Proverbs have been a refuge for many believers because of their relation to daily life or because of observations that are common and viewed as helpful. It is often forgotten that Solomon’s wisdom was targeted at ruling the Iraelite nation and it was what he asked for. Much of dismay at what seems like incorrigible malicious behaviour may be attributed to misapplication of commands and observations. People doing business with or for the state are not the same as individuals walking with God.
What’s in a proverb
There are 139 commands in the Book of Proverbs and we are not surprised to find that the terms of the Covenant are not highly featured. After all Solomon seems to have been oblivious to the first stipulation of the Covenant. Proverbs are for rulers and no one gets life by being in charge of anything. If Genesis has anything to say about the subject, it is that dominion by smarts kills.
The sayings in the Proverbs are observations of human life, warnings about careless living, and declarations about the ruler’s relationship with God. The proverbs reflect the life of someone in charge. A person in possession of proverbs is expected to rule successfully. If anything seeps in from the covenant it is family life; parents and children in harmony and the dangers of prostitution.
Rule by proverb or power?
Solomon’s exorbitant wealth is no token of divine approval and his rule over Israel mirrors with precision the rule of Adam over the world: disastrous. It is raw power that Adam and Eve shared as dominars of sky land and sea.
Listen to your mom and dad
The message of Messiah’s mighty messenger addresses the quality of the relationship between parents and children. Every generation has an obligation to work on dancing to what is appropriate for parents and children. This can only happen when the parties are willing and courageous to repent of their futile ways. Parents can take little pleasure in seeing only that their children simply follow their lead. Children can take little pleasure only in rebelling against their parents’ simply lead. To fail this test is to court a curse.
And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
All that wisdom: poof
Is it a coincidence that the books at the center of Hebrew wisdom are often lacking in the grand themes of divine excellence? Wisdom, righteousness and greatness seem locked up in the Law, but the winds have never found the sails. Like the choice offerings in the sanctuary, the great wisdom has vanished in a flash.
And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day? Deuteronomy 4:8
Wisdom that comes and goes
The nations of the world were impressed with Israel’s holy things, but the covenant lay in ruins from Moses to John the Baptist. Wisdom and understanding were supposed to be manifested in performance
… do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. Deuteronomy 4:6b
What about that great law lends itself to people everywhere? Mercy, justice, and faithfulness appear as God’s priorities in every age.
- Job gets dragged through the wringer of adversity to reveal, apart from the Law, that people cannot save themselves. He leaps on and rejoices in the coming resurrection, God’s covering righteousness, and a philanthropic lifestyle.
- David is all over those things that are both mysterious and material to the salvation of all people. His vision is not of Moses law as primary. It is a king who saves and rules by extreme righteousness
- Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, says nothing about salvation, endurance, worship, idolatry, faith, and forgiveness.
Slinging maxims and proverbs is no way to build a spiritual life
But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple. Matthew 12:6
The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here. Matthew 12:42