Today we are beginning a brand new study of God?s Word. The Book of Proverbs is a gold mine for those who desire to live life to its fullest in the will of God. Proverbs has been studied, memorized, quoted, and applied to life for thousands of years and yet its wisdom has never become outdated, its principles have never failed, and its power for shaping the lives of young and old alike has never been diminished.
As we begin our study of this powerful book I want to simply give us an introduction to the material that we will be studying for the next several weeks. In our introduction I want us to come to understand the author, the intent, and the scope of Proverbs wide-reaching teaching.
The Book of Proverbs is attributed to King Solomon, the son of Israel?s greatest King, King David. Solomon was the tenth son of David and the second son born to Bathsheba. He became the third King of Israel following his father, David, and he reigned as King of Israel for about 40 years, between the years 965-922 B.C. In 1 Kings 4 we read about Solomon?s wisdom and the source of the wisdom Solomon possessed. Turn with me to verse 29 and let?s read about the depth of Solomon?s wisdom.
29God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. 30Solomon?s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the men of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. 31He was wiser than any other man, including Ethan the Ezrahite?wiser than Heman, Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol. And his fame spread to all the surrounding nations. 32He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. 33He described plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also taught about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. 34Men of all nations 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 NIV)
As you can easily see, Solomon was one wise dude. God had blessed him with an incredible mind. Solomon was wise beyond anyone who has ever lived. He spoke 3,000 proverbs and wrote over 1,000 songs. He could speak with authority and confidence about topics like botany, biology, zoology, herpetology, ornithology, and ichthyology, but the greatest wisdom Solomon shared was wisdom pertaining to living life. Men came from nations far and wide to simply sit and listen to Solomon speak.
Most of the proverbs that we will be studying are from King Solomon. I say most because not all of the proverbs in the Book of Proverbs are attributed to Solomon. In Proverbs 1:1 we read, 1 ?The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:? (Proverbs 1:1 NIV) In Proverbs 10:1 we read Solomon?s name attached to the wise sayings that follow. When we come to Proverbs 25:1 we see Solomon?s name once again, but this time we see that it was Hezekiah?s men who had copied the proverbs of Solomon. Take a look with me. 1 ?These are more proverbs of Solomon, copied by the men of Hezekiah king of Judah:? (Proverbs 25:1 NIV) What?s interesting about this is that Hezekiah reigned about 250 years after the time of Solomon. This shows us that the completed Book of Proverbs was more of a process that covered many, many years instead of a late night writing frenzy undertaken by King Solomon.
Along with these proverbs of Solomon we also find at least two places where people other than Solomon contributed wisdom to the book. In Proverbs 30:1 we read, 1The sayings of Agur son of Jakeh?an oracle: (Proverbs 30:1 NIV) We don?t have much information about Agur, but we do know that he wasn?t an Israelite.
In the very next chapter, Proverbs 31, we read, 1The sayings of King Lemuel?an oracle his mother taught him: (Proverbs 31:1 NIV) The entire chapter is dedicated to the things King Lemuel?s mother taught him while he was growing up. What were those important lessons his mother taught him? I?m so glad you asked. She taught him to avoid loose women. She told him to stay away from wine and beer or they would ruin his future. She taught him to always take time to reach out and care for those who are hurting, to speak up for the little people who have no voice, and to defend the rights of those who are being treated unfairly. Last of all, she drilled the young man on the importance of finding a wife with a noble character. In verse 30, Lemuel writes, 30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. (Proverbs 31:30 NIV) I would say that Lemuel?s mom was a very wise woman. Doesn?t she sound like many of the mothers of our day who are trying to teach their kids how to be wise and make godly decisions?
As you can see, the Book of Proverbs was largely written by King Solomon, but there were others whom God used to contribute to this important book.
Let?s move on to our second task this morning and try to gain some understanding about the intent of the book. Probably the best questions to ask are ?Who were the Proverbs written for?? and ?What was the purpose of these wise sayings?? Dr. David Hubbard answers both of these important questions in his commentary on Proverbs. He writes,
Piecing together the evidence as best we can, we come to the conclusion that Proverbs is a collection of collections of materials designed initially for use by the young men of Israel?s society who were being groomed for positions of leadership. The centralization of the government of Israel?s twelve tribes under David and Solomon changed permanently the way of life of God?s covenant people. Building projects, international diplomacy and trade, census taking, military mobilization, tax collection, judicial procedures?these and many more government functions called for a whole cadre of administrators to be recruited and trained for positions of responsibility within the government. (Dr. David Hubbard, The Communicator?s Commentary: Proverbs. pg. 26. 1989.)
