To Understand a Proverb
1. Solomon is giving some reasons for the book of Proverbs—the purpose of the Proverbs.
2. They were written to give subtlety to the simple and to the young man, knowledge and discretion. (vs.4)
3. They were also written for the wise man—that he might become even wiser… IF he hears and increases learning as a result. (vs.5a)
4. They were also written that the wise man might attain wise counsels… (vs.5b)
Men of Understanding
1. Men of understanding…
• This is in contrast to the young and inexperienced mentioned in vs.4.
• Men of understanding are mature men… discerning men… men with insight… grown men… who have gathered much understanding and wisdom along life’s road.
• They are WISE men… the book of Proverbs is for you too!
• No one should ever shrug off the book of Proverbs—as if it were for kids… as if we were above the wisdom of this book… as if we had already attained to the wisdom found therein.
2. Men of understanding should HEAR what this book has to say! (vs.5a)
3. Sure, Solomon addresses his “son” at times (1:10). At times he addresses “simple ones” and the “youth”. (7:6-7)
• However, the lessons in this book are not for the simple ones exclusively!
• This book is for the wise and the men of understanding too.
• Men who are truly wise and understanding will readily acknowledge that. Fools and proud men might scoff… but not the truly wise.
WILL ATTAIN UNTO WISE COUNSEL…
1. The truly wise man—the man of understanding / discernment will attain unto wise counsels… in order to understand a proverb. (vs.6a)
• The fool thinks he is above instruction, and will pay little attention to the proverbs.
• But the wise man will do whatever he can to understand them! He will seek counsel—help in understanding them!
• Some of these Proverbs are described as “dark sayings.” In other words, while many of them are simple and straightforward, there are some that are difficult to understand.
» Prov.26:4-5 – do you answer a fool or not?
» Prov.26:13 – a lion in the street? (an excuse for not going to work!)
» Some of the Proverbs require a bit of thought and meditation!
» Proverbs 27:13 – Take his garment that is surety for a stranger, and take a pledge of him for a strange woman. WHAT???
» Proverbs 27:19 – As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man. WHAT???
» Proverbs 14:4 – Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox. WHAT???
• Some Proverbs are simple to understand on the surface, but take on a depth of meaning as we grow and mature!
» Prov. 15:27 – when you observe this in a friend or neighbor—or if you experience it—it takes a depth of meaning never before appreciated!
» Prov. 15:23 – When you are down and discouraged, and someone speaks a kind word in due season—how precious this verse becomes!
» Prov. 26:20 – When there is much strife in the home or in the local church, and this verse is applied and WORKS—how clear this principle becomes! How precious this little gem becomes!
» Prov. 27:17 – when you take counsel with a brother—and you are both able to converse and correct each other—tune each other up spiritually—how precious this passage becomes!
» Some proverbs—while understood superficially—take on a whole new depth of meaning when we actually experience them in our lives!
» There is milk in this book for babes, and there is strong meat for the mature—even in the same verse!
2. Because some of the Proverbs are not easily understood without meditation… and because some of the Proverbs have a depth of meaning that can only be fathomed through experience… a truly wise man will study this book—and seek counsel to really understand it… to fully grasp it… to plumb the depths of its meaning…and to learn how to apply these gems to ALL kinds of experiences in life.
• This book had to be written—it had to be recorded.
• God could have allowed these proverbs to be passed down from generation to generation orally… but He did not.
• They had to be written so that we could sit down and meditate upon them… discover their depth… read and reread them! And then reread them again!
• Even on a superficial level, these proverbs will give wisdom to the young and simple.
• BUT—the wise man will HEAR, increase in his learning… and he will attain unto wise counsel (seek teaching; share lessons learned; compare Scripture with Scripture) — in order that he might understand TO A GREATER DEGREE the Proverbs and the dark sayings of this book!
• In other words, a wise man will never stop learning from this book!
• Cf. Prov. 2:1-4 – wise men will realize the value of these gems of wisdom and will seek it all the more diligently! The truly wise man will keep on digging in the book of Proverbs and will never quit—because he knows that the book has an endless resource of wisdom and application for life…
• Matthew Henry: “This book will make the foolish and bad, wise and good, and it will make the wise and good, wiser and better!”
• Prov. 9:9 — Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.
TO UNDERSTAND A PROVERB…
1. The truly wise man—the man who listens… the man of understanding—who is constantly increasing in learning… who is constantly attaining unto wise counsels… WILL understand this book!
2. This book’s meaning is NOT to be hidden. It is a revelation. It is to teach and reveal truth… not to conceal it.
3. The wise man will be able to understand this book. He will genuinely grasp and appreciate it… because he will be DOING what it says… and EXPERIENCING the benefits of applying this wisdom!
4. The wise man will understand the proverb and its INTERPRETATION.
• Interpretation: satire, mocking poem, mocking song, taunting, figure, enigma. — a saying which requires an interpretation.
» Someone described a proverb without an interpretation as a nut uncracked.
» It is valuable and you know it—but you cannot benefit from its value until you “open” it up!
• Some of the Proverbs require thought… and interpretation. A wise man will attain unto counsel… seek guidance… and obtain the meaning of them!
• Thus, true wisdom is described as a hungering for truth…
5. The wise man will understand these dark sayings…
• Dark sayings: riddle, difficult question, parable, enigmatic saying or question, perplexing saying or question.
• I Kings 10:1 – The Queen of Sheba came to prove Solomon with “hard questions.” —same word as “dark sayings.”
• The wise man will keep on digging in this book until he has all of his hard questions answered… until the light shines on the dark sayings and he gets it!
• He keeps