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Wisdom Is the Principal Thing: Why Study the Book of Proverbs


He was no more than 21 years old. Yet the weight of the world was on his shoulders. His father had been a successful, acclaimed king, yet the latter part of his reign was soiled with family scandal and sedition. Now, the new young king wanted to learn from both his father’s successes and failures. How could he navigate through the minefield of leadership and life?

At a high place called Gibeon, the young king had a dream where God offered to give him whatever he wanted. Usually, the normal worldly options include riches, fame/acclaim, and longevity. Yet he asked for none of these. This king wanted to know how to do his job correctly. So he asked this one thing of God: please grant me a wise and understanding heart.

God was so impressed with this request that it was granted on-the-spot. As a bonus, God gave the young king those things he did not ask: riches and fame. If he continued on walking with God, long-life would be granted, too. Some of what God shared with the young king has become a book of the Bible. It is called Proverbs.

Today, in our every-complicated specialised world, it is common for people to pay consultants 100s and 1000s of dollars for advise. Yet, the best consultant of all is found right in the pages of your Bible. For no earthly consultant can hope to match the time-tested, proven, divine wisdom found it Proverbs. It not only promises the very best in this world, including riches, honour and life (Proverbs 3:16) but gives guaranteed hope for the world to come.

Ultimately, we discover that wisdom is not a corpus of knowledge rightly applied. It is a Person named Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 1:30). When you have Him in your life, you win everything (Revelation 21:7 AV).

Proverbs is so invaluable we recommended reading it daily. Since there are 31 chapters in Proverbs, whatever is the date of the month, that’s the chapter of Proverbs you should read. For example, if it is the 5th of the month, read the 5th chapter of Proverbs.

HEBREW NAME

Hebrew: Mishle Shelomoh (Proverbs of Solomon 1:1) and Sepher Hokhmah (Book of Wisdom); the Greek name is Paroimiai Salomontos (Proverbs of Solomon). We get the name ‘Proverbs’ from the Latin: Liber Proverbiorum.

AUTHORS OF THE PROVERBS

Solomon wrote 3,000 proverbs and 1,005 songs (I Kings 4:32) and he is the prime author of Proverbs (1:1; 10:1; 25:1). The men of Hezekiah did some editing (chapters 25-29). Also mentioned are Agur (30) and Lemuel (31).

PORTRAIT OF CHRIST

Jesus Christ is the life-giving, favour-filled wisdom of God (8:35). To embrace Jesus is the wisest thing one can do; to reject Him is the ultimate of folly.

THEME OF PROVERBS

The promotion and triumph of wisdom and the perverseness and insanity of folly. Proverbs is more than just being wise in this world; it speaks of wisdom that endures for all eternity. Folly is not merely viewed as an unfortunate inconvenience; it is seen as a serious liability and the downpayment to hell itself.

KEY VERSES IN PROVERBS

Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth. 6Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee. 7Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. 8Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her. 9She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee. 10Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be manyProverbs 4:5-10

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. 11For by me thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of thy life shall be increased Proverbs 9:10-11

SUMMARY OF PROVERBS

Someone once said a proverb is short in words but long on experience. Proverbs contains many pithy, insightful, and divinely wise sayings. Follow its timeless counsel and you will avoid a lot of grief. Furthermore, you will attract much blessing. Wisdom, understanding, and knowledge are to be eagerly sought. Folly, scornful, and simplicity are faults to be avoided.

When the author of Proverbs speaks of ‘my son,’ the initial impression is that it has to be Rehoboam, son and heir of Solomon. Writing at a more mature stage of his reign, Solomon is attempting to influence Rehoboam to walk in the same wisdom that he had. Therefore, the first part of problems is directed to ‘sons’ and ‘young men.’ Those who heed its counsel are promised riches, honour, and long-life. Yet there are many pitfalls to avoid. In Chapter 4, for example, it describes the contrast between the dark, nefarious ‘way of the wicked’ and that of the promising, well-lit ‘path of the just.’ These two paths could not be more different. One leads to every increasing darkness, damage, and death; the other to a bright future. Or there is the detailed account in Proverbs 7 about the foolish young man, void of understanding, who gets into serious strife by caving in to the invitation of the adulterous woman. His lack of discretion is fatal.

The second part of Proverbs addresses issues involving all people, young and old. There are many pithy phrases that make for wisdom in capsule form.

Finally, the last section is more for leaders. It speaks of self-control, sobriety, having a good name and reputation, warnings against taking bribes, and being careful against wine and strong drink.

OUTLINE OF PROVERBS

I.         Wisdom for Young Men (1-10)
II.      Wisdom for All People (11-20)
III.    Wisdom for Leaders (21-31)


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