The Power of Proverbs . . . An Introduction


-~Bruce Grice~

January 13, 2002


Open in your Bibles to the book of Proverbs.

 

This evening we begin a study of Proverbs.

And embark upon a journey that will lead us as Christians toward

greater personal & spiritual growth.


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Just before the outbreak of the first World War, a small ship named the Endurance set sail from Briton with a crew intent on being the first to cross the Pole. The ship reached Antarctica, but became ice bound. Soon they had to abandon their ship and the 28-man crew took to their lifeboats. They were trapped on the ice for over a year. A desperate decision was made to take four men in a 20-foot lifeboat across the roughest sea in the world to a whaling station on Georgia Island some 800 miles away.

 

At the helm was a man named Worsley. All he had to guide them to the island was a map, a watch, a sexton, and a compass, but it was all he needed if he used them well. A mistake as minor as being off by only one degree would have proved disastrous. The four men in that boat endured seas that raged higher than a ten-story building. They were constantly cold & wet from the waves that drenched the boat. They had little food. The journey did not take days, but two weeks. Worsley, whose most sophisticated tool was a compass, managed to get the lifeboat the 800 miles to Georgia Island, and, eventually the entire crew of the Endurance was saved. He was a hero. The whaling captains who sailed those waters considered him one of the wisest navigators in the world. Worsley was wise because he used the compass to guide him.


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Ancient people believed two types of people existed: the foolish & the wise.

The wise used the compass they were given to arrive where they needed to go. The foolish chose not to use the compass.


          1. The book of Proverbs presents to us life's compass.

2. Proverbs has been called the best guide book of success a young man can follow. What the book of Psalms is to devotional life; Proverbs is to practical life. It is classified as wisdom literature.


B. Wisdom has been defined as the practical application of knowledge. Wisdom in Proverbs includes that, but goes much deeper.

          1. It is coming to see things as God sees them.

          2. Wisdom is imparted in the book through general truths called proverbs.

A proverb was an important teaching tool, since most people could not read and manuscripts were few.

          1. Proverbs were easily committed to memory, and, were especially

          useful for parents in teaching their children.

*Several features are common to most of the proverbs we will be studying.

 

A. The first is brevity.

          Most of the proverbs are only two lines long:

 

The righteous is a guide to his neighbor,

But the way of the wicked leads them astray (Proverbs 12:26).

 

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2. If a picture is worth a thousand words, so is a proverb.Often there is a note of humor involved, such as when the sluggard, or lazy man, convinces himself that he cannot go outside to work because there is a lion in the road (Proverbs 26:13).

 

          Some descriptions are so graphic they are almost impossible to forget.

In Proverbs 11:22, the beautiful woman without discretion is compared to a pig with a gold ring in its nose. This skillfulness in portraying wisdom is consistent with the wisdom of Proverbs.


          There is also an element of the enigmatic in Proverbs.

 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him.

Answer a fool as his folly deserves, lest he be wise in his own eyes. (Proverbs 26:4-5)

 

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          It is by no accident that these two Proverbs are found side by side.

The apparent contradiction is by design. It compels us ponder the matter much more seriously than we might otherwise. This element of enigma & mystery encourages us to go the extra mile in our study.

 

          Proverbs is to other forms of literature what radio is to television.

 

          Television supplies us with both verbal & visual data, it does all the work for us.

          2. Reading Proverbs is like listening to The Shadow on old time radio.

We are not given all the data, but what is given heightens our interest and our imagination. We are intellectually active as we read, intent on understanding what is being said.

 

          The proverb is a form of Hebrew poetry, yet it is different from what most of us are accustomed to reading as poetry today.

 

          Hebrew poetry is based upon the similarity of thoughts arranged in parallel statements. Several types of parallelism are common in Proverbs:

 

The fear of the Lord prolongs life, But the years of the wicked will be shortened (Proverbs 10:27).


*Antithetical parallelism (Two ideas are contrasted.) The second line is often introduced by the word but.

 

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Hear, my son, your fathers instruction,

And do not forsake your mothers teaching (Proverbs 1:8).

 

Synonymous parallelism (The idea of the first line is restated, or continued in a different way.)

 

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          While Solomon did not write all of the Proverbs, the majority are attributed to him.

1st Kings 4:32 says Solomon spoke 3,000 proverbs.

 

          It is tragic to observe that in spite of all that Solomon wrote concerning women, they were the cause of his downfall. (Turn & read 1st Kings 11:1-4)

 

          After all the Proverbs he wrote on child-rearing, Solomon failed to raise a son who was wise.

