The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:
2 To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
3 to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
4 to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth—
5 Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
6 to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction. – Proverbs 1:1-7
In my last post, I shared insight into the various types of parallelisms in Proverbs as an aid to understanding them. Today, I want to apply some of this to the mission statement or purpose statement if you will of the book.
Verse two is synonymous parallelism equating “know” and “understand” and equating “instruction” with “words of insight.” The word translated instruction (Hebrew musar) is one of the key words to grasping what Proverbs is all about. According to one Jewish commentary (Soncino Books of the Bible, Proverbs), it is better translated “discipline.” Carry this thought to New Testament thinking, and we get the idea of making disciples.
Proverbs is about making or becoming disciples of the Lord.
Verse three again emphasizes the idea of discipleship when we are told the goal of Proverbs is to receive “instruction” or the alternate translation, discipline, in wise dealing. This verse has a synthetic parallelism, so wise dealing is modified by “righteousness, justice, and equity.” Wise dealing is about as practical as you can get in life. When making a business deal, wise dealing includes righteousness, justice, and equity. Agreeing to a deal that fails to live up to these three ingredients is not a wise deal, and somehow it will come back to bite us. Proverbs gives us discipline in how to live a life of wise dealing in all areas of life. Heeding Proverbs will help make us a good disciple of the Lord, a good practical follower of Jesus.
Verse four is another synonymous parallelism. The terms “prudence” and “knowledge and discretion” are equated. And so simple and youth are equated. The word “simple” does not refer to a simpleton, but to someone who is “wide open” to ideas, thus it is equated to youth. Life’s values have not yet been settled. So, the call of Proverbs is to bring prudence to that young wide open person. This aspect of Proverbs is then especially meaningful to teenagers and young adults whose lives are being formed. Remember this when reading Proverbs, and you come upon the term “simple,” it is someone whose values are still being formed.
In verse five, the “wise” are equated with those who “understand.” They will increase in learning and obtain guidance. This emphasizes to us all that no matter how wise we become, there is always more wisdom to be gained, or be reminded of.
“The wise” and a “proverb” are parallel in verse 6 along with “saying” and “riddle.” The author is pointing out to us that there are two dimensions to proverbs, the proverb, and its saying or implication. Consider when he compares idolatry to a strange woman, we must not neglect the simple meaning of the verse to beware of a tempting adultress. Avoid them both.
Verse seven is the grounding of it all.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
Elsewhere we read that the fool says in his heart there is no God, so he has no fear of God. The fool will despise wisdom because true wisdom requires a covenant relationship with God which is that of a disciple, one who is disciplined or instructed by the Lord.
I trust that wherever you see yourself in life, as one who is “simple”, wide open to get to know the world and how it works, or one who is “wise” having lived lots of life and walked with the Lord faithfully for many years, you will see there is much to be gained by reading and meditating in the book of Proverbs.
Here is a little practical wisdom. One plan of absorbing the wisdom of Proverbs is to focus on one chapter a day. Look at your calendar, see the day of the month, read and meditate on that chapter. On the fifth of the month, tackle chapter 5, etc. In my experience, I have found that while reading through a chapter, usually something will stand out. That becomes the object of my meditation efforts, not the entire chapter.
May God use Proverbs as his tool to make us all better disciples of Christ and may we in turn use this wisdom to make other disciples of Christ who will make disciples of Christ.