For the next nine days, we will be in the book of Proverbs. Many people read a chapter a day which would take 31 days. The purpose of the book is to help us grow in wisdom – the ability to make right choices in every circumstance. Wisdom is different to knowledge. It’s the practical application of knowledge often learnt the hard way. I used to say that knowledge tells us tomatoes are a fruit, wisdom refrains from putting them in a fruit salad. I used to, because one of the Chinese language assistants we had at The Gateway Church served up tomatoes dusted with sugar for dessert once!
Some of the choices we make just require knowledge of the facts – like which medicine to take. Others are about compliance to rules. Others are harder to make and require some wisdom. Solomon’s book of Proverbs helps us to gain some of his wisdom.
5 purposes of the book of Proverbs
- To know wisdom and instruction v2
- To receive instruction in wise dealing v3
- to give prudence to the simple v4
- to help the wise hear and increase in learning v5
- to understand proverbs and sayings v6
Verse 7 gives us the key to the book and the key to wisdom – the fear of the Lord. The word fear is not the same fear as in a fear of heights or of spiders. It is the fear that is full of repect and reverence. As one commentary put it, the fear of God is an attitude of respect, a response of reverence and wonder.
There are a lot of general pinciples and even some direct contradictions in the book of Proverbs! Prov 26:4,5 is a prime example “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly lest he be wise in his own eyes.” Which do you do. I’ve recently been in a situation dealing with someone (not in the church!) who after much deliberation I concluded was a fool. After one evening listening to his nonsense, I tried to respond, but because our cat purred, he took that as confirmation that his ideas were right (Proverbs 26:5). After a day or two of that kind of folly, I realised v4 might be the best approach!
In the rest of chapter 1 Solomon shows us that parents are so important in imparting wisdom v8-9. As part of growing up, we soon find that sinnners want to entice us into their folly, so the rest of the chapter addresses that and warns us to choose wisdom.
Marinate on that