Skip to main content
31st May

Proverbs 1-3; Psalm 146

Bible in a Year
6 minutes
In this article
31st May

Proverbs 1-3; Psalm 146

Bible in a Year
6 minutes


The next book we’re looking at from the wisdom literature is the book of Proverbs. At its core, this is a collection of short wisdom sayings that give guidance on how to live life according to God’s ways. Much of the book is attributed to king Solomon. This is likely due to the fact that Solomon was famous for his wisdom (1 Kings 4:29-33). In many ways he was considered the father of the Israelite wisdom literature.

The reality is this is likely the collective wisdom and understandings of the Israelite people, with many of these sayings attributed to Solomon to bring them into this collection of wisdom literature. These wisdom sayings are booked marked either side with longer speeches and poems. The book starts with a collection of speeches from a father to his son on the importance of pursuing wisdom. This is interspersed with poems from lady wisdom who is the embodiment of wisdom. To end we get the wisdom writings from two other people, Agur and Lemuel.

Proverbs 1-9 - Speeches from a father to a son and poems from lady wisdom

Proverbs 10-29 - Proverbs

Proverbs 30 - Wisdom from Agur

Proverbs 31 - Wisdom from Lemuel

The core theme of this book is wisdom, which in the Hebrew is hokmah (חָכְמָה). This idea of hokmah is so much broader than some intellectual or philosophical ideals. It was deeply practical. Craftsmen were described as having skill or hokmah at their craft (Exodus 31:3). These proverbs are to be practised and worked on. They teach skills which allows us to live a life in line with God’s ways.

Another key theme is the fear of the Lord. While there are definitely times in the Bible where people encounter God and physically tremble with fear, the more common use of this phrase is to describe and appropriate awe and reverence of God. He is mighty and powerful, and while he is also gracious, that shouldn’t lead us to take God for granted. In the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe C.S. Lewis uses Aslan as a model of Jesus (and therefor God). At one point in the book, one of the characters describes Aslan by saying “Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.” The fear of God involves recognising and livings out the truth that God is creator and we are the created.

One other idea we need to draw on while reading through Proverbs is a lesson we learnt while reading through Job. Life doesn’t always make sense. Yes, God does punish the wicked and rescue the righteous. But not always. Not every time. The wisdom sayings are not promises. We can not say they will be true every time. But they are general rules and principles that help us know how to live. Let’s take the idea from Proverbs 15:19. If you are lazy, life is going to be hard for you, but if you work hard life will go easier for you. As a general principle, this is good. But it would be wrong to say that all lazy people have it hard and all hard workers have it easy.

Proverbs 1-3

The book opens with its purpose; to help people know wisdom, get understanding, and then make good life decisions that promote righteousness and justice. The starting point for all this has to be that you fear God. As already mentioned, fear isn't terror at who God is (though sometimes it is), but more an awe at who God is, and a recognition that because he is so much greater than we are, we will submit our lives to him. If you don't see the importance of submitting your life to God, you will never be motivated enough to practise and learn from these proverbs.

This whole first section of the book reads like a speech from a father to his son, passing on his wisdom. The father starts by encouraging his son to avoid the lead of wicked people. They will try to entice you into following them and make it seem very attractive. But you are not to follow their ways, because their ways only lead to their own destruction.

Instead, you should chase after wisdom. The father describes wisdom as a woman calling out at the gates and at the centre of the city. She calls out, desperately wanting people to listen to her and follow her. We see the downside of people who do not listen to her. Lady Wisdom will laugh at them, not to mock them, but just at the sheer absurdity of what they are doing. Do they really think living life their way will make them happy? No! It will bring disaster on their head, and in those moments of terror they will search for wisdom.

But wisdom isn't a thing you can learn in a moment. It's a journey you have to walk through and grow into. Wisdom cannot help you in your troubles if you have not been pursuing it beforehand. Those that did not fear God or pursue wisdom will eat the fruit of their choices and will be destroyed. But those that did pursue wisdom will live in peace, free of concern.

The father then describes the incredible value of wisdom. Wisdom is hard won. You have to seek it, listen for it, call out for it. It doesn't just come to you; you have to work for it. Wisdom is God given. It comes from him alone, and with it he protects and nourishes his people. Wisdom is the thing that will keep you on the path of righteousness. It teaches you knowledge and discretion. It delivers you from those who choose wickedness and from following their path. It delivers you from sexual sin and adultery. Wisdom allows you to walk in the way of the good, because only upright and righteous people will inherit God's promises.

So the father again encourages his son. Trust in God with all your heart. Don't trust in yourself, in your own understanding or wisdom. Instead, fear God and pursue him as your source of wisdom. Honour him with all that you have, and when he disciplines and convicts you, don't shrug it off but rejoice that God is trying to teach you. Lady Wisdom is well worth pursuing. She is greater than gold, silver, or jewels. She is the source of a long life, of riches, and of a good reputation. Her way is one of peace, and she is like that tree of life in the garden of Eden. God created the world through wisdom.

Do not take your eyes off of wisdom. Wisdom is what gives you the confidence to live your life without fear. You can trust that with wisdom, you will not stumble or worry about what will happen in your sleep. This is because the Lord is your confidence, not your own strength and ability.

In your pursuit of wisdom, choose to live righteously. If you're going to give something to someone, just give it to them. Don't act unjustly and promise it to them, but not give it to them. Do not plan evil, or pick fights, or be jealous. Those that do evil are abominable to God. It's not possible to do evil and pursue God's wisdom. The wicked are cursed, but the righteous are blessed. God scorns those who are proud, but he has favour on those who are humble. Those who are wise inherit good things, but those that trust in their own foolishness get shame.

Psalm 146

This psalm is attributed to king David and falls into the category of praise psalm. These final five psalms (Psalm 146-150) serves as a doxology for the whole book of psalms. They praise God as King and speaks his authority over all things.

Psalm 146:1-2 - I will praise the Lord

Psalm 146:3-4 - Don’t put your trust in leaders

Psalm 146:5-9 - The Lord watches over those in need

Psalm 146:10 - The Lord will reign

The psalmist starts by calling to their soul, their entire being, to praise the Lord. All five of these final psalms open with a call to praise the Lord. Next comes a warning to not put your trust in ‘princes’ and ‘mortals’. They are not God. They will one day perish and be returned to the earth.

Ultimate trust should be reserved for God. Those who do that will be happy and blessed. He is the one who made the heavens and the earth. He is worthy of our trust. The psalmist then lists the many things that God does. He provides justice to the oppressed, gives food to the hungry, set the prisoners free, open the eyes of the blind, lifts up those who are bowed low, loves the righteous, watches over the foreigner and upholds the orphan and widow. In contrast, those who don’t trust in God and do their own thing will find themselves walking towards ruin.

The psalmist then ends with praise to God, declaring his reign forever. This psalm is a declaration that the Lord is king. It affirms that, as king, he does what good kings do. Look after his people.

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

Share this article