Proverbs (Week 2) – Part 1

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” – ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭1:7‬ ‭NASB

“The fear of the LORD is the instruction for wisdom, and before honor comes humility.” – ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭15:33‬ ‭NASB

“But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” – James‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭NASB

Pride & Humility

In this series, we’ll be exploring the concepts of pride and humility and all within the context of a true milestone or turning point in the life of King David—one (mind you) that spanned some 40 years of life. In keeping with our opening verses, we’re going to examine the difference between the fool (or according to James, the proud) and the one who is, or becomes humble. As we go we’ll also learn a key difference between knowledge and wisdom.

But first I’d like to recap a bit of last week and share two important points, which I didn’t have time to cover.

Daniel J. Estes in Handbook on the Wisdom Books and Psalms writes:

“The book of Proverbs begins with an explicit purpose statement in 1:2-6. The central verb in this complex section is “hear.” Subsidiary to that are four purposes for hearing: to know wisdom (v. 2a), to understand wisdom sayings (v. 2b), to subscribe to moral insight (v. 3), and to move toward maturity (v. 4). In sum, the purpose of Proverbs is to challenge the reader to attain God’s wisdom, which is to appropriate his design for life. In specific terms, it endeavors to transform immature people into wise people.” 

As we learned last week, this maturing process is so that we can rule and reign as God intended—for the purpose of reflecting God’s glory into the world. We also learned that we shouldn’t simply discount what the world has to say—what they propose to be wisdom. Instead, the Proverbs help us discern what is of God and what is not. This is how Solomon handled the wisdom of the Ancient Near East.

Sanctification is so that we can rule and reign as God intended—for the purpose of reflecting God’s glory into the world. Click To Tweet

As Christians we’re to fear the Lord so that we can be trained to see true wisdom all around. All the while we must keep in mind that God’s word is the only true measure by which we prove the accuracy of any wisdom we use in building our lives. This is like using a square or a level to ensure accuracy in building a house. Can we make something level without using a level? Sure, but not with any consistency. 

Because this is the case, we should remember that the ontology of level (the truth of what level actually is), has been established by God Himself. This is how we can have proverbial wisdom—proverbial meaning well known or commonly referred to. This is also how we can have and see wisdom in the ANE. 

Before we move to the main focus of today’s message, let’s cover the two final points from last week:

Biblical Inspiration

First, a thought about inspiration.

  1. Our discussion last week about wisdom being primarily a compilation, has a way of creating anxiety with regard to the doctrine of inspiration. Let’s calm this anxiety a bit. As a church, we do believe that the Scriptures are all equally and fully the inspired Word of God. We believe that they are inerrant in the original writings concerning what they actually speak to or about. We believe that they are infallible in moral and spiritual teachings, and being God-breathed are God’s complete and final authority for faith and life. We also believe that they contain all things necessary for salvation and for practical instruction. (Matt. 5:18; Luke 24:27, 44; John 16:12-13; Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor.2:13; 2 Tim.3:16-17; 2 Pet.1:20-21).

All of that said, we must wrap our minds around the fact that the Bible didn’t come as a trancelike spiritual download to individual writers. Some might ask, but what about dreams and visions? Yes, we do see examples of people having dreams and visions in the Bible. But we also see sixty-six books written by various authors, and each contribution maintains the character—or voice—of the writer. 

We must wrap our minds around the fact that the Bible didn’t come as a trancelike spiritual download to individual writers. Click To Tweet

We see this in the four Gospels. They each communicate the exact same truth and yet each in a unique way. We also see that the book of Proverbs includes collected sayings from the ancient near east, from the wise men or sages of Israel, as well as from King Lemuel’s mother. 

Inspiration, although producing perfect and sufficient Scripture, is more akin to how a sunrise inspires an artist. We were never meant to view it in some kind of mysticism. And in all of this, remembering the source of inspiration is vital—the Biblical author’s inspiration wasn’t just the sun in the sky, it was the Creator of that sun. 

