Proverbial Wisdom 1: Relying on God
The Book of Proverbs is great. There’s so much wisdom of God here. I recently re-read it because my church (C3) was doing a teaching series on it. What started as plans for a single blog-post of highlights actually grew in the writing into a mini-series of 4 blog-posts. That’s not all I could write – there may be a longer series in the future – but for now I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned from Proverbs. This mini-series will fill the gap after my Genesis series until my Job series is ready.
I’ve heard it said that Billy Graham used to read the Book of Proverbs every day, and a friend of mine confided that it’s his ambition to read it through at least once a month. That’s quite a commitment, and not one I think I could keep, not if I wanted to read any other parts of the Bible too. But Proverbs is undoubtedly good reading, and I wanted to share with you some of the things that God revealed to me as I read.
Partly this post has been inspired by my church C3’s latest teaching series, which focuses on Proverbs with the hashtag #Godtweets. The idea of God tweeting is not only a nod to the social-media-savvy latest generation of Christians but also an insight into the value of Proverbs. It’s not a book you have to read in one go, or even whole chapters at a time. You can dive in anywhere you want, confident that you won’t have missed some crucial plot-line.
Proverbs is ideal reading for time-poor people in this digital world where endless content is competing for your attention. You can read a little bit here and there and extract value. Whether it’s on the morning commute, last-minute before you go somewhere, just before bed or even on the loo, you can get a little daily wisdom from Proverbs. It’s not a substitute for proper engagement with the Word and I’d be the first to warn off reducing the Bible to sporadic pick n mix consumption, but there is value in this approach. Wherever you are, whatever season of life you’re in, no matter how little time you have, everyone can dip in and out of Proverbs and benefit from it.
While it’s true that each proverb in itself can work as a standalone – you don’t necessarily have to know what came before and what goes after – context is always important – how does that verse that grabbed your attention fit into the bigger picture? So what I’m going to share here are some of the themes I noted when reading through. Using the brilliant YouVersion app (check it out in Play store) I highlighted verses that jumped out to me then at the end went back and looked at what they had in common.
There was much to be learned about integrity (11:3), generosity (11:24), use of talents (22:29) and so on, all topics close to my heart, but the themes I want to touch on are these:
- Relying on God
- Wisdom in relationships
- Words and anger
Relying on God
Proverbs makes it clear that we’re to rely on God. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (3:5) is a famous verse and fairly self-explanatory, but it’s backed up by a whole host of verses emphasising the importance of Godly wisdom. Although long passages (1:20-33; 3:13-20; 8:1-9:6) personify wisdom as an entity in its own right it’s plain that to pursue wisdom is to pursue God. To seek wisdom is to seek God. To make wise decisions is to base them on God’s insights instead of our own understanding.
Equally challenging but rather less straightforward is the truth enshrined in Proverbs 16:9:
“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”
I should write a whole blog-post, maybe even a book, on this one verse. But briefly for now, this leaves room for both us and God to be involved in the decision-making. Yet while it doesn’t absolve humans of the responsibility for plotting a course it does establish God’s role as the deciding influence. God gave us the desire and ability to dream and to make decisions for a reason, so we’re certainly not supposed to sit and wait for God to do everything for us, but doing it on our own without thought for God is a recipe for disaster. His guidance needs to be relied on.
Watch out for parts 2, 3 & 4 coming soon…