Listen, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching. Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. (Proverbs 4:1-7 excerpts)
I am currently teaching on the Bible’s Book of Proverbs at Christ Presbyterian Church in Houston. Here are some excerpts that I’ve used in counseling and prison ministry. This builds on Christ’s Wisdom in Proverbs (Part 1).
Here is a partial timeline used in class. It gives a brief overview of some key events in Bible history. It is a record of the Lord guiding and providing for His people. Some dates are approximate.
|In Eden||God promised that the woman’s seed/offspring (= Jesus) will crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15)|
|2000 BC||The Lord promised that all nations on earth will be blessed through Abraham|
|1400 BC||Moses + the Exodus|
|1000 BC||Kings David + Solomon|
|930 BC||Division of the Kingdom (10 Northern + 2 Southern tribes)|
|722 BC||Fall + Exile of Samaria (10 Northern tribes)|
|687 BC||Death of King Hezekiah (Proverbs compiled + edited)|
|586 BC||Fall + Exile of Jerusalem (2 Southern tribes)|
|450 BC||Ezra + Nehemiah (returned from exile + began rebuilding Temple)|
|330 BC||Alexander the Great conquered wide area (including Israel)|
|280 BC||Septuagint (LXX) Greek translation of the Old Testament|
|146 BC||Romans conquered Greek empire (including Israel) + kept Greek language|
|1-33 AD||Jesus Christ’s life, death, resurrection, ascension + Pentecost|
Reflecting on the Timeline
Scripture says: When the set time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem us that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are His sons and daughters, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are the Lord’s children and also heirs, with complete access to the inheritance.1
The Lord works in all of human history, including now, to save His people from our sins. In Proverbs, God our Savior teaches us how His sons and daughters ought to live. He says: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”2
Brief Outline of Proverbs
- Wisdom and folly contrasted, Chapters 1—9
- Proverbs of Solomon, Chapters 10—24
- Proverbs of Solomon, set in order by men of Hezekiah, Chapters 25—29
- Oracle of Agur, Chapter 30
- Proverbs of Lemuel’s mother, Chapter 31
The earlier chapters contain extended discussion on the value of Christ’s wisdom. The latter chapters contain the “one-liners” that characterize we usually think in this book. Proverbs are precious because our minds are easily impacted by crisp sentences that get right to the point, expressing striking ideas in few words. Like political or marketing slogans, Jesus’ Proverbs make forceful and permanent impressions upon us. “The words of the wise prod us to live well. They’re like nails hammered home, holding life together. They are given by God, the one Shepherd.” (Eccl 12:11 MSG) Proverbs drive God’s truth home to our soul, conscience, heart, mind, and life in wise, witty, timely, and timeless ways.
The Teaching of James
James the Just was a younger half-brother of the Lord and an early leader of the Jerusalem Church in the Apostolic Age. Tradition holds that James was martyred in AD 62 or 69, being stoned to death by the Pharisees. James is the author of the New Testament Epistle of James and his teaching echoes Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.3
James’ teaching summarizes much of God’s teaching in Proverbs. He writes: Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from Heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from Heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.4
Likewise, Proverbs shows us Two Ways of Life and Two Outcomes. Which way are we living?
|Two Brands of Wisdom||Two Ways of Life||Two Results, Harvests, Destinies|
|Coming from God (Father, Son + Spirit) = Heavenly||Good life, deeds done in humble wisdom. Pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy + good fruit, impartial + sincere (Christ-likeness)||Peacemakers reap a harvest of righteousness|
|Earthly, animalistic, unspiritual, demonic||
Bitter envy + selfish ambition in our hearts, boasting + denying the truth. (And all that is opposite from above)
|Selfishness leads to disorder, every evil practice, and eternal punishment|
Man Found Sunken Treasure, But Not Wisdom
Tommy Thompson was called “one of the most intelligent fugitives ever sought.” He was a treasure hunter and con man who was arrested in 2015, after two years on the lam. He found a historic sunken ship and brought up 50 million dollars in California Gold Rush gold that sank with the vessel in 1857. He evaded capture for such a long time by keeping a low profile, but his “luck” ran out.5 Thompson was intelligent, but not wise. What about us, beloved? Proverbs teaches that pride comes first, then the crash. The bigger the ego, the harder the fall. We can be sure that our sin will find us out, however brilliant we may be. Proverbs teaches that the path away from Christ’s wisdom may be lined with gold, but its destination is destruction.
Prayer: Lord, flood our hearts with Your light so we can have confident hope in Christ. You have made us Your holy people who are Your rich and glorious inheritance. Help us not to live like unbelievers, for they are hopelessly confused. Help us to imitate God in everything we do because we are Your dear children. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
To be continued.
Notes (various Bible translations used): 1 Gal 4:4-7. 2 2 John 4. 3 Matthew chapters 5-7. 4 James 3:13-18. 5 Chicago Tribune (1-28-15).