Survey of the Old Testament - Lesson 29
Solomon created a collection of practical wisdom sayings. Some were for instructing children, some for instructing kings, but they all are applicable to help everyone live in the light of the covenant of grace in the context of common grace.
II. Structure and Contents
B. Fifteen "my son" wisdom poems
C. Proverbs chapters 10-31
D. Proverbs are not promises
III. The Gospel Promised Beforehand
- Dr. Miles Van Pelt is offering an opportunity to study the Old Testament and understand its overall message in more detail. The Old Testament consists of 2/3 of the Bible, and serves as a foundation for many teachings found in the New Testament. Its main purpose is to point towards Jesus who makes possible a new covenant with God's people. The structure of both Testaments follows a covenantal pattern that compels humans to make choices regarding their relationship with God, while demonstrating His patience and perseverance in doing so.
Knowing the purpose, structure and theological center of the Old Testament, will help you understand more accurately the character of God, and his purpose in the world and in your life. The Old Testament teaches you about Christ and describes his ministry. Colossians 3:15-16 reads, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart, let the word of Christ dwell in you richly."
What you decide is the theological center of the Bible will determine how you understand the Bible and apply it to your life. You can see unity in biblical authorship by the number of times the phrase, “thus says Yahweh” is used in the Old Testament. The person and work of Jesus is the theological center of the Old Testament. The living force of the canonical word must be the incarnate word. The proper nouns used in the Bible indicate the important characters and themes.
Jesus claims that the Old Testament finds its ultimate meaning in him. After his resurrection, Jesus meets two disciples on the road to Emmaus and gives them a lesson in biblical interpretation. The Father and the Scriptures testify about who Jesus is. In Romans 1:3, Paul refers to the Gospel being revealed through his prophets, in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son. Every book in the Bible teaches about Christ so every sermon should teach about Christ. Hebrews 11 refers to the great cloud of witnesses.
The Kingdom of God is the over-arching theme of the whole Bible. God governs his kingdom by his covenants. The covenant of grace is in effect throughout the Bible and has different administrations.
The form that our Bibles come to us in is meaningful for interpretation. The Hebrew Bible has a different order of the books than the English Bible.
The order of books in the English Bible and the Hebrew Bible is different because the criteria for determining the order is different. The order of the books in the Hebrew Bible reflect an emphasis on covenant, and also teaching important concepts then giving a practical example to illustrate how to put it into practice.
The three divisions in the Old Testament are the Law, the Prophets and the Writings. Genesis and Revelation are the introduction and conclusion to the Bible and have parallel themes. Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are the four covenant books that record the birth and death of the covenant mediator and contain his life and teachings. The former prophets record the history of Israel. The latter prophets call people to repent and return to God.
Your presuppositions about whether or not the authors who wrote the books of the Bible were inspired by God will influence your position the authorship of the Pentateuch. The traditional view is that Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament at about 1200 to 1400 B.C. The documentary hypothesis claims that there were four or more separate authors that wrote beginning in about 900 B.C.
Genesis is the covenant prologue and is both protological and eschatological. It is the most covenantal book in the Bible. One way to outline the book is into twelve parts, each beginning with the phrase, “these are the generations.” Creation is described using a theological order.
Chapter 2 is a detailed description of the sixth day of creation, culminating in the creation of woman. Chapter 3 describes the Fall and the consequences. Hebrew homonyms link the passages and intensify the descriptions.
Noah functions as a prophetic covenant mediator. God promises a remnant in his covenant with Noah and also renews the covenant of common grace. God continues his redemptive covenant with Abraham and his descendants. The book of Genesis ends with the narrative of Joseph.
This is the beginning of the formal documents of the covenant of God with the people of Israel. It begins with the birth of Moses and ends with the people of Israel coming out of Egypt.
Leviticus is primarily instructions to promote the holiness of God’s people. It provides a system that allows for a holy God to live among an unholy people. In the sacrificial system, there are 5 kinds of offerings. Jesus is the fulfillment of the observance of the Day of Atonement.
