Sept 9th, 2012 Proverbs 1:1-7
Making Life Work
This morning I want to begin a series of messages from the book of Proverbs.
The Book of Proverbs was compiled by King Solomon, David’s son.
A. Solomon is the Editor of Proverbs
Solomon did not write all of Proverbs. There are certain proverbs which are
ascribed to different authors. He wrote many of the Proverbs and put them
together with other material, thus compiling the Book of Proverbs.
The first nine chapters of Proverbs form an introduction to the remaining
In these first nine chapters a loving father pleads with his son to seek after
lady wisdom. His message is consistent: “Pursue Wisdom.”
Solomon personifies wisdom as a woman. In a patriarchal society it shows
the value God places on women.
“Blessed is the person who finds wisdom, the person who gains
understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields
better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies, nothing
you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in
her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways,
and all her paths are peace.” Proverbs 3:13&17
The wisdom found in Proverbs deals with the formation of a person’s inner
character; behavior flows from what is in one’s heart.
Furthermore, the material found in Proverbs is straight forward and easily
understood. Above all Proverbs is practical.
“A sluggard doesn’t plow in season;
so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing.” Prov.20:3
You don’t plow – you don’t eat! It’s as simple as that.
B. Proverbs helps Parents Instruct their children in Wise Living
Adolescence is a very difficult and treacherous period in a person’s life. A
friend of mine calls this time “the stupid years”, when young people are
tempted to push the boundaries and experiment with all kinds of things.
Teenagers have a hard time looking ahead and seeing how today’s decisions
can have a long term effect on their future. It’s a time of independence when
teens pull away from their parents in order to establish their own identity and
It’s, therefore, a time of great vulnerability. Young people are exposed to the
temptations of easy drugs, easy sex and easy money.
Proverbs addresses these issues and gives young people a compass to
navigate the treacherous waters of adolescence without destroying
themselves and others.
For example, when our granddaughter turned 18 and graduated from high
school the bank sent her an unsolicited credit card with a $3000 limit. She
thought she had died and gone to heaven. “My ship has come in. Now I can
buy some new clothes. I’ve got money to party with my friends.”
The problem was she didn’t have a job.
I said to her, “Don’t do it! Cut up the credit card and throw it away.”
Proverbs gives clear advice to this situation.
“The borrower is servant to the lender.” Proverbs 22:7
Do you know what’s worse then being broke?
It’s being in bondage to someone else; being a slave to the credit company.
So the Book of Proverbs offers us guidance to help us make wise decisions. It
addresses the issues of friends, sex, money, anger and speech. It helps us
make wise choices; to avoid the pitfalls and temptations of life.
C. Proverbs is written by a Sage
Now a Sage means “wise person.” A Sage is not a prophet. A prophet is a
spokesperson for God: someone who hears directly from God. Prophets have
special audience with God. God speaks to them face to face and they pass on
God’s message to others. They say, “Thus says the Lord.”
But a Sage never has such a direct encounter with God. They simply observe
life, reflect on it and gain insight into the realities of life. They draw
conclusions on how life works by observing human behavior.
The work of a Sage is beautifully illustrated for us in Proverbs 24:20.
“I once walked by the field and vineyard of a lazy man,
thorns and weeds were everywhere
and the stone well had fallen down.
And I saw this; it taught me a lesson;
Sleep a little, doze a little,
Fold your hands a little, twiddle your thumbs.
Suddenly poverty overtakes and everything is gone.”
In this case, the lesson is clear.
There are hostile forces at work in the world. They are utterly ruthless. One
of those forces is poverty. And if you are not careful and prudent and hard
working; poverty will overtake you; beat you up; strip you of all your
possessions; leave you naked on the side of the road.
So here is a Sage at work. He or she observes human behavior; learns
something from it and writes it down in short pithy statements which are easy
to remember. We are all familiar with proverbs. They are found in every
culture, composed by wise teachers:
A stitch in time saves nine.
