So that your trust may be in the LORD, I teach you today, even you. (Proverbs 22:19)
Why study the book of Proverbs?
We have started a sermon series looking at a part of Proverbs in our church, so this question has been on my mind. Proverbs is a strange book filled with seemingly unconnected piece of advice. It is very different to much of the rest of the Bible. So why bother with the book of Proverbs at all?
The book gives us an answer in Proverbs 22 verse 19 where the writer comments “So that your trust may be in the LORD, I teach you today, even you.”
The aim of proverbs is to help us trust in God. That is why these words were written down and included in the Bible: to increase our trust in the Lord. Or to put it another way, to give us confidence in the Lord, since in Hebrew trust and confidence are the same word.
How do proverbs help our confidence in God? Well I think that one of the ways our confidence in God is eroded is when we can’t see where he is at work. We look at the world today and wonder what God is up to. We look at the circumstances of our own lives and wonder where God is at work. We hear the latest news and wonder why it seems like God does not act. Our confidence in God starts to ebb.
What Proverbs does is pull back the curtain and helps us to see what God is up to and where God is at work. It builds up our confidence once more.
Let’s take an example: a saying in Proverbs 22 verse 22: “Do not exploit the poor because they are poor.” That is an important command and one that I hope we would all agree with. Exploiting the poor is a bad thing and to be stopped. Even more so when they are exploited because they are poor and cannot defend themselves. This is a bad thing.
Yet it happens. The poor are exploited in many ways across the world and on our own doorstep. From human trafficking and modern-day slavery to poor wages and working conditions, to outrageously exploitative pay-day loans. Our world still contains exploitation of the poor.
So where is God in all this? He is on the side of the poor. Literally, he is taking up their case in court. The defence lawyer for the poor and needy is God himself. That would be a courtroom drama I would love to see! And we will. God is working to overturn exploitation and poverty, to rob back the robbers. We can have confidence that God is working for the poor, and that should spur us on to work for the poor as well.
Proverbs wants to increase our confidence in God. It wants to instruct us about who God is, what God wants and where God is at work. In very practical terms it wants to instruct us about what we should do as a result. That is why it is such a challenging book. It is a book worth studying and a book worth persevering with. I am certainly looking forward to spending some time in Proverbs over the coming weeks, and being challenged to think and live differently as a result.