Week 23 Devotion
The book of Proverbs falls into the category of “Wisdom Literature” along with Job, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs and the Psalms. Many consider the book of James to be a New Testament book that falls into the same category. These books are filled with poetry as well as short catchy statements that make them easy to remember because the wisdom literature is meant to shape the way we live. These books emphasize the need to understand and attain wisdom from God for all of life, including our relationship with God.
The book of Proverbs is filled with short statements that are intended to reveal the foolishness of worldly wisdom and the superiority of God’s wisdom. As we read the book we learn how to be wise in our dealings with money, sex, power, time, family, and a whole host of other things. But the main theme and purpose of the book is not to memorize all of these wise sayings. The main theme of the book is to help the reader to fear the Lord because the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
I would add one more theme which can be found in every book of the Bible and it is that the book of Proverbs is helping lead us to Jesus.
Here is something to Meditate on…
One of the things that stand out as you read this book is that God offers wisdom to us. He doesn’t want us to remain in the dark. He doesn’t want us to remain immature and ignorant. He wants us to grow up and gain understanding. So like a good father, God has given us His Word to lead us in that process of growing and learning.
God wants us to be mature men and women who know Him, love Him, and fear Him. He wants us to be wise men and women who do what is right. He wants us to help others to know and do what is right so that we can be at peace with all men and enjoy fellowship with God.
In one sense you could say that God wants us to grow to be perfectly God-fearing and wise men and women. But the problem is that with sin in our hearts we will always fall short of this standard. So try as we might to be wise we will fail, but in our failure, there is grace to be found.
Jesus truly and perfectly lived the wise and God-honoring life that we could not. In fact, He is the voice of God’s wisdom that calls out from the streets to lead us away from the adulterous women and into a relationship with God. According to the Old Testament, the Messiah would be anointed with “The Spirit of Wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord (Isa 11:2).” According to the New Testament, Jesus is God’s gift of wisdom to sinners (1 Cor 1:30).
Solomon was incredibly smart, but Jesus was wiser even than Solomon (Matt 12:42). Jesus spoke with both wisdom and authority, truth and grace, and with this combination, He amazed people. No one, not even the law experts (Pharisees) could out-think Jesus and if we will follow His Word it will lead us to both wisdom and peace. And in the end, we will be with Him because true godly wisdom will never lead us away from Christ but straight into His arms.
Meditate on this. Think deeply about the fact that the book of Proverbs will not be fulfilled by us but that it has been fulfilled for us. It will help us to grow in both wisdom and godliness while at the same time it will humble us and make us remember just how foolish we are. But the picture of wisdom that it holds out to us is none other than Jesus who saves us from our foolishness, who leads us like a friend to deeper understanding, and who will bring us to dwell with God in perfect peace.
Here is something to Discuss…
Let’s discuss how to read these proverbs. One way to read these proverbs is to understand that they are like probabilities. For instance, if you fear the Lord and you walk according to His wisdom making good and wise choices, then life will most likely go well for you. But if you don’t fear the Lord and you live foolishly things will most likely not go well for you. But these things don’t always play out exactly in that way.
Sometimes fearing the Lord and living according to His Word will lead to persecution and sometimes living foolishly is celebrated by a godless culture. This doesn’t mean that proverbs aren’t true but that life in this sinful world is complex and we can’t simply break it down into a decision tree that will always lead to peace and happiness.
Another way to read the proverbs is to understand that they are not promises, meaning they are not formulas for success. For instance, many of us have known godly people who died at a young age, but Proverb 10:27 says, “The fear of the Lord prolongs your life, but the years of the wicked are cut short.” This doesn’t mean that the person in question was just faking godliness and was secretly wicked deep down. But rather it shows us that life in this fallen world is not filled with guarantees.
It is always wise to fear the Lord, this is a general rule of faith and it is always worth heading but even the godliest among us might die young. Think of Jesus who died at the age of 33. The point is that life is too complex for a guaranteed set of formulas. Wisdom statements are wonderfully helpful and we need all of the wisdom that God offers us. But we also need the fear of the Lord.
This fear of the Lord is not about being terrified of God but is about seeing, loving and relating God with true reverence and awe. It is an understanding of the universe that places God at the center and brings us to a point of humility that says I need to center my life on God’s character and His Word.
Perhaps, you have more to add to this discussion. Take some time to think about how we can read this book to gain from it all that God intends. Discuss with your family, friends or small group; how to receive God’s practical guidance as well as to grow in the fear of the Lord.
Here is something to pray about in the Proverbs…
One of the key themes in the first 9 chapters of this book is to focus on one generation passing down wisdom to the next generation. In chapters 1-9 we read ten speeches from a father to a son and this is not just a narrative tool, it is intended to be the pattern for our lives as well. We too should be learning wisdom from the previous generation and passing it down to our children.
So this week let’s pray that God would allow us to be wise in how we listen to our parents, our elders, and those wise leaders that God has placed in our lives. Let’s pray for patience to hear what they have to say and the ability to learn wisdom from their words and their lives.
Let’s also pray that we would fear the Lord and seek to pass wisdom on to others, especially the next generation. Let’s pray that God would help us mature and grow in wisdom and understanding so that we can be a help to those who will come after us.