Proverbs 1:1 Sermon Wisdom from the Son of David, King of Israel (Rev. Erik Veerman)
Wisdom From the Son of David, King of Israel
As you know, we’re starting a new sermon series in the book of Proverbs. We’ll focus on Proverbs 1:1 this morning. But don’t worry, we won’t be going 1 verse at a time. If we did, it would take us about 18 years to finish.
Just one verse this morning because we’ll be considering its background and how Proverbs fits within Scripture as a whole. Proverbs 1 can be found on page 625 in the church Bibles.
I remind you that this book, these words, this verse is God’s perfect, inspired, authoritative Word.
Reading of Proverbs 1:1
This last Monday was my first day back after our summer vacation. It was an interesting day. I was summoned to the county courthouse for jury duty. As you know, that usually means you call the night before and either they say they don’t need you… or you show up and sit for an hour and are then released after various settlements.
Well, that didn’t happen this time. I was one of about 50 people interviewed as potential jurors for a criminal trial. At the end of the day, I was not selected as one of the jurors, but nonetheless went through the full process of selection.
We all sat in the courtroom with the judge, the prosecuting attorneys, the defense attorneys and the defendant, himself. They began by giving an overview of the trial and the charges. Then for 6 long hours we were asked question after question. Each one of us in front of all our peers. They wanted to know what we thought about justice, about the police, about guns, our views on sexual identity, and about the sex industry. I sat there overwhelmed at times by what was shared by other jurors… the hardships and difficult life situations that some of them have had to endure.
The reason we were peppered with all of these questions is because the trial involved murder, transgenderism, prostitution, and revenge.
Even though we were only given a glimpse of what happened, something was very apparent. Every single person involved in the trial, living and dead, had been caught up in a downward spiral of life choices – their own and others. They were caught up in layers of poor decisions and thoughts, of hatred and jealousy and revenge. To put it in the words of Proverbs - foolishness and wickedness and deceit that resulted in trouble and the snares of death. And there were eternal dimensions to this scandal. A life had been taken. The tangled web of folly and anger and prostitution resulted in a murder. Someone who could no longer hear the hope of Christ… or truth and rightness that is alone found in him.
I guess what I’m saying is that Proverbs became more real to me on Monday. Or, I should say, the importance of Proverbs. The reality and need for godly wisdom. The temporal and eternal value of pursuing what is good and right and true, but also the tragedy of choosing a path of foolishness and wickedness.
We have a lot to cover over these next few months. You probably have questions like “what is wisdom?” “Where do I begin to seek it?” “How should this wisdom be applied in life?” and “Will pursuing this wisdom always lead to peace and stability in this life?”
We’re going to get to those questions and many more as we go through Proverbs. Next week, we’ll spend more time defining wisdom, but in a nutshell, wisdom is having and exercising sound judgment. Wisdom is applying truth and knowledge in life.
This morning, as an introduction to Proverbs, I want us to consider three questions:
1. What is this book we call Proverbs?
2. How does Proverbs fit within the Scriptures as a whole?
3. Where do we find ultimate fulfillment in the Proverbs?
So, what is Proverbs? How does it fit within the Bible? Where do we find its fulfillment? Let’s take those one at a time.
1. What is this book we call Proverbs?
First, what is this book in the Bible that we call Proverbs? It’s a great question to start with.
Well, for one, the very title comes from the first verse. The proverbs of King Solomon.
A “proverb” (the word itself) is a brief saying that imparts some kind of insight for life… or some sort of ethical observation. A proverb is wisdom in a pithy and sometimes terse statement. Proverbs are usually constructed in a parallel form with two statements that relate. Sometimes the parallel presents a contrast, sometimes the parallel further explains or elaborates, or sometimes the parallel gives a reason or a result.
Let me give you some examples of well-known proverbs in the book:
•"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding." That’s Proverbs 3:5.
•Another one from Proverbs 10:12: "Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses."
•Proverbs 12:15 says, "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice."
•Here’s another that you’ve probably heard before: "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." That’s in 15:1
•Proverbs 16:18: "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."
•Or take this, Proverbs 22:6: "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it."
The book is full of proverbial statements like these that direct us in life… which includes day-to-day decisions… interacting with others…. They penetrate to our life choices and how we live. The proverbs present warnings on one hand and blessings on the other. We’re given world view principles to know and rich insights to live by. Some of the proverbs reveal the consequences of what we say and do.
In short, Proverbs direct us which path to choose. The path of life.
Kids, I want you to hear me. This book of the Bible is especially written to you. We’re going to see that as we work through Proverbs. It’s important because as you get older, you will –
(1) experience more and more the turmoil and sin in the world. You’ll need to be able to see and identify evil for what it is… as well as goodness and truth.
(2) kids, you will also be tempted more and more. Ungodly ideas and unholy pleasures will seek to trap you and pull you in. And you need to be on guard for those.
(3) And third, related to that, the older you get, the more and more life decisions you will make. Proverbs directs you to choose the path of life and godliness and not the path of the wicked and foolish.
So, I especially ask that you to pay attention as we work through this important book of the Bible.
