Proverbs 1:1 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel.
Solomon was the king of Israel in the tenth century BC, and he made the nation prosperous. God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. . . . He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five.
He spoke about plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also spoke about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. From all nations people came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom (1 Kings 4:29-34). Solomon is one of the most brilliant people who ever lived, and to examine his proverbs is not a small privilege.
The book of Proverbs is a collection of wisdom sayings gathered from the school of life. They are general principles of how life works, and provide a speedy route to practical wisdom. Others contributed to the book of Proverbs such as Agur (Proverbs 30:1) and Lemuel (Proverbs 31:1), but the largest contributor seems to be Solomon.
Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.
Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that asks, How do we know what we know? Do we know things are true by induction, deduction, abduction, intuition, or some other way? It is an important question because, unless we understand how we know something, how can we be sure that we really know it? According to this verse, true knowledge begins with the fear of God—the intuition that he exists, and is to be obeyed.
To deny this truth leads to irrationalism because without an ultimate mind the logic system of every mind is equally valid, and there is no basis for a common rationality. Without belief in God there can be no right or wrong, only preferences. There can be no absolute truth, only your truth and my truth. This is why the world is so confused.
When I was a child I learned the alphabet. Then I learned to read words. Then I learned to read sentences. Now I read books. In a way, the alphabet became for me the beginning of knowledge. But according to this verse, there is something even more basic to knowledge than the alphabet, and that is a healthy fear of God. A child who fears God knows more about ultimate reality than a university professor who does not fear God, because God is the ultimate reality.
Proverbs 2:14 [Wicked Men] delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil.
One of the most shocking things I have ever read is a quote from a wicked man who said, I thank God, in whom I do not believe, that I’m able to do all the evil in my heart. There is something in the unconverted heart that rejoices not only in the pleasure of sin, but also in the perverseness of sin.
A classic example comes from Saint Augustine who recounts an episode from his youth. There was a pear tree close to our own vineyard, heavily laden with fruit, which was not tempting either for its color or for its flavor. Late one night . . . a group of young scoundrels, and I among them, went to shake and rob this tree.
We carried off a huge load of pears, not to eat ourselves, but to dump out to the hogs . . . . Doing this pleased us all the more because it was forbidden. . . . [I had] no inducement to evil but the evil itself. It was foul, and I loved it. I loved my own undoing. . . . seeking nothing from the shameful deed but shame itself (Confessions, book two, chapter four.)
Augustine was stealing pears, not because he needed pears, but because he delighted in stealing. To enjoy evil simply because it is evil is to enjoy evil for its own sake. This underscores the depth of our depravity and need for conversion.
Before we know Christ wickedness brings us joy, but now it brings us grief. The righteous still sin, but despise themselves for sinning. This is different from those who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
One of faith’s greatest challenges is submitting to God when his ways do not make sense to us. But that is the very essence of faith. Faith is believing that God knows better than we do; it is trusting God more than we trust ourselves.
When I was twelve years old I went hunting with my Dad, and followed him into the woods. A few hours later we started back, but when he turned right, I thought we should go left. And when he turned left, I was sure we should go right. There were times I wanted to abandon my dad and go my own way; but I am glad I didn’t because we came out at just the right place. That is how it is with God. If we trust him more than we trust ourselves, he will make our paths straight, and keep us from going in circles.
Reflection and Review
Why is the fear of the Lord the beginning of knowledge?
Why do people rejoice in the perverseness of evil?
Why should we trust God more than we trust ourselves?