Thursday, August 06, 2009

The School of Wisdom (Proverbs 1:1-7)

We're preaching Proverbs at Frontiers Church Exeter from September til Mid-February. I'm opening the series, these are my initial notes.

Proverbs is a chewy book, it’s not always straight forward – mostly it’s written in pithy phrases that tend to come in pairs that parallel one another as in v2: to know wisdom… to understand words… saying the same thing twice in different words. At times its even contradictory – in chapter 26 we hear that it’s wise to answer a fool and in the next verse it’s wise not to. Is Solomon an idiot? No he knows, wisdom isn’t tick-boxes, it’s about an approach to life and situations. It’s a 3000 year old book but as its writer says elsewhere, there is nothing new under the sun. Solomon writes to a world where people are born and learn, work and marry, sleep and buy, eat and and die – much like today.

Moses has five books, The Law. David has five books of Psalms, and here are Solomon’s five books of Proverbs. We’ll follow the ancient pattern of introducing a letter, which has been adopted by email today. If you want some scaffolding it’s FROM, TO, SUBJECT.

FROM Solomon, about Jesus.
He is the third king of Israel, the last king of the whole nation. Moreover, “son of David” is a title that recalls God’s promise in 2 Samuel 7that King David’s son would be God’s son and king forever. A title given to Jesus in Matthew 1:1. The True Son of David is Jesus, and Solomon shows him to us. We’ll see Jesus all over this book. Four key angles:
1. He’s the true son of the king. He is disciplined by his father. See chapter 3.
2. He’s the son advised by his father about work. The true son who will always do the work of his father, chiefly in going to the cross to save and bring us to God. This theme repeats on a number of occasions. See chapter 6 and repeatedly between chapters 10-30.
3. He’s the son being taught by his father who to marry. A choice between two women, the adulteress Lady Folly and the life-giving Lady Wisdom. And we’ll see him in the final chapter gaining his bride. He is not like Adam who with his wife was a fool – pursuing God’s wisdom by man’s ways. By contrast, he’s the son who marries a spotless and beautiful wife. The wife cleansed by his blood, the fruitful church. See this in chapters 5-7 and also 31.
4. He is personified by Lady Wisdom. In the romance of Proverbs we’ll see Jesus through the son and through his bride. Don’t be freaked out by seeing him portrayed as a woman, he’s not – but we see him in her, especially in chapter 8 where he is with his father at creation, as portrayed by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel.
TO three kinds of people:
1. The simple (v4) – those who know that they don’t know and want to know will grow from this book.
2. The wise (v5) – those who have wisdom already will increase from this book. Those who love the gospel of Jesus can never get enough of his company and will be able to delve deeper into the riches of his the one who is wisdom.
3. The fool (v7) – those who hate wisdom will hate this book. They are those who want to gain wisdom by their own way like Adam and Eve in Eden. Being a fool is a moral issue. It’s not intellect that enables someone to become wise, it’s about the heart.

Chapters 1-9 are built around a father teaching his son who to marry and how to work – we’ll be there until December. In December and January we’ll be in chapters 10-29 gathering wise sayings that unpack more of the character of wisdom. And then we’ll conclude in February in chapters 30-31 draw us back together to behold the one who comes from heaven and gives himself for his bride.

This is a book about the LORD, who is revealed by the Father through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit.. Of all books in the Bible it would be easiest to read Proverbs as a human book, full as it is of gritty earthly day to day practicalities. We must take that application along the way but above all, in the drama of this book we are to see the LORD. Adam and Eve grasped for wisdom in their own strength but it comes as a gift from God – a gift given to those who seeing the LORD respond in fear. Those who are wise already have a taste for the LORD and should eat voraciously from him. Those who are simple, seeing the LORD have a hunger to grow. These are humble and wise responses to the LORD. These are to fear the LORD – to be in right awe of him. This is what the book is for. It’s goal is wisdom. Do not find yourself cut down by it – being a fool and despising its content, despising the LORD. Wisdom does not come from school or from Wikipedia, it comes from a profound, sustained encounter with the LORD, developing a life-long posture of awe towards him.