Proverbs: Three Things to Know

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Proverbs is a fascinating book filled with contrasts between wisdom and folly and righteousness and evil. In Genesis, the knowledge of God was rejected for the tree of knowledge. Because of this, we all need to be instructed on how to be wise. There’s no better place to search for wisdom than the book of Proverbs. Here are three things to know that will help you read Proverbs:

1.  Proverbs are principles, not promises

It’s easy to assume the Proverbs are guarantees. If I live as it says, then this is the result. This is an understandable error. The Proverbs are very matter-of-fact. Yet the author is not intending to communicate an unbreakable promise from God, but rather a general principle of the best way to live, and a description of how that typically results in a flourishing life. Most everyone has a grandmother or auntie who says, “You better do this, or else something bad is gonna happen!” This isn’t true in every circumstance, but generally, the principle is reliable. This is essentially the book of Proverbs.
The book of Proverbs is basically your grandmother or auntie saying, "You better!"

2.  Proverbs is divided into 31 chapters

This is obviously not critical to understanding the book, but it does create a simple strategy for study. Consider every day for the next month reading one chapter of Proverbs. Pro tip: don’t try to understand EVERYTHING on your first read. Just pick up one or two verses that stand out to you and reflect on them each day. Consider underlining them in your Bible and posting them on your social media accounts so that others can reflect on the verses with you.

3.  Proverbs summary: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”

The thought of fearing God might be uncomfortable. After all, the Bible teaches that God is like a father, God is merciful, and that He is love. Yet this is compatible with the command to fear Him. Wisdom is not possible unless you have a proper fear of the Lord. But what kind of fear? Imagine you find yourself standing before the 8’2” Incredible Hulk. The sense of the word fear here is to have respect. But it’s more than the respect of your boss. It’s an acknowledgment that you are standing before an unstoppable power that holds your fate in the palm of His hand. We need wisdom, but wisdom isn’t an end in itself. What we really need is God himself. The wisest person cannot reach God. We needed God to reveal himself to us. And nowhere has he done this more clearly and fully than in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the very image of God (Col. 1:15). If you want to know what God’s wisdom is like, it looks like Jesus.
Jesus crushed the head of the serpent that deceived us at the tree of knowledge. Through Christ, the wisdom of God is made manifest to all.
 

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Michael McAfee is the president and co-founder of Inspire Experiences, a teaching pastor at Council Road Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, and an ethics and public policy PhD student at The Southern Theological Seminary.  Michael is happily married to his Sunday-school sweetheart, Lauren Green McAfee. Together, they co-authored Not What You Think.  They have a daughter, Zion.  You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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