We have many different books in the Bible for a reason.
They all have something different that we need to live our lives as Christians.
Like take Proverbs, as an example.
Proverbs is definitely a pretty different book of the Bible.
It’s different than, say, a gospel like Luke which we’ve been studying recently at our church.
And it’s actually, different, than most of the Old Testament as well.
Most of the Old Testament is telling you this story of what God’s doing. If you read most of the Old Testament, it’s helping you understand, the promise God made to bring salvation, to the world, through this little nation. Israel.
But, Proverbs is not so much telling you a story about what God’s doing in the world, as it trying to help you understand how to live your life, now, in this world.
It’s down to earth.
It’s part of this section in the Old Testament we call the Wisdom literature.
Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes are all part of the Wisdom Literature, and these three books are grouped together because they are, pretty much, all answering the same question. They all want to help us know, how to live well, in this world, as it is, and yet, even though they are all answering that same basic question, when you start reading them, they seem, pretty different, as well..
At least, at first.
I mean, like for example, Job. Job’s a story. And mostly, poetry. Where Proverbs almost reads like a book of quotes. And Ecclesiastes, is different altogether. It’s more like a philosophy textbook.
In fact, Ecclesiastes is this king, who has it all and is just, trying everything, in life, because, he wants to understand, how anything makes sense, in light of the fact, we all, are going to die, so quickly.
And Job is this righteous man, who had it all, and now doesn’t, and, is suffering, is trying to understand, how to make sense, of the fact, we do good, and hurt so much.
You look at Job and Ecclesiastes and, they are wrestling with these big questions in life. Death. Suffering.
Where Proverbs is much more down to earth and straightforward, actually.
I am saying.
Even though these books are answering similar questions, at first they seem very different.
If you look a little more closely, you see they all actually, have ONE very important thing in common, they have many things that are different, but wisdom literature, these books about living life, skillfully, all have ONE very important thing in common.
And that’s the way they stress.
Fearing God. The fear of God. For each one, that’s like their ultimate answer.
So, like, take Ecclesiastes, which seems like kind of a weird book in that, the author is just trying absolutely everything, and saying, nothing makes sense, until he comes to the end and says in Ecclesiastes 12:13.
“The end of the matter; all has been heard.”
I’ve looked at everything.
That’s what he is saying. And it’s confusing, but this is the one thing I’ve figured out.
“Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”
And, Job, as well.
Job 28, is the center of the book. The part before that, has all these questions, and the part after has all these questions.
And Job 28.
Is sort of a pause.
In the middle. To give us a glimpse of the answer, and you know, his answer? To the suffering in life.
You need wisdom. And that wisdom. Is what?
Job 28:28, “Look, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil, that is understanding.”
And then Proverbs.
If Ecclesiastes is saying I’ve tried everything, and I am realizing, now, what matters is fearing God. And Job is like, oh I have suffered, and what I found, I need is wisdom, and wisdom is found in fearing God. Proverbs is kind of like. ‘You know, I could have told you that. I mean, you remember, how I started my book? Right?’
Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
And, that’s like Proverbs motto. When you look at it. That’s the key thing Proverbs wants you to know about becoming wise. At the beginning.
You can’t even get started understanding life without fearing God.
The door into the room called wisdom is the fear of God.
Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”
It’s sort of like the A,B,C’s. Really.
You remember. Maybe, when you first go to school, you don’t start off with Algebra, or Chemistry, or Physics. Obviously. Imagine sitting down in grade R, and the teacher plops a calculus book on your desk. No. You start, in grade R, with the basics, because the teacher knows, you will never understand the more complex subjects, until you understand certain fundamentals first.
And the wisdom literature wants you to know, what’s true of school is true, of life as well. Because, look, life is complicated. There’s a lot of stuff that is complicated. Confusing. And so, there’s a lot of stuff, in life, that like Algebra or Physics, you need to think carefully about. But, you won’t be able to understand, and be smart, about any of that complicated stuff, if you haven’t come to understand, something fundamental first:
What it means to fear God.
One of the reasons the wisdom literature is in the Bible is to get us thinking about the importance of fearing God, which is why in the next few posts I want to go back to basics and talk about the fear of God.
One, what it means to fear God.
Two, why fearing God is essential to have any real wisdom.
And three, how we can become people who truly fear God.