Inspiration, although producing perfect and sufficient Scripture, is more akin to how a sunrise inspires an artist. We were never meant to view it in some kind of mysticism. Click To Tweet

“But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” – 2 Peter‬ ‭1:20-21‬ ‭NASB

It’s this moving by the Holy Spirit that trips us up. The truth is that this moving came in various ways. As we discovered last week, it came to Solomon by way of his father’s teaching, by the proverbial wisdom of the ANE, and by much more. The very nature of proverbial wisdom—again well-known or commonly referred to truths—speaks to God’s gracious care for all of humanity.

James 4:6 is a perfect example of this. James included a quote that we cannot find word-for-word within the Old Testament. However, the idea he “quoted” is a paraphrase of truth from the Old Testament. 

“But He gives a greater grace. Therefore IT says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” – James‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭NASB

Proverbs, not Promises

Second, seeing the proverbs as what they are and not as promises. Let’s look briefly at this idea of proverbs versus promise. Two passages:

“Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6 NASB

“Commit your works to the LORD And your plans will be established.” – Proverbs‬ ‭16:3‬ ‭NASB‬‬

To view these proverbs as promises, instead of what they actually are, is to remove two non-negotiable things: the will of man (22:6) and/or the discretionary will of God (16:3). 

Let’s look at 22:6 first. For parents, if we will train our children in a thing, that training should guide all the way through old age. But what if they go astray like the prodigal? Well, they still have a choice to make. They can submit to that training or they can stay neck-deep in pig swaller. 

If the training was done faithfully and diligently, the likelihood is greater that they will not depart from it. But, this is still not a promise as we understand promises.

If the training was done faithfully & diligently, the likelihood is greater that children will not depart from it. But, it's still not a promise. #proverbs 22:6 Click To Tweet

Think about God as Father and we His children. Does He train well? Absolutely yes. Does everyone trust in Him to the end? Clearly no. Does God’s promise not work for Him? The answer is that we’re asking an irrelevant question. This was never meant to be a promise. God trains well, men choose evil. Parents can train well, and yet children can and do choose evil. 

Now just a brief aside. If you train poorly, remember that this is what your child will take with them into old age. The proverb says train up your child in the way he should go and in the end he will not depart from it. What is the antecedent of it? The training you provide. Although training in righteousness is something a Godly parent should do, all training is intended to serve your children. You are establishing the curriculum. If it’s bad don’t be surprised at bad results. If it’s good (apart from the will of your child) the result ought to be good.

Likewise, Proverbs 16:3 needs to be understood in light of the discretionary will of God. You and I can commit our ways to the Lord all we want, but unless it is his will—unless our plans correspond with His—we should not be surprised when the answer is no. 

In the Psalm 119 series I told you that petitionary prayer is no simple activity. Apart from God retaining a discretionary power to grant or refuse a petition in certain circumstances, prayer would be too dangerous for us to wield. This is always the case.

So again, Proverbs 16:3 is not a promise like we think of promises. 

Here’s another way of looking at it; are there people in life who’s plans are established even though they’re evil? Every. Single. Day. Are there people whose plans are not established even though they love the Lord? Everyday. Examples include the Apostle Paul wanting to be being prevented from going to Asia or Thessolonica.

“For we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, more than once—and yet Satan hindered us.” – 1 Thessalonians‬ ‭2:18‬ ‭NASB

Has God’s word failed? Not. At. All.

If we fail to understand the nature of proverbial wisdom—interpreting it as promissory—we will find ourselves disappointed. But if we understand what they truly are, it will give us a greater freedom and deeper trust in God—fuller trust in the story that He has and is writing.

If we fail to understand the nature of proverbial wisdom—interpreting it as promissory—we will find ourselves disappointed. Click To Tweet

In the next post, we will move on to look at pride and humility.

Let’s Talk

How do you view Biblical inspiration? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Comment below or email me at nathan@nathanfranckhauser.com.

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