The following message is taken from Proverbs 1:1-9 and provides an introduction to the Old Testament book of Proverbs. It was delivered on April 4, 2013.
People love the practical. Do-it-yourself projects have become popular. We crave easily remembered statements that teach us “How to.” Practical advice is always well needed. A first grade school teacher in Virginia presented each child in her classroom the first half of a well-known proverb and asked them to come up with the remainder of the proverb. Here are their answers:
1. Don’t change horses… until they stop running.
2. Strike while the…bug is close.
3. It’s always darkest before…Daylight Savings Time.
4. You can lead a horse to water but…how?
6. Don’t bite the hand that…looks dirty.
7. A miss is as good as a…Mr.
8. Where there’s smoke there’s…pollution.
9. A penny saved is…not much.
Maybe we’re not as familiar with wisdom as we think! Thankfully, we have a place to turn for practical advice. Scripture is filled with it, especially in the book of Proverbs.
Proverbs is an example of literature that is found all over the world, in other civilizations and religions. You have heard people begin: “Confucius says…. But unlike Confucius and other examples of advice, Bible proverbs tie themselves to the God of the universe, the Creator and sustainer of life, revealed in Jesus Christ. You will notice from the next few weeks that the advice given in the book is intensely practical, telling us how to live. Many times the verses are short and sweet; hints which speak to the human condition. They direct us how we, the creature, ought to live in respect to God, the Creator. They also tell us what He desires from us. As any loving parent knows how to guide and direct their children, so God directs and guides us through His inspired word; the Book of Proverbs. I urge you to use this study in your home. Read them at the dinner table. Talk about them over your meals. Memorize them for daily reflection. Read one a day. There are 31 of them; you could finish by the end of the month. The Israelites taught them around meal time, at the beginning, or at the end of the day. Also, you’ll notice that many Proverbs are stated in a way that a father speaks to his son; as a mother to her daughter. The Israelites respected age. The content of such is that live ought always to be lived for God’s glory. The opening seven verses form a prologue to the whole book. These beginning verses are what we will examine today. This morning, I give you three aspects of the book of Proverbs to consider. The first is its author. We first learn that…
SOLOMON WAS A MAN OF GREAT WISDOM.
Within this book, there are various authors, but Solomon is the most prolific. Hence 1:1 gives us his signature and indicates that he compiled the book. It says: “The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel.” There is so much to the man behind that name. There was a time when he was one who desperately needed wisdom. At the time that Solomon inherited the throne of Israel, he was only around 20 years old. He was well aware of his immaturity and greenness, so he turned to God in humility. He prayed in 1 Kings 3:7: “Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”
This same attitude should be in us as we approach the God of infinite wisdom and intelligence. We need to come before God and admit, “Lord, guide me, direct me, give me Your wisdom for without you, I am lost.” This is the purpose of the book of Proverbs, to steer us to God and give us practical and holy wisdom for our day. Notice verses two through four: “…for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; 3 for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; 4 for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young—“
Is this not the advice that James 1:5 teaches? “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” The Lord of heaven is concerned about the decisions we make. He is aware of our daily needs and dealings with others. He is looking for upright men and women of integrity. He desires us to make wise and godly choices. He has given us an entire book devoted to the practical outworking of faith. By doing so, He makes His care for us evident. Out of personal experience, I can say that God has never let me down when I have asked Him for guidance and understanding. I have never heard His voice, but I have sensed Him orchestrate events and lead my mind, will and emotions. God can answer where you should go to college; what you ought to pick as a career; who you should marry. The Lord will answer the question: Given a situation, what option is the best? His word shapes me in all of this and He can do the same for you. But I learned this the hard way. There was a time in my life when I thought I knew it all. Mark Twain is credited with saying: “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.” As the older you get, the more you realize how dependant you are on God. The more you mature I Him, the greater extent you realize your dependence on Him. He is the only wise God and 1 Timothy 1:17.
