Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Dark Sayings

Unlocking the mysteries of the book of Proverbs

Proverbs 1:2-6

To know wisdom and instruction,
To perceive the words of understanding,

To receive the instruction of wisdom,
Justice, judgment, and equity;

To give prudence to the simple,
To the young man knowledge and discretion—

A wise man will hear and increase learning,
And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,

To understand a proverb and an enigma,
The words of the wise and their riddles. 


My mother raised two boys, and at times, she had to resort to some creative parenting. Mom was godly and fair-minded in her dealings with her two half-wild farm boys, and sought to raise us according to the Word as best she could. When she was not telling us that we were the handsomest boys in school, she was busy stamping out the emotional wildfires of youthful rebellion in her household.

Knowing that her boys were accomplished sinners and products of the Fall, Mom deployed the normal modes of crushing these disobedient or disrespectful insurgencies against authority. The loss of TV privileges particularly stung–given that this was in the day before “TiVo” or “livestream.” To miss a weekly episode of the “Dukes of Hazzard” felt as if life (as one knew it) would surely come to an end.

For sterner stuff, Mom would sometimes seek a scriptural solution. Not only did she not “spare the rod and spoil the child” (as inspired by Proverbs 13:24), Mom sometimes took us directly to the source. When a particularly bone-headed decision merited something beyond a bar of soap for a defiant mouth or chores to pay for damaged property, Mom would have us copy a chapter of the book of Proverbs.

The book of Proverbs is particularly suited to the task of teaching young people. It is filled with examples of godly wisdom and instruction. Proverbs is structured in the form of simple-to-digest poetic sayings that are both descriptive and informative. Plus, the book is divided into 31 chapters–one for any or each day of a normal calendar month. Thus, if so desired, a month of youthful indiscretion could be met with a month of wise instruction–directly from the Good Book.

Some proverbs I copied struck a nerve:

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
Loving favor rather than silver and gold.–Proverbs 22:1 

Other proverbs appealed to my sense of humor: 

16 Have you found honey?
Eat only as much as you need,
Lest you be filled with it and vomit.–Proverbs 25:16

How successful was this prison of proverbial plagiarism in molding me from a juvenile delinquent into the wise adult that I am today? I will leave that for others to decide–but whatever you do, please do not ask my wife. 

Mom was on to one thing, however. The book of Proverbs was written and compiled in part to teach and instruct young people in the pursuit of wisdom. In this, you will find not only a purpose of the book but also a key in how to read and study the book of Proverbs. 

Tim Keller aptly points out that Proverbs is useful for pedagogy, as poetry and is a collection of puzzles–in which are held the mysteries of God and His wisdom.

Solomon asked for and received the gift of wisdom from God (I Kings 3:4-10) and quickly began to rule the kingdom with “judgement, justice and equity.” Part of the vision of his administration was to teach the young in pursuit of the wisdom for Godly living:

To know wisdom and instruction,
To perceive the words of understanding,–Proverbs 1:2

Verses 1-6 are part of the “preamble” to the book of Proverbs and show wise living to be both a necessary and a godly pursuit in life., When you read Proverbs, you will, As Sinclair Ferguson suggests, “approach the whole book as an education and how to live the Christian life.”

While each proverb may stand alone in meaning, you will only receive the true impact of this incredible scriptural resource if you consider it as a whole–almost like a course of curriculum. Just as if you pluck one theorem out of a math book to apply to a situation, you may miss both the foundation of the mathematical principal and the full scope of how it all applies to future challenges.

In studying, praying, and seeking God’s wisdom in Proverbs you will, as Solomon did, uncover the keys:

To receive the instruction of wisdom,
Justice, judgment, and equity;–Proverbs 1:3

Are not each of these, “justice, judgment and equity” what the people of this world seem to most desire of their leaders–and each other. Proverbs is a storehouse of the very thing that this world desires but always falls of finding. Most people seem to live the opposite of what God provides to those who seek His wisdom:

To give prudence to the simple,
To the young man knowledge and discretion—Proverbs 1:4

Do you see the unique characteristic of the structure of these proverbs? While many in the book vary in length and style, most are written in the form of poetry: 