The early bird catches the worm.
You can’t sew a new patch on an old garment.
A sharp nail cracks the wood, but a blunt one keeps it whole.
A fool judges people by the presents they give him.
A bit of fragrance clings to the hand that gives flowers.
The best remedy for anger is delay.
Giving is a matter of the heart not a matter of wealth.
A proverb should cause us to stop what we are doing, reflect, examine our
life and change our behavior.
D. Proverbs are not Promises
We sometimes fall into the trap of viewing Proverbs as promises. At times
we find ourselves angry and disillusioned with God when things don’t turn
out the way we anticipated.
For example, this could happen if we look at Proverbs 20: 6 as a promise.
“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he
will not turn from it.”
However, this is not a promise, it is a wise saying.
Generally speaking, if you train up a child in the right way he/she will make
wise and right choices as an adult. But there are exceptions to this rule as
some parents know all too well. There are some children who grow up in
godly families who fall under the bad influence of peers and turn out to be
Proverbs describes the way life usually works and not how it must always
work. Solomon, and the Sages who followed, him never claimed that their
observations were promises which God was obligated, or duty bound to
fulfill. They understood that the wicked sometimes prosper and the righteous
sometimes live in poverty.
This is the difference between Proverbs and the Book of Ecclesiastes.
In the Book of Proverbs the Sage says,
“Keep the rules and you will prosper.”
“Life is unpredictable. You can keep all the rules and life can still
turn around and kick you in the teeth.”
Proverbs says, “Keep the rules of the road; don’t speed, don’t drive under the
influence of alcohol; keep a safe distance from the car in front of you; don’t
run a red light and you will get to your destination safely.”
Ecclesiastes says, “You can do all these things, but a drunk driver may drive
down the wrong side of the divided highway and hit you head on.”
In other words, Proverbs deal with the law of probability; keep the rules and
generally speaking you will live a peaceful and prosperous life.
E. Proverbs is a Faith Based Book
Solomon is a believer and he writes from that bias.
He believed in Yahweh, who created the heavens and the earth.
He believed that God was sovereign and in control of all things.
He believed that God had entered into a special relationship with the Jewish
He believed that the Law was given by a loving God to spare us the agony
caused by bad choices.
He believed that we have a responsibility to care for all people because they
are made in his image. Therefore, he writes:
“You insult your Maker when you exploit the powerless;
when you’re kind to the poor you honor God.”
In summary, Solomon looked at life through the lense of faith.
He believed God had created a moral universe. Those who adhere to God’s
rules will prosper. The proverbs reflect this bias. They complement the Law.
They validate the Torah.
This is an important thing to understand! Without faith in a loving, powerful
and just God, as a starting point, a person can draw completely different
conclusions on how to live.
For example, we live in an increasingly secular society; fewer and fewer
people believe in God. Many young people look out at the world and see
suffering, hatred and confusion and conclude that life is absurd. “The major
institutions have failed us.” They no longer trust politicians, policemen,
scientists or religious leaders. They have become their own authority; doing
what is right in their own eyes. There philosophy is: “eat, drink and make
Mary because tomorrow we die!”
Why do I mention this? Because you can only interpret Proverbs correctly if
you look at it through the lense of faith.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. Let’s examine Proverbs 30:24
“Ants are creatures of little strength,
yet they store up their food in the summer.”
What does this proverb teach us?
The secularist interprets this proverb in this way:
Ants work hard to prepare for the winter.
Therefore, we should work hard and put something away for a
But now, let’s look at this proverb through the lense of faith. What does it
A man is a fool if he doesn’t prepare for eternity!
Let me summarize what we have learned.
Proverbs was compiled by Solomon.
Proverbs is a manual on how to acquire wisdom.
Proverbs is not a book of promises but rather one of wise sayings.
Proverbs must be read through the lense of faith.
Generally speaking, those who adhere to the wisdom found in Proverbs
will live peaceful and prosperous lives.