From what Dr. Hubbard writes we can come to understand that Proverbs was written for the training of young men who were promising, future leaders of Israel. I say, ?young men,? intentionally because young women, for the most part, were not given the opportunity to serve in such a way. In the Book of Judges we find Deborah serving as a Judge, but outside of this one woman we don?t find any women serving in Israel, in public office, during this time.
One of the important lessons that we need to learn about Proverbs for our own day is that the lessons contained in its pages are just as relevant and important for young women as they are for young men. As a matter of fact, the lessons of Proverbs are as pertinent and important for men and women of all ages as they are for the young. The lessons of Proverbs are not just for future politicians, although we would be much better off today if our future governmental leaders were shaped more by the writings of Solomon than the teachings of Harvard, Yale, or some other Ivy League school. The lessons of Proverbs are for all people. They are lessons for life?lessons given to us for living life to its fullest potential in the will of God.
Although Proverbs holds importance for every age group, as well as men and women, I would say that there is no greater ?Prep Course? for young people in every generation than the pages of Proverbs. Charles Bridges once wrote,
The distinctive characteristic of the Book of Proverbs is that it is a book for the young. The answer to the question, ?How can a young man keep his way pure?? is fully answered in the Book of Proverbs? ?By living according to your [God?s] word? (Psalm 119:9). The Book of Proverbs specifically states that it was written so that young people would learn from it (Proverbs 1:4; 4:1). It takes them, as it were, by the hand and warns them of impending dangers and imminent temptations and points them to God?s ways through the most engaging motives. It was never more relevant than it is today. Our young people are growing up during a time when the foundations of the earth are being shaken, and when their hearts are being poisoned and perverted. Nothing is more important than to provide them with sound principles. What this priceless book impresses on their minds is the importance of basic principles in the heart?the value of self-discipline and the habit of bringing everything under the Word of God. (Charles Bridges, The Crossway Classic Commentary: Proverbs, pg. XIV. 1846.)
More important than the gaining of knowledge about current events, Wall Street, business acumen, financial success, athletic prowess, or world affairs is the pursuit of godly wisdom concerning life. These lessons offered to us by God are not merely facts to be passed on to each succeeding generation. Wisdom is much more than the increase of knowledge, wisdom is much more than the accumulation of facts, wisdom is the application of God?s truths to the circumstances and situations that we are presented with by God as we live our life. The gathering and application of godly wisdom is a life-long pursuit. It is an arduous task. It a grueling path that demands much from those who choose the way of godly wisdom over the wisdom of this world. Chuck Swindoll writes,
Don’t expect wisdom to come into your life like great chunks of rock on a conveyor belt. It isn’t like that. It’s not splashy and bold . . . nor is it dispensed like a prescription across a counter. Wisdom comes privately from God as a by-product of right decisions, godly reactions, and the application of spiritual principles to daily circumstances. Wisdom comes . . . not from trying to do great things for God . . . but more from being faithful to the small, obscure tasks few people ever see. (Charles R. Swindoll 1934- )
Walking in godly wisdom is not like learning to ride a bicycle or learning a new recipe. It?s not a once and never forgotten proposition. Wisdom demands as much from the elderly as it does from the young. Living wisely means that we give our full and complete attention to the matters at hand and seek to apply God?s wisdom to the situations that come our way.
King Solomon is one of the greatest examples that simply having knowledge, or the experience of making wise decisions in the past, does not guarantee that we will act wisely in the present or the future. We read earlier that Solomon wrote some 3,000 proverbs and that great world leaders traveled from near and far to hear him speak. Yet, later in Solomon?s life we read that Solomon gave his energy and attention to other things and it led to his demise. Turn with me to 1 Kings 11 and let?s read together.
1King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh?s daughter?Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. 2They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, ?You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.? Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. 3He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. 4As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. 5He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. 6So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done. 7On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. 8He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods. 9The LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 10Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the LORD?S command. (1 Kings 11:1-10 NIV)
Solomon forgot what he knew. He forgot the many times that he had written that the ?fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.? We will take a deeper look at this foundational proverb in weeks to come, but I do want us to take a look at three instances where Solomon shares this truth with us. Let?s begin by taking a look at Proverbs 1:7.
7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. (Proverbs 1:7 NIV)
10 ?The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Proverbs 9:10 NIV)
6 Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the LORD a man avoids evil. (Proverbs 16:6 NIV)
Solomon became busy with his building projects. Solomon was preoccupied with his international trade treaties. Solomon was occupied with his 700 wives and 300 concubines. Solomon?s began to listen more to the words of those around him than to the Word of God. Where did it end? Solomon?s heart grew cold towards God. He built a temple to Chemosh, one of the detestable gods of Moab. The nation was divided and Israel lost its strength because her King forsook the wisdom that had been given to him by God.
