Here’s wisdom for a new year! This is another book which I think should be taught in schools – a collection of wise insights on human behaviours and their outcomes. Perhaps it could be produced in an abridged form, because as a collection I notice a good deal of repetition.
Some tend to understand these proverbs as cast-iron promises but in fact they are largely observations born out of experience, producing a number of generalisations. If you do this, then this is what will usually happen, if you neglect to do that, then experience shows that this will be the result.
Years ago I remember teaching my 5th class (10-11yr old primary school children) some of the proverbs I had learned as a child and finding that they had never heard of them – Things like, “A stitch in time saves nine,” “A rolling stone gathers no moss.” (ambiguous!) and so on. The Bible’s Book of Proverbs presents in part as a parent teaching a young person, warning and equipping him for his future wellbeing.
Here are a few of them. As you read try to imagine the benefits to society, to churches, to families, if these were taken seriously and taught by parents and schools…
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction (1:7)
This is the underlying supposition, that listening to Yahweh underpins an understanding of the way life works best. It has to do with grasping a worldview that is centred upon God. It is the sorting of truth from error, not just determining moral right and wrong. Wisdom, thus grounded, is the guide to how we live out our talents for the good of all. Intelligence is good, knowledge is similarly important, but wisdom is the good oil which will guide you to use them productively rather than destructively. I have come across people who may not be particularly bright academically but display a wonderful and endearing wisdom, which makes them socially and spiritually brilliant!
This is why wisdom is personified in chapter two as one to be most sought after… then you will understand what is right and just and fair – every good path. (2:9)
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. (3:5-6)
Two great verses for the New Year and one of my favourite passages in the Bible. My wife, Susan, and I have found them to be true throughout our lives. I have noticed that when I have pushed ahead with my own plans, without consulting God, then things either unravel quickly or simply and quietly fail to work. When we have prayed, particularly at times of momentous change of direction, then things have fallen into place in remarkable ways. I can say the same even on a day to day basis. The day begun with prayer, asking for the filling of the Holy Spirit and overall guidance in what I say and do seem to somehow work out better!
Here is some more good advice…
Drink from the water of your own cistern
running water from your own well. (5:15)
… part of an extended warning against adultery.
I hate pride and arrogance
evil behaviour and perverse speech. (8:13)
… wisdom speaking!
If you are a mocker, you alone will suffer (9:12)
… beware, social media trolls!
When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with humility comes wisdom (11:2)
For lack of guidance a nation falls,
but victory is won through many advisors (11:14)
… Leaders! Listen to wise people!
Do not say, “I’ll do to them as they have done to me;
I’ll pay them back for what they did. (24:29)
And some other general observations…
A kindhearted woman gains honour,
but ruthless men gain only wealth. (11:16)
Those who are kind benefit themselves,
but the cruel bring ruin on themselves. (11:17)
Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults;
whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse. (9:7)
The righteous care for the needs of their animals (12:10)
Fools show their annoyance at once,
but the prudent overlook an insult. (12:16)
The words of the reckless pierce like swords,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (12:18)
Where there is strife, there is pride. (13:10)
The one who loves their children
is careful to discipline them. (13:24)
Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker,
but whoever is kind to the needy honours God. (14:31)
Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent (17:28)
Fools… delight in airing their own opinions. (18:2)
… wonder if this applies to bloggers? L Well perhaps not always if you take into account the line before… Fools find no pleasure in understanding…
The purposes [read motives] of a person’s heart are deep waters,
but one who has insight draws them out. (20:5)
Without wood a fire goes out;
without a gossip a quarrel dies down.(26:20)
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. (31:30)
J And some observations that made me smile…
“It’s no good, it’s no good!” says the buyer—
then goes off and boasts about the purchase. (20:14)
Better to live on a corner of the roof
than share a house with a quarrelsome wife. (21:9)
The sluggard says, “There’s a lion outside!
I’ll be killed in the public square!” (22:13)
… Any excuse!
Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears
is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own. (26:17)
There is, of course, far more. Pure gold to reflect on! As I read I find myself thinking over and over, “Now ain’t that the truth!” But now, the hard part – trying to apply it!