The book of Proverbs is, for the most part, the work of King Solomon, who reigned in Israel from 971 B.C. until 931 B.C. In his day, Solomon was world-renowned for his God-given great wisdom (1 Kings 3:12; 1 Kings 4:29- 34). You will notice throughout the book of Proverbs, the opposite of wisdom is not ignorance, but foolishness and wickedness. That is why throughout the book of Proverbs we find this contrast between the wise and the foolish, or the wise and the wicked. We are reminded time and time again in the pages of this book that if we are to be successful in life, we must follow the path of wisdom, and avoid the path of folly. I suppose we could say that the book of Proverbs is “The Book of Two Paths.” The question is, “Which path will you take?” Every day we have a choice either to live God’s way, or our way, to live wisely or to live foolishly. To sow to the Spirit or to sow to the flesh. The person who consistently acts upon Biblical truth will be able to successfully navigate his way through life’s difficulties. In fact, he will face less difficulties of his own making because he is making wiser choices. I can’t think of a better guide for wise living than the Book of Proverbs. It can help us recalibrate our spiritual compasses to true north, so that we can make wiser choices and stay on the path of wisdom.
Proverbs, like the gospel of John, is one of the few Biblical books which clearly spells out its purpose. Its two-fold purpose is stated in the opening verses of Proverbs 1: 1: “The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: 2 for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight…” Let’s look at these two purposes in greater depth.
Purpose #1: To develop skillfulness and discipline in holy living. The word “wisdom” translates from the Hebrew word “hokmah,” which basically means “skill.” For example, we find this word in Exodus 31:6, describing the skill of the craftsmen who worked in the tabernacle. In other words, in the book of Proverbs, “wisdom” signifies skillful living. The book of Proverbs was written to teach us how to live wisely, successfully, and skillfully in relation to God, to ourselves, and to others. Proverbs 1 tells us that along with wisdom, or “skill for living,” we need “discipline.” The Hebrew word is “musar” and it refers to the training of the moral nature. Godly character does not happen without effort, without discipline (1 Timothy 4:7). Godly character comes with a price tag, and that price is personal discipline. Unfortunately, a lot of Christians aren’t willing to pay that price. Personal discipline includes certain spiritual habits…the habit of worship, the habit of Bible study, the habit of prayer, the habit of giving, and the habit of fellowship. But there is a second purpose for which the book of Proverbs was written. Through our study and application of this book, God wants us to acquire moral discernment.
Purpose #2: To acquire moral discernment. The word translated “understanding” in the NIV text comes from a Hebrew word “habin,” which means “to distinguish between things.” In other words, Proverbs was written to strengthen our powers of discernment that we might be able to distinguish truth from error, and permanent values from temporal ones chosen for immediate gratification. A person lacking in moral discernment consistently finds himself in trouble. He makes one bad decision after another, usually in multiple dimensions of his life. And here is the scary thing. He almost never links his problems, his negative circumstances, with his own foolish choices. It is always someone else’s fault. The ability to discern good and evil is a critical component of spiritual maturity. That is why the author of Hebrews writes, “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice (or discipline) have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14). So if you wish to improve your powers of moral discrimination and learn to consistently make wise decisions, become a student of the book of Proverbs.
One who grasps and applies the truths in this book will have the discipline and moral insight necessary to navigate successfully through life’s storms.
Application / Challenge