Ok, as we read in the first verse, the primary human author of Proverbs is King Solomon. I say primary because other authors are mentioned, including Agur son of Jakeh. He wrote chapter 30. Chapter 31 is attributed to King Lemuel, who wrote down proverbs that he received from his mother. In chapter 25, we’re told that the proverbs listed are proverbs of Solomon compiled by King Hezekiah’s men. Hezekiah was one of the great kings of Judah.
But who was King Solomon? As we read, he was the son of King David. Solomon inherited the throne of Israel from his father, David. David, of course, is the most well know Kings of Israel. He defeated the mighty Goliath and through God, established Israel as the dominant force in the region.
Solomon’s mother was Bathsheba. King David not only committed adultery with Bathsheba, but also he had her husband put on the font lines of the battlefield where he was killed. It was Nathan the prophet who confronted David with his heinous sin. And David repented and grieved over what he had done.
As far as Solomon, the most distinguishing characteristic is that he was the wisest man in all the earth. Solomon prayed for wisdom and God granted that prayer. God gave Solomon his wisdom. And one of the things that Solomon wanted to do was impart that wisdom to the kingdom which God had appointed him to lead. Solomon wanted the wisdom that God had given him to be known all throughout Israel. In fact, Solomon wanted this wisdom to be known throughout all the earth. We’re told that the Queen of Sheba visited Jerusalem for the express purpose of seeing and hearing the wisdom of Solomon. And she was amazed.
All of that is relevant for our study of Proverbs. Why? Because God, through Solomon, imparts his wisdom. As we get further into the book, we’ll also consider his intended audience.
To summarize, the book of Proverbs is God’s wisdom for life. Written by King Solomon, God reveals through him, good and evil, folly and wisdom, that we may live faithfully and choose righteousness and life. That is the book of Proverbs.
2. How does Proverbs fit within the Scriptures as a whole?
That brings us to the next two questions. How does Proverbs fit within the Scriptures as a whole? And also, where do we find ultimate fulfillment in the Proverbs? Both of those are important considerations for our study.
I think you would agree, Proverbs is a unique book. It’s not historical narrative. It’s not a book of prophecy. It’s not a theological treatise on God or salvation like the letters in the New Testament. It’s different from the poetry of the Psalms which are meant to be prayed and sung.
The book of Proverbs is what we call wisdom literature. Other books in the same category include Job and Ecclesiastes. Sometimes we include Psalms and Song of Solomon in the list of wisdom books. Those two books are more in the subcategory of poetry.
So, Proverbs goes along with Ecclesiastes and Job. And each of them has a unique purpose and style and voice.
Proverbs could be accurately described as day-to-day principles for all of life. Proverbs are not promises. We’ll see how that plays out as we work through them.
The book of Proverbs is very different from the book of Ecclesiastes. Both were written by Solomon, but Ecclesiastes reveals the impact of sin and the fall on the world. It talks about the seeming vanity of what happens in the world. The righteous and the unrighteous all die. The wicked at times prosper. To use its phrase, vanity of vanities under the sun. Ecclesiastes reveals the brokenness of the world and all the vain results and pursuits in it. Ultimately Ecclesiastes points us to eternal matters, but it does so by expounding the struggles of this life.
As you can see, the wisdom of Ecclesiastes is very different from the proverbial wisdom of Proverbs. But both are needed. Both help us to navigate life. One on a day-to-day decision level and the other to help make sense of the world with all its pain, death, and seeming unjust occurrences.
That brings us to the book of Job. Job is wholly different. In the wisdom book of Job, we’re told the story of a man, Job, who endured untold pain and suffering. But it had nothing to do with his character – he was a godly man. In fact, we learn in Job that there is not a 1-1 correlation between what happens to us (outside our control) and whether our actions are God honoring or not.
Let me say that in another way. Seeking to please God in our lives does not guarantee we will experience physical health and earthly success in this in this life. Job was a righteous man, yet he experienced deep suffering. Now, to be sure, sin does have consequences in this life. That’s part of what the book of Proverbs addresses. Also, there are benefits in seeking knowledge and wisdom and pursuing righteousness and goodness in this life. That’s also part of what Proverbs teaches.
You see, we need all the wisdom literature in the Scriptures to help us understand and navigate life.
I’ve been reading a book by author Christopher Watkin. You likely haven’t hear his name before. Watkin is a professor down in Melbourne, Australia. His book is sort of a modern day version of Augustine’s City of God. In it, Watkins critiques the various worldly philosophies. But he does that by walking through the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. He has a whole chapter on the wisdom literature. I found it very helpful. Watkins makes the case that the multiple perspectives of wisdom literature in the Bible contribute to a beautiful conveyance of truth and wisdom. He writes, “the Bible refuses to make Proverbs the final truth of Ecclesiastes, or Ecclesiastes the framing narrative for Proverbs… We need to look through both lenses together to have a rich, rounded, and complex view of Biblical reality.” Later in that chapter Watkins adds that “the genius of the book of Job is that it finds a way of holding the radically different perspectives [of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes] together without blurring either of them.”