Let?s end our study this morning by taking a look at the broad scope of wisdom contained in the Book of Proverbs. We read in 1 Kings 4 that Solomon taught on many different matters. In the Book of Proverbs we can see that this is the case. Even though Proverbs was used as a kind of curriculum for training young leaders, Solomon says in the opening chapter of Proverbs that these wise sayings are for the experienced and seasoned as well. Take a look with me at Proverbs 1 and let?s read this together.
These are the wise sayings of Solomon, David?s son, Israel?s king?Written down so we?ll know how to live well and right, to understand what life means and where it?s going; A manual for living, for learning what?s right and just and fair; To teach the inexperienced the ropes and give our young people a grasp on reality. There?s something here also for seasoned men and women, still a thing or two for the experienced to learn?Fresh wisdom to probe and penetrate, the rhymes and reasons of wise men and women. (Proverbs 1:1-6 The Message)
Whether we are young or old there is a truckload of wisdom to be gained from studying Solomon?s proverbs. Let me share with you some of the areas that we will be covering in the next several weeks.
The company we keep will shape us over the course of time. Solomon knew this and so he wrote, 10 ?My son, if sinners entice you, do not give in to them.? (Proverbs 1:10 NIV)
In the area of finances Solomon has much to say. He says that we should not sign a note for someone other than ourselves or we will find ourselves in a fix. Look at Proverbs 22:26 with me.
26 Do not be a man who strikes hands in pledge or puts up security for debts; 27 if you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched from under you. (Proverbs 22:26-27 NIV)
Just a few weeks ago we spent our time of study looking at stewardship and how we are to use the resources that God has given to us. Solomon says,
9 Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; 10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. (Proverbs 3:9-10 NIV)
Solomon?s wisdom was not simply imparted to him by God. God gave Solomon the ability to pay attention to what he saw going on in the lives of others and then learn valuable lessons from what he had witnessed. Let me give you an example. In Proverbs 24 Solomon observed those who were sleeping in and taking life as it came to them. After observing these things he wrote,
32 I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: 33 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest?34 and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man. (Proverbs 24:32-34 NIV)
?A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest?? Solomon saw that those who dedicate themselves to this kind of lifestyle invite poverty into their home like it was part of the family. Solomon also wrote about this topic in Proverbs 20:4–4 A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing. (Proverbs 20:4 NIV)
Some would think that Solomon?s teaching about poverty would lead him to be hard on those who were poor, but that would be the furthest thing from the truth. Solomon wrote,
31 He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. (Proverbs 14:31 NIV)
17 He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done. (Proverbs 19:17 NIV)
Solomon says that if you are kind to those who are poor that God will make you a promise?He will repay you for what you have done. What a wonderful promise! Solomon also says that we honor God by being kind to those who are in need. What a wonderful blessing!
Solomon also teaches us much about the Sovereignty of God. For Solomon, wisdom is more precious than silver and more priceless than gold. The most cherished of all the nuggets of wisdom contained in Proverbs is the sovereignty of God. He is fully in control of every detail that pertains to His creation. Solomon writes,
4 The LORD works out everything for his own ends?even the wicked for a day of disaster. (Proverbs 16:4 NIV)
9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. (Proverbs 16:9 NIV)
24 A man?s steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand his own way? (Proverbs 20:24 NIV)
God is sovereign over all of His creation my friends. He is fully in control, but this should not lead us to believe that we can just sit back and let life happen. God calls us to live aggressively, to seek Him passionately, and to walk in His wisdom daily.
I want to invite you to allow the Lord to search your hearts this morning. Are you seeking the Lord with all of your heart? Are you spending time in His Word, allowing Him to teach you, to impart His wisdom to you on a daily basis? If not then why not? God promises us that He will give wisdom to those who ask Him for His wisdom. In Proverbs 2:1-5 we see that God promises us understanding if we will seek His wisdom with all of our heart. Take a look at this section of God?s Word with me.
1My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, 2 turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, 3 and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5 NIV)
As we begin this new study I want to invite you to come before the Father this morning and express to Him your desire to grow in your understanding of His ways. If you have never accepted Jesus as Lord of your life then this is the first step to growing in wisdom. Jesus is the wisdom of God. Won?t you invite Him in?
Introduction to the Book of Proverbs