Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Reading Proverbs

When it comes to reading the book of Proverbs there are some clues that will help you.
Clue #1: Common sense is required. We all know the modern adage, “Look before you leap.” What if you leap once with out looking and do not get hurt? Does that mean this modern day proverb is not true? This saying is useful for indicating what is generally true. Each proverb is an individually packed observable truth.
Clue #2: They are always ultimately true. Look at Prv 16:7, "When a man's ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him." But what about Jesus? His enemies were hardly at peace with Him. We know that ultimately His enemies will be brought down.
Clue #3: They are normally true now. The purpose of a proverb is not to exhaust a topic but to teach a lesson in a way that is memorable. “Look before you leap” puts a truth in your mind that is normally true. Again, using Prv 16:7, we learn that if we seek to please the Lord, He normally will make us be at peace with even people we don’t get along with. Yet, He still uses our enemies to discipline us and refine us.
Clue #4: They employ poetic imagery. Look at Prv 16:17, "The highway of the upright avoids evil; the one who guards his way protects his life." Of course this is not refering to a literal highway, it refers to how the righteous live their lives.
Clue #5: They are partial in themselves. Read Prv 17:8, "A bribe seems like a magic stone to its owner; wherever he turns, he succeeds." This sounds like a bribe is a good thing. But, Prv 17:23 condemns bribery. Verse 8 is a sardonic observation about real life. We cannot clip individual proverbs like coupons to be applied as we wish. Each proverb typically attempts to capture one basic idea.
Clue #6: They are sometimes obscure. Some proverbs will be obscure because of their time and cultural differences. For instance when you read Prv 25:28, "A man who does not control his temper is like a city whose wall is broken down." We don’t have walls anymore around our towns, so how do we apply this to our modern day? By using common sense we can deduce that a city with downed walls can be broken into, stormed, and taken over. Similarily a person with anger issues will lose friends, be ruined, and overwhelmed with despair.
Clue #7: As a whole, the proverbs are religious. It is a book about our lives before God. There are two people in Proverbs: the wise and fool. One will fear the Lord and trust Him and live. The other will disdain discipline and wisdom, trusting only in themselves, and their end will be disasterous. We know that "Wisdom" was with God in the beginning to set the foundations of our world and our existence and we can see from the 1 Corinthians chapter one that Jesus Christ is the wisdom of God.
I hope this helps a little. Thanks to Mark Dever's book The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made which helped me to put this outline together.

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