Yesterday I preached the twenty-sixth sermon in The Whole Story sermon series, on the book of Proverbs (watch the sermon here). One of the main points of the sermon—because it is one of the main points of the book of Proverbs—is how wisdom is this thing that helps you see the way the world truly is, the way it works, so that you can live well inside of it. This is because wisdom is expertise and competence, it is applied skill, seen in the ways the Bible uses the word for craftsmen (Exodus 35:31), goldsmiths (Jeremiah 10:9), and sailors (Psalm 107:27).
Therefore, wisdom, this applied skill, needs to be engaged in our lives in the same way a woodworker understands the grain of the wood she is working with—she operates with the grain of the wood, and not against it. In the same way, we want to operate with the grain of creation, as designed and crafted by God (Psalm 19:1), and not against it.
As we explored yesterday, Solomon himself revealed how wisdom is hardwired into all of Creation, when he presents Lady Wisdom saying,
22 “The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of old.
23 Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
24 When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
25 Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth,
26 before he had made the earth with its fields,
or the first of the dust of the world.
27 When he established the heavens, I was there;
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28 when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
29 when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
30 then I was beside him, like a master workman,
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
31 rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the children of man.
(Proverbs 8:22-31, English Standard Version)
Do you see?
One of my favorite preachers, Ray Ortlund, reflects on this passage this way—
“Wisdom was here first, before us.
“Wisdom was God’s first creation.
“He wired wisdom into the cosmos as the inner logic of everything. So wisdom was how everything started and how it still works. We are born into this world long after things were set up so amazingly. [We are surrounded in all of our living with this massive creation, this reality that was, in the beginning, “formless and empty” (Genesis 1:2, NLT), and God crafted and worked on it in order to let his divine excellence stand forth in a finished display of his craftsmanship.]
“So Biblical wisdom (like we find especially in Proverbs 10—31) is more than handy tips. It is the secret code to reality. And in the Bible it is speaking to us, so that it isn’t a secret anymore!”
Which is why this book, as part of the larger wisdom literature of the Bible (along with Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs), is indispensable in the very natural human longing for a good life. In one sense, Proverbs is this kind of instruction manual that helps us see better the hardwiring of how wisdom is already operating in creation, so that we can follow its lead, and work with it, and not against it (Proverbs teaches us the latter would be folly). This is the path toward Lady Wisdom, this is the path toward a happy life, this is the path toward a good life.
It seems like a good idea, therefore, to get as much as we can from a book like Proverbs. So yesterday I proposed we all set aside time each day, for the next thirty-one days, to read one chapter from the book of Proverbs. I would further suggest that you do this alongside of reading the book of the Bible that we are currently studying as we make our way through the Whole Story.
For example, that would mean this week you would read the book of Ecclesiastes, which I will preach on Sunday 19 August, as well as read a Proverb each day. I have included a reading plan for Proverbs below, with tomorrow as our first day of reading.
As a final incentive toward you joining in, also starting tomorrow, I will choose a proverb each day from the chapter we read together. I will spend time meditating on it, and will then write a brief (2-3 paragraphs) article and post it here on the Calvary blog—every day, for the next thirty-one days. We are calling this little writing series 31 Proverbs (yeah, I spent alot of time on that name).
I really hope you will come along with me on this adventure. I am eager to see how God will use the wisdom of Proverbs to shape us more into the image of his Son, who is himself the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24) and in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3).
Pursuing the wise and good life with you,
Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan
August 14: Proverbs ch. 1
Aug. 15: ch. 2
Aug. 16: ch. 3
Aug. 17: ch. 4
Aug. 18: ch. 5
Aug. 19: ch. 6
Aug. 20: ch. 7
Aug. 21: ch. 8
Aug. 22: ch. 9
Aug. 23: ch. 10
Aug. 24: ch. 11
Aug. 25: ch. 12
Aug. 26: ch. 13
Aug. 27: ch. 14
Aug. 28: ch. 15
Aug. 29: ch. 16
Aug. 30: ch. 17
Aug. 31: ch. 18
Sept. 1: ch. 19
Sept. 2: ch. 20
Sept. 3: ch. 21
Sept. 4: ch. 22
Sept. 5: ch. 23
Sept. 6: ch. 24
Sept. 7: ch. 25
Sept. 8: ch. 26
Sept. 9: ch. 27
Sept. 10: ch. 28
Sept. 11: ch. 29
Sept. 12: ch. 30
Sept. 13: ch. 31
Day Twenty-Six: A Morning Conversation With King Solomon
A conversation that happened this morning as I came upon a visitor in our fireplace room….
Day Nineteen: God Chose Her, Not You
The doctrine of God’s rule and reign in and over all things comes crashing into the human conception of the self-made man. We are tempted to think we have so much to do with our happinesses. But the wisdom found from James speaks a wakefulness into the pondering of our circumstances—the good gifts we have come not from our own hands, but by the grace and providence of our heavenly Father. And the wisdom of Solomon makes clear—one of man’s greatest gifts is something only God can give, an understanding wife.
Day Seventeen: The Great Gain Of Godly Contentment
We live in a world where the temptation is constant to believe the amount of our wealth and possessions directly translates to our joy and happiness. The Bible, once again, confronts our culture and holds out another possibility. Namely, “better” does not imply “more,” “bigger,” or “expensive.” It suggests that the reason you still haven’t found what you are looking for is because you’ve been searching in all the wrong places. Wisdom opens our eyes and hearts to deeper wells of contentment.
Day Fifteen: I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me
I always feel like somebody's watching me. And I have no privacy. Woh, I always feel like somebody's watching me. Tell me is it just a dream? So sang Rockwell in the dawning of my high school years back in 1984. All the cool kids were singing it at the time, and its the tune that sprang to mind when I read this similar sentiment this morning: Yahweh is watching everywhere, keeping his eye on both the evil and the good. (Proverbs 15:3, New Living Translation)
Day Fourteen: Death By Living
For those of us desirous to live a good life, we’ve known since the very beginning of this book that it begins with a healthy awe, reverence, and trembling before the God of the universe whose name is Yahweh (Proverbs 1:7). And here we are again reminded that this humble posture before the Holy One is a fountain overflowing with life.
Day Thirteen: You Can’t Always Get What You Want
One of the key assumptions we’ve been working with as we make our way through the wisdom literature is that God has hardwired wisdom into the way creation (and the creatures within it…us) operates. It was there at the beginning. It’s the inner logic of everything, and the secret code for how it works. (see Proverbs 8:22-31)
Day Eleven: A Pig Is Still A Pig
Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion. (Proverbs 11:22, English Standard Version) “Well…I never!” she replied to the King. Reading this proverb, it seems highly probable to me, given the stories of King Solomon and all the women in his life (1 Kings 11:3), that this was probably a proverb born from experience. He comes along a beautiful woman, of high social standing, of influence and power; but in his interactions with her, he begins to see her true self shining through all her external adornments. She has no discretion—she is a woman of loose and dissolute conversation, her mind and conscience are defiled. There’s a beauty for the eye, but the corruption of her character slowly transforms how Solomon sees her, and no amount of jewelry will cover that up.
Day Twenty-Nine: Please—Quietly Hold Your Tongue
Anger. noun. “a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.” (New Oxford American Dictionary) As I entered day twenty-nine of Proverbs this morning, and came to 29:11, it struck me that this book has quite a bit to say about anger, strife, wrath, quarreling, fights, and rage. It is a theme that Solomon keeps coming back to, probably because he knows that it is a theme woven through humanity and history. Sometimes the best way to see a theme is to pull on that string so all the wisdom he has offered comes together for our observation. The accumulation helps us feel the weight of it.