This week the readings were all from Proverbs, chapters 5-24.
Solomon contributed the majority of the book of Proverbs. It is a collection of sayings, some listed as “stand-alone” statements, and some incorporated into longer themed segments. The book is part of the “Wisdom” books of the Bible. This is probably as good a time as any to mention how the books of the Bible are arranged. We’ve been walking through it chronologically, reading passages in the order in which they would fall in a time sequence. However, the way they are typically assembled together doesn’t necessarily follow that sequence.
The Old Testament has four main parts. The first section, the Pentateuch, is the first five books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). These are the books attributed to Moses and they set the stage for the whole storyline of Scripture by establishing the covenant relationship between God, creation, his chosen people of Israel, and the future coming of the Messiah.
The next section are the history books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. These tell the story of Israel’s ups and downs as a nation leading up to the time of the prophesied coming Messiah.
Then you have the Wisdom section (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs) which all relate practical observations of living in relation with God and others.
Following this are the books of the Prophets, with the longer (Major) prophets first, and the shorter (Minor) prophets next. These are ordered based on length and then on historical sequence of authorship.
Finally, the New Testament accounts the arrival of the Messiah (Jesus Christ) through the eyewitness testimony accounts of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), the establishment and growth of the early church (Acts), and then a series of letters written by the apostles to the early local churches.
Now, back to Proverbs. As you’ll recall from last week, the opening of the proverbs of Solomon ended with the statement “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7) This is the basis for the sayings of the Proverbs. Follow God in obedience and you will have increased insight on what is truly good and right. Despise God, and you will become increasingly foolish.
Consider, as an example, Proverbs 22:1-10. Following each verse, I’ve put in [brackets] a suggested application of that verse.
A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold. [Build your character, not just your bank account]
The rich and the poor meet together; the Lord is the Maker of them all. (Don’t think that your worth is based on what you have or don’t have]
The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it. [Know your limitations]
The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life. [Be humble]
Thorns and snares are in the way of the crooked; whoever guards his soul will keep far from them. [Guard yourself]
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. [Teach your children wisdom]
The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender. [Be careful and wise with debt]
Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of his fury will fail. [Live justly]
Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor. [Be generous]
Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease. [Don’t be afraid to confront difficult people]
The apostle James said “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1:22) Jesus himself said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20) It is not enough to simply read the words of the Bible or study them. We must do (observe) them as well, or we risk being fools.