An Introduction to Proverbs
If you have your bibles let me invite you to open with me to the book of Proverbs chapter 1.
I am very excited to begin this new teaching series with you all this morning.
The first word of verse 1 tells us what kind of book this is.
It is a book of “proverbs”
A proverb is a short, pithy, saying designed to make a point about the way life works.
Or in other words, its a poetic saying that reveals some aspect of how to walk wisely in God’s world.
In the proverbs, the poet will state big truths in as few words as possible .
The poet will use repetition, imagery, figures of speech, and parallelism in the structure of his sentences to make his point.
The proverbs are meant to be meditated on and internalized so the reader knows how to walk wisely in the given situation.
I have only ever taken somewhat short and shallow passes through the book of Proverbs.
I have never personally heard a sermon series that tried to expositionally work through the proverbs. I assume its because of the difficulty of the structure. Especially in the middle of the book, there is little structure. Only individual mostly unconnected sayings of wisdom one right after another.
That makes it difficult to really sermonize this book into a some kind of logical flow.
The book often feels like real life… messy, and the wisdom you might find in one chapter may reflect the messy variety of situations you need wisdom for every day.
The Proverbs, therefore, have been considered by many to be not too dissimilar to short fortune cookie slogans for wise living that are occasionally useful…,
BUT God inspired this book and he placed this book in the Bible for a reason.
In fact, I think he did it as a divine blessing.... a gift given to his people for their good.
Over the last few weeks and months I have found depths and heights within the fabric of this book that have challenged me, convicted me, motivated me, and excited me for what God might do in our church family through this study.
We need what Proverbs offers us.
There is a theology that holds the proverbs together.
A theology of wisdom.
A theology of a big sovereign creator God over all the world who cannot be cornered into a once a week religious box.
In the proverbs we find a God who is very much real and active in your friendships, your family dynamics, your every day conversations, your work ethic, and your romantic relationships.
He is God over all of life, not just some of it.
His sovereign rule touches every corner of the globe and of the individual person.
Proverbs is a book about living life God’s way in God’s world.
It is my hope that through this study we as members of St Rose Community Church might become a congregation characterized by our godly wisdom in all the spheres of influence we find ourselves.
It is my hope that through this study we subject areas of our lives under God’s leadership and guidance, where previously we had ignored him or pushed him out.
Its my hope that the nations might marvel at God’s wisdom poured into us and out from us.
May he do it.
We will begin our time this morning by reading verses 1-7, though we will primarily spend our time getting acquainted with the author mentioned in verse 1.
verses 1-7 include what is considered the preamble of the book of proverbs.
A preamble is a preliminary or preparatory statement.
Its an introduction and its designed to help us understand what follows.
In the case of this preamble We are given a lot of information to sort through.
In these seven verses we are given:
the author of the book
the author’s significance to the biblical story
the purpose of the book
the intended audiences of the book
and finally the interpretive key to the book in verse 7…
In my estimation, it will take us about three weeks to sort through the information that the preamble provides, but it will be important time spent.
We will ease into the book of Proverbs trying to grasp important concepts and definitions that will serve us well as we continue our study.
So without further delay, lets read the preamble and lets spend some time in prayer for this morning’s sermon and for our new journey through the book of Proverbs.
The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth— Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Lord we need your wisdom.
We need your understanding.
Please give us what we lack.
Help us to understand your word, help us to believe your word, help us to apply your word in the thousands of different scenarios we will face in the year 2023. We pray this by your grace and for your glory in Jesus name amen.
The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:
Every individual book of the Bible finds itself placed in the context of a bigger story.
…A story that begins with God’s creation of all things in Genesis
and one that ends with God’s renewal of all things in Revelation.
Verse 1 gives us the primary author of Proverbs - Solomon, son of David, King of Israel…
He is a part of that story…, and this book is a part of that story.
How does the man who wrote proverbs fit into the bigger story?
How does the book of proverbs fit into that story?
Well lets begin with a speed round brief biblical story recap.
in the beginning God made a world that was good.
The people he created, made a decision that was bad.
When Adam and Eve sinned against God in Genesis 3… and the whole world fell into spiraling corruption… God began to make promises.
To Eve, God promised that an offspring would one day crush the evil serpent’s head.
