"If you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God."
|A Father's Guidance|
Proverbs is probably the most down-to-earth book in the Bible. It's education prepares you for the street and the marketplace, not the schoolroom. (Proverbs 1:20-21 expresses this poetically.) The book offers the warm advice you get by growing up in a good family: practical guidance for successfully making your way in the world. It covers small questions as well as large: talking to much, visiting neighbors too often, being unbearably cheerful too early in the morning.
The first nine chapters, which explain the purpose of Proverbs' wisdom, are spoken from father to son. Fifteen times the fatherly voice says, "My son." Some of the advice seems particularly well suited to young people: warnings against joining gangs, for instance, or urgent cautions against sex outside marriage. But the central message of Proverbs applies to anyone, old or young: "Get wisdom at all costs." It is a plea to strain your mind and your ears searching for the wise way to live.
|Virtue Is Not Its Only Reward|
Anybody with a brain can find exceptions to Proverbs' generalities. For instance, Proverbs 28:19 proclaims that "he who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty." Yet farmers who work hard go hungry in a drought, and dreamers win $10 million in a lottery.
Proverbs simply tells how life works most of the time. You can worry about the exceptions after you have learned the rule. Try to live by the exceptions, and you court disaster.
The rule is that the godly, moral, hardworking, and wise will reap many rewards. Those who learn the practical and godly wisdom of Proverbs not only sleep better; they succeed and become able to help their family and friends. Fools and scoffers, though they appear successful, will eventually pay the cost of their lifestyle.
Much of Proverbs' practical advice makes no mention of God, and its concern for success may therefore seem quite secular. But if you take the book as a whole, it becomes obvious that the lifestyle Proverbs teaches depends on a healthy respect for God (1:7), affecting every aspect of life (3:5-7). Proverbs frankly concedes that the wise path will no be chosen by many; it is easier to live carelessly and godlessly. But those who choose to live by Proverbs will get success and safety, and more: They will get to know God himself. "then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God" (2:5).
|How To Read Proverbs|
People love to quote Proverbs. Often they express truth about life in a elegant, witty kernel. You'll find more humor in Proverbs than anywhere else in the Bible.
Yet Proverbs may well be the most abused book in the Bible. People often quote the Proverbs as though they are absolute promises from God or rigid rules for living. In fact, few of the proverbs should be read that way. And some proverbs, read alone, would give you a distorted point of view.
To understand Proverbs, you should hunt through it for proverbs you like. You should study the whole book to get its overall point of view. This takes time, for Proverbs covers dozens of subjects in subtle detail.
Each of the more than 500 proverbs is a tough nut you have to crack before you get the inner meat. Read Proverbs slowly, but not for too long at one sitting.
Some people like to read a small number of proverbs each day in addition to their regular Bible readings. Others concentrate on memorizing proverbs, so they can run them through their heads as they go on about the day. Whatever technique you use, keep two things in mind: Think carefully about each proverb, and try to put each into the bigger context of the teachings of all of Proverbs. To help you see the total picture of Proverbs teaching on some key subjects, ten insights scattered throughout Proverbs briefly introduce ten subjects and list relevant proverbs.
The book of Proverbs is divided into tow main parts: an introduction in the first nine chapters and the proverbs themselves in the remaining 22 chapters. If you skip the introduction, you won't understand the point of Proverbs as a book. It introduces Lady Wisdom, and explains what she can do for you.
|High Points in Proverbs|
- Chapter 4: An introduction to the importance of wisdom and the style of life you need to pursue it.
- Chapter 10: A typical range of subject matter and style