In July of 1967 the Beatles released a song titled “All You Need Is Love.”
That is a sweet sentiment, and no one would deny the reality of the need for love or that there is every, in this old world, enough love, but to say that is “all we need” is a bit naive to say the least.
When we look at the world around us and all the peoples lives that surround us, I think there could be a very strong argument that what the world really needs right now is actual “Wisdom.”
I’m not talking about worldly wisdom but divine wisdom that only comes from up above (James 3:15-17).
The truth is there is a lot of suffering going on in this world.
There are many that live in war-torn parts of the world.
There are many that have been displaced from their homes because of fighting, terrorism, famine, storms, and the like.
Those don’t count the millions that suffer from diseases, injuries, and disabilities of no fault of their own.
Simply put, there’s a lot of suffering that people go through.
However, most of the sufferings people go through in this life are based on personal choices.
They are based on self-inflicting choices.
In fact, the number one reason for death for adults under the age of 50 is drug use.
Millions of people in and out of the church are suffering because of the poor choices they have made in their lives.
And unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be getting better but worse.
Now, more than any other time in my life I see the need for people to seek the wisdom that comes from above.
And there is no greater source of practical and spiritual wisdom than from the book of Proverbs.
With that in mind let’s examine our “Introductory Lesson On Proverbs.”
Avoiding Bad Endings
The Jews, like us today, liked to categorize things like the books of the bible.
The Books of the Law (Exodus-Deuteronomy)
The Kings (1 & 2 Kings and Chronicles)
Wisdom Literature (Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes).
Within the Wisdom Literature category…
Job deals with how to handle life during sudden chaos.
Ecclesiastes deals with how to handle the unpredictability of life.
Proverbs acts as a manual on living the wise life.
Over and over the basic theme of Proverbs is “Don’t Make Dumb Choices.”
Don’t choose a path that doesn’t lead to where you want to go.
There are plenty of options in life that lead to fame and fortune that are momentary, but they won’t take us where we necessarily want to go.
This is why the book of Proverbs is constantly saying “if you want to have a happy ending don’t be dumb or foolish about the choices you make.”
As I said a moment ago, the book of Proverbs is a manual for wise daily living.
Thus, the book provides…
Proverbs For Everyday Life
We All Grew Up With Proverbs.
Everyone of us grew up hearing and learning from various proverbs throughout our lives.
My Papa had a million of them and my mom passed many of those on to me, and I have striven to pass those on as well, but why?
Because they teach basic lessons in easy to understand ways.
Many of you have heard proverbs, though you might not have known they were such, as…
“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
“Waste not, want not.”
“A penny saved is a penny earned.”
“Wish in one hand and spit in the other, and see which one gets full first.”
I’m sure you can think of many more.
Hearing this though makes us beg the question, what is a proverb exactly?
Many people have “defined” what a proverb is throughout time.
Meguel Cervantes of Don Quixote defined it as “Short sentences drown from long experience.”
Another stated, “A proverb has three qualities: shortness, sense, and salt.”
The simplest definition and most accurate is a proverb is “A short sentence of wisdom.”
Though the Old Testament book of Proverbs is the most common place to find proverbs within scripture the reality is we find them throughout the bible.
Ben-hadad, the king of Syria, boasted how easily he would conquer Israel.
King Ahab responded in 1 Kings 20:11…
In other words, “don’t count your chickens before they hatch.”
When Jesus spoke of the obviousness of his eventual return, he said in Luke 17:37…
The idea being that the signs of Rome’s invasion will be clearly seen.
Jesus even speaks of an old proverb when talking to the people in Nazareth during his ministry.
Luke 4:23 (ESV)
23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘ “Physician, heal yourself…”
Proverbs have been found in just about every culture throughout time, but why?
Because they are a useful way of imparting and remembering the wisdom of a community.
A Closer Look
A Collection Of Collections.
The book of Proverbs is indeed a collection of collections.
It contains more than 500 wise saying, many of them one-liners, but some being more expansive.
We see this in a somewhat simple outline.
Chapters 1-9: The Value Of Wisdom
Chapters 10-29: Wise Life Choices
Chapters 30-31: Story Proverbs
This section combines many proverbs to “tell a story” of wisdom.
This collection of collections isn’t a single source but that of several different sources.
Authors Of Proverbs
God is obviously the author of this collection but Solomon is the one he used the most to either collect them or write them himself.
Proverbs 10:1 (ESV)
1 The proverbs of Solomon…
Concerning Solomon we read in 1 Kings 4:29-34…
However, there were other authors as well and some of the proverbs accredited to Solomon where ones he simply collected.
There are the “words of the wise” where were sages from Israel whose specific task was to retain and pass on the collective wisdom of the Hebrew community.
Proverbs 22:17 (ESV)
17 Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge
A specific sage was Agur son of Jaken who was known enough to have his specific name mentioned.
Proverbs 30:1 (ESV)
1 The words of Agur son of Jakeh.
Also, of course, King Lemuel.
Though we likely will never know the original earthly author of each and everyone of them we can know God specifically had these authors collection put together into the greatest collection of proverbs ever assembled
We can’t go wrong studying the book of Proverbs.
Lastly, I want us to understand what proverbs “are not.”
Primarily Theological In Nature.
By that I mean you shouldn’t go to this book seeking such themes as “sin and redemption, God’s grace, the coming Messiah, or the nature of God.”
The book isn’t designed to discuss those things but rather…
Making wise everyday choices about what to do when it comes to family
Or the hazards of risky behavior
What a man should look for in a wife