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Proverbs – Week 1 Notes

By January 5, 2020Sermon Notes

-AF school taught us a model for leadership called Read/Act

-This is also commonly called Situational Awareness or SA:

-Ability to see and respond appropriately based on the circumstances or situation.

To know the thing to do or say….in the right time or situation…this is SA

This is also leadership…leadership that allows a person to bless and help others by leading them towards right thinking, choices, relationships…because they have SA.

This is also what WISDOM looks like…SA attentiveness to God, others in life’s various situations.

Here is an example of wise words as SA:

“A word aptly spoken is like apples of Gold in setting of silver.” Prov. 25:11

This is wisdom applied to speech…the right words at the right time…is a beautiful thing.

Apples of gold (beautiful), in settings of silver (even more beautiful)…right words, right time…make for a very beautiful thing…they help people.

This is how Proverbs works…it takes short, memorable phrases and communicates timeless principles….it is the collective experience of the generations given in terms of common observation.

They can be read quickly…but they require thought to accurately apply them…and to take them into deeply our lives such that they actually shape into wise people.

They are true, and real…they work…but they work contextually.

Like the “law of gravity” works…drop ball, ball fall…right? Yep.

But…drop ball in space…ball doesn’t fall

But it is true, accurate to say…dropped balls, fall…though there contextual exceptions.

Proverbs describe how life generally works and how to grow in wisdom.

They are not automatic rules for life…they guides along the paths of wise living.

For instances have you ever had the right words, right time…that were not received well? I have.

Does that mean Prov. 25:11 “Doesn’t work?”

“Hey, I just used right words, right time…you must be blessed and impressed by their beauty!”

Not necessarily…but the fact remains…use right words at the right time…it works really well as an approach to communication…especially if given with the right heart (another factor)

Or the famous, “Train up a child and the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.”


To turn this in to a law would mean that children don’t have a choice…how their parents train them is how they will turn out…whether they want it or not.

But children who grow are adults with choices…your choices don’t predetermine theirs…but thy can empower theirs.

Not a guarantee…what are we to do with it then?

Be wise parents, train children in the way they should go…this works really, really well in life…best thing you can do for your children.

Life is complex…Wisdom is complex…they require SA 

Wisdom is not about mechanically learning rules….it is about growing wise…SA.

Friend whose Uncle worked for Bell Helicopter and was training then Allies:

They learned the rules (sequentially…1,2,3) but they failed to become “wise pilots”.

-They were unable to apply the rules in ways that didn’t fit normal scenarios. (1,3,2)…they crashed frequently.

*This is an example of what its like to try and apply Proverbs as rules without actually becoming wise.

To be wise…information has to be applied in the right situation.

Look at Proverbs 26:4,5…these caused (and continue to cause) problems for many who believed Proverbs was meant to be rules to be followed.

26:4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself.

26:5 Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.

Come concluded there is contradiction or error here…but this is actually great example of the need for SA.

To learn how to answer foolish people in a wise fashion…requires knowing what kind of fool is this? What does the circumstance require?

There are times when you walk away, there are times when you address the folly…it takes wisdom to know which situation you are in.

Proverbs presupposes the right circumstances for its proper application.

So what do we do with Prov. 25:11? Words aptly spoken are beautiful things.

We pursue SA in our speech patterns.

The right words, right time…won’t always be received well (for answer if the other person is foolish).

But it does work to pursue right words/right time…it is wise to pay attention to both content and timing of our words.

Talking to a 6th grader recently…he was sharing some of his future dreams…in itself was an amazing thing…I had no dreams at that past tomorrow.

-Two other adults were nearby and they began to sort of “pounce on him” with well-meaning words.

-Their words were accurate(all true)…their timing was terrible.

Apples of gold…settings of garbage…it was not a beautiful thing to the young man…shut him down.

Wise speech (content and timing) is something to desire, and to work towards…it will, over the course of your life, bring really good results…blessings to others.

Which is the primary goal of wisdom: to be positioned to bless not to impress.

Look at this verse from the NT:

“Don’t let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Eph. 4:29

How do you know what is helpful for the needs of others…how do you know what will benefit them?

We need SA…we need wisdom.

Wisdom to not think of self-first (this is what I would want to hear),

Wisdom to know what God is up to(what does he value here)

Wisdom to know what is in the hearts of others(Proverbs says human hearts are deep waters and require understanding)…all this stuff we learn in Proverbs.

This morning is not about wise speech…I’m using it as an example of how to approach the book of Proverbs.

Proverbs is not science lab wisdom…it is wisdom in the streets.

We can learn about it sitting in chairs…be we can only experience it, embed in our hearts…walking in wisdom in the streets…the good path.

Christ was the ultimate big R/A…he had perfect situational awareness and perfect courage and perfect love to take right action.

Read the gospels and pay attention to Christ’s SA…right words, right actions…right time…all the time.

Sometimes he led with grace words.

Sometimes he led with bare-knuckle truth.