The book of Numbers is a record of the events of the forty years of wandering in the wilderness. The purpose is to contrast the faithfulness of God with the faithlessness of the Israelites. The time in the wilderness was a period of testing for the people of Israel.
This is a renewal of the Mosaic covenant in preparation for entering the Promised Land. It’s an encouragement to keep the Law and a reminder of blessings for obedience and cursings for disobedience. Deuteronomy points us to Jesus who ultimately fulfills the Law.
Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings describe the nature and purpose of the Sinai Covenant and the historical events of the occupation of the land. God know that the people of Israel would fail to obey the Mosaic Covenant, so he had planned from the beginning to establish the New Covenant when the time was right.
Joshua was the successor to Moses. The book of Joshua focuses on the Promised Land. The people of Israel enter the land, conquer the land, divide the land between the tribes and then renew their covenant with God. Holy war and covenant obedience are important themes.
Judges has two introductions, two conclusions, six major judges, six minor judges and one anti-judge. It can be described as the, “uncreation” of Israel. Their purpose was to judge the nations and to deliver the people of Israel from their oppressors.
The book of Samuel provides the answer to the crisis of kingship. Samuel, as the last judge and first prophet, anoints Saul as king. The people of Israel reject Yahweh as king. Saul is anointed by Samuel and serves as king but is later rejected because of disobedience. David is anointed king because God acts according to his own will. Solomon begins well and ends badly.
The book of Kings is the story of the monarchy in the nation of Israel. It begins with the united monarchy under Solomon, then after his death, is divided into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. We can learn about God’s character and the importance of living in a covenant relationship with God.
The Latter Prophets are covenant lawyers. They are executing the lawsuit of God against Israel for unfaithfulness to the covenant. Prophets use both oracular prophecies and sign acts to communicate their message.
Isaiah is sometimes described as the, “fifth gospel” because it is quoted so much in the New Testament. The themes in Isaiah are both timely for his generation and also point to their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus and the end of time.
Jeremiah’s call was to tell the people of Judah why they were going into exile and also to give them hope for future restoration. The book contains oracles, accounts of visions and symbolic actions, prophetic laments and historical narratives.
One key to understanding Ezekiel is the glory of God in the temple. The book begins with God appearing to Ezekiel, then God leaves the temple and, in the end, God returns. Ezekiel’s oracles and signs illustrate each of these.
In the Hebrew Bible, these 12 minor prophets are treated as one book. Each one is a covenant lawyer that is prosecuting God’s lawsuit against the unfaithful nation of Israel and also preaching a message of hope for restoration. The Day of the Lord is the day of the king’s victory over his enemy, either to crush an enemy or to save a people.
These books are about how you think and live in light of the covenant. The genres include narrative, poetry and prophecy. The Hebrew Bible order emphasizes teaching then example.
Covenant life is a life of worship. The book divisions in the manuscripts were purposefully arranged so the book as a whole has a meaningful narrative. It emphasized the kingship of Yahweh, the Davidic line and the temple. You can use specific patterns of construction for understanding lament, thanksgiving and hymns of praise psalms. You can also use the same patterns to help you respond to God and worship him.
Job deals with the issue of human tragedy and suffering. Job never knows what happened in heaven that resulted in his suffering. His three friends made correct theological arguments but they were misapplied. Job speaks about suffering and hope. God challenges Job at the end of the book, and also restores his possessions and children.
Solomon created a collection of practical wisdom sayings. Some were for instructing children, some for instructing kings, but they all are applicable to help everyone live in the light of the covenant of grace in the context of common grace.
Ruth follows Proverbs in the Hebrew Bible. Even though she is from Moab, she lives in Israel with her widowed Israelite mother-in-law to take care of her. She marries Boaz and is included in the genealogy of David and Jesus.
Marriage should be both rock solid in terms of covenant commitment and white hot in terms of sexual intimacy. If it is both, you can better resist temptation, endure hardship and promote wholeness.
The message of Ecclesiastes is that true knowledge, wisdom and meaning in life begins with the fear of the Lord. The author of Ecclesiastes, likely Solomon, tests this conclusion and is unsuccessful in finding ultimate meaning in activities, “under the sun,” like wealth, relationships, power, projects, etc.
