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TEXT: Proverbs 1:1-7

SUBJECT: Proverbs #1: Introduction

WHAT IS A PROVERB?

The word, "proverb" is often and variously used in Scripture. But for our purposes, it can be defined as, "A simple summary of a complex subject".

This definition applies to merely human, uninspired proverbs, as for example:

The greatest scientists have long studied the relationship between diet and health. Medical journals and popular books teem and swarm with the subject. Yet long before any of these doctors were born, a wise man summed it up with this proverb, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away".

The most learned theologians have long debated the relationship between the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. This is a mystery which mocks even the wisest. Yet an obscure Arab answers the riddle with the immortal proverb, "Trust in the Lord and tie your camel".

Such a definition also applies to the Inspired proverbs. For instance:

Economists present extended theories on the relationship between "credit and debt". Every day, we read of "the deficit, trade imbalance, tax cuts, increased revenues", and the like. And yet no one ever explained economic theory more exhaustively than Solomon, "The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender".

Read all the volumes by Adam Smith, Karl Marx, John Kenneth Galbraith, Milton Friedman, or anyone else, and you will remain largely ignorant of sound financial principles.

Read one sentence from the Proverbs, and you will be firmly grounded in economics.

A proverb, then, is a "simple summary of a complex subject". From this, a practical application becomes obvious, to wit: Proverbs ought to be memorized! At least five characteristics especially commend them to your memory:

Proverbs are brief. To memorize a entire Book, chapter, or Psalm is no easy matter. Yet what ordinarily intelligent person cannot memorize one sentence? But most proverbs are that short, and therefore, readily lend themselves to your memory.

How, for example, would God have you to deal with that loud-mouthed, opinionated neighbor? In seeking an answer, you could go to the Sermon on the Mount, several of Paul's Letters, Peter's First Epistle, etc. You could compile a list of every obnoxious character in the Bible, from Nabal to Diotrophes and see how they were handled. But most Christians do not have the Scriptural breadth nor intellectual quickness to do so. But every Christian could memorize Proverbs 15:1, "A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger". The proverb's brevity, therefore, all but commands you to memorize it.

Proverbs are graphic. Solomon employed colorful language and surprising metaphors in order to better impress the proverb's truth upon your mind.

How, dear parent, do you teach your children about internal restraint? They well understand, "Don't touch that vase, Stay out of the street, or Don't talk back to me". But how to explain attitudes, dispositons, states of mind? These concepts are so abstract that they are difficult to understand no less commit to memory. But the most juvenile mind can understand and remember Proverbs 30:17, "The eye that mocks his father, and scorns obedience to his mother, the ravens of the valley will pick it out, and the young eagles will eat it." The proverb's vivid and striking nature, therefore, well lends itself to our remembrance.

Proverbs are plain. Some parts of the Bible almost defy human understanding. "Our beloved brother, Paul, wrote many things and hard to be understood". Solomon, too could write most philosophically, as Ecclesiastes well proves. But here he wrote for commonest man.

What average Christian cannot understand and remember these plain proverbs? 12:1, "Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid." Or, 6:6, "Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise..." Or, most solemnly, 27:1, "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day will bring forth." The plainnes of the proverb, therefore, should encourage you memorize it.

Proverbs are easy to study. Most verses in the Bible can only be interpreted within their contexts. In fact, many heresies have arisen because men have neglected to read the verse preceding or following their text. Moreover, many verses can only be understood when compared to other passages. For example, if your entire knowledge of Scripture consisted of the Book of James, you might well believe that "justification is by works". But by reading it in conjunction with the Romans, you find that "justification is by faith alone" and works simply attest to the reality of faith, which is exactly what James wrote in the first place! Most proverbs however, stand alone, and can be well understood in-and-of-themselves.

What context, for example, is needed to understand 21:19, "It is better to dwell in a wilderness than with a contentious and angry woman."

What comparison need be made to comprehend 21:23, "Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles."

In memorizing the Proverbs, therefore, you need only to remember one verse at a time, with little attention paid to its context, or anything else, which ought to encourage you greatly in putting it to memory.

Proverbs are immediately relevent. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable". Thus, no part can be ignored with impunity. But the immediate relevevance of all is not too easy to demonstrate. But the proverbs are immediately relevent to every reader. For they practically apply to every part of your life, as for example:

The priorities of domestic life,15:17.

How to rear children, 29:15

How to work, 10:4.

What to do with your money, 27:23-24.

How to withstand peer pressure, 1:10,15

How to eat, drink, 25:16.

Not a single day will pass in which the Proverbs will be irrelevant. To memorize some, therefore, will pay immediate dividends.

WHO IS THE AUTHOR OF THE PROVERBS?

The internal evidence informs us precisely of its authorship.

1:1-22:16 was written by "Solomon, the son of David, the king of Israel."

22:17-24:34 was authored by a group of men known only as "the wise". 22:17, reads, "Incline your ear to hear the words of the wise". And 24:23, likewise "These things also belong to the wise".

Chapters 25-29 the proverbs of Solomon, compiled posthumously, by the Scribes of Hezekiah. "These also are the proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah copied."

Chapter 30 was dictated by "Agur, the son of Jakeh" to Ithiel and Ucal.

Chapter 31 was written by King Lemuel, from the lessons learned at his mother's knee.

All of these men were great sages, especially Solomon. Thus, this Book commends itself to our attention. But as wise as these men were, the authority for this Book lies with another, even the "Only Wise God our Savior". Therefore, the Book of Proverbs is not simply to be respected as would be the writings iof great men, but implicitly believed and universally obeyed, for "No prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation, for it did not come by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were `carried along' by the Holy Spirit.

WHAT IS THE AIM OF THE PROVERBS?

This question, too is directly answered throughout the Book, especially in 1:1-6.

WHO IS THE INTENDED AUDIENCE OF THIS BOOK?

Negatively, it is not written to great intellectuals, scholars, and the like, for if this were true, it certainly would have been written in a more esoteric style.

For, positively, it was written for every sort of person. For those of great wisdom (31:4). For the ignorant (1:4).

Therefore, no one is too intelligent to need the Proverbs. Neither is anyone too stupid to benefit greatly from them. Therefore, in short, the Proverbs is for you.

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