*Rehoboam, Solomons son, refused to listen to the counsel of the older & wiser advisors of his father, and, as a result the kingdom was divided." (1st Kings 12:1-15)

 

          From the failure of Solomon we learn two lessons.

          First, Satan will test us in those areas where we seem to be strongest. *The gifted Bible teacher may begin to listen to the praise of others & begin to feel infallible & authoritarian.

          2. He may begin to proclaim his insights rather than Gods instructions.

 

          The one who is able to give, etc., may begin to do so in such a way as to get the glory for himself. Solomon's father, David. had a heart for God all the time that Saul tried to kill him, but once David was comfortably enthroned, he became complacent. The man who single-handedly took on Goliath (1st Samuel 17), now felt it unnecessary to even go out & fight with his troops. As a result, David fell into sin with another mans wife (2nd Samuel 11). Let us beware of our strengths (1st Corinthians 10:12).

 

          A second lesson we should learn from Solomon is that knowing  the right thing to do is not enough.

 

          A person may know to forgive others, to be a good husband/wife, etc. Wisdom is first & foremost, a relationship with God. Wisdom is not just the knowledge of certain truths, but the obedient practice of them.

 

          4. We need the compass that Solomon gives us. Life certainly has to be navigated & we do need direction. Michael W. Smith captures the difficulty of living in our time well in one of his songs:

 

 The wind is moving, but I am standing still

A life of pages waiting to be filled

A heart thats hopeful, a head thats full of dreams

But this becoming is harder than it seems

Feels like Im looking for a reason

Roaming through the night to find my place in this world

Not a lot to lean on, I need Your light to help me find

my place in this world.

 

          We are faced with thousands of decisions in our lifetime, and, at times feel as though there is not a lot to lean on.

 

2. We need something to help us make decisions wisely, something to point us in the right direction.


*During the halftime show at a basketball game, a man had won the opportunity to collect ten, one thousand dollar bills. The catch was that the ten bills were spread out across the court floor, and the man was blindfolded. A time limit was set, and they let the blindfolded man loose. Of course he was instantly lost & disoriented. He had no way of knowing where the bills were, and so he began crawling all over the court trying to find them.

 

He was getting no where, so the crowd started yelling directions to him. But the thousands upon thousands in the arena were all shouting different directions. The man was more confused than before. Then, a yell leader grabbed a megaphone & began to shout out directions. The megaphone drowned out all the competing voices. The blindfolded man heard that loud voice telling him

which way to move. He began to listen, and one by one, he found all ten one thousand dollar bills.

 

          Life often seems that way, does it not?

 

          You want to make the right decisions. But you are barraged with thousands of voices everyday that push & pull you this way & that.

 

          The book of Proverbs was written to give people just like you & me direction for living; to present clear wisdom that would cut through the raging sea of voices that seek to swamp us. It offers a compass to lead us home.

 

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; Fools despise wisdom and instruction (Proverbs 1:7).

 

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          This verse gives the key to the whole book. Lifes compass is to fear the Lord.

 

          Proverbs approaches life from the position that God has the answers. *Someone once wrote on a wall, God is the answer. Someone else came along & wrote, Yes, but what is the question?

In reality it matters not what the question may be, God has the answer. Proverbs faces life with the belief that nothing is hidden from Gods knowledge. (Adam & Eve tried to hide from God; others have as well.) God understands all mysteries, sees the answer to all riddles. So, the beginning of wisdom is to take the compass. The beginning of wisdom is to fear the Lord.


PROVERBS TEACHES YOU TO BE WISE

 

Why read & study the book of Proverbs? It teaches you to be wise. *Much like we would go to

a doctor or pharmacist for a prescription, we go to the Great Physician for prescriptions: for a strong family; social responsibility; beauty; friendship; financial success; etc.

 

          Fearing the Lord liberates us from the fear of others. (May sound too good to be true. We see the T-shirts that read, No Fear, yet we know the fears that can hold us captive. The Bible says fearing God can loosen the grip on fears that hold us tight.)


          What allowed 1st century Christians to stand confidently before those who despised their faith?

The same thing that allows us.

What enabled them to speak openly about their convictions?

The same thing that enables us.

A proper fear of God is a fear that destroys other fears. Just ask the people of Israel who were being threatened by the conquering Assyrians. Isaiah speaks to the people:

 

Do not call conspiracy all that this people call conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, Him you shall regard as holy: let Him be your fear . . .(Isaiah 8:12,13).