A wise man will hear and increase learning,

And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel,–Proverbs 1:5

The passage above forms a small, two-lined poem that is both helpful to memorization and reinforces the thought in your mind. To read Proverbs is to read poetry, as Tim Keller says:

Perhaps the most fundamental mark of Hebrew poetry is parallelism. Two phrases, clauses or sentences are brought together in close connection with each other. The second may magnify and extend the thought of the first, or instead it may offer a counterpoint that limits and softens the idea.–Timothy Keller, “Gods Wisdom for Navigating Life”

This poetic form helps the proverb attach itself to the mind. “The value of a proverb,” Al Mohler says, “is that it attacks the mind with more force and vigor than a statement.”

No matter what style of learning is best suited to you, the book of Proverbs is designed for your understanding. 

A third way of understanding the proverbs are to see them as a series of “holy puzzles.” A proverb encapsulates the mystery and wonder of an infinite God as He reveals Himself  and His eternal secrets to you:

To understand a proverb and an enigma,
The words of the wise and their riddles.–Proverbs 1:6

Wisdom can often feel elusive. You struggle to make the best choices in life, to understand what to do when your child comes to you in crisis, what business decisions to make, or when your marriage goes off the rails. Pursuing God’s wisdom in Proverbs may not give you every answer you need, but it can direct you how to approach life to find them–and to seek Him in your hour of need.

But there is another element where Proverbs contains a treasure house of wisdom of God’s own mysteries. In this, a proverb is a puzzle to be unlocked and His wisdom can be revealed.

God shows Himself to us in scripture ,and we can know and walk with Him in life, and yet, there is always an element of mystery to Him. Proverbs can thus relate to the hidden and mysterious nature of God’s glory

Second century scholar, Origen of Alexandria comments on the proverbs as a source of God’s “dark sayings:” 

“Darkness, storm clouds and thunderstorms are said to surround God in Exodus, and in Psalm 17 it says, God “made darkness His hiding place, His tent around Him, dark water in the clouds of the air…” But if someone takes offense at such interpretations, let him be persuaded both from the dark sayings and the dark, hidden treasures given to Christ by God.”–Origen (Col. 2:3) - Ancient Commentary

Is God still mysterious to you? Do thoughts of Him fill you with wonder, or is He tamed in your mind as someone you feel you fully understand? 

The “dark sayings” of God’s mysteries are repellant to the modern mind. You are supposed to know everything–as anyone on the internet will tell you that they do.

A culture raised on “Scooby Doo”(where all mysteries are solved in 30 minutes and the culprit is always the old prospector) assumes that if Google does not have the answer to something in life, then science, the government, or your group of friends on Facebook will.  

As the world influences you to rely on its knowledge, this becomes a form of “practical materialism” as a pastor friend of mine has recently written. You begin to pick and choose the things you take to Him in prayer, since you can take care of the rest.

When you study Proverbs, you become aware of the immense knowledge and power of God and His understanding of the people and life He has created and ordained. As you diligently work to study the deep, dark sayings of His mysteries, you will plumb the depths to know His Love and rely on Him. 

The mysteries of God found in Proverbs point you to the ultimate man of mystery, Jesus Christ. In this way Proverbs proves its place in redemptive history as a piece of the whole of scripture.  

The wisdom of Jesus from the time He was a boy astonished the priests on the temple and as adult Jesus spoke in parables and proverbs to His disciples. He did this not to confuse them–though they often were–but to reveal the will of the Father to them in due time:

25 “These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; but the time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father.–John 16:25

To this end, Jesus equipped them and he now equips you:

15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.–Luke 21:15

The Proverbs, like the truth of Christ, will arm you for the challenges of this life and equip you to do battle against what Aquinas called “the great adversaries of our souls:” the world, the flesh and the devil.

Whether you are seeking to study a chapter of Proverbs a day for a month or studying the book to uncover and compare themes of wisdom, foolishness and Godly fear, you will soon realize the incredible gift of wisdom that God has given through His spirit. 

Little by little–or maybe in a rush as Proverbs hits the reality of something in your life–you will feel the joy of Walter Chalmers Smith’s classic hymn, Immortal, Invisible, God only Wise:

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great Name we praise.



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.

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