“Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise.”
Proverbs 1:2 (NLT)
In my journalism days I learned to write articles that covered the who, what, when, where and why of a topic or situation. As I read the first five verses of Proverbs 1, I realized most of these questions can be answered regarding this wisdom book of the Bible. Last week, I wrote about Solomon, who authored Proverbs. This week, I’m tackling why we should study Proverbs.
Proverbs 1:2 lays it out plainly for us. The wise sayings in this book teach us wisdom and discipline and they give us insight. Wisdom, discipline and insight are easy words to say, but what do they really mean in the context of Proverbs?
Wisdom. The Hebrew word, chokmah (Strong’s H2451), carries the meanings of wisdom, skill, and wit. In Pr. 1:2, the idea of being skillful in life applies. Wisdom is knowing when to use knowledge in different ways in order to get the best outcome. Wisdom is not just in knowing, but knowing how. It is a skill, or craft, that requires thought and practice. It is not a formula, in which A + B always = C. For example, there are two back to back proverbs that tell us (1) not to answer a fool according to his folly and (2) to answer a fool according to his folly (Pr. 26:4-5). These verses may seem contradictory, but they are not. A person using wisdom knows which of these proverbs to apply to a particular situation, and sometimes this is learned by experience. Wisdom is a skillful art.
Discipline. Based on the Hebrew word for discipline, muwcar (Strong’s H4148), this refers to chastisement, reproof, warning and instruction. Proverbs teach us the value of instruction, even when it means that reproof is required. Proverbs exhort parents to correct their children (Pr. 23:13-14, 29:17) and encourages friends to confront each other for the purpose of restoring one another to Christ (Pr. 27:9,17). Proverbs also remind us that God loves us through his discipline and that accepting his discipline brings blessing (Pr. 3:12, 16:20). Wisdom teaches us who and how to discipline, and it teaches us to graciously accept discipline (Pr. 3:11-12). Sometimes our greatest wisdom is gained through discipline.
Insight. Wise people have insight, which means, according to its Hebrew translation (biynah, Strong’s H998), a perfect understanding. Solomon, the author of Proverbs, requested wisdom from God (1 Ki 3:6-15), and God granted it to him, making him the wisest king ever to live. His proverbs were penned with a perfect understanding of life situations and outcomes and which behaviors please and displease God. Proverbs are therefore, counsel that covers a variety of life issues to help us see God’s truth and learn how to apply his wisdom in our own lives.
When we study Proverbs, we have access to God’s perfect understanding, and we learn the skill of wise living along with the purpose of discipline.