Lamentations is a collection of funeral dirges lamenting the fall and exile of Jerusalem. The elegant structure of the book is a contrast to the chaos and destruction of the events that are taking place. Each poem gives you a different perspective on God’s character and his covenant faithfulness.
Esther is a story of living a life of faith in exile. It Bringing “shalom” into a hostile environment sometimes even requires risking your life. The festival of Purim commemorates God saving his people and is still celebrated today.
Daniel and Esther are examples of living a life of faith while in exile. Daniel was different than the writing prophets because he is not primarily a covenant lawyer prosecuting God’s lawsuit against the people of Israel. The first six chapters are biographical stories highlighting God’s power to save and his sovereignty over the nations. The second six chapters are visions of the future.
The book of Ezra-Nehemiah records the last events, chronologically, in the Old Testament. Ezra returned from exile with authorization to teach the Law of the Jews and institute the sacrificial system. Nehemiah returned to rebuild Jerusalem. They fail in their human attempt to rebuild heaven on earth, which encourages you to look forward to the city built by God.
The return from exile is not the greater one prophesied by the prophets. We still look forward to the return from exile with them in the resurrection. Chronicles traces the seed that was promised and gives an account of the return from exile.
Take this opportunity to study with Dr. Miles Van Pelt as he shows you patterns and themes that will help you understand the Old Testament and the whole Bible. He will give you an overall view of the Old Testament then discuss specifics about each of the books.
For instance, you might ask, "What kind of book is the Old Testament?" The OT is a single story told three times over: once in Genesis, once in Exodus through Nehemiah, and once again in Chronicles (just like day 6 in Genesis 1–2). The OT loves to repeat itself, repeat itself, repeat itself. This is how it teaches us. The Old Testament is about 2/3 of the Bible and is the basis for everything you read in the New Testament. The better you understand the Old Testament, the clearer you will understand the message of the Bible.
What is the Message of the Old Testament? The Old Testament points to the New Covenant. The teachings, prophecies and examples of covenant life point to Jesus who makes the New Covenant possible and inaugurates it. There are also examples in the Old Testament of how human efforts to create heaven on earth fall short, so that we will anticipate and yearn for our ultimate deliverance from exile.
What is the Structure of the Old Testament? The structure of the Old Testament, and the Bible as a whole, is covenantal. God offers to live in the covenant of grace with him and compels them to make that choice. The administrations of the covenant with Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus demonstrate God's patience and perseverance to include as many as are willing.
Survey of the Old Testament - Bible Study
Take this opportunity to study with Dr. Miles Van Pelt as he shows you patterns and themes that will help you understand the Old Testament and the whole Bible. He will give...
Dr. Miles Van Pelt
Survey of the Old Testament
We're now coming to our lecture on the world-famous Book of Proverbs, sayings for the wise. The Book of Proverbs is the third book in the writings. The writings is a collection of books in terms of how to think and live in light of the covenant. It's the third section of the Hebrew Testament. There's the law, there's the prophets in the writings, covenant, covenant history, and covenant life. We are looking at now covenant life.
It is a collection of wisdom literature, compiled and composed primarily by Solomon. The third and final King of the United Monarchy. Solomon was famous for his wisdom and is to be understood Solomon's wisdom is not of human origin, but it's a gift from God. Remember in 1 King's 3, God appears to Solomon in a dream or a vision and says, "What do you want?" Here, it is. "Give your servant, therefore, an understanding mind," This is his answer. "to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil," a route back to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, "so how to govern for who was able to govern this your great people?" It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this, and God said to him, "Because you have asked this and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I will give you wisdom and understanding and a discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you, and none like you shall arise after you.
Now, that's a gigantic statement. That's saying Solomon is the wisest person there ever was and, perhaps, the wisest person there ever has been. We've got some of his stuff in writing, and we do know, also, that Solomon excelled in literary production, both as a collector and as an author. We get this from 1 Kings 4:29 and following where it says, "and God gave Solomon wisdom for understanding beyond measure and breath of mind, like the sand on the seashore. So that Solomon's wisdom surpassed all of the people of the east and of the wisdom of Egypt for he was wiser than all other men, wiser than a lot of people with funny names; and his fame was in all of the surrounding nations. He spoke 3,000 Proverbs," so we have a sample. "and his songs were 1,005. He spoke of trees from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall. He also spoke of beasts and of birds and of reptiles and of fish. And people of all the nations came to bear, hear the wisdom of Solomon from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom. Thus, King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom, and the whole earth thought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his mind."
