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Prayerfully Practicing Proverbs

Solomon, God’s chosen King, reigned over the kingdom of Israel from 970 to 930 B.C. He was the 10th son of King David, the 4th son of Bathsheba. It is unusual that a 10th son of a king should rise to the throne, but I Kings 3:3 gives us insight into why this happened. Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father ... . Shortly after his inauguration, the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream saying, “Ask what I shall give you.” Solomon, realizing that he is young and inexperienced but now charged with ruling a great nation, answered, “O Lord My God ... Give Thy servant an understanding mind to govern Thy people, that I may discern between good and evil.” Because his request was pleasing to the Lord, God granted Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and largeness of mind like the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the East and Egypt. He was wiser than all other men, uttering 3,000 proverbs and his songs were 1,005. Men and rulers came from all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon. (I Kings 4:29-34)

Solomon wrote 3 of the books of the Hebrew Old Testament: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon. The common message of these 3 books: Life has real worth only when one is in right relationship with God. The major theme of the book of Proverbs is found in 1:7 - “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”

The various proverbs and wise sayings that are collected in this book called Proverbs number more than 600. A number of them are repeated and reworded, but there are at least 375 distinctive ones in the book. F. LaGard Smith methodically grouped them into topics, and it is his grouping that was used for the organization of our lessons, "Prayerfully Practicing Proverbs."

The Book of Proverbs is Judaism’s guidebook to successful living. A proverb is a short, concise sentence which conveys moral truth. Worldly proverbs may come in different forms, but a Hebrew proverb is usually in the form of a couplet imparting a likeness, a comparison, a symbolic statement, imagery or a parable. Solomon's proverbs set high ethical standards and give practical advice for daily living. There is a sharp white and black contrast between good and evil, righteousness and wickedness, justice and injustice. The first nine chapters of Proverbs personify Wisdom as a woman pleading for men to turn from their foolish ways in order to find security with her – Wisdom.

Rubel Shelley says that in the Bible, wisdom is always God-oriented and practical. It is not always the same thing as knowledge: One can be knowledgeable in facts, but lacking in application and wisdom. Wisdom is the right use of one’s knowledge, insight, and skill to the glory of God. It originates in the fear of the Lord. Thus the Bible defines wisdom in terms of one’s relationship with God rather than formal education or achievements. On the other hand, worldly wisdom is often God-opposing in nature. True wisdom is attained by God’s word (Proverbs 2:6), a seeking heart (Proverbs 2:1-4) and a submissive life (Psalm 119:98-100). True wisdom is the ordering of one’s life by God-given counsel.

That is why we will spend the next 13 weeks together studying this ancient book. I trust that we will all find its wisdom relevant to us today.

As the beginning of Proverbs personifies wisdom as a woman, isn’t it interesting that the book ends by describing a wise, godly woman? Possibly the most familiar part of the book of Proverbs was not written by Solomon, but added later and credited to Lemuel – Proverbs 31. It is the Wise or Virtuous Woman segment that perhaps you studied as a young woman. Since it is one of the few segments in the Bible that gives women a distinctive aspiration towards industry, integrity and resourcefulness, I chose to focus this study in that framework. She derives her strength and dignity not from her achievements, but from her reverence to God. Most of our weekly lessons will end with a question of how the Virtuous Woman demonstrates the topic of the day.

If you have prepared your lesson for today, you have already discovered that some of the topics in Proverbs are very deep. Our first three lessons are deeper than we typically like to think – starting with the pre-eminence of God and then two lessons on wisdom. They are foundational for the beginning of wisdom. I want to encourage you to endure through those three lessons.

By October 13 we will be getting into the easier, more familiar, and everyday practical topics that touch your life. Each week will be an autonomous [self-contained] lesson. So by all means, encourage your friends and neighbors to join us at any point during these lessons. Please hang in there and stick with us. Don’t try to over think the questions. If it is a new concept to you, come on to class and listen to the discussion. Proverbs is an excellent study for a group dynamics class. It is meant to be discussed so that we can obtain godly wisdom. Proverbs is a life-changing book that will improve anyone’s life no matter where they currently stand in their relationship with God. I pray that we will let God’s wisdom into our hearts and into our daily lives.

Jeannie Cole

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Ladies Bible Class, 22 September 2009

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