To Abraham, God promised that his offspring would become a great nation, and that through his offspring the nations of the world would be blessed rather than cursed.
To King David over Israel, God promised that through his offspring, God would establish a kingdom on Earth of which there would be no end.
Man’s kingdom had proved very much corrupt.
Man’s kingdom was feeble and easily shaken by opposition, sickness, famine, and sin.
But… God would one day establish his people in his kingdom under a righteous and good king In a good and peaceful land.
Turn with me to that moment where God promises this to King David in 2 Samuel 7:10-16…
10 And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may dwell in their own place and be disturbed no more. And violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, 11 from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel. And I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’ ”
David’s family line Would carry on the promise made to Eve,
the promise made to Abraham,
and now the promise made to David.
David was going to have a Son who would build the temple in the midst of the people and whom God would walk closely with.
But even more than that… the kingdom to come was going to be an eternal one.
There was a glorious future where a Son of David would forever and always sit on the throne of The kingdom of God.
Notice how the Kingdom God promised is described with language that points you back to the garden of Eden.
Israel will be planted in a place where they can truly rest
and will no longer be threatened by any enemy.
God will be with them and the King will sit on an everlasting throne.
These are the kind of expectations and hopes Solomon was born into.
Could David’s son, Solomon, be the one?
Could he fulfil all of God’s promises,
crush the serpents head,
brings blessing to all the nations,
and establish God’s kingdom on earth forever and ever?
Could it be Solomon?
Turn now with me to 1 Kings.
In chapter 2 of 1 Kings.., we see David’s final words of wisdom to his son and a reiteration of the promise.
When David’s time to die drew near, he commanded Solomon his son, saying, 2 “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, 3 and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn, 4 that the Lord may establish his word that he spoke concerning me, saying, ‘If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.’
And so the reign of Solomon began.
He understood the assignment.
Obey the law of God,
pay careful attention to his way,
walk in faithfulness to God with all his heart and soul.
But the task of leading a nation for a young man was overwhelming.
He had to fill the shoes of his father… King David
He was called to unite the nation of Israel around his rule and lead one of the most insane building projects in the history of the world.
Think about the pressure that he must have been under. . .
So much so that, early in his reign as King, God actually visits Solomon in a dream.
5 At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.” 6 And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. 7 And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”
We learn a couple things from this exchange between God and Solomon.
In fact, we are studying this precisely because these real life moments in Solomon’s life will bleed through the words of the Proverbs that he will later write.
If you are a note-taker write this down.
#1 Solomon Shows Us a Great Need for Wisdom
#1 Solomon Shows Us a Great Need for Wisdom
Solomon had the OT law.
He had the stories of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.
He had the 10 commandments.
He had the great deliverances of the Exodus recorded for him.
He had the testimony of Moses’ leadership in the wilderness And his sermons in Deuteronomy.
He had the stipulations for worship in Exodus and Leviticus.
In fact, He very likely had already completed his own hand written copy as Deuteronomy commanded.
Deuteronomy gives this responsibility to every king of israel.
18 “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, 20 that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.
Solomon had the full testimony of God’s written word until that point in redemptive history… yet he felt unequipped for the task.
You can memorize the 10 commandments.
You can hand copy the whole Bible, but how will Solomon apply the truths of God’s law in the countless variety of scenarios that he would face as ruler of Israel.
The Torah was not a manual on how to be a good king in every situation.
Furthermore, Solomon was young and inexperienced.
His father and mentor was dead
His Kingdom was very large.
And somehow, part of Solomon’s job description was to oversee the construction of a temple for the very presence of God.
in 1 Kings chapter 3, God met Solomon in his anxiety.
God met him in his inability.
And God asked Solomon what he needed from God.
Solomon’s request was simple.
He asked for God’s wisdom.
He needed more than knowledge about facts.
He knew that he needed an understanding mind to navigate the challenges before him.
He needed wisdom that he did not have from experience.. and could not create for himself.
It is one thing to know your Bible… It is another thing to know how to handle your every day situations, conversations, and obligations according to the truth of your Bible.
It is one thing for Solomon to know his father’s instructions: keep God’s rules, instructions, and testimonies… its another thing to know how to do that in the finer details of every day life.
Solomon needed the kind of wisdom and understanding that would enable him to rule a Kingdom.