B. Biblical Wisdom Literature:
So he's got some things to say. The title of this book is Mishlei Shlomo, The Proverbs of Solomon, Mishlei. Proverbs is simply the Latin translation of that word proverbium. That's where we get this title here. Now, not all of this work is Solomon's, and I try to keep mentioning that he's both an author and a collector. He does give footnotes. So once again, this is biblical wisdom literature and such literature teaches God's people how to live in God's world according to God's truth revealed to us both in creation, general revelation, and scripture special revelation. In other words, it's designed to help us understand how to live and think in light of the covenant of grace in the context of common grace. Just keep saying that over and over again, all wisdom literature is didactic in nature. It teaches you something. It teaches you how to apply truth to the right situation. It's a skill. Hukma can mean skill. For example, when God gave the men the ability to build the tabernacle, he gave them hukma, wisdom or skill, in the activities that they needed.
II. Structure and Contents:
It is helpful to think of the Book of Proverbs as a collection of wisdom sayings, and there are groups of them, and I'm going to show you those groups right here. This is a lot of fun. I have them as seven sections. There's really maybe eight sections, but seven is way more biblical. So number one is zero. There's an introduction, just like a seven verse introduction. So, that's just an intro. So, we really can call that zero. Even books that you get, that you buy from the store. There's an introduction and a preface, and those aren't really numbered yet. They're just like the Roman numeral ones. So, this is the Roman numeral one, introduction, and we'll look closely at the introduction. Then, you have really from Proverbs 1 through 9, a series of what are called "My Son Poems". It's a father with the help of a mother addressing a son in terms of how to achieve wisdom, to avoid folly and to get wisdom. There's 15 of them, and they all begin with "My son". We'll take a look at one of those, and they have a specific structure each of them. So, if you know that you know what to expect. After you get out of the first nine chapters, so basically the function of the first nine chapters is to persuade you that wisdom is the right way. It’s because they're going to say Lady Folly, she's attractive. She's a little bit hot. She's got some good things to say, but at the end of the day, her way leads to death. Now, Lady Wisdom, she's equally attractive, but her way is a little more narrow. You know that, but her way leads to life and abundance. So choose you this day, whom you will serve. That's the way this works.
Then we get the Proverbs of Solomon. These are some of those 3,000 Proverbs that he would've spoken in chapters 10 to the middle of 22. It's a big chunk. Then, we get the Words of the Wise in 22 to 24, and then we get more Words of the Wise. So, these would be items that Solomon collected. Then, we get the Proverbs of Solomon collected by Hezekiah's men. So 200 years later, when Hezekiah is reigning, he's collecting more of them and putting them at the end here. So, in some sense, it's like how it would be I wrote a book. As well as my grandson, right? So Solomon's great-great grandson says, "Hey, my grandpa had good stuff to say, we're going to put this back in it too." Then you've got two final collections, the Words of Agur and the Words of King Lemuel. The words of King Lemuel is where the excellent wife acrostic poem stands. It is Proverbs 31:10 through 31, and by acrostic it means this, there are 22 lines in the poem and there are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Line one begins with A, line two begins with B, line three begins with C, but it's really Aleph, Bet, Gimel, Dalet. Has anyone in here had Hebrew? Oh, you're awesome. So you know all of, that's so good. Good for you. In what context did you have it?
Oh, that's great. Where was that?
Life Bible College.
Yeah, in Pasadena.
