We have started a new learning hour series at New Covenant Church, going through the book of Proverbs. Yesterday was the first in a series of six parts. the following are the lesson notes, if you want to hook up with the audio, go to the sermon page here.
Proverbs: Straight Paths, Part 1. An Introduction and Overview
In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make straight your paths (3:6)
The Book of Proverbs is a collection of Hebrew wisdom sayings from the ninth and eighth centuries BC. The book of Proverbs forms a part of the wisdom literature of the Scriptures with observations on life and faith and instruction on Godly lifestyle, family and community. Perhaps sometimes the Christian faith seems to be about believing concepts of the Trinity, the two natures of Christ, the resurrection and regeneration. These are all good and vital things; Proverbs is helpful for us because it puts shoes to our faith so we can be enabled to walk out our Christianity every day. The book of Proverbs gives wise advice toward work, words, wealth and relationships, we will be covering these themes throughout this six part series.
1. Wisdom Literature in the Bible
There is a combination of actual wisdom books in the Bible and the wisdom concerns embedded in other sections and narrative, seen as the wisdom outlook of the scriptures. The main wisdom collections are Job, Proverbs, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Philippians and James. Job covers a contemplative wisdom, Proverbs instructional and practical wisdom, Ecclesiastes is a pondering and philosophical wisdom, Song of Songs is a celebration of the wisdom and song of love. By nature Hebrew wisdom style is comparative; by that I mean it will compare two contrasting sides: Wisdom to folly; righteousness to wickedness, diligence to sloth, wealth to poverty, faith to unbelief and life to death. King Solomon is seen as the Old Testament exemplar of wisdom and there is a specific connection with his court and rule as these principles are considered.
2. Nature, Purpose and Function of Proverbs
The basic nature of Proverbs is summed up in the idea of serving the Lord, and living a Godly life. This is the practical wisdom of the one who is teaching. The fundamental nature of wisdom is focused upon the Lord, as the one who is the provider and protector of the covenant people.
In chapters 8-9 wisdom is personified, described as a woman, one who offers wealth and prosperity (8:18, 21). There is even a witness of her existence before the creation of the world (8:22-23). The reason for this personification is to draw an attribute of God himself, describing it in a way that can only be understood through relationship. This is the way in which Proverbs offers the benefit and blessing of wisdom in a real and practical way, by offering wisdom as a divine attribute, through a person who can be known and learned from.
The function of Proverbs is to shape the members of the covenant community to be able to fulfill their divine purpose by living their lives in obedience to God and be a blessing to the nations. The Proverbs are a way of giving tangible life to the principles of the covenant given to Moses.
3. Structure, Authorship and Date
The sections are as follows (From Kidner, Proverbs, 1964):
Title, Introduction and Motto: 1:1-7
- A Father’s Praise of Wisdom: 1:8-9:18
- Proverbs of Solomon: 10:1-22:16
- Words of the Wise Men: 22:17-24:34
- Further Words of Solomon (Hezekiah’s collection): 25:1-29:27
- Words of Agur: 30:1-33
- Words of King Lemuel: 31:10-31
- An Alphabet of Wifely Excellence: 31:10-31
The Book of Proverbs is an anthology—a collection of writings from several authors. Solomon is listed as the author because he contributed the most and he is the famous one. Chapters 1-9 are a series of poems describing the benefit of wisdom. At 10-, introduced as the Proverbs of Solomon, the style changes, now we have short pithy proverbs about life and wealth and family and speech. So 1-9 are introductory, 10-22:16 are actually by Solomon. From 22:17 (“hear the words of the wise…”) to the close we have five other compilations.
The date for the book of Proverbs has to include a large period allowing for different authors. This is likely from the time of Solomon then up through the time of the divided kingdom but before the exile, including other inspired authors. This would be from the tenth Century B.C., to the seventh century.
4. Title and Motto of Proverbs (1:1-7)
The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel (1:1)
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction. (1:7)
This is the motto of the Wisdom literature in general, and reappears again in 9:10; 15:33, Ps. 111:10 and Job 28:28. The beginning, is the first and main principle (not simply the onset), it is a right relationship (of fear) with the Lord. Knowledge, is a full and dependant relationship, trusting on a scriptural understanding of who the Lord is and His character.
5. Topics For This Series
During this series we will not go through the collection in a chronological sense, nor chapter by chapter. Since the book is a compilation, and even each chapter can be eclectic, it is best to approach a teaching series of Proverbs through topics. Since the book covers words, work, wealth and relationships those are good starting points.
Since the book covers words, work, wealth, family and relationships these are best to be covered in our teaching series.
6. Jesus And The Proverbs
Not wanting our Lord to seem as an addendum, yet it is important to remember which side of the New Covenant we find ourselves. We can read the Proverbs as those who are included in the promises and purposes of God’s covenant community, because of what the Lord has done.
Jesus said that the entire Old Testament was written about him (Luke 24:44). When Jesus was here on earth he personified what it would be like to live out these Proverbs every day. Jesus perfectly lived the life of Proverbs. Take the account of him as a youth in the temple courts, astonishing the scribes with his understanding and learning.
In another way Jesus in fact is wisdom in that he is the word of God. The opening of John’s gospel gives this picture. Paul says that Jesus is wisdom from God (1 Cor 1:30).
Jesus is the way of wisdom. To choose to follow the Lord, and to despise the ways of a fallen world, is a mark of true wisdom.
Jesus Supplies wisdom. Jesus promises to provide wisdom and insight to those who follow him and trust in him. He said this to his disciples, “For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict” (Lk 21:15). This promise was fulfilled in Steven (Acs 6:3, 10) and Paul (2 Peter 3:15).