You see, we can’t study the book of Proverbs in a vacuum. As we work through its warnings and guidance, we’ll need to understand its message in the context of the other wisdom books, and the Scriptures as a whole from creation to fall to redemption to consummation in Christ. Doing so will enrich our study of Proverbs as we seek to discern its applicability and wisdom for us today.
3. Where do we find ultimate fulfillment in the Proverbs?
And that directly connects us to the third question. Where do we find ultimate fulfillment in the Proverbs?
This is a critical question. Just like we need to understand the wisdom of Proverbs within the broader category of Biblical wisdom, we also need to interpret Proverbs through God’s ultimate fulfillment of wisdom.
What I mean is that if we only study the instruction and warnings of Proverbs (and the related wisdom literature), we’ll come out of our study with a warped view of wisdom. Proverbs would become a series of moral and ethical pursuits without a purpose, without a goal, without any sense of its meaning beyond this life or any hope beyond the near-term benefits of the proverbs. And that would be tragic.
No, instead, we need to see and understand how Proverbs is fulfilled in Christ. Even more specifically, we need to see how the proverbs are fulfilled in the redemptive work of Christ.
That message is, in-part, right there in verse 1. Let me read it again. “The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel.” You see, Solomon, despite all of his wisdom and despite all the earthly glory of Israel’s kingship, was ultimately a shadow of a greater king. Solomon was the earthly son of David. But the prophets in the Old Testament promised that a greater son of David would come. A messiah, a savior would come who would be the ultimate fulfillment of the son of David. In David’s royal line, a king would come who would reign forever and bring eternal righteousness and wisdom and truth and peace.
Earlier, we read in Matthew 12 one of Jesus’ interaction with the Pharisees. By that point, they were enraged that Jesus claimed to be God. That he taught with authority.
And in response, Jesus spoke of their “evil and adulterous generation.” And he says a couple things that would further enrage them. First that Nineveh would rise up and condemn them. The Ninevites were a foreign people. So to the Pharisees, they were outside of God’s promise to Israel. You see, the Pharisees didn’t understand that God’s promises were for all nations and tribes and languages. Like you and me. For an outside nation to rise up and condemn them would have been appalling.
Similarly, Jesus next said, “The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it.” He was referring to the Queen of Sheba. Jesus continued, “for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold something greater than Solomon is here.”
Not only had the wisdom of Solomon been greatest in all the earth, but also Israel as an earthly kingdom had been at the height of its rule and reign. And Jesus was saying, a wisdom greater than the wisdom of Solomon is here. A kingship beyond the kingship of Solomon is here. David’s greater son has come. Jesus was saying, “I am he.”
In fact, the sad irony of Solomon was that he didn’t consistently apply the wisdom that God had given him. He fell prey to the temptations of the world. He fell prey to the sexual temptations that he warns us against in chapters 6 and 7. He failed to worship God according to God’s word and he began worshiping the foreign God’s of all of his foreign wives.
You see, he was only a shadow. Solomon was a shadow just like David with his own failures. He was a shadow like Moses with his failures. They all pointed to one greater than each of them. Jesus.
We can read Proverbs and know that the wisdom imparted is wisdom from above. It doesn’t ultimately emanate from a fallen man, Solomon. No, ultimately it is the wisdom of Christ.
The wisdom of Proverbs is wisdom from the true king of Israel, the promised Son of David.
Jesus is that wisdom. It’s through him that all wisdom comes. There is none greater. That’s why as we work our way through Proverbs, we will come back over and over to Christ. And mind you, we’ll do that in different ways.
Our assurance of pardon this morning was from 1 Corinthians. In it we read about the ultimate fulfillment of God’s wisdom. 1 Corinthians chapter 1 is the primary New Testament text about God’s wisdom fulfilled in Christ, and God’s wisdom accomplished through the cross. Today won’t be the only day we read those these verses.
Listen to these words from the pen of the apostle Paul:
1 Corinthians 1 starting in verse 22. “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
The cross of Christ, in all of its wonder and power and love displayed, has fulfilled the wisdom of God. You ask, how so? Because first, through the cross, God is glorified more than if the cross had never happened, and second, through the cross, we are raised up and redeemed. In the hidden mystery of God’s salvation both are accomplished. God is exalted more, and his people are saved for eternity.
This wisdom, fulfilled in the cross, came from the eternal and unending wisdom of God in Christ. All the wisdom from God emanates from him. A few verses later in 1 Corinthians, Paul writes this to the Christians in Corinth: “you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”
That wisdom is for you to have, and it comes through Jesus.
Last Monday as I sat in the county courtroom, several TVs were positioned throughout the room. And the whole time we sat there and answered questions, on each display was the State of Georgia seal. Can you guess what is written on one of the three pillars? Wisdom. Now, it didn’t say God’s wisdom. But what was impressed upon my heart was the need for all of us there to have the wisdom of God in Christ.
My hope and prayer is that the wisdom of God in Christ will be a pillar in your life and a pillar for our church. May we each pursue the wisdom of Proverbs, because it comes from the promised son of David, our true and eternal king, Jesus.