I went to Azusa Pacific, so that's really close. I took one class online at Life Bible College to get my degree. So, that famous passage, wisdom literature is rooted in creation. We've talked about this before, and it's going to be important for Song of Songs, again. Wisdom literature is rooted in creation, and the high point of creation on day two is the creation of the woman and the marriage covenant. It's not good for man to be alone. All the animals couldn't solve it, the garden couldn't solve it. The only thing that could bring the not good to the very good in creation, was the creation of the woman and the marriage covenant. She is what makes creation very good. So, you can see then why the climax of Hebrew wisdom would be get a good wife. The climax of Hebrew wisdom would get a good wife, and it begins this way. Ashakayo who can find an excellent wife, and then the rest of acrostic poem describes the kind of woman you're looking for. Right, details that.
Let's look together quickly at the introduction to Proverbs because the first seven verses help us a lot with understanding who's writing, what's the purpose, and how's it work? So in chapter one, verse one, we get the author, the Proverbs of Solomon son of David, King of Israel. In the next verses, versus two through six, we encounter the purpose of the book. We'll begin in verse three. "To receive instruction in wise dealings, in justice, righteousness and equity, to give prudence to the simple knowledge and discretion to the youth, let the wise here and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtained guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying the Words of the Wise and their riddles." Okay, this is a school textbook.
Then, it says the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Fools despise wisdom and instruction. The fear of the Lord is the motto or first principle of wisdom. Throughout the Book of Proverbs, at least 21 times, wisdom and knowledge is characterized as the fear of the Lord. Okay, this is important. This puts wisdom and conversely folly in a theological context. It is not a secular pursuit ultimately. Dick Belcher says this, "it characterizes wisdom as a relationship,". So, to be wise is to be in a proper relationship with God first. That's the beginning point, the starting point, the moment to be wise, one must fear God. This idea of fear though is not to be understood as terror on the one hand or mere respect on the other. Rather, to fear God means to acknowledge your subordinate and dependent place in the universe, just like Job had to do.
The creature creator contrast. It is reverence, awe, worship to the submission to the one who's made us in the context of the world. He made for us. So, the fear of the Lord is it's submission to God as the King and you as the vassal and your love for that king. It is your trust of that king that he's looking out for your goodness. It is because he's the creator king, he knows how this world works. So, who better to write the instruction manual for how to navigate this world than the one who designed it. So my wife is a computer programmer, and 98% of all problems that people have can be looked up in a user manual. They just refuse to look it up. So, they go around in this world, not knowing how to do, making mistakes, and then they call her when they make mistakes. She says, look it up and they say, I don't have time. So they said, because they just want to perpetuate the mistake. So look, if you want to know how to live wisely in this world, look it up in the user manual. Proverbs is the user manual. That's how I'm thinking about it here.
B. Fifteen “my son” Wisdom Poems:
Next, after that introduction. So let's just say, okay, I'm intrigued. I want instruction. I want wisdom. I want to be wise. I want to fear the Lord. What's next? It's the 15, "My Son" wisdom instruction poems. I've got them all here. I'm going to do one of them with you in a second, I'll run down the 15 topics with you, but don't worry about writing them all down because they're already in there.
So, number one is my son, avoid sinful enticements. My son, acquire wisdom. My son, trust in the Lord with all your heart. My son, here's the value of discipline. My son, let the Lord be your confidence. My son, wisdom is supreme. My son, wickedness is like deep darkness. Number eight, guard your heart, my son. Number nine, her feet go down to death, my son, Lady Folly. Number 10, your actions are in full view of the Lord, my son. My son, consider the ant and the sluggard. My son, consider the fire, the thief, and the adulterer. My son, look at Lady Folly, chapter seven. My son look at Lady Wisdom, chapter eight, comparing them. It's like the dating app. You're going to dial them up and see their two profiles and which one you're going to pick. Then finally, the last one. My son, consider wisdom, folly, and the fear of the Lord is kind of like the climactic one.
