Introduction To The Book of Proverbs
The message of Proverbs is that life can never be fully understood nor fully lived except through a relationship with God. The complexities and perils of life are simply too big for us to handle by ourselves. In order to successfully navigate the swirling currents of our daily existence, with all of its temptations, deceptions, and risky choices, we need wisdom – the timeless, dependable, true wisdom of God.
The book of Proverbs speaks to the human will, and it is primarily concerned with the choices that life sets before us. Someone has wisely said, “Choices are the hinges of destiny.” Our lives turn on the choices we make. To have a good life that is filled with satisfaction, abundance, and service to God, we must make good, godly, healthy choices throughout our lives. That is what the book of Proverbs is about: making wise choices.
The book of Proverbs belongs to what scholars call the “wisdom literature” of the Old Testament, which also includes Job and Ecclesiastes. The writers of these books wrestled with some of the most difficult questions of life as they sought to understand life’s problems from God’s point of view. After all, just because you’re a believer and you walk by faith, it doesn’t mean you put your mind on the shelf and stop thinking. The Lord expects us to apply ourselves intellectually and do some serious thinking as we study His Word. We should love the Lord with our minds as well as with our hearts and souls (Matt. 22:37).
To the ancient Jew, wisdom was much more than simply good advice or successful planning. I like Dr. Roy Zuck’s definition: “Wisdom means being skillful and successful in one’s relationships and responsibilities… observing and following the Creator’s principles of order in the moral universe. “ In that definition you find most of the important elements of biblical wisdom, the kind of wisdom we can learn from the book of Proverbs.
Biblical wisdom begins with a right relationship with the Lord. The wise person believes that there is a God, that He is the Creator and Ruler of all things, and that He has put within His creation a divine order that, if obeyed, leads ultimately to success. Wise people also assert that there is a moral law operating in this world, a principle of divine justice which makes sure that eventually the wicked are judged and the righteous are rewarded. Biblical wisdom has little if any relationship to a person’s IQ or education, because it is a matter of moral and spiritual understanding.’ It has to do with character and values; it means looking at the world through the grid of God’s truth.
Wisdom keeps us in harmony with the principles and purposes that the Lord has built into His world so that as we obey God, everything works for us and not against us. This doesn’t mean we don’t experience trials and difficulties, because trials and difficulties are a normal part of life. But it means we have the ability to deal with these adversities successfully so that we grow spiritually and the Lord is glorified.
People with wisdom have the skill to face life honestly and courageously, and to manage it successfully so that God’s purposes are fulfilled in their lives.
I, Solomon, David’s son and Israel’s king, pass on to you these proverbs—a treasury of wisdom—
So that you would recognize wisdom and value discipline;
that you would understand insightful teaching
And receive wise guidance to live a disciplined life;
that you would seek justice and have the ability to choose what is right and fair.
The Voice (VOICE)
Solomon stated his purpose for writing these proverbs. It is to instruct us in wisdom and to help us perceive words of understanding. Everyone needs more wisdom and understanding; therefore, everyone needs to study this book.
Verse 1 is the title of the whole book, which is attributed to Solomon, although not all of it came from his mouth or pen. However, the greater part is Solomon’s and the remainder closely related to his thinking. No doubt the title was attached when the sayings were edited and published in the reign of Hezekiah. The same editor composed this little introduction to commend his collection of Proverbs to the public. It is possible he (or another) wrote the remainder of the Prologue up to the end of chapter 9, although it could have come from Solomon or a sage of any period, since it is an example of the way a parent instructs his children or a teacher his pupils.
He begins by defining his subject (wisdom) and his readers.
What Wisdom Is
Wisdom is the overall term, which he defines by using three others.
1. Discipline. This is what we would call ‘training’ – not so much in skills as in character. The child or pupil is taught from an early age how to behave. As he regularly practices these lessons, so they begin to mold his character.
2. Understanding. This shows that the discipline is not blind obedience but teaching the child to discern for himself between right and wrong, the best and the less good (Phil. 1:10), so that he will want to behave rightly.
3. Prudence. The fruit of the discipline and understanding is to produce a mature person able to relate to others. He is trained to treat them in a way that is right, just and fair. He learns how to get on with people, exemplified in Abigail (1 Sam. 25:3) and perfectly in Jesus (Isa. 52:13).
God calls us to receive His wisdom and be skillful, so that we can make a life that will glorify Him. The important thing isn’t how long we live but how we live, not the length but the depth of life. Fools wade in the shallows, but wise people launch out into the deep and let God give them His very best.