But he always acted and spoke with wisdom…he had perfect SA

We can become more like him in our own SA…becoming more like Christ…the embodiment of wisdom.

My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Col. 2:2,3

This year we are going to spend our time on Sundays, daily Devos and in small groups in the book of Proverbs (and corresponding passages in the Bible)

It is important to know that this is not a human quest for wisdom apart from the gospel.

No such quest can succeed.

Oh, you can learn the stuff of wisdom…Proverbs…without actually becoming a wise person.

Proverbs 26:7 “Like a lame man’s legs that hang limp is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.”

If a foolish person learns these Proverbs by memory but lacks wisdom…they are useless to them.

Kind of a catch 22…need to understand Proverbs to be wise, need to be wise in order to understand Proverbs.

But here is the reason this is not circular reasoning…we will discuss this at length on another Sunday but a key to understanding Proverbs and wisdom and life is this…

“The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10

Fear of the Lord=awesome respect

Without this beginning point of Fear of the Lord or awesome respect we cannot end up in wisdom

God alone is powerful, wise, good…who am I compared to him?

Without that beginning point…we will not end up in wisdom.

We don’t start with us and end up wise…we begin with God…submitted to him…then we are positioned to become wise.

January we will spend the month looking at how to understand, read, and apply the wisdom of Proverbs to our lives.

Then we will go through the first 9 chapters week by week

Then month by month…we will look at the ways of wisdom from the book as a whole.

For instance in May…Wise words

June…wise work.

You know, If I had put Proverbs together I would have put all the verses pertaining to a certain topic in one place.

“Okay…chapter one…words, chapter two…work, chapter three…relationships.”

Nice, tidy and organized…but alas no one asked me to organize the book.

The beauty (wisdom) of how it is organized is that the various topics cycle through the chapters.

This allows us to see the wise life as a diverse set of actions and attitudes in diverse settings and situations.

Because life is not: wise words on Mondays, wise relationships on Tuesdays, avoid temptations on Wednesdays.

Life is all these things mushed together all the time…so Proverbs is “organized” like life is…dynamically, fluidly…realistically.

It also means that if you read through the book over and over you will get exposed to wisdom in its various facets throughout the month or whatever time period you read it in.

So today, let’s look at our two summary verses for 2020

You’ve heard them already, let’s stand and read them together.

“The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

Proverbs 9:10

My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2,3

Two keys to growing in wisdom (and making sense out of Proverbs): The Fear of the Lord and Christ is the wisdom of God.

  1. The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. 9:10

You find this theme repeated several times in Proverbs, it is in the introduction of the book, 1:7.

This has been called the “motto of the book”

There is no wisdom without God…the wise must be open to God’s foundational role in the world and in their lives.

It is the fool who says in their hearts “There is no God” (Ps 14:1)

Fools cannot participate in wisdom because they reject God.

Wisdom begins with God.

This doesn’t mean people who don’t believe in God are stupid, ignorant, or unintelligent.

We must be careful to not make these foolish and wrong characterizations of others.

Now sometimes people who say there is no God speak of Christians as if we are ignorant, unintelligent…which is strange if they look around or read history…it just doesn’t bear this out.

I’m reading a book called “131 Christians everyone should know”…the brilliance of many believers in history is spectacular.

The brilliance of many in our time…is as well.

But non-believers sometimes characterize Christians as ignorant…we must not do the same to them.

But wisdom is not about intelligence or intellect…biblical wisdom is something else altogether…more like virtuous…or good.

You can be a very smart, educated fool using the Bible’s definition of folly.

You could have little education and low IQ and be wise…using the Bible’s definition of wisdom.

We will discuss this as we move through the year but wisdom is more about RA or SA…in line with God’s character and purposes.

Wisdom is to know the ways of God and to take consistent actions in life in line with those ways.

This doesn’t require a university degree but it does require a reverence for God.

You might remember the suffering Psalm writer who was confused by his life.

A guy named Asaph who wrote Ps. 73

He confessed his dismay, his confusion about his life.

He was trying to follow God, to walk God’s good path and yet he was suffering terribly.

Meanwhile others he knew cared nothing for God were doing quite well.

In fact they mocked God’s ability to even know what they were doing… “Does God even know?” (God is not wise or attentive)

And the terrible irony…is these people were prospering.

It made him doubt whether it was worth it to follow God, worth it to try to live a godly life.

It was when he entered the sanctuary of God…he went to church…he worshipped…that wisdom came.

There he gained perspective…he saw that these people who were prospering but rejecting God were in grave danger, while he was suffering and yet was eternally safe.

His perspective flipped…as he worshipped God

Wisdom follows Worship

Start with God not with you.

Start with God not with circumstances.

Start with God not with the cynicism of others.

This is not about “blind faith”…this is about right starting places.

“Well begun is half done”…not in the book of Proverbs but is a good proverb.

All humans start somewhere…we all start with presuppositions or ideas about what is real and true.

The scientist presumes that the world is “cause and effect”…in order to come to “scientific conclusions.”

