Reading Proverbs: Why and How

Some books of the Bible are harder to get into than others. Style, character and content are just three things that make it easier to read Mathew than Leviticus though both are equally the inspired word of God. Proverbs is one of those books in the Bible that many people find hard to enjoy and relish reading. Indeed, in the past, I was somebody who found Proverbs hard too. For this reason I have taken the opportunity to write a quick encouragement and challenge to read, and get stuck into, the book of Proverbs.

Proverbs is part of what we call the ‘wisdom literature’ of the Bible and is located between Psalms and Ecclesiastes. Just glancing through the first 7 verses of the first chapter will give us some massive reasons why Proverbs is a great book for everybody to read.

1. The Author. Very often books are sold to us by what they look like on the outside. We have a saying that “we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover” but we still do. Not only do we judge a book by its cover but we also judge a book by its author. Proverbs tells us (v1) that it’s author is Solomon. Solomon, the economic genius, the temple builder, the man of peace, the wisest man on the earth with wisdom given to him specially by God. This man was a man so great that the queen of Sheba was willing to travel over 1200 miles to speak with him. But Solomon was also a man who, through bitter experience, knew what it was to fail and fall because he didn’t listen to his own wisdom. It is the character of the author of Proverbs that should make us want to read and study the book.

2. The Contents. The Contents of the book of Proverbs are stunning. They are for one purpose: to make one wise (v2). Proverbs is the university of life that all need to go through before they approach anything else. This makes it a book that is especially relevant for teenagers and young people. Proverbs is for the attaining of wisdom and of discipline, for understanding words of insight, for aquiring a prudent and disciplined life so that you can do what is just and fair, for giving prudence, knowledge and discerning. If Proverbs does half of that then its very worth reading and studying.

3. The Reader. All books are aimed at a particular audience. Proverbs tells us clearly that it is for the one who lacks understanding, for the young. Throughout the Proverbs the one addressed is a youth. Young people, all of us lack wisdom and sense. Proverbs has been provided for us so that we can understand how the world works. If you are young or there are things in life that you don’t know or understand (I assure you, there are) then you need to read Proverbs. However, though Proverbs is primarily for the young who lack wisdom and sense, it is actually also relevant for the wise and the one who already knows some stuff.

So now we have some reasons to read Proverbs here are some practical tips.

1. Read Proverbs in very small bites. Think about it, then think about it again. Meditate on it. One helpful thing to do could be to write one proverb on a flash-card and carry it round with you for the day/week. When you have a spare moment pull it out and read it through and meditate again. The more you meditate the more you’ll get. It isn’t  a race. If you take three years to read through proverbs but each proverb you apply to your life then you are better off than the person who read it all through 5 times in the first 6 months and isn’t any wiser in action.

2. Pray about what you read. The beginning of wisdom, which we all need, is the fear of the Lord. This right fear of the Lord is developed in prayer where you also realise the amazing blessing that there is in a relationship with him.

3. When you read something don’t just think and then move on, apply it. You have to apply wisdom to your life for it to be any good to you. It’s no good if you know lots of wise things but you don’t act wisely. When you read a word of wisdom make sure you don’t leave it before you have found a way to apply it.

By Thomas vdB with thanks to Pete Woodcock for some material.

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