Understanding how to read and apply the book
Wisdom: A conversation (Job, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs)
Terry began His sermon by quoting from an old country song about cowboys. The song makes cowboys seem really cool, but the cowboys described in the song would have been labeled as fools in the Bible, not someone who was cool.
Anyone remember the song? Will you be willing to sing a few lines…? Ha-ha!
Now think about other songs, movies, characters from shows, sports figures, or any other kind of modern-day hero we could reference to make the same point Terry was making.
Question: Why do you think our culture is enamored with folly? In what ways is folly celebrated in our culture, and why?
Note: There is no right or wrong answer, this is just intended to get people thinking and talking about Terry’s opener.
Question: Why does it matter that our culture is enamored with folly? What’s the bottom line?
Answer: Folly is celebrated, but never enjoyed for more than brief moments. Folly brings lasting misery. Those who live the life of the fool would not tell you it is ultimately a good life. Those who live with fools would not tell you it is a good relationship to be with a fool. Folly is never celebrated by those who actually have to live around fools. Even fools themselves, if they are honest with you, would not celebrate their choices.
We don’t want to live that way—the way of folly–we want to become wise. To live wisely, we have to understand how to read and apply Proverbs.
Today we want to look at how to read and apply the book of Proverbs properly. To understand proverbs correctly, we have to understand how it fits within the other wisdom literature.
Question: Terry said that the wisdom literature introduces us to three different voices, do you remember what they were?
Answer: 1. Proverbs: general statements about how life works. The collected wisdom of the faith community passed down to generations. 2. Ecclesiastes: A book where the “author” is describing the cynical conclusions of a wise but confused teacher…where life is more complex than he formerly imagined…and he has become disillusioned by this. 3. Job: A book about a really good guy who suffers terribly and tries to figure out why. He has three friends who are sure they know why…Job, you messed up.
Question: What was the analogy Terry said was best for understanding how these books relate to each other?
Answer: An old radio with two tuning dials that you had to work back and forth until the signal was just right.
Question: Let’s practice tuning the radio. Read the following proverbs below. These proverbs are optimistic about the direct benefits (in this life) of following God. With Terry’s analogy in mind, discuss the passages.
3:7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.
8:17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me. With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity. My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver. I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice, bestowing wealth on those who love me and making their treasuries full.
10:24-25 The fears of the wicked will be fulfilled; so will the hopes of the godly. When the storms of life come, the wicked are whirled away, but the godly have a lasting foundation.
True or False: The conclusion from Proverbs is simple: Success/health is like a vending machine, money in, snack out. So you do good/be good, good in this life will come. Do bad and bad comes.
Answer: False. This is generally true, but not specifically true. It is more complex than that.
Question: What should we take away from these passages? What are they saying, and how should we rightly apply them?
Answer: Remember, proverbs is not a book of promises, like 1+1=2. Raise children right = perfect children every time. Rather they are general statements about truth. Ultimately, they are promises that will be fulfilled in the light of eternity. SO, for now, we trust God with the details, we faithfully walk the good path, and we hold loosely to our plans and cling to His plans.
Question: Terry walked us through the book of Job. What do we learn from Job, how do we dial in clearly to the music of wisdom?
Answer: 1. We learned that in Job, the big question was, “What is wisdom, who is wise?” 2. We learn from Job that we cannot mechanically apply Proverbs.
Question: What insight to wisdom do we gain from the book of Ecclesiastes when we dial into it?
Answer: “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of humanity. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.” 12:13,14
Question: What happens when we read Proverbs with a hand on the gospel dial?
Answer: We realize that the rewards of Proverbs are not ultimately centered in this life. The blessings of Proverbs and the
Gospel dialed in together are about the already/not yet Kingdom of God.
APPLICATION—What Do We Do With All This:
Put one hand on the Proverbs dial this year—work, think, practice to become wise.
Put another hand on the Gospel dial this year—two dials of the same radio…you don’t have to figure it all out, you don’t have to be wise, strong, or good—to be loved and accepted by God.
Now…keep your hands on the dials…and grow in skilled living…Gospel wisdom.