Summary: Finding Christ in Proverbs, applying Christ to life.
This And That
The Book of Proverbs is attributed to Solomon, the son of David. Whether or not Solomon personally wrote the various proverbs or simply collected them--or both--is immaterial because the Holy Spirit is the real author of them all. Attributing them to Solomon provides a kind of date. The Book of Proverbs was put together during Solomon’s reign and serves as a compendium of rules or thoughts or practical advice for godly living. It is as applicable today as it was in Solomon’s day because of the eternal nature of God’s Word.
The book itself tells us why it was written, "To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion" (vs. 2-4). Each sentence fragment answers the question about why it was written, and each engages an important verb--to know, to perceive, to receive, and to give.
These proverbs are given so that people can know and make use of God’s wisdom. It is important to notice that God (Scripture) assumes that people do not already know wisdom. That is to say that apart from God’s Word wisdom is not known, and that wisdom can be known be-cause God gives it. Wisdom, then, is not an inherent part of the human constitution, but is an additional gift of God. Wisdom is not the reward of human accomplishment, but is an unqualified gift of God that is be-stowed through His Word, Scripture. An important corollary is that wisdom is not know apart from God’s giving it. There is no Godly wisdom apart from knowing Scripture.
What is this wisdom that God wants us to know? The Hebrew word for wisdom, chokmah, is rich in meaning, and covers every aspect of human experience. For instance, wisdom is involved in craftsmanship and technical work (Exodus 28:3, 31:3, 31:6), in the proper use of tactical warfare (Isaiah 10:13), in the proper administration of government (Deuteronomy 34:9, 2 Samuel 14:20)--in every human endeavor, as we shall see.
It is important to notice that wisdom is available to pagan leaders as well as to those who are committed to the Lord. We can see this universal aspect of God’s wisdom when Ezekiel, speaking on behalf of the Lord, prophesied against the King of Tyre. In that prophecy Ezekiel noted that Tyre, a ancient center of paganism, had been able to make riches for itself, to work gold and silver into its treasuries because it employed wisdom and understanding (Ezekiel 28:4). In other words, sound fiscal policy, whether in the home, in the church, or in the state, requires the implementation of these proverbial principles. Wealth and material prosperity are consequences of the principles taught in Scripture, and particularly in Proverbs.
Does that mean that people can get rich by following the principles taught in Scripture? In a way it does. It doesn’t guarantee that every individual who practices these principles will become rich, but it teaches that societies that are dominated by these principles will prosper physically as well as spiritually.
However, motivation is everything. The motivation to get rich is al-most always a function of selfishness and greed, and is not a proper biblical motivation. Nonetheless, the implementation of biblical principles will usually result in greater social and personal wealth and prosperity. Yet, we must understand that the result of wealth and prosperity alone is not always a blessing. Apart from God’s grace even wealth and prosperity are used as a judgment against the faithless. Wealth and prosperity are a blessing to the faithful, but a curse to the unfaithful. Many societies have been brought to ruin by wealth and prosperity. Similarly, poverty (the lack of abundance, not starvation) can be a blessing to the faithful, as it can be a curse to the unfaithful.
God’s concern is not wealth and prosperity, but grace and faithful-ness. God is not simply concerned about the result of our activities, but about our personal motivation. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess" (Matthew 23:25). Even the faithless can know and apply God’s Word to an extent, and Proverbs calls attention to this fact by contrasting the word wisdom with the word instruction.
While wisdom involves the practical application of knowledge, instruction is another matter. The Hebrew word for instruction, muwcar, carries the sense of correction and chastisement. To know instruction is a function of discipline or discipleship. To be instructed means to receive correction. To know instruction requires knowing an instructor. There can be no instruction apart from an instructor. Instructions are orders or commands that when followed result in correct construction. A thing is put together correctly by following the instructions.