We are launching into a study of the Book of Proverbs and hope it will be something helpful for you in terms of giving you some practical exhortations, guidance and instructions on a number of very important areas.
The Proverbs are really the most practical components of Scripture. They are part of the "Wisdom Literature" along with Job and Ecclesiastes. Proverbs occupies a central place in that literature. It is designed to give us a sense of purpose and understanding for practical holiness, or practical application of wisdom and skill in life. There is a universal and comprehensive sense to the maxims and precepts in this book. It talks to everyone; they are universal, generalized statements that tell about life. Even though individual cases differ, the principles are still broadly true and broadly correct.
Someone once said that a proverb is a short sentence based on long experience. That's a good way of looking at it. When we look at the Proverbs, we are going to realize that they are going to be divided into two major areas. It was Robert Benchly who said there are two kinds of people in the world, "Those who consistently divide the world into two kinds of people and those who do not." We are going to be looking at the Proverbs and seeing that they are going to be constantly be dividing two kinds of people: those people who really follow the wisdom of this world and those who follow the wisdom that God provides for them; those who order their ways under eternal principles and maxims and those who do not; the wise and the foolish.
We are going to see that wisdom is not so much simply a matter of intellectual perception, but it really has to do with moral acumen: moral discernment and skill. It has a lot to do with the whole new notion of depending upon God versus autonomous living. We are going to discover that a lot of it has to do with the issue about those who walk in dependence upon God and those who choose to try to live their lives in some autonomous way. Proverbs will be very valuable.
It has been said that a wise man learns from the mistakes of others. Nobody lives long enough to make all of them himself, so consequently we have to learn from the wisdom of other people. But the problem we've all discovered is that it's a lot easier to be wise for others than it is to be wise for ourselves. We are very long on giving advice for other people but pretty bad about gaining insight for ourselves. It's interesting how we're foolish when we come to our own situation but when we look at other people we can see the absurdity of their way. But then we look at our own mistakes and gain some perspective. If you look back on them, it's astounding how dumb we were and the blunders we've typically made. We kind of shoot ourselves in the foot, even though we never intended to start out our day that way we end up that way. One poem puts it this way,
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