I. Proverbs is not common wisdom:
(1) Proverbs teaches us how to live, but this book is not primarily about practical social skills for survival in this world. If it were about survival, Abel would have been a powerful example to prove the feebleness of wisdom. But Abel is the beginning of the life of faith, and the first sign of wisdom. Genesis 4.8.
There is a saying that the arts and literature come from living but transcend living. That may sound glorious, but it’s just a human concept. Nothing that truly is originated from this life transcends this life. What comes from dust goes back to dust. But Proverbs is not arts and literature. It comes from above, goes through living, and returns to above. Unless we understand this viewpoint, we will never eat Proverbs as heavenly food, the Word of God.
(2) Proverbs is about wisdom, but it is not common wisdom. It is important to note that even common wisdom, as far as the part that is truly wise, is fundamentally a gift from God, not something that man can take credit for. Common wisdom springs from man’s conscience and his memory of God, no matter how distance it may be. Man’s conscience bears witness of God and witness to the law of God, and their thoughts either accusing or excusing themselves (Romans 2.14-15). This speaks of the fact that though man’s common wisdom is imperfect, it has a part that testifies about the truth, which is fundamentally not an invention of man, but a gift from God. In this sense, Proverbs is not completely opposing to the common wisdom.
In other words, God’s children need not to argue that everything said by man in common wisdom is wrong or not wise. There is no need of a controversy at this level. In fact, insisting on that is a disrespect to God, not just to man made by God.
Nevertheless, Proverbs is fundamentally different from common wisdom. This is so not only in the sense that Proverbs is pure truth while common wisdom is a mixture at best, but more importantly in the sense that Proverbs is not a shadow of truth but a revelation of the Truth Himself, because it is the revelation of God to man (not just any man but the chosen man Solomon) and meant to be given to a peculiar people (not just any people, but the elect of God).
May the Lord allow me to see Christ in Proverbs, lest I miss the instructions.
II. Seeing Christ in Proverbs:
(1) Proverbs is based on a life relationship. They are words spoken by the father to a son. It’s not merely wise sayings collected from distant wise people to be used by anyone who happens to like the teachings contained in them.
Most prominently, Proverbs is about sonship. A wise son makes a glad father (Proverbs 10.1). This is not a common wise saying, because it is the very definition and the touchstone of what wisdom is. No other wise saying has this depth and quality. Before our heart can recognize the goodness of God’s word, we must recognize and subject our heart and intellect to the authority of God’s word. God never gives an opinion. What God says provides the very basis of the meaning itself. Therefore, Proverbs 10.1 profoundly defines what wisdom is. According to this definition, first, the true wisdom can only be had by a son, because it is intended by the father to the son. Second, if by possessing the quality of it the son would make the father glad, it is then proved to be true wisdom. If not, it is not true wisdom. As simple as that. This relationship with the heavenly Father is an ultimate test for God’s children’s way of living, the goal of our practical wisdom.
But God’s heart on the sonship reaches far beyond giving guidance to our practical living. The real quality of the Son, and His delightfulness of the Father is the most important thing in the entire universe. It has been, and it must be, fulfilled in our Lord. “This is my beloved son, in whom I have found my delight.” (Matthew 3.17). We must remember that God the Father seldom spoke directly in the New Testament because he spoke through and in his son Jesus Christ. But when the Father did speak, he only spoke those words, twice.
If this doesn’t tell us we the children of God why Proverbs are important to our lives, nothing else would.
(2) Proverbs is about the character of Christ. Change “you” to “he (Christ)” in Proverbs 3.3-6, one sees a description of the life on earth of our Lord as the Son of God.
“The loving-kindness and truth never leave him; he binds them about his neck, write them upon the tablet of his heart: He finds favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man. He confides in Jehovah with all his heart, and leans not unto his own intelligence; in all his ways he acknowledge the Father, and the Father makes plain his paths.”
(3) Proverbs is about the nature of a just God and salvation through Christ. “A false balance is an abomination to Jehovah; but a just weight is his delight.” (Proverbs 11.1) The world was brought into a fallen state by a “business” conducted by the evil one with a false balance, but was later redeemed by a “just weight” (the true price paid on the cross) bore by the Righteous One. Lucifer engaged into a certain kind of business in the heavens, and iniquity was found in him (Ezekiel 28.15-17). A business. We know that any business must purport the principle of “balance” which is fairness. But Lucifer deceived many angels using a false balance, by promising what he did not possess. He was a liar, and then a murderer. Like their father, man promises equity but pays no price for it (think about communism as an example). It’s a false balance, and an abomination to Jehovah.
In contrast, Christ promised peace and paid the full price for it to redeem the ones who are lost and bring them to reconciliation with the Father. Jesus is the “Just Weight”.
(4) Proverbs connects to what the Lord has in his heart for his people. Reading Proverbs with a spiritual mind, it is hard not to see a contrast between Proverbs and Beatitudes spoken by the Lord in Matthew 5.3-16. If Beatitudes may be regarded as “the Proverbs of the New Testament”, it seems that they are on a different ground, a higher ground it may seem.
They are different. The latter is given to a peculiar people who already belong to the heavenly kingdom but temporarily remain in this sinful world for a transitional purpose. In a sense, they are parachute troops descended from above to the enemy territory. In comparison, Proverbs are given to a people who lived in this world but had faith in a better future in eternity. In a sense, they are the local resisting force fighting against an occupying enemy.
In other words, one is shining downward from above (Beatitudes), while the other is reaching upward from below (Proverbs).
But both are integral parts of God’s Word speaking to the hearts of God’s children today.
We need Proverbs, and it would be utterly foolish to think that we are somehow above and beyond Proverbs because we belong to the New Testament time. Even the parachute troops need to learn how to live wisely in the local territory once they have landed, until the mission is accomplished.