I once heard someone compare passages in the Bible to “load-bearing” beams in a house. Some passages hold the full weight of part of Scripture and deep theological truths (like Romans 8, for example). But other texts are like the floor boards – very practical but can’t hold up under much weight (though an equally significant part of the house!). I submit to you that Proverbs are like those floor boards. Essential for moving about the house, as long as the weight is evenly distributed. So, let’s listen well to a father of the faith’s instruction so that we may learn how to move around the household of faith. I’ll try to pick a verse or two each day to help us think along the biblical storyline about how that verse might apply to followers of Jesus.
“The path of the righteous is like the light of the dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day” (4:18). This is the trajectory of the Christian life – headed to the New Jerusalem where there is no need for the sun or moon – for the glory of God is its lamp. “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (4:23). This is the daily task of the believer – guard your heart. It is the very center of your willing, your emoting, and your thinking. “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him…” (6:16-19). Ever wondered what the Lord hates? We don’t have to guess. Test yourself to see if any of these are remotely true of yourself.
There’s a significant difference between the adulteress of Proverbs 7 and Lady Wisdom in Proverbs 8. Take time to note many of the differences in what they say and where they say it. Note also the difference between their “ways” in Proverbs 9. If I were to point you to a few interesting verses, I might suggest 8:22-31 and wisdom’s work in creation. It might make you think of Colossians 1 where the apostle Paul prays that the church might filled with spiritual wisdom and understanding, then he moves right into a beautiful passage about Jesus being the one by whom, through whom, and for whom all things were created (Maybe connecting those texts is a bit of a stretch, but I do think Jesus is the ultimate and final wisdom of God).
I see a consistent theme of righteousness in these chapters. Here are a few one-liners that’ll turn your head: “Righteousness delivers from death” (10:2). Indeed – Jesus’ perfect righteousness delivers from death. “The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish” (10:29). There’s a difference between hope and expectation. Often, life’s greatest disappointments are unfulfilled expectations. The way of wisdom is a way of hope – not entitlement. “Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live, but he who pursues evil will die” (11:19). Let us remain steadfast in the righteousness of Christ that we may live.
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (15:1). Let’s just stop at that one today. It takes about two seconds to read, but years to apply. We all need this in our time and culture. Let’s be a people whose speech gives grace to all who hear. What harsh words do you need to repent of today?
I see many verses about testing the heart and evaluating motives in these chapters. Keep a check on yourself to ensure that your heart isn’t being subtly led astray by sneaky desires. Your ways may be pure in your own eyes, but the Lord tests the spirit (Remember Ananias and Saphira in Acts 5?). “Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice” (16:8). This is a hard one because it goes counter to everything the world tells us. And yet, we better not swerve from it, because those who justify the wicked and those who condemn the righteous are both an abomination to the Lord (17:15). Let’s be careful lest we speak falsely and so condemn the righteous or justify the wicked. We don’t have to be the judge of everything. We can leave it to the Lord, who judges hearts.
“Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense” (19:11). Here’s proof that getting wisdom is part of being an “imitator of God”. Being “slow to anger” is a central aspect of God’s own character which he revealed to Moses on Mt. Sinai. It is the Lord’s glory alone to overlook an offense (cf. Romans 3:21-31). So, wisdom advocates for your sanctification, but it also advocates for knowing yourself. “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out” (20:5). Gaining understanding means you will increase in your ability to identify and articulate the deep, unexpressed motives for your actions. Wisdom helps us grow in emotional and spiritual maturity.
There’s a lot to be noted in these chapters about how we interact with our neighbors – whether they’re poor, wealthy, stingy, a ruler, a drunkard, a schemer, or a sluggard. Wisdom sees beyond appearances into what’s actually true. “The eyes of the Lord keep watch over knowledge.” Let’s be people who build our houses/lives by wisdom and establish them with understanding, filling their rooms with knowledge that is as precious and pleasant as riches.