Now again, these apply to women and to men equally, but in the ancient world, it was cast as a father instructing a son. With the help of a mother, and that's also the student-teacher relationship, as well. So for example, in the Book of Judges, when that guy wants to hire the Levite to be his priest. He said, "come live with me and be like my son." Then he says, next verse, "come be to me and teach me and be like, my father." So the father's like a wisdom instructor, even though that's a younger guy, and he's going to care for him as a son. Jesus says, "don't let them call you rabbi. Don't let them call you great one. Don't let them call your father or don't let, them call you teacher." They think all of these teaching things, but then father, well, father's just another term for the teacher. That's how that works. Once my daughter, I was reading this to her and right in the middle of it, she stopped and said, "Hey daddy, do any of these apply to me?" It was because it was my son, my son, my son. I said, "Oh, whew I should have prefaced that, what a fool I am." I was saying something right in the wrong context. Then, on the fly I started translating to my child as we go through, because before she was reading, stuff like that. So, but she was smart enough to know I was doing something wrong. So context is king.
Let's open up to Proverbs chapter three, because what's nice about these poems is that they have a basic structure to them. We often think of Proverbs as having no structure at all. I mean kind of random. The "My Son" poems or the "My Child" poems have an introductory exhortation, including a call to hear or pay attention, followed by a motive clause. So, hear me because I want you to live something like that. Then, there's a lesson. Then there's a conclusion that usually describes the consequences for not hearing the lesson. That's the strategy. So hear me, my son, because I want to show you the way of life. Here's the lesson, ant and the sluggard. If you're like the sluggard, this is going to be your fate, right, the conclusion. So listen to how that goes. Now I just picked this one because it's a shorter one. Okay, here we go. The address you see that my son. Here's the exhortation in verse one, "do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments for length of days and years of life and peace, they will add to you."
Do you see the exhortation and the reason? The exhortation is to listen, so you have length of days and peace. Okay, well what's the lesson? "Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you. Bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, so that you'll find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will make your path straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It'll be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Honor the Lord with your health and with the first fruits of all your produce, then your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will be bursting with wine."
C. Proverbs Chapters 10-31:
Then the last part, the warning. "My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of His reproof. For the Lord reproves him who he loves as a father of the son and whom he delights." Do you see that? So three parts, right? Exhortation reason, lesson, warning. That's how they all work. Now, you know how to read the first nine chapters of Proverbs. If you didn't know that before you got something good today. All right. You're now a more wise or skillful reader of Proverbs. That's how that works. Then we move into Proverbs 10 through 31, and that's what we normally think of when we're thinking about Proverbs, short, pithy sayings basically two lines either by comparison or contrast. So, the bulk of Proverbs 31 is composed of short, concise sayings that offer observations, warnings, prohibitions, encouragements.
Typically, they consist of two lines called bicola if you want to be fancy. Sometimes there are three lines, which you would imagine to be called tricola. There are some longer speeches in Proverbs 30 to 31, but these are the exceptions. So usually the vast majority of Proverbs are just two liners. So, there's this and that X and Y. So I'll show you. I just opened my Bible up at, at Proverbs 16 as a place. I just did the whole finger point, and I got to Proverbs 16. So, here from the first three in part of 16, "the plans of a heart belong to man. But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord." "The plans of the heart belong to the man," line one. "But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord." So it's a proverb of contrast, and or, but okay, good.
"All the ways of man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord and your plans will be established." That's one of comparison, not of contrast. There is a lot of poetic contrast, or antithesis, that's common in Proverbs. So that when you saw how the first two are, and then the second third one and. There's way more buts in Proverbs than there are ands. That's a funny way to say it. There's a lot of contrast. So they contrast wisdom and folly, righteous and wicked, life and death, blessing and curse, because in Proverbs, there are only two ways. The way of life, the way of death, the way of wisdom, the way of folly. Exemplified by the two women. There's no middle way. There's not going to be at the Eschaton those who get in, those who don't get in, those who kind of get in. It's not anything like that. There's only two ways, and the get in way is narrow, they say. So, think about some poetic contrast here. We've had some, but Proverbs 10:11 says this, "the mouth of the righteous is the fountain of life, but violence overwhelms the mouth of the wicked." Proverbs has this great way of doing contrast to kind of jar you. Jar you into thinking life or death, life or death kind of thing. Notice that poetry and Proverbs loves to employ metaphors. We thought maybe some of you've seen that movie. So, you get here in this particular context. Where we get the metaphor, where it goes. "The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life." So there's lots of metaphors used in the Proverbs, all poetic language, employs, metaphors or tropes like that.
