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BOOK OF PROVERBS – OVERVIEW

August 6, 2012

The Book of Proverbs
How blessed is the man who finds wisdom,
And the man who gains understanding.
Proverbs 3:13
Purpose of Proverbs
1:1-7
Proverbs
to
Youth
1:8-9:18
Proverbs
of Solomon
10:1-24:34
Proverbs of Solomon (Hezekiah)
25:1-29:27
Words
of Agur
30:1-30:33
Words
of Lemuel
31:1-31:31
Title:
Proverbs 1:1
Father’s
Exhortations
to Young
Men
First Collection
of Solomon
Second Collection
of Solomon
Numerical
Proverbs
Wisdom for
Leaders
31:1-9
Virtuous
Wife
31:10-31
Theme:
Proverbs 1:7
Precepts
of
Wisdom
Proverbs of
Solomon
Proverbs Copied by Hezekiah’s Men Proverbs
of Agur
Proverbs of Lemuel Capable
Wife

KEY WORDS (NAS95) (Mouseover & Read popup, click for more discussion)Wisdom (48x/47v), Righteous(ness)(90x/89v), Guidance (3x), Wise (62x/58v), Fear of the LORD (14x),  My son (23x), Knowledge (40x/39v), Tongue (18x), Instruction (16x), Discipline (17x),  Commandment/command (11x), Understand(ing) (56x/55v), Foolish (12x/11v), Fool(s) (58x), Tongue (18x), Evil (58x/55v), Wicked (83x/82v), Life (46x), But (246x/242v).

COMMENT ON KEY WORD “BUT”: Notice that there are 246 uses of “but” and 8 uses of “yet” in Proverbs (20% of the 951 verses), both terms of contrast which always signify a change of direction in the author’s thought and alwasy beg at least one question “What is the contrast?”. John Piper says that…

One of the great problems in Bible reading is that we move our eyes over the words and come to the end of a column and don’t know what we’ve read; we don’t feel our minds or spirits expanded because we saw nothing fresh. It was purely mechanical. There was no discovery, no life, no breakthroughs to new insight. One of the best ways to change that is to train yourself to ask questions of the text. Often the posing of the question itself will already carry its answer with it and will open your mind to new things(See Piper’s sermon based entirely on “asking questions” of the text!)

It follows that a key to understanding many of the proverbs is to observe and query the frequent terms of contrast   Always use your encounter with a “yet” or “but” to practice what I call the 3P’sPause to Ponder the Passage. As you practice this spiritual discipline of “slowing down” (rather than racing through a clear “Scriptural intersection“!), seeking to actively engage the text (rather than passively “speed reading” it) and acquisitively querying the text with questions, your Teacher, the Holy Spirit, will illuminate the truth of the text, and you will find that you are beginning to practice the blessed discipline of meditation on Scripture! (Cp Ps 1:1-note, 1:2-note; 1:3-note; Joshua 1:8-note) This discipline of an “interrogative mindset” will force you to re-read the preceding text to determine what the author is contrasting and in so doing you be establishing the context.  

PROVERBS IS A BOOK OF WISDOM: Biblical wisdom is the application of the knowledge of God’s Will as revealed in God’s Word  to real life situations. Wisdom is being able to take what God has revealed to your heart and applying it in given situations in a practical way, making “wise” choices,  doing the right thing to others. Wisdom of this kind grows best in a humble heart that faithfully takes in God’s Word of Life, ever depending on the Spirit’s illumination of the Word and enablement to obey the Word. J I Packer says it this way…

Not until we have become humble and teachable, standing in awe of God’s holiness and sovereignty…acknowledging our own littleness, distrusting our own thoughts, and willing to have our minds turned upside down, can divine wisdom become ours.

Many writers consider “Wisdom” in Proverbs as a personification of Jesus Christ “Who became to us wisdom from God.” (1Cor 1:30). Thus J Vernon McGee writes of Pr 8:22 that “This is the Lord Jesus; this is wisdom personified.” See also Hodgkin’s discussion of the word “wisdom” as it pertains to the Incarnate Word (Jn 1:1-2).

PROVERBS IS A BOOK ABOUT THE FEAR OF THE LORD:Proverbs has much to say about “fear”, especially fear of Jehovah. A major problem of unregenerate men is that “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Ro 3:18-note) which results in the ensnaring fear of men (Pr 29:25)(Arnot’s note). As William Gurnall said “We fear men so much because we fear God so little.” And “The only sure way to take fear out of living is to fear God.” (Carr) Oswald Chambers adds that “The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God, you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.” Proverbs is God’s “antidote” for the fear of men for the theme is “the fear of the LORD (which) is the beginning of wisdom.” (Pr 9:10-note) As Charles Bridges in his classic commentary (recommended) on Proverbs writes “The child of God has only one dread-to offend his Father; only one desire-to please and delight in Him.”

How blessed is the man who fears always” (Pr 28:14-sermon) Spurgeon explains that

The fear of the Lord is the beginning & the foundation of all true religion. Without a solemn awe and reverence of God, there is no foothold for the more brilliant virtues….He is blessed who feels a jealous fear of doing wrong. Holy fear looks not only before it leaps, but even before it moves. It is afraid of error, afraid of neglecting duty, afraid of committing sin. It fears ill company, loose talk & questionable policy. This does not make a man wretched, but it brings him blessedness. The watchful sentinel is happier than the soldier who sleeps at his post. He who foresees evil and escapes it is more blessed than he who walks carelessly on & is destroyed. Fear of God is a quiet grace which leads a man along a choice road, of which it is written, “No lion will be there, nor will any ravenous beast go on it.” (Isa 35:9) Fear of the very appearance of evil is a purifying principle which enables a man, THROUGH THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, to keep his garments unspotted from the world (James 1:27-note). In both senses he that “fears always” is made blessed. Solomon had tried both worldliness (Read 1Ki 11:1-13) and holy fear: in the one he found vanity (Eccl 1:2ff), in the other blessedness. Let us not repeat his trial (error), but abide by his verdict.” (Faith’s Checkbook)

 BENEFITS OF FEAR OF THE LORDGodly fear is to be the Spirit filled (controlled & enabled) believer’s lifestyle for Proverbs exhorts us to “Live in the fear of the Lord always (Pr 23:17; Simeon’s sermon). And we should be motivated to pursue such a lifestyle by the many benefits of “good, godly fear” which helps us to “hate evil” (Pr 8:13) and thus to “turn away from evil,” (cp effect on Job 1:1) which in turn brings “healing to our body & refreshment to our bones” (Pr 3:7-8; Arnot’s note). Godly fear helps to “prolong (our) life” (Pr 10:27). Godly fear gives one “strong confidence” (or hope [lxx] = absolute assurance of future good) and refuge to one’s children (Pr 14:26; Arnot’s note). Godly fear leads to life so that one may sleep (or rest) satisfied, untouched by evil (not visited by harm = ESV)” (Pr 19:23) Godly fear protects our heart from envy (Pr 23:17; Maclaren’s sermon). Godly fear helps us be satisfied with a “little” (Pr 15:16; Arnot’s note). In summary

The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life,
That one may avoid the snares of death
.

(Pr 14:27)

Proverbs Resources Updated with Commentaries, Sermons, etc
Fear of man, etc, not God – How to Handle

Beloved, with the Spirit’s enabling grace may we daily “choose the fear of the LORD.” (Pr 1:29) (Play the song “We Choose the Fear of the LORD”)

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