Summary: God wants his own to live well in a wicked world.
Some pastors call Proverbs, “The Young People’s Book.” Solomon himself notes in the preface that he writes to give “knowledge and discretion to the youth.” Matthew Henry picks up that idea as he pleads with young folk to pay special attention: “Youth is the learning age, catches at instructions, receives impressions, and retains what is then received; it is therefore of great consequence that the mind be then seasoned well, nor can it receive a better tincture than from Solomon’s Proverbs. Youth is also rash, and heady, and inconsiderate; and therefore needs to be broken by the restraints and managed by the rules we find here. And, if young people will but take heed to their ways according to Solomon’s proverbs, they will soon gain the knowledge and discretion of the ancients.”
But this is also for all who need teaching, the “simple” he calls us, whether we are old or young. Matthew Henry: “He that has been sinfully foolish, when he begins to govern himself by the word of God, becomes graciously wise.”
So this is for our youth; and for everyone desperate for wisdom. But lest any imagine they have matured beyond Proverbs, remember that the truly wise recognize they have much to learn. Matthew Henry: “A wise man is sensible of his own defects and still presses forward, that he may increase in learning, may know more and know it better, more clearly and distinctly, and may know better how to use it” (in loc.).
The Greek philosopher, Zeno, lived 300 years before Jesus, but archeologists have found some of his writings. One of his most famous saying is: “The reason why we have two ears and only one mouth is that we may listen the more and talk the less.” That is good advice; let us listen all the more as we expect God’s wisdom to guide us in the new year.
[Read Proverbs 1.1-7. Pray.]
The young boy said, “Daddy, if three frogs are sitting on a limb hanging over a pool, and one frog decides to jump, how many frogs are left on the limb?”
His dad replied, “Two.”
“No,” the son said. “Listen carefully, daddy. There are three frogs and one decides to jump. How many are left?”
Dad says, “Oh, I get it, if one decides to jump, the others would too. So there are none left.”
“No daddy—there are three left on the limb. The first frog only DECIDED to jump.”
Kids jokes are great, aren’t they? I wonder, though. Are some of us still sitting on the limb? Maybe you decided last year to jump in deep with God, but are now surprised that twelve months have passed with less progress than you hoped for. We may need reminding that it does not do any good to “sit-up-and-take-notice,” if we just keep sitting.
But maybe others are liable to leap without looking. We need to listen, to think before we act, to train our minds as well as move our feet. Solomon preaches both.
This is not a dry, doctrinal dissertation, an inspired cure for insomnia. Proverbs preaches the practice of the faith—how to walk on the road, how to bargain at the market, how to live well in a wicked world. But it is not simply a “how to manual.” Proverbs preaches the faith which is to be practiced—and faith requires some scratching of the head and scrutiny of the heart. Both are here—the practice of the faith and the faith which must be practiced.
I find that the end of the year conveniently causes me to examine where I have been and where I am going. Maybe you, like me, feel heavy your failures. Dare we hope that this year could be different? Is there a chance? Is it worth trying? God says, “Yes.” God loves his people, and he wants us to live well, even in this wicked world.
What if we have lost our way? The other day I drove to a part of Cincinnati I had never been to before. My directions said, “Turn left here, go 0.4 miles, turn right, stand up, sit down, spin around, cry for help.” Pretty soon I was in a place where the directions refused to help.
But it was not time to panic. I pulled off the road near an intersection where I could see street signs. I got out a map of Cincinnati, and from the cross-streets, found my location. Then, I searched for Selby Court, and figured out how to get there. I had to do some backtracking, but once I found where I was and where I was going, I could get there.
If we have veered from the path, God asks us to stop, reassess, and begin again on a course to walk happy and holy all the way home. To do so, first note: