1 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel:
2 To know wisdom and instruction,
To perceive the words of understanding,
3 To receive the instruction of wisdom,
Justice, judgment, and equity;
4 To give prudence to the simple,
To the young man knowledge and discretion—
5 A wise man will hear and increase learning,
And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,
6 To understand a proverb and an enigma,
The words of the wise and their riddles.
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
But fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Here are some good words to live by:
Life is hard,
It's even harder if you’re stupid
This pithy phrase has often been attributed to the actor John Wayne and sometimes accompanies a salty-looking picture of “The Duke,” grim-faced and wearing his ten-gallon hat.
John Wayne did not actually say these words but they seem like something he would have said. The rough-and-tumble world of his Wild West movies were a place where trouble abounded and wisdom seemed in short supply–not unlike the world today.
What words do you live by? It is common to navigate through life relying on certain truisms or sayings that you have picked up over the years. Maybe you recall familiar sayings of a parent or grandparent that were often repeated to you as you grew up. Nuggets of truth can be found in phrases like:
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
Or how about:
“A penny saved is a penny earned.”
Pre-packaged advice like this can sometimes feel as if it is written into your DNA and may even find yourself repeating them to your friends and family as you share wisdom.
Perhaps you have other maxims such as, “buy low; sell high” or “never look a gift horse in the mouth” to help you with your financial decisions.
These phrases often have their roots in ancient history, and the last one is thought to have originated in old England. A horse’s teeth change and grow over time so when a buyer purchases a new steed it is best to inspect the animals mouth. In this case, if one feels the need to inspect the dentures of a gifted or free horse, then foolishness is implied–as well as likely insult to the giver!
“Bite” sized wisdom found in phrases such as these become entwined into the cultures of the world and can become extremely popular. One historic figure who saw the value of useful maxims such as these was Benjamin Franklin. This political polymath, printer and patriot not only saw the value of passing such knowledge to the growing American Colonies he also saw an opportunity to make money.
In 1732, Franklin began printing and publishing Poor Richard’s Almanack, a yearly periodical filled with advice, news, practical hints, puzzles and a hundreds of witty, wise sayings. Some of them were stunningly insightful:
“Love your Enemies, for they tell you your Faults.”
–Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1756
Here is a warning about keeping good company:
“He that lies down with Dogs, shall rise up with fleas.”
–Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1733
A phase you may have used to motivate yourself at the gym:
“No gains without pains.”
–Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1745
This phrase is one to inspire you to a better life (or describe the career of a milkman):
"Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
–Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1758
Catchy sayings and wise expressions are useful for life but for the believer there is no greater source of knowledge and wisdom than the holy scripture. The Bible is the source of wisdom for daily life in that it is the revealed word of the Father. The Christian lives by the words found in Paul’s second letter to Timothy:
16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.–II Timothy 3:16-17
One such God-inspired portion of the Bible is the book of Proverbs. Within its pages you will find a “wellspring of wisdom” (Proverbs 18:4) and a the “right path” to follow (Proverbs 4:11).
The book of Proverbs is ancient wisdom literature and one of the most unique portions of Holy Scripture. It does not contain long prophetic soliloquies, nor are there are parables, stories, history or law.
Instead, Proverbs is a book of poetry, not unlike the Psalms in some ways–but a different art form altogether. This poetry often comprises of parallel couplets with colorful imagery and expressing often contrary, yet complimentary ideas. The proverbs in the Bible are completely unique.
Many of the maxims and cliches mentioned above find their roots in the Book of Proverbs but where they only touch the surface, Proverbs digs deep into your heart.
Tim Keller describes Proverbs as:
…not a set of “simple steps to a happy life” for quick consumption. A proverb is a poetic art form that instills wisdom as you wrestle with it.–Tim Keller, “God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life
A proverb, Keller Says, is “like a piece of hard candy.” It is not to be “crunched” but savored to release all of the goodness and flavor it contains. In other words, the book of proverbs is not meant to be read or used as an indexed collection of wise sayings but a deep dive in search of the wisdom of God.
Instead of hard candy, I prefer to think of Proverbs as like that of a plate of good southern barbecue. Barbecue is meant to be savored and enjoyed-whether it is dry-rub ribs from downtown Memphis, smoked slices of juicy Texas brisket or Carolina pulled pork. Each bite takes me back to summer days, of church barbecues in the distant past–and the rich medley of flavors of wood smoke, spices and savory meat.
During this study of the book of Proverbs we will explore the nature of the book, dive into the depths of wisdom and consider plainly the effects of foolishness (a subject in which I seem to be quite an expert).
More importantly, you will come to see how Proverbs enriches your life as a believer and points you to Jesus Christ–who became the true embodiment of wisdom itself:
30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—I Corinthians 1:30
Life may indeed be hard but thanks be to God that He did not abandon you to the winds of this world–or even to the collected sayings of the wise and witty. Instead He has provided you with the source of wisdom in His holy word. In the book of Proverbs you will encounter more than poetry and wise sayings, you will glimpse the mind and heart of the holiness of God–and there your path will begin:
7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
But fools despise wisdom and instruction.–Proverbs 1:7
The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:
The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:
Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.