God gave Solomon wisdom as He humbled himself and prayed. God was faithful to the young king and soon the fame surrounding his gift of wisdom was known all over the known world. Take for instance, Solomon’s visit by the Queen of Sheba. It was she that told Solomon in 2 Chronicles 9:5: “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. 6 But I did not believe what they said until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half the greatness of your wisdom was told me; you have far exceeded the report I heard. 7 How happy your men must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!” Sam Schultz teaches: “Solomon represents international fame that foreign rulers, most notably Queen of Sheba, came to express their admiration and seek his wisdom.” Your bulletin insert was found recovered in one of our members’ Bibles, after they passed away. IT was produced from a local pastor over 50 years ago. I encourage you to keep it handy and use it in your daily devotions. Solomon proved the notion that…
THOSE WHO LISTEN TO GOD WILL BE REWARDED. THOSE WHO IGNORE HIM WILL SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES.
Verses five and six tell us: “…let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance– 6 for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.” God was faithful to Solomon as he devoted his heart to God. Out of His grace and love, God fulfilled all that He promised this young man. The fact that his wisdom excelled that of other national leaders of his time is also found in 1 Kings 4:29: “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 men of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt.” And 1 Kings 5:12 tells us: And the Lord gave wisdom to Solomon, just as He promised him.” God was faithful to Solomon.
Nevertheless, it was Solomon that eventually grew unfaithful to the Lord. There came a day when the king’s heart started to turn away from the Lord. God had warned him in 1 Kings 9:6: “”But if you or your sons turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, 7 then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them… .” Unfortunately, the king did just this, neglecting divine wisdom and marrying strange women. The Bible says that at one time he had 700 wives and 300 concubines, who led his heart away from God. He was more concerned with his carnal desires and political alliances than serving the Lord. 1 Kings 11:4 tells us of the sad fulfillment of God’s warning: “As 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.” Eventually the whole nation turned away from God.
Wisdom is not to be confused with intellect. Solomon stands as a valuable lesson to you and me, that loose living will drive you away from God. Sin takes us in only one direction: away from God. If we sow destruction, we will reap heartache; if we turn away from following God, we will suffer the consequences. Our blood is on our own head; nobody to blame but ourselves. In other words, this is what happens when you don’t respect godly wisdom. This is what occurs when you are unequally yoked with an unbeliever. This is what happens when I set out to be selfish and place myself over others. If you do x, you run the risk of y. The New Geneva Study Bible affirms, “There is a moral order to all of creation, and violations of that order only lead to adverse consequences (923).
The Josephson Institute/Center for Youth Ethics reported that a national ethics survey on American youth finds one in three high-schoolers stealing from a store in the past year, two in five lying to save money, and eight out of ten lying to their parents. Is our culture learning about truth and consequences? A harmful message is being sent that says there are no repercussions for sin. The reporter said that we will see more things like columbine unless a message is sent that if you do this, you will be punished.” For instance, if a boy sleeps with is girlfriend, there is nothing in our culture that says: “That is wrong!” Gone are the facts that nothing makes you feel dirty, exposes you to disease or unwanted pregnancy. Bad morality has become accepted. Oh how we need to rediscover the importance of God’s wisdom! But for this life and the life to come! Lastly, we’re told of…
THE WISEST MEN AND WOMEN NOT ONLY RESPECT GOD, BUT LIVE FOR HIM.
Verse seven says: “The far of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Central to this study of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. This does not mean to be afraid of God; rather it implies respect and awe of God’s person and character; this is at the heart of prudence. Proverb 9:10 states: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and the knowledge of the holy One is understanding. Schultz goes on to say: Although designed as a guide for youth, these proverbs offer wisdom for all. Wisdom begins with a right relationship with God. Personal acknowledge of God is the foundation of righteous living. A reverence for God exemplified in daily life is the true applications of wisdom.” Wisdom starts with God.
At the Stave puzzle factory in Vermont, 12 employees keep busy turning out new and cleverer jig-saw puzzles. A few years ago, as a joke for April Fool’s Day, they produced a puzzle called “Five Easy Pieces.” The joke was that no matter who put the puzzle together, there was always one piece that wouldn’t fit. This prank caused a gigantic uproar. Eventually the company bought back all 30 copies of the fake puzzle from frustrated customers. They should have called the puzzle “Life,” for in life there is always at least one piece that doesn’t fit. Jesus is that piece of the puzzle that people so desperately need. He’s the most important piece! “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; knowledge of the holy one is understanding.”
 Samuel J. Schultz, The Old Testament Speaks, 3rd ed. (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1980), 289.
 Schultz, 291.