Series: Digging Deeper into Proverbs
Knowing the Voice of God
1 Corinthians 14:7-11
If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? 8 And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? 9 So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, 11 but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me.
The very name of the book of Proverbs comes from a Hebrew word which as one lexicon puts it: Inevitably the meaning is to become like, to be comparable to. The way the proverbs work is that they employ comparisons over and over again. Some comparisons serve to help you know what some things are like, and others to show you how things are not alike. In fact, most obvious are 4 different kinds of couplets throughout the book. Keep your open for them.
a. Contrastive Couplets. The word BUT is often used so that it brings the contrast to light. So in Prov. 25:2 we read It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, BUT the glory of kings is to search out a matter. It shows you how God in His sovereign position of rule, differs from human beings in position of authority. God is puts things in front of us in ways that are meant to get us digging into them and in the process to find out more about Him.
In 18:2 we see that A fool does not delight in understanding, BUT only in revealing his own mind.
The word BUT signals the contrast.
b. Comparative Couplets: In these, the words LIKE or SO are the key words to see what He is getting at. Prov. 25:3 As the heavens for height and the earth for depth, SO the heart of kings is unsearchable. We are to see how ALIKE the two ideas are.
c. Complementary Couplets: These forms are one of the ways Hebrew poetry works by the second part of the phrase amplifying and expanding the first part. An example would be 13:14 The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, To turn aside from the snares of death. Or 14:10 The heart knows its own bitterness, And a stranger does not share its joy.
The first and second statements complement each other, and perhaps expand the idea a bit.
d. Cautionary Couplets: These usually have words like LEST and DO NOT in them. They are meant to sound warnings. So in 25:8 DO NOT go out hastily to argue your case; Otherwise, what will you do in the end, When your neighbor puts you to shame? And 25:9-10 Argue your case with your neighbor, And do not reveal the secret of another, LEST he who hears it reproach you, And the evil report about you not pass away.
It is through these devices that the Holy Spirit has written His Word in ways that will both click in our minds, and make it easier to remember the key concepts. God has given us His Word to speak to us, so that we know what His voice sounds like. Our God is the Master Communicator. He speaks so as to be understood. He expects to be understood.
Hearing the voice of God is not an exercise in crystal-ball gazing, or trying to discern secret messages and decode impressions and feelings. As you read the Word more and more, His voice becomes clearer and clearer. And this itself becomes a filter, so as to distinguish the way He speaks, from the our own hearts and minds, the World or the Devil.
As we continue to mine gems out of Proverbs here’s an outline of the entire book of Proverbs.
This one is from Keil & Delitzsch:
1. 1:1-6 Title
2. 1:7-9:18 Introductory Discourses
3. 10-22:16 1st Collection of Solomons Proverbs
4. 22:17-24:22 1st Appendix to 1st Collection (Words to the wise)
5. 24:23-34 2nd Appendix to the 1st Collection (Words of some wise men)
6. 25-29 2nd Collection (Gathered by Hezekiahs men)
7. 30 1st Appendix to 2nd Collection (Words of Agur son of Makeh)
8. 31:1-9 2nd Appendix to 2nd Collection (Words of King Lemuel)
9. 31:10-21 3rd Appendix to 2nd Collection (Acrostic Ode)
Several things stand out.
1. Wise men seek the wisdom of others.
Solomon didnt compose all the proverbs in this book. He gleaned from others. Wise men do not consider themselves THE authority. They know better. They track down and obtain wisdom wherever they can. Wisdom recognizes wisdom in others and takes advantage of it. 1 Kings 4:32 notes Solomon also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005.
We display arrogance when we refuse the wisdom of others.
Some say they do not read commentaries or other Biblical authors sticking only to the Bible. In the process, setting aside Gods wisdom poured out through others, and failing to build upon how the Spirit has gifted them, they rob themselves of the riches God has given to others for them.
2. The book provides a practical demonstration of how to view common grace.
We do not reject everything non-Christians say merely because they are non-Christians. God is good to us through many sources. Yes, discernment is needed. But to discount all non-Believers as having nothing to contribute is both arrogant and foolish. It fails to account for God being at work in the rest of Creation. God wants spiritual fruit, not religious nuts may not be Scripture but it is true! Solomon collects wisdom from others. King Hezekiah had his men gather wisdom for him. Agur son of Makeh was wise, and Solomon included his words a man Scripture says nothing about, but that statement.
There is a story told of the Old Scottish widow who was terribly poor.
Her landlord, a scoundrel of a man was always teasing and tormenting her about her religion. He thought her an old fool to love and trust God so when her circumstances were so bleak. One day, the landlord passed by her open window and heard the old woman praying for bread. She had none to eat and was in truly dire straits. The landlord thought he had her at last. Running to the market, he purchased a warm loaf of bread. Sneaking back up to her window, he ducked low and tossed the bread onto the bed where she was still kneeling in prayer. Startled by the crusty surprise, she grasped the reality of it immediately and began to praise God for answering her prayer so miraculously. Hearing her loud rejoicing the landlord knocked on the old womans door and asked what all the commotion was. With deep emotion she explained her plight and Gods amazing answer when all of a sudden the landlord interrupted her revelry and revealed that he had heard her praying, and was in fact the true benefactor. What do you think of your God now? he exclaimed hoping to shake her thoroughly. Oh! She replied. My God is even greater than I gave Him credit for. For not only did He hear my prayer, He delivered the answer by the hand of the Devil himself!
The wise will see God’s hand, even when the glove it is wearing is terribly soiled.
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Reid serves as the pastor for preaching and vision at Evangelical Church of Fairport in Fairport New York. A native of Rochester, N.Y., he has served in various ministry areas during his life, including: a founding member of the former Mark IV Quartet, Youth Pastor at ECF, former board member of the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (F.I.R.E.), and author of The Little Book of Things You Should Know About Ministry (Christian Focus Publications, 2002). Pastor Reid blogs regularly at Responsive Reiding.