 

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          A proper fear of God is a fear that can destroy other fears. It is the beginning of wisdom. It is the compass that gets us home.

 

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; And the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

(Proverbs 9:10)

 

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          Biblical stories illustrate the need to fear God.

*See Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3).

*Watch Isaiah in the temple (Isaiah 6).

*Look at the disciples when Jesus approached them in the dark of night, walking on the water (Matthew 14).


          The psalmist writes:

The angel of the Lord encamps around them that fear Him.

O, fear the Lord, you His holy ones. For those who fear Him have no want.

Come, O children. Listen to me. I will teach you the fear of the Lord.

(Psalm 34:7-11)

 

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          You can never fully appreciate Gods love unless youve learned to fear God.

          You can never really sing Amazing Grace with understanding until youve learned to fear Him.

 

          Fearing the Lord means you . . .


STAND IN TOTAL AWE OF HIM BOW IN COMPLETE REVERENCE BEFORE HIM LIVE IN ABSOLUTE DEPENDENCE UPON HIM

 

         You want to please the One who loves you more than anyone else can ever love you. His holy, fearsome love is what propelled the followers of Jesus to risk & to ultimately lose their lives for His sake.  Someone has said:

To fear God is to stand in awe of God.

To be afraid of God is to run away from Him.

          See the difference? Theyre close to one another, but theyre different.  A poet has written:

 

This fear is love and love is fear. And in and out they move.

But fear is a more intense joy than mere unfrightened love.

When most I fear Thee, Lord, then most wondrous Thou appear.

And I am in my soul most free when Im most in fear.

Not the cowering frightfulness but the wondrous fear

that is in awe of God.


          Proverbs is a powerful book. Read through it once a month. It has 31 chapters, which would fit every month that has 31 days. One chapter a day will do it.

 

PROVERBS IS CONCERNED WITH DEVELOPING GODLY CHARACTER


No book in all the Bible is more devoted to the development of godly character than Proverbs.

          2. Every Christian needs to become a student of character. Why?

C. First, our highest goal is to become like Christ.To be like Him in character.

Proverbs instructs us regarding personal & practical holiness.


D. Second, we need to be able to discern the character of others.

 

          Those who are wicked & violent should be avoided (1:8-19).

          Those who are dishonest should not be our partners (29:24).

          Liars are not good friends (17:9).

True friends are faithful (17:17), yet they wont fail to rebuke you when it is necessary (27:5-6).

          Evidence of godly character is crucial for marriage (Proverbs 31).


PROVERBS ENABLES YOU TO LOOK REALISTICALLY AT LIFE


         God does not want Christians to look at the world through rose colored glasses. Ignorance is not bliss.


          We are to see people as they are, and sin for what it is.

          So, Proverbs describes life as it is, not necessarily as it should be.

 

Realistic view of:

*Work

*Money

While riches cannot provide a man with real security (11:4,28),

some may think so (18:11).

Money appears to gain friends (19:4,6), but only for as long as it lasts.

*The sin of drinking & drunkenness (Read Proverbs 23:31-).

*Honesty (11:1)

 

PROVERBS IS AS CONCERNED WITH THE PROCESS OF

RIGHT THINKING AS WITH THE PRODUCT OF IT


B. It is not only important to know what to think, but how to think as well. (How do you decide what type of person you will be; how you will treat another; etc., . . . Fearing the Lord compass)

     

          Proverbs seeks to develop a mature process of thinking. To develop the ability to discern & apply truth:

That men may know wisdom and instruction, understand words of insight, receive instruction in wise dealing, righteousness, justice, and equity;

That prudence may be given to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth the wise man also may hear and increase in learning,

And the man of understanding acquire skill, to understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles (Proverbs 1:2-6).


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          What a powerful book!

 

          Studying it will help you in developing godly character.

          It enables you to look realistically at life.

          It is concerned with the process of right thinking.

          It teaches you to be wise. Giving you the compass for living:

 

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

 

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          The foundation for wise living is a proper fear of God.

 

          We live our lives according to the truth that we are the creation of God who cares about us. He is personally interested in how you plan for the future, how you choose your friends, how you treat other people, how you use your time, because He created you & loves you. That truth will never change. It is a fixed point on the horizon that every person can orient his life toward.


          The foundation for wise living is to fear the Lord.

 

          Living each day according to the truth that you are created by God who cares for you. Knowing He is personally interested in how you plan for the future, how you choose your friends, how you treat others, how you use your time . . . because He created you & loves you. That truth will never change. It is a fixed point on the horizon that every person can orient his life toward.

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