Through the Bible in a Year: Proverbs 1-4

This Week’s Reading Schedule

Monday, April 23: Ruth 1-4 (whole book)
Tuesday, April 24: Psalm 21-25
Wednesday, April 25: Proverbs 1-4
Thursday, April 26: Proverbs 5-7
Friday, April 27: Proverbs 8-10

Next week we will read Galatians, James, and Romans, which is a lot for one week, but the following week we will go back over Romans chapter by chapter, comparing James and Galatians (and the Gospels).

The overall year’s plan is here.

Proverbs Introduction

There is a section of Proverbs (chs. 11-29) that is just devoted to proverbs. The first ten chapters, however, are sort of an introduction to the list of proverbs, emphasizing the importance of wisdom … or perhaps I should write Wisdom because wisdom is personified throughout the first ten chapters.

So much of what is written about Wisdom reminds us of Christ (esp. 8:22-31), but Americans are very slow to identify Wisdom with the pre-incarnate Son of God because Wisdom is referred to as "she" throughout.

Let me explain why Wisdom is treated as a woman.

In Hebrew, as in almost all other western languages besides English, every noun has gender. It is not only you and your dog that can be male or female, but in Hebrew, Greek, German, Spanish and many other languages your coffee cup, the coffee in it, and the table you set it on are all male, female, or possible neuter.

Wisdom in Hebrew is a feminine word. Thus, when you discuss Wisdom, you will use feminine pronouns and refer to her as a woman.

The early Christians, who spoke Greek and used gender for their nouns like the Hebrews did, universally understood Proverbs 8:22-31 to apply to Christ. They were not thrown by the gender issue like we English speakers are.

We will not reach Proverbs 8 today, but we will see Wisdom personified even in Proverbs 1. I want us to be able to realize that Christ, just as he is the Word, is Wisdom, and he is the one crying out on the street corners for the Israelites to repent and listen (cf. Matt. 22:37).

Proverbs 1

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. All other knowledge is useless if not on that foundation.

Many Christians are fooled into thinking that wisdom involves having insight into theological issues such as soteriology, eschatology, and ecclesiology. All knowledge must begin with the fear of the Lord, so the very first instruction that is given is not to join in with sinners! In fact, choosing the Lord’s ways over the ways of sinners is the center of all Wisdom’s instructions in these introductory chapters.

We see something similar in Titus chapter two, where the apostle Paul gives the Bible’s only official description of sound doctrine. It is not systematic theology, but a call to live like Christians in our houses and workplaces.

Refusal to hear these admonitions from Wisdom will ensure that you will not be heard when you cry out to God in your time of trouble (v. 20-33).

Proverbs 2

Wisdom is something to be pursued. Though she cries on the street corner, we are to "seek her like silver."

If we pursue wisdom and understanding, we will obtain them, but notice their purpose:

To deliver you from the way of evil,
From the man who speaks perverse things;
From those who leave the paths of uprightness
To walk in the ways of darkness. (v. 12-13)

And:

So you will walk in the way of good men
And keep to the paths of the righteous. (v. 20)

We must beware of accumulating knowledge that is not life-changing. The apostle Paul writes:

The goal of the commandment is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith, from which some have turned aside to useless talking. (1 Tim. 1:5-6)

He also says:

Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. (1 Cor. 8:1)

Finally, this chapter gives us our first exhortation to avoid the adulterous woman. Much of chapters five through seven discusses the danger of being enticed by loose women.

Our culture loves to exalt the enticement of loose women. Advertising is replete with it and not just on TV. We see it on billboards and in public places. We need to pray for our country because "the wicked walk on every side when vileness is exalted among the sons of men" (Ps. 12:8).

Proverbs 3

Proverbs 3:5-6 is in everyone’s promise box. It is one of the most memorized Bible passages … for good reason. We should always ask ourselves whether we have only memorized the verse or whether we are actually diligently pursuing acknowledging the Lord in all things and turning from our own ways.

This whole chapter emphasizes the overarching importance of wisdom. Get wisdom, and everything else will go smoothly. Wisdom is more important than riches, and her rewards are better than the rewards obtained by treasure. In fact, "Nothing you desire compares with her" (v. 15).

This chapter also continues the emphasis on living uprightly. There is nothing in these chapters about great insights into theology. These chapters emphasize things like not withholding good from your neighbor (v. 27-28).

Finally, there are two verses I want to point out.

Verse 19 has more meaning than the Hebrews ever could have realized. The Lord founded the earth by Wisdom. This says more than that the Lord was wise when he built the earth, but he made all things through his Son, Jesus Christ (cf. Prov. 8:22-31), though that would not be revealed until New Covenant times.

Verse 32 says that the Lord is intimate with the upright. Can there be any better reward for obtaining wisdom than intimacy with God?

Note: In verse 32, the notes of the New English Translation (NET Bible) say that the Hebrew is literally "with the upright is his intimate counsel."

Proverbs 4

I’ve always loved the wording of Proverbs 4:7 in the King James Version:

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And with all your getting get understanding.

Wisdom is the principal thing, and that has a double meaning when we realize that Jesus Christ is the Wisdom of God personified here in Proverbs (and cf. 1 Cor. 1:30). The very purpose of God from the beginning is to bring everything together under Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:10), so he most certainly is the "principal thing."

(The wording I like is not "principal thing," though, but "in all your getting get understanding." Memorable.)

Verse 18 is worth noting as well. The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn; it just keeps getting brighter and brighter until it reaches a full day.

This is a product of grace (v. 9), and grace comes through Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:17), who is Wisdom incarnate.

Healing and the Word of God

I shouldn’t skip verse 22. The words of God are indeed life to those who find them, but also health to all their body. I believe many charismatic churches have taken the Scriptures way too far, claiming divine healing for everyone in every circumstance based on the Bible. None of them has ever been successful doing this.

But I also know that the Word of God is powerful. I remember spending time with a missionary once who was discouraged and needing uplifting. He was diabetic, and after several days with us, he marveled, "I have not needed insulin the entire time I’ve been with you. My blood sugar has been fine, and there’s nothing in the way I’ve been eating to account for that."

I had friends who used to go into another friend’s ICU room and read the Scriptures to him. They talked about how his vital signs would level out as they read to him, and he seemed to rouse. (He eventually fully recovered.)

And let’s not miss the obvious. When Jesus, the living Word of God, walked the earth, he healed everyone around him, sometimes even when he didn’t realize it was happening! (Mark 5:24-34).

The last phrase of Proverbs 4 sums up today’s reading well. "Turn your foot from evil." This is what Wisdom teaches us to do (both under the Old Covenant and the New Covenant—Tit. 2:11-14).

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