If you're really interested in how Hebrew poetry works, there's a book called The Art of Biblical Poetry, okay, by Robert Alter, who's a Jewish scholar. He also wrote The Art of Biblical Narrative. So, The Art of Biblical Poetry tells you how Hebrew poetry works. It's a great little book. I would say those two books, even though we don't share some critical views that he might have or some non-Jesus views that he might have. But, that book is really good on what it does. So just go into it with that kind of thing. In addition to contrast, one of the things that Proverbs likes to do, too, is to make sure that you understand that Proverbs are only contextually true, not true all the time.
The wise person knows when to apply knowledge. We've talked about that wisdom is the application of truth to the right context. So you'll see famously things like this, okay. Proverbs 26:4-5. "Don't answer fools, according to their stupidity. Otherwise, you'll become like them, yourself." Next verse, "Answer fools, according to their stupidity. Otherwise, they'll become wise in their own eyes." I think, oh, this is a redacted thing. Like there's a mistake in the Bible. The Bible contradicts itself. Now, I don't have to be a Christian. No, wisdom literature is the application of truth in the right context. The wise person knows, if the guy should get an answer or not get an answer, should be comforted not be comforted, should be encouraged should be discouraged.
It's the whole thing behind the book. It takes a sage who is able to read people and situations to know which of these two is rightly applied. That's why some people have really high emotional intelligence can read people and know that person's suffering, that person's grieving, that person's really happy, and some people have no clue. I'm more on the no clue side. My wife is really good at it. So she says, "Hey, he's not doing well." So that's why you marry a woman who's not like yourself. Don't marry yourself. You're going to be in big fat trouble. So, the last thing you want is another you around. So Proverbs 15:23. "It is a joy to a person to give an answer." How good a word at the right time, right? "It is a joy to a person to give an answer," right? "How good a word is the right time." So when you ask a question, and I answer you and it's right and good, it satisfies, man, that's everyone's happy. But listen to this one. This is 27:15. "Those who bless their neighbors with a loud voice in the early morning, it'll be considered a curse to them." Okay. That's definitely me and my wife. So I wake up like wham chipper and ready to go, and she's like a train wreck. She doesn't want to be greeted until eight o'clock, right, after two cups of coffee.
So again, it's those things that tell you this is it's true to say something good and positive, but it's true to say something good and positive at the right time. Otherwise that, which is good, becomes a curse. That's the key to counseling either yourself or your friends or your kids. I don't mean professional counseling, but if you're a professional one that even more so.
D. Proverbs are Not Promises:
Finally, Proverbs, you have to understand these are not promises. Proverbs are not promises. This is not a name it and claim it book. Proverbs tell you how not to inflict more suffering on yourself in life than already is coming your way. It's like you're in a car, and it's spinning out in the snowstorm. The crash is inevitable, but Proverbs tells you how not to make that worse. You're going to crash, but you don't have to die from it. You know, that kind of thing. It helps you. It helps you steer through the tragedy in the best possible way. A Proverb does not give guarantees. Rather, it indicates the best route to desired end. That end will be achieved, all of the things being equal. An illustration is comes from Proverbs 22:6. This is, there's a lot of different things about this Proverb that we could talk about, but I'll just talk about the traditional application interpretation of it.
First, here's Proverbs 22:6. a proverb often cited by parents as a promise, right? "Train up a child in his path. Then when they age, they will not depart from it." You probably know people or have known people or are a parent who does, has trained up a child the best you can, and they've still train wrecked their life. You think I took them to church, I got them Christian school, I read the Bible to them, I love them, this proverb is wrong. No, it's not wrong. It's all things being equal, but in this fallen world, guess what? Not all things are equal, but Proverbs teaches us how to navigate those things in such a way that it can help. So, it's wrong to treat Proverbs as guaranteed health, wealth, and prosperity for wise behavior and failure, and ultimately death for the foolish behavior, Wolke says.
