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Summer of Proverbs

I’m looking forward to a Summer of Proverbs.

 The Book of Proverbs is a book of highly compressed, carefully chosen words of wisdom that have been skilfully crafted to stick in our minds so that our behaviour changes. A proverb has been called a ‘short sentence founded upon long experience.’

That’s probably what was behind this one: “Like one who seizes a dog by the ears is a passer-by who meddles in a quarrel not his own” (26:17). That’s wisdom from experience! Proverbs are easy to say and hard to forget.

Many people end up in a bad spot simply because they forget that there’s a difference between Proverbs and other books of the Bible. John Ortberg does a good job explaining that there are three specific types of literature in the Old Testament.

* Laws. A law is a command that we must always obey: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

* Promises. A promise is a guarantee that is always true: “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.” (Psalm 139:17-18)

* Proverbs. A proverb is a catchy observation about the way things generally are but it is not a promise. In other words, they are descriptive, not prescriptive. These guidelines for living are generalizations about the way things generally turn out. Check out Proverbs 15:1: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” This works most of the time, but not in every single situation.

Proverbs are designed to be read slowly and thought about throughout the day. We shouldn’t race through them or handle them carelessly. Proverbs 26:9 says, “Like a thornbush in a drunkard’s hand is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.” Just think about what happens when a drunk individual grabs a bunch of thorns – he or she will get hurt. Likewise, we must avoid just grabbing a proverb that we like without using care and discernment, throwing it around like a magic potion. They’re designed to be studied, memorized, meditated upon, and practiced.

The purpose of the Book of Proverbs is found in 1:2-6. This is the longest title of any Old Testament book: “For attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young-- let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance--for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.” Proverbs was written so that you and I can become wise people who will be more disciplined, and able to do what is right. In other words, the aim of the book is to help us acquire and apply God’s wisdom to the decisions and activities of daily life; and in the process, our character will change.

Proverbs is a graduate course in the art of living. It’s not enough simply to be educated and have knowledge, as important as education is. We also need wisdom, which is the ability to use the knowledge that we have. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for “wise” is used to describe people who are adept at working with their hands. Those who have wisdom have the ability to face life honestly and to live it so that God’s purposes are fulfilled in their lives. Wisdom is not theoretical but practical. A wise person does not just say wise words, he or she is skillful at living life to its fullest.

Here are some of the life skills presented in Proverbs: Training for parents, purity principles, money management, relationship building, the power of words, the honour of humility, the dangers of strong drink, decision-making, the importance of hard work, peace-making principles and how to care for the poor.

If you’re not able to be in church on Sunday over the summer then I would encourage you to listen to the sline. I believe each chapter in Proverbs has many things to bless and encourage us all.

Wednesday 24th of July 2019

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