*Today we will continue our look into the Book of Proverbs. Today, we will actually look at the actual proverbs. As you may remember the first nine chapters of the book are devoted to the comparison between wisdom and folly. The student (portrayed in terms of a son) is given a choice to choose wisdom (portrayed as a lady) or folly (also portrayed as a lady...well a female)
"The Proverbs of Solomon: A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son grief to his mother. Ill-gotten treasures are of no value, but righteousness delivers from death." (Proverbs 10:1-2)
This is how the actual proverbs begin. And, it presents a pattern for the rest of the book. (With exception of final chapter) Now, we wont cover all the proverbs, but I do encourage you to read through them. They are interesting to say the least. Now, take a close look at the scriptural example above. Each proverb offers a comparison: a wise son's actions verses a foolish son's actions. As I read this proverb I immediately had a question: wouldn't a foolish son bring as much grief to his father as he would his mother? In fact, as we look through some of these proverbs we may find ourselves questioning the proverb even more. For example: "The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry but he thwarts the craving of the wicked" (Proverbs 10:3) Is this always true? I agree that God does provide for his people (even if that means making a pot of beans to last three days, or doing every thing you can with a turkey), but how often do we hear of others who can't gain enough, and who are far from being righteous? Then, there is the next proverb that promises: "Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth." (Proverbs 10:4) Of course the question could be: "What is considered wealth?" Don't get me wrong, I believe in hard work and I still hold to the promise that hard work will pay off. But, let's be real. In today's world it is getting more and more difficult to work hard to "stay ahead" much less gain wealth. My point is, we may at times find ourselves agreeing with the proverbs, while at other times disagreeing.
Like many of you I have grown up hearing "proverbs" that are not found in the Bible. You have heard, I'm sure, that "an apple a day keeps the doctor away?" Or, how about "the early bird gets the worm?" Are these statements true? What about the parable that Jesus told of the fellow that was hired in eleventh hour? He was paid the same as those who had been working all day. Did the early bird get the worm in that story? Do parables have to be believed, or do they serve the purpose of trying to prove a point.
Proverbs are simply "sayings." The Greek word for "proverb" is logia, which means "little word" or "brief sayings." (or one liners) A proverb is a short saying offering insight about life, or instruction on behavior. Jesus, himself often used proverbs in his teachings. For example: "No master can serve two masters." (Matthew 6:24) or "Do not throw your pearls before the swine." (Matthew 7:6) Proverbs are derived from the experience of generations of wise people. They uphold traditional values (such as hard work), family, honesty, humility, and loyalty.
The Book of Proverbs is made up of mostly single sentence proverbs, which are mostly in random order. Very few of them connect with one another. You will also discover that opposites are contrasted. We have already discovered wisdom being contrasted with folly (continues throughout book), but so are "the righteous and the wicked," "the rich and the poor," "the industrious and the lazy," and "humility and pride."
The Proverbs deal with serious matters, yet some non-serious matters. (Well, it depends on how you look at it)(We'll get to the serious stuff in a moment) First, let's look at some that might make us ask: 'Huh?"
"He who winks with his eye is plotting perversity." (Proverbs 16:30) Really? Well, no problem there for me because I can't wink. I realized this back in high school when little Paula (I won't mention her last name in case by some miraculous chance she is reading this) tried to get me to wink. She finally gave up because I kept closing both of my eyes. Then there is the proverbs that says: "Grey hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life." (Proverbs 16:31) Again! Really? I always thought it had to do with four boys and middle school years. If this is the case I must be one righteous guy. But, I think Hugh Hefner is also grey. Hmm...There are so many more that cause one to ask the question: "Really?"
Seriously, there are things dealt with in Proverbs that are not laughable in the least. For instance, adultery is dealt with and so is marriage in general. For instance, when the son is told to "drink water from your own cistern..." (Proverbs 5:15, NRSV) he is being told to "keep all your action at home." In this case, "water" is a metaphor for the male student's enjoyment of his wife. The proverb is somewhat graphic in nature, but holds much truth. The Proverbs deal with anger on several occasions, as well as discipline of children. It is in Proverbs where we are told: "Those who spare the rod hate their children..." (Proverbs 13:24) Of course, what is the saying that is derived from this? Oh yes! "Spare the rod, spoil the child!" I want to tell you that I hate this line. It has almost become a statement of bravado throughout time. Kind of like saying to a child: "If you don't stop stop crying I'm going to give you something to cry about." Don't get me wrong, I believe in discipline. But, I also believe that discipline can take on many productive forms. What we are more and more aware of now days is that so many children are beaten. Folks near my home town are still reeling over the horrific events of a mother being responsible for the death of her daughter (and graphic disposal of the body). But, details have emerged of how the mother "punished" the girl along the way. There is discipline and there is abuse. I think the proverbs would agree that discipline is done out of love. The other only creates a problem that society is then left to deal with. Let me clarify, I do not disagree with spanking. However, when it is done out of anger...well, no. I could go on and on about this, so I'll move on.
Now for some random proverbs that really do either make sense, or have even been made into law. (and into our own sayings) "Even fools who keep silent are considered wise" (Proverbs 17:28) Have you heard the saying: "better to keep quiet and let them think you're (fill in the blank) than open your mouth and prove them right?" Yep, goes along with this proverb. How about "A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches." (Proverbs 22:1) I've heard that one all my life; especially that one time (and I mean one time) I left the house to take Margaret Evans (I seriously doubt if she is reading this) on a date. My Dad looked at me and said: "Son,, don't forget who you are!" Then there is a proverb that has actually been applied to the law of the land (in some states) (whether this actual proverb was used, I doubt it, but it has the same concept behind it) "To be a partner with a thief is to hate one's own life." (Proverbs 29:24) Have you ever heard of "guilt by association?" As you may know the state of Texas has carried out far more executions in the U.S (since 1977) than any other state. (Texas 543 to Virginia's 113 (second)) The first execution by Texas in 1982 would be the first lethal injection ever in the U.S. The inmate was Charles Brooks. On December 7, 1982 he began the first U.S. prisoner to be executed by lethal injection. However, he was with another man who was believed to have been the person who committed the actual murder.
This has turned into a longer post than I intended. The last chapter of Proverbs deals with the "virtuous woman" who is "worth far more than rubies." (Proverbs 31:10) This passage has been used multiple times at funerals for ladies. This lady who is a mother and wife "gets up while it is still dark; and provides food for her family.." (Proverbs 31:15) She takes care of her husband, her children and every body else in her care. This brings to mind the old joke where the husband has not been feeling well and goes to the doctor. The doctor visits with him for a while and then asks to have a word with the wife. "Is my husband going to be ok Doc?" she asks in private. "Oh, he should be fine. What he needs is some tender loving care. He needs you to cook him some good home cooked meals. he needs you to........." As they were leaving the husband humbly asked his wife, "Well, honey...let's hear it. What did the doctor say?" She somberly looked at him and said, "He said you're gonna die!" The woman in Proverbs 31 is not like that lady. In fact, she is the personification of wisdom.
Well, join me tomorrow as we tackle the Book of Ecclesiastes. It, too, will be very interesting. Have a great day! -Pastor Rick