He or she cannot prove this is always true…they presuppose it…it is where they begin.

Wisdom begins with Worship…fear of the Lord.

Wisdom must presuppose God…but wisdom comes from God.

Fear of the Lord is: reverence, awe…not terror but incredible respect.

When people encountered God in the Bible…the result was a sort of terror.

Not because God is a terrorist…but because God is awesome beyond human ability to comprehend…even in limited access to his greatness our senses are overwhelmed.

As people came to know him…the terror gave way to love…without losing the awesome respect.

*I had a coach in college I feared…then I learned to love & fear…that combination of love and fear gave him great influence in my life.

Start with God…awesome reverence…fear…then you are positioned to move to wisdom.

Ultimately wisdom is “Love God with heart, soul, strength…love others”

The closer we come to seeing God as he is…the more likely we will want what he wants…we will want wisdom.

In Romans 3, Paul give a series of human follies…a miserable list of destructive thoughts and actions…and concludes with the reason this is so for some people.

3:18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Folly, broken lives follow this lack of fear.

Wisdom follows worship.

No worship, no wisdom.

*I sometimes look at Hubble telescope images of galaxies and clusters of galaxies and those galaxies are made of star systems.

I am amazed that I can have relationship with the God of all that.

I question my own conclusions when they are contrary to that great God’s revealed will…how can I think I am smarter than him?

We are wise to live in line with what God wants for us

Because…he is God…worship, reverence, fear…helps us become wise.

Maybe you use music, a walk outdoors, Psalms.

We come hear week after week…to turn towards his greatness.

Whatever you use…turn your heart towards his greatness…there you are positioned to become wise.

Wisdom follows Worship.

Ben Franklin had a list of 13 virtues that he used to try and become a “virtuous” or a wise person.

-He carried a journal with 13 columns with each virtue listed and he kept daily track of his progress.

-By pursuing growth in these things he believed (and I’m sure it’s true) that he became a better man in many ways.

-However, it also true that in some very important ways…he did not become a virtuous or wise man.

-For instance he had up to 15 children out of wedlock.

-He advised other men on selecting mistresses…this is foolish, not good, not wise.

-After his death the Senate would not confirm a House resolution in his honor…too many knew of his lifestyle and thought it inappropriate to honor him.

My point is not to pick on a man who clearly did some great things…but to show that to start with self and think you can obtain a wise life is foolish.

Even a man of his brilliance could not achieve real wisdom (or virtue)…on his own steam.

Wisdom follows Worship…Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

  1. Christ is the Wisdom of God.

Franklins’ Virtue #13 was

“Humility, imitate Jesus and Socrates.”

“Hey that’s good, right?”

Yeah, it’s good…but it’s not the path to biblical wisdom.

Wisdom is not WWJD…what would Jesus do.

Or WWSD…what would Socrates do.

It’s not choosing Christ as our virtuous dead, example to follow…or Socrates or whomever.

Wisdom is surrendering our lives to Christ…receiving his power for a new life.

We just finished Advent… celebrating good news of great joy for all people…a savior has been born.

People who are getting it right don’t need a savior.

We don’t just need more education, or intelligence…there are plenty of smart, well-educated bad people.

Or smart miserable, confused people.

Ben Franklin was smart and resolved…but he lacked the power on his own to be truly wise…in the biblical sense of wisdom.

We need Christ for salvation…we need him to live a wise life…the good life.

We need to read Proverbs in its original context…pay attention to what the writers meant to say in their setting in order to apply it to ours.

But we now have a view of Proverbs that includes the gospels…the life of Christ.

We know that all of Scripture pointed to Jesus…this includes Proverbs.

After Christ had died and risen he appeared a number of times to his followers. One of those times is discussed in Luke 24:44-45

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

Jesus indicates that the entirety of the OT anticipated his coming suffering and resurrection.

So the OT, Proverbs…is like watching a movie where there are hints along the way as to the story’s plot…but you don’t know what you are seeing until the conclusion.

-Then you look back and see what was always there…it was in story all along.

We read Proverbs now through the gospel lens…we see Jesus all through the book.

Wisdom follows worship…Jesus is center of our Worship.

So read Proverbs to become wise…become wise in order to become like Christ…in order to bless others not to impress others.

Human wisdom seeks to impress…Biblical wisdom seeks to bless.

Let’s conclude with a passage that describes what wisdom looks like.

Now listen to this as a contrast to what wisdom in the world around us looks like.

Phil. 2:2-11 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

This is wisdom incarnate…in human form…Christ the wisdom of God.

Different than what the world calls wise…God…the maker of galaxies and molecules…humbled himself to death on a cross…took the nature of a servant.

This is crazy to many… but this is the wisdom of God…this makes the world’s wisdom look empty and vain.

You can grow in the wisdom of Christ…but it will require:

  1. Surrender to Christ “The answer is ‘yes’ what is the question?”
  1. Full effort…read, think, live, encourage, repent, worship, grow.
  1. A growing heart to bless others not impress others with your growing wisdom

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