Even so, the book lays out a strategy to optimize the joys of life and minimize the frustrations. Do you see what I mean? Proverbs is a way to make life a little bit better, but it's never going to make life perfect. It wasn't perfect for Job. Just so you know, there's also a translation issue here, and the Proverb really probably doesn't say that, but it's because it's become that in our lives. It's really become a name it and claim it promise in our culture. So, there's no word for way there in the thing. It just says, train up a child to his own mouth, and when he is older, he will not depart from it. So, it means if you give in to the kid, right, when he is young. When he is old, he's never going to come back. That is, it's your job to discipline him now. That's what it means. So in my Hebrew grammar, there's Gordon Hugenberger does a whole cha a hollow section on that, that talks about that, what that means. So, it's a good little thing. So a reason to learn Hebrew is to learn, read that paragraph in my Hebrew grammar about that.
III. The Gospel Promised Beforehand:
How is the Book of Proverbs, the gospel promise beforehand? It is because it doesn't sound so gospely. It sounds like life is broken and wrecked and here's how to make it a little less broken and wrecked, have a beer and go home kind of thing. Eat, drink, and be glad. First, a couple of things. First, I want to notice that in life that Jesus is really connected with wisdom in a special way, and Jesus is really the ultimate wisdom. So check this out. Matthew 12:42, "the queen of the south will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it for, she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom. And now one greater than Solomon is here". So Jesus is the true and better wisdom teacher. Remember how he taught in parables. Remember how he defended the law against the Pharisees and the false teachers and the Sadducees. Remember, how he defended the Bible against the rich, young ruler. Everyone who came to him was gobsmacked by his wisdom. No one went away thinking, "I won the debate with that guy," ever with Jesus. Okay. But not only is Jesus the true and better wisdom teacher, Jesus is also the true and better wisdom itself. Okay.
Many see this connection when comparing Proverbs eight to Colossians one. Proverbs eight to Colossians one. So first of all, let me just say, this is a really great thing. In first Corinthians 1:24, "Jesus is the power of God," says Paul, "and the wisdom of God." Jesus is the incarnation of wisdom. If you want to know what wise wisdom looks like, look at the life of Jesus. Now, let's look at that contrast between Colossians and Proverbs eight. So in Proverbs eight, that's this really amazing poem about God doing creation, and wisdom being present there as a person, and being His assistant and delighting in the work that's going on there. So it says here, "so the Lord possessed me at the beginning of His work. You can even say created me at the beginning of His work. I was the first of his acts of old ages ago. I was set up at the first, before the beginning of the earth," right? Verse 30. "Then I was a craftsman at his side. I was filled with the delight day after day rejoicing, always in His presence."
Then listen to Colossians 1:15-16, where it says, "He is the image of the invisible God, the first born of creation," just like it says in there. "For, by Him. All things were created in heaven, on earth, visible and invisible with a throne owns or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him." So there's this close connection scholar sees between Proverbs eight and Colossians that, that Jesus was there as the master wise craftsman constructing the world. Here's how I envision in my mind at creation. The spirits hovering over the waters, the father issuing the decree, and Jesus is building the world. That's how it's working right there. He is the ultimate wisdom builder. The ultimate builder of the house. So you just think of that. There's the spirit bearing witness. The spirit is the archetype, the pattern. The spirit’s the design. The father's decreeing from the throne room, and the son is down there working like a craftsman, absolutely delighting in what he's making. This is Jesus.
This is amazing stuff. It says, Van Gemeren writes about first Corinthians 1:24 that I read earlier. It says, "Jesus is the power of God. And the wisdom of God." Van Gemeren writes, "God's wisdom is made visible in humans when they reflect the light in life of Jesus Christ on earth." So we can be image bearers of that wisdom. Then it says in James 3:17-18, what can kind of wisdom does that look like? How do you do that? Here's how you do it. "But the wisdom from heaven is first. This wisdom, hence Jesus and therefore reflected us is first of all, pure then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and sincere, and a harvest of righteousness is sewn in peace by those who make peace." James is a wisdom writer right there. You can see that. So Jesus is not only the true and better wisdom teacher. He's the true and better embodiment of wisdom, and as we are transformed into His image, we more and more reflect that image in these gentle, peaceful, fruitful, righteous ways. That's wisdom.