1The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:
2To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight,
3to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity;
4to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth—
5Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance,
6to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles.
7The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Since we are finished with our weekly dose of Psalms (and I may go back and plow that ground again on these pages) I thought perhaps a look at Proverbs is in order. That is a more daunting task, as this book is not as neatly divided as Psalms. But within these pages resides the wisdom of God and so we should take a moment to contemplate what God wants to impart. Decades ago, I was taught by a Sunday School teacher that if we ask God for wisdom, He will grant it. That woman spoke truth, as the book of James backs her up.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
Even as a child, I thought that was a good thing. Possessing and employing the wisdom of God seemed (and still seems) like a good idea. And so, I have prayed on a regular basis for God to give me wisdom. That doesn’t mean I’ve always used my God-given wisdom, for I have made some foolish decisions, indeed. But, I do believe God has been faithful and a small portion of wisdom is mine. Proverbs is a goldmine of God's wisdom and as such we shall pick up each nugget and examine it with care.
Unfortunately, Proverbs is often seen as a collection of disconnected, almost random sayings that are studied individually without the benefit of context. Indeed, the bulk of the book, beginning in 10:1 and extending almost to the end, consists of short, pithy sayings that often invite such treatment, especially in English translation, where many of the connections to the larger context that are evident in the Hebrew cannot be sustained.
Steinmann, A. E. (2009). Proverbs (p. 1). Saint Louis: CPH.
So, we launch into what will be a long study, I am sure. As such, we begin at the beginning, with the author of Proverbs. The author of the bulk of Proverbs is Solomon, as the opening inscription tells us.
Steinmann, A. E. (2009). Proverbs (p. 19). Saint Louis: CPH.
Essential for understanding the wisdom of Proverbs is discerning that wisdom is God’s. This is also the key to comprehending the Gospel in Proverbs. Wisdom is God’s great gift to his people throughout the book. Wisdom is what God bestows. It is God’s gracious blessing that enlightens humans, and ultimately it is God as he comes to humanity in the person of his incarnate Son.
Steinmann, A. E. (2009). Proverbs (p. 22). Saint Louis: CPH.
In verse 1, Solomon signs his name to the majority of the book. And in signing that name, he employs his role as the “son of David.” This connects Solomon and this writing to Jesus Himself, who through His human mother is a descendant of David. Jesus Christ embodies the sum of all divine wisdom, who astounded everyone who heard Him speak by His great wisdom, even as a child.
Solomon has placed at the beginning of the book a preface designed to set the stage for the reader who wishes to learn about God-given wisdom and to receive this divine wisdom through the book of Proverbs. These verses are stair-like parallelism, with each line forming an additional step until the climax is reached in 1:7. Three key concepts for understanding and applying the wisdom in Proverbs are introduced as we climb the stairs: knowledge, discipline, and spiritual growth.
Steinmann, A. E. (2009). Proverbs (pp. 54–55). Saint Louis: CPH.
Throughout our study of Proverbs all three of these areas will be expanded. These “steps” lead us in the direction of wisdom.