Translate that to another profession.
My brother-in-law is a parametic and firefighter… He can memorize the book, but he then has to take the things he learns from the book and he has to be able to apply those things at a moment’s notice in a wild variety of scenarios with people’s lives on the line. No manual could possibly articulate the details and decisions he would have to make in all the situations he has had to navigate.
Wisdom is that knowledge fueled ability to navigate life.
Solomon needed wisdom from God to accomplish what God had called him to do…
And so do you… Its why God gave us the book of Proverbs. Its why we are studying it together.
We want to be people of the Word… but we want to be people who know how to be obedient to the word in the complexities of life.
One commentator says this about he book of Proverbs:
“There are details of character small enough to escape the mesh of the law and the broadsides of the prophets, and yet decisive in personal dealings. Proverbs moves in this realm, asking what a person is like to live with, or to employ; how he manages his affairs, his time, and him self.” - Derek Kidner
#1 Solomon Shows us that There is Great Need for Wisdom
But look at what God shows us through his response:
10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.
God shows us that
#2 God Blesses Requests for Wisdom
#2 God Blesses Requests for Wisdom
This is a request that God is pleased to answer.
He is the source of all wisdom… and he is pleased to provide wisdom to those who rely upon him for it.
In fact, to make this point, God pours out an abundance of miracle wisdom like no one had ever received before.
Flip with me to 1 Kings chapter 4.
29 And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, 30 so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 For he was wiser than all other men, wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Calcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol, and his fame was in all the surrounding nations. 32 He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005. 33 He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall. He spoke also of beasts, and of birds, and of reptiles, and of fish. 34 And people of all nations came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom.
God does for Solomon far more abundantly then he could have asked or thought.
His wisdom, understanding, and knowledge of the world was unmatched by anyone In the world.
Verse 32 tells us… He spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005.
This book of proverbs we hold in our hands, therefore, is a 3,000 year old book containing a collection of God- inspired wisdom poured out and through Solomon.
Solomon was the recipient of divine wisdom because he asked for it.
He recognized his need for it and he sought it and now by the inspiration of the Spirit he passes wisdom down to future generations through this writing.
Not only does he pass down wisdom through his writing… he emphasizes time and time again… that wisdom can be yours too if you seek it from God.
We will study these words more deeply in a few weeks...
My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.
As we move into the new year with a new sermon series to study together… may this be our prayer.
God give us your wisdom to accomplish your will in our lives.
God is pleased with that prayer requests.
But not just for your sake…
God gives wisdom for a greater purpose then just making life better.
We actually see this bigger purpose playing out in Solomon’s life.
Read 1 Kings 4:34 again!.
And people of all nations came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom.
Truth #3 God Gives Wisdom for His Glory Among the Nations
Truth #3 God Gives Wisdom for His Glory Among the Nations
God gives wisdom for the same reason that he does anything and everything.
He aims to be glorified in us and through us to the ends of the earth.
Watch this play out later in 1 Kings.
Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions. 2 She came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices and very much gold and precious stones. And when she came to Solomon, she told him all that was on her mind. 3 And Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing hidden from the king that he could not explain to her. 4 And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, 5 the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his cupbearers, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the Lord, there was no more breath in her. 6 And she said to the king, “The report was true that I heard in my own land of your words and of your wisdom, 7 but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. And behold, the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report that I heard. 8 Happy are your men! Happy are your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! 9 Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord loved Israel forever, he has made you king, that you may execute justice and righteousness.”
When God pours out his wisdom… It is not for Solomon to be made much of.
God was made much of.
The Queen of Sheba says, “Blessed be the Lord your God who has delight in you… “
We seek the wisdom of God not just so that we can accomplish great things…, but so that God may be worshipped as great among all the nations.
he is the source of all wisdom, all understanding, all knowledge, and the more we depend on him to provide us with those things, the more we exalt him as the source.
We will be studying the book of James in our community groups here in a couple weeks and James echoes the same reality.
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
#1 Solomon shows us a great need for wisdom
#2 God Blesses Requests for Wisdom
#3 God Gives Wisdom for His Glory Among the Nations
But there is more we learn from Solomon’s story and his part to play in the bigger story of the Bible.
Despite Solomon’s wisdom
Despite all his writings and warnings that speak so clearly to the path of life…
Solomon in the end chose the path of a fool.
Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, 2 from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. 3 He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. 4 For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. 5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 6 So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. 7 Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. 8 And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods.
Solomon had the scriptures.
He had the understanding.
He had the wisdom.
He even wrote down the wisdom for others.
Listen to these words that he himself wrote:
1 My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, 2 that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge. 3 For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, 4 but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. 5 Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; 6 she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it. 7 And now, O sons, listen to me, and do not depart from the words of my mouth. 8 Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, 9 lest you give your honor to others and your years to the merciless, 10 lest strangers take their fill of your strength, and your labors go to the house of a foreigner, 11 and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed, 12 and you say, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! 13 I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. 14 I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.”
Having wrote those words… Solomon did not heed is own wisdom.
Having wisdom is not the same as having a new heart filled with affections for God.
Knowledge of what is right and wrong does not give you sovereign power to choose the right.
The book of Proverbs is a book of God’s wisdom.
It will show us in many ways what the path of wisdom is…, but Proverbs will not give us the power to walk in wisdom.
Proverbs can show you your failures…, but proverbs does not provide you with forgiveness for those failures.
Proverbs cannot save you from the depths of your intrinsic foolishness.
We need more then wisdom… we need grace that flows to us and into our hearts from the Spirit of God through the work of Jesus.
We need new hearts, new affections, new desires, new wills, to want to walk with God in all things.
We need what only God can provide in us through faith in Jesus.
Proverbs continuously points to the way we should walk..
But in doing so, Proverbs continuously points us to our need for Jesus…
Proverbs exposes our foolishness for what it is..and the great need that we have…, not just for advice…, but for an advocate… not just suggestions, but a savior.
Where does solomon fit in the story?
Well he proved not to be the promised offspring who would crush the serpents head…
He proved not to be the promised blessing of abraham.
He proved not to be the king who would establish a kingdom that has no end.
But his story points to the king we need… the king who was to come.
Truth #5 We Need a King Better than Solomon
Truth #5 We Need a King Better than Solomon
allow me to read Proverbs 1:1 again.
The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:
Now allow me to read the first line of the New Testament.
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Jesus came not only possessing all wisdom, but Jesus truly walked in wisdom his entire life without fail.
He is wisdom embodied.
He is wisdom in the flesh.
Everything he did was according to an understanding mind, and he gave that understanding to those around him.
He not only knew and taught wisdom… he perfectly walked in wisdom to the point of death even death on a cross.
And he rose again to new life.
he crushed the serpents head.
He brought the blessing of Abraham
he set his people free from bondage like Moses.
He is establishing a kingdom that has no end.
He is wisdom incarnate who came to save fools like you and me.
To his foolish opposers… Jesus said these words.
42 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.
Solomon’s wisdom drew the queen of Sheba to come and see for herself what great wisdom she had heard of.
Something great than Solomon is here.
Jesus is saying… do what the queen of the south did.
Travel great distances, lay down your pride, seek out the wise one and give glory to God.
The proverbs point us to Jesus for several reasons:
Firstly, The proverbs expose our need for a savior.
Secondly, the proverbs perfectly describe the wisdom that Jesus perfectly walked in every day of his life.
Thirdly, the proverbs show us how to more clearly reflect Jesus to the lost and dying world.
So as we begin this book, let me conclude with a few suggestions for how we should pray.
Consider Your Need for Wisdom
In what ways have you acted foolishly as of recent?
How do your actions actually contradict what you believe to be true?
In what ways and areas do you need to grow in wisdom in 2023?
Throughout this series, pray that God would graciously expose your foolishness.
Commit to Pray for Wisdom
When I was an undergrad student in a pastoral ministry class… a professor charged us with keeping a devotional journal in which we should write down things to pray for ourselves every day.
When I was 20 years old, “wisdom” made it onto my daily prayer list as something I could not manufacture for myself.
Its the kind of thing that you pray for over a long period of time having no idea whether God is answering or not…, but time will show the fruits of those prayers
Exalt Christ our Wisdom
Pray that God would help us to see Jesus on the pages of proverbs. Pray that the proverbs would not be glorified words of self-help…, but that they would provoke thanksgiving and worship directed at King Jesus.
May it be so today, and everyday as we continue this study.