumes, or you could throw in the Harvard Classics Collection of fifty volumes and add a further twenty of its Fictional classics for whatever wisdom you may yet glean from their respective pages.
Or, you could pick up the book of Proverbs in the Bible.
Please turn in your Bibles to Proverbs chapter one, place a finger there.
Turn also to the end of Proverbs chapter 31, place a finger there.
Now draw the pages together so that you have both the beginning of the Proverbs and the end of the Proverbs between two fingers.
Please now compare that tiny volume of eternal truth with what you see on the table in front of the Pulpit, who’s entire contents have led mankind to today.
Now consider the signs of today, a day and age of confusion unlike any time in History past and ask the question why, how did man come to such a time and when did it begin its slide into confusion. I put to you that it began when this book and even this small portion under todays sermon, was set aside. Not even the Classical books before you are considered in our education, if it was then perhaps the decline of the west would have slowed, but not averted.
I put to you then that this small book, believed and followed, will lead you into the greatest and most valuable and most successful life to which all the worlds wisdom cannot compare. Why?
Turn to Isaiah 55:9
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are my ways higher than your ways,
And my thoughts than your thoughts.
All the Philosophy and wisdom in the world is said by Francis Bacon to be nothing more than the
“Speculative interpretations of the experience of men”
But when God has given you HIS wisdom in a book, you can believe they are anything BUT speculative guesswork. The wisdom we have been given from God as “Proverbs” are reduced to twenty five or thirty pages, these are of greater value than all the speculations of mankind; why? Because they are true!
This is The Proverbs
This is the single volume who’s wisdom surpasses all other writings men have given, even a single verse of absolute truth surpasses all those experiential speculations put in writing.
Last week we spoke of the Psalms containing parallelisms, do you recall this?
We identified four Parallelisms
- Synonymous, the thought of the first line is repeated exactly, but with different words, in the second line (e.g., 49:1);
- Antithetical, the first line is affirmed by a contrast, or exact opposite, in the second line (e.g., 37:21),
- Synthetic, the statement in the first line serves as the basis for the statement in the second line, which fulfills it (e.g., 19:7–10);
- Climactic, the first line is incomplete, but the second line draws from it and completes it (e.g., 29:1).
Well the Proverbs also have an identifiable structure mostly recognised in two forms;
- Antithetical or Contrasting, this is identified with the conjunction “but”
A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil:
But the fool rageth, and is confident.
A fool despiseth his father’s instruction:
But he that regardeth reproof is prudent.
- Completive (in which the second line of the proverb aggress with and adds to the first line, this is normally identified with the conjunction “and” eg; “Commit thy works unto the Lord and thy thoughts shall be established” (see Prov 16:3)
- Comparative: Often these can be identified with the pronoun “Than” which begins the second line, eg: “Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right” (See Prov 16:8)
Then you have this incredible imagery and even humour that is given in the Proverbs, some of which are quite stark and even memorable’
Think of Proverbs 11:22 that identifies a “fair woman which is without discretion” together with a “Jewel of Gold in a swine’s snout”
Or tell me what man might not sympathise with identifying that a nagging woman is likened with “a continual dropping in a very rainy day”. (See Proverbs 27:15)
Also we have these vivid and treasured truths in Proverbs, such as
As cold waters to a thirsty soul,
So is good news from a far country.
As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes,
So is the sluggard to them that send him.
A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city:
Consider a lazy man who would rather sleep when he should work;
Yet a little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to sleep:
So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth;
And thy want as an armed man.
Or those many people even today who boast of themselves falsely;
Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift
Is like clouds and wind without rain.
And certainly we could go on.
How we read the Proverbs is also different than how we might read the rest of the Bible, we may certainly read them through and retain a blessing from them, but of all the writings of the Bible the Proverbs are most particularly designed for contemplation and digestion.
They are to be considered deeply within the mind, meditated upon and thereby retained in memory.
But the single greatest joy that one could gain from the Proverbs is in the knowing that each and every single proverb is SPECIFICALLY AND ABSOLUTELY TRUE!
Matthew Henry describes the proverbs as “Infinite wisdom used for our instruction”
FEAR OF THE LORD
A phrase that appears 14 times in Proverbs and will lead the theme of my discourse this morning.
The first nine verses of the first chapter provides for us a summary of the first nine chapters. It brings understanding on the author, the purpose of its writing and to whom it is addressed.
For those of you who are reading this sermon, please note that its balance was recorded on audio only and not committed to writing. The portions below formed the outline only, the preaching of which added its understanding and applications.
1The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel;
2 To know wisdom and instruction;
To perceive the words of understanding;
3 To receive the instruction of wisdom,
Justice, and judgment, and equity;
4 To give subtilty to the simple,
To the young man knowledge and discretion.
5 A wise man will hear, and will increase learning;
And a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:
6 To understand a proverb, and the interpretation;
The words of the wise, and their dark sayings.
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge:
But fools despise wisdom and instruction.
8 My son, hear the instruction of thy father,
And forsake not the law of thy mother:
9 For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head,
And chains about thy neck.
29 For that they hated knowledge,
And did not choose the fear of the Lord:
30 They would none of my counsel:
They despised all my reproof.
31 Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way,
And be filled with their own devices.
2My son, if thou wilt receive my words,
And hide my commandments with thee;
2 So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom,
And apply thine heart to understanding;
3 Yea, if thou criest after knowledge,
And liftest up thy voice for understanding;
4 If thou seekest her as silver,
And searchest for her as for hid treasures;
5 Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord,
And find the knowledge of God.
6 For the Lord giveth wisdom:
Out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.
12 I wisdom dwell with prudence,
And find out knowledge of witty inventions.
13 The fear of the Lord is to hate evil:
Pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way,
And the froward mouth, do I hate.
14 Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom:
I am understanding; I have strength.
15 By me kings reign,
And princes decree justice.
16 By me princes rule,
And nobles, even all the judges of the earth.
17 I love them that love me;
And those that seek me early shall find me.
27 The fear of the Lord prolongeth days:
But the years of the wicked shall be shortened.
28 The hope of the righteous shall be gladness:
But the expectation of the wicked shall perish.
Perhaps verse 27 also has eternity in view, see v25
25 As the whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked no more:
But the righteous is an everlasting foundation.
6 By mercy and truth iniquity is purged:
And by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil.
17 Let not thine heart envy sinners:
But be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long.
25 The fear of man bringeth a snare:
But whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe.
Close: Prov 3:1-8
3My son, forget not my law;
But let thine heart keep my commandments:
2 For length of days, and long life,
And peace, shall they add to thee.
3 Let not mercy and truth forsake thee:
Bind them about thy neck;
Write them upon the table of thine heart:
4 So shalt thou find favour and good understanding
In the sight of God and man.
5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart;
And lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him,
And he shall direct thy paths.
7 Be not wise in thine own eyes:
Fear the Lord, and depart from evil.
8 It shall be health to thy navel,
And marrow to thy bones.