The Purposes of the Proverbs
As a kid, I remember the first time I played the board game called “Life.” As you recall, the object of the game is to make it to retirement with the most amount of money by traveling the “path of life” in your tiny car. Happiness is achieved by successfully making decisions, getting married (which when I was a young boy was met with only one response – “YUCK”!), to have kids (double “YUCK, YUCK”), to buy a house, picking a career, to invest in stock or real estate, and the modern version even has an option to get a pet, making your tiny car, quite crowded. All of this leads up to your eventual retirement where you pay your debts, total up how much money you have left over, and whoever has the most amount of money is the winner.
Does that sound at all familiar to you? Here in the west, in many ways, the game of life represents the reality of life where people spend their life making decisions all in the pursuit of material wealth, achievement, success, and temporal pleasure. In contrast, the Bible gives us a radically different measure of success. Success is found in living wisely in the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 9:10-11 states, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by me your days will be multiplied, and years of life will be added to you.” This passage, along with Proverbs 1:7, provides a prominent theme for the book of Proverbs: the fear of the Lord leads to divine wisdom for righteous living. This is reiterated by Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes. After spending years using his God-given wisdom to find meaning, success, and happiness in all dimensions of this earthly, temporal life, Solomon concludes with these wise words from Ecclesiastes 12:13-14: “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.”
Do you want true joy on earth and in heaven? Fear God, trust in the unchanging authority of His Word, and follow God’s path of life. God will hold us all accountable. Unbelievers will stand before the Great White Throne of judgment and pay the price of their sin and believers will stand before Christ at the Bema Seat judgment where they will be rewarded for the good they did to the glory of God. The path we choose and the life we live matters, both in this life and the life to come.
The book of Proverbs shows us how we can have success in every aspect of life.
• Do you want to have a joyful and fruitful marriage?
• Do you want to raise up your children in a godly way?
• Do you want to prosper in your career?
• Do you want to have relationships with others that are fulfilling and godly?
• Do you want to learn how to think about and use money well so money and the possessions it buys don’t enslave you?
• Do you want to learn how to resolve conflict biblically and how to speak to others with grace and wisdom?
If so, study the Proverbs and learn to live by them.
In today’s world when seduction, domestic conflict, financial mismanagement, substance abuse, and dishonesty seem to be behavioral and cultural norms, we must instead allow the Spirit of God to transform us with truths from biblical wisdom. If you want to learn how to live rightly, God’s way, then wisely apply the knowledge of God’s Word. And the only way to acquire this knowledge and ability to wisely apply it is with a right relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ, so that every decision in this life is so oriented to God that every choice always strives to please Him.
Through the Proverbs, we can learn how to reject wrong and harmful behavior. We can learn how to choose paths of thinking, behavior, and speech that please God and ultimately bring happiness from the resulting way of life that arises from faith in God (i.e. both godly character from Prov. 1: 2a, 3-5 and biblical thinking from Prov. 1:2b, 6).
The Proverbs declare and promote the truths of God’s wisdom, teaching us how to think biblically. They also teach us how to live a wise life that WILL be pleasing to the Lord and spiritually satisfying to oneself. So, they are both a doorway and a pathway. It is a new beginning from the moment one repents of their sin, receives Christ, and chooses to follow Him; and it is a pathway that never ends as our ambition is to always please the Lord (2 Cor. 5:9). As Dr. Bruce Waltke once stated in a sermon he preached at Believer’s Chapel: “The world says ‘Live and Learn.’ God is saying ‘Learn and Live.’”
What’s more, the Proverbs are not merely pithy, memorable statements of truth; they help us to see something about our lives before we actually step out into the reality of life. Dr. Raymond Ortlund provides a beautiful illustration of how we can learn and live by applying God’s truth for daily living. “Think of a proverb this way. When the Wright brothers flew their airplane for the first time in 1903, they knew it would take off. How did they know? They had built a wind tunnel where they tested different wing designs before they risked their necks in actual flight. That is what proverbs are for. We can explore a real-life situation within the virtual reality of a proverb. We can know in advance what is going to fly and what is going to crash. Biblical wisdom tells us what life is really like.” (Proverbs: Wisdom that Works, 26)
While we are not playing the game of life, we are living the reality of life, but thankfully we have a wise and loving God who provided us the means through Christ and the Word to successfully navigate the twists and turns that we so often face. I pray that you and I will commit to read, study, and learn to live by the divine wisdom found in the book of Proverbs.