I don’t know about you, but, I have always loved the Proverbs – they contain so many wonderful pithy one liners that make so much every day common sense (and sometimes can be quite amusing!)
Some of my favourites are:-
Pride goes before a fall, but, humility goes before honour!
Bread gained by deceit is sweet, but, afterwards the mouth will be full of gravel!
The human mind plans the ways, but, the Lord directs the steps.
A cheerful heart is good medicine but a downcast spirit dries up the bones!
Better to meet a she-bear robbed of its cubs, than to confront a fool immersed in folly!
Charm is deceitful & beauty is vain, but, those who fear the Lord are to be praised!
A continual dripping on a rainy day & a contentious spouse, are alike!
I remember a friend telling me about sitting next to a very successful businessman on a plane journey. They did not talk about religion, but, when my friend asked him what the recipe was for his success, he said, “The Book of Proverbs”! This seems to echo the life of the main author of this book, Solomon, who achieved so much through wisdom!
According to my bible commentary Proverbs is not about mysterious unseen matters like much of the Bible, but, ‘on-earth-as-it-is-inheaven, everyday living’, the art of living skilfully, whatever circumstances. It has virtually nothing to do with knowledge or qualifications, so it is great leveller! It is a way of thinking and responding to God in very practical ways that help make us effective and give us fulfilled lives.
Let me give you a few more maxims from Proverbs that illustrate this:-
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Better a little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure and trouble with it!
Without counsel plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed!
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing a personal opinion! (How many people do you know like this?! Remember the Brexit debate?!)
Let another praise you and not your own mouth!
The fear of the Lord is life indeed; filled with it, one rests secure!
We may not achieve success as measured by money or fame like Solomon, but, Proverbs says if we follow its guidance we have the key ingredients to a happy life, a useful life and most importantly a life lived in relationship with God, without fear or judgement.
So what other gems can we find in Proverbs!
Well the first surprise for those who regard The Bible as sexist, is that this vital ingredient to life, wisdom, is portrayed as a woman. The woman’s appeal to us illustrates the central message of Proverbs – that the origin, existence and purpose of true wisdom are only properly framed in relationship with God, the maker of Heaven and Earth. She tells us that wisdom was present when God created the world and established it as a coherent system. When we follow this wisdom, we participate in the rationality at the heart of all things. This is why the book uses the word ‘fool’ a lot for those who do not follow this wisdom.
Another inspirational message the woman gives is that this wisdom was ‘God’s delight’. So we delight Him by following it – that is powerful – to think we can delight God!
In summary I leave you with 3 thoughts on Proverbs:-
1. God’s wisdom is available to all who follow him and doesn’t depend on knowledge and qualifications.
2. The advice in Proverbs is designed to make us effective and happy in our daily lives on Earth.
3. Following Proverbs means we will delight God!
*Based on the ‘Guided Meditation’ at Evening Prayer 19th February 2017.