Since we’re only spending a week in Proverbs, I’ll spend some time in this intro providing context to the book itself. Proverbs is an easy book to misread; we can make all the little 1-2 liner axioms of chapters 10-30 into little more than spells or talismans, as if adhering to them will guarantee wealth or happiness. Instead, we need to back up to the beginning of the book and read it within its own thematic lens. Solomon, the author or collector of much of the material in Proverbs, starts his long discussion about wisdom with this: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom or instruction.”(1:7) Our undertaking of wise or insightful living must use this as a constant reference or else we run this risk of being unknowingly “wise in our own eyes”(3:7) or “wise according to worldly standards”(1 Cor. 1:26).
In fact, we can define the wisdom of Proverbs as “skill in the art of godly living.”(ref: ESV Study Bible note on 1:7) This is not merely human skill like good business sense, tactful communication, or emotional awareness, but skill in God’s revealed will for humanity, skill in what God values and desires for his people. So, when we get to chapter 3 and read all of Solomon’s encouragement for his son, we need to read this according to God’s desires for us.
These exhortations, including “Trust in the Lord”(3:5), “Fear the Lord”(3:7), and “Honor the Lord”(3:9), aren’t secret tickets to getting “favor and good success.”(3:4) God isn’t a rewards credit card—you can’t treat trusting or honoring him as a way to gain points with him that you can cash in later. To do so is to behave like God is a cosmic vending machine, which corrupts your trust and honor into exploitation and brown nosing.
But there in Hebrews we also see how forgiveness through Jesus doesn’t somehow void God’s exhortation to us to walk in faithfulness. Jesus’ faithfulness isn’t a model to merely revere or esteem but, by his grace at work in our lives, to embody. Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, is also the thing we fix our eyes on as we run the race of our life with endurance.(Heb. 12:2) We’ll close discussion with asking where we most need God to lift our drooping hands and make straight paths for us (Heb. 12:12-13), so that we don’t walk away with our heads hung over our lack of faithfulness. Instead we’ll close by remembering that “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”(Phil. 2:3) This will lead us into prayer, to seek the God who lifts and strengthens and straightens so that we can walk in his ways.
• Could someone read Proverbs 3:1-12 for us?
• What stood out to you from the passage?
• Could someone flip over and read Proverbs 1:7?
• That verse is the theme of the whole book—so how might “fear of the Lord” provide a footing and foundation for your life?
• Back in Proverbs 3, what is this passage teaching us about how to live?
• What do you find most convicting in this passage?
• Turn to Hebrews 12:3-13. Could someone read that for us?
• How does this passage use Jesus’ faithfulness to encourage our own faithfulness?
• Look at verses 113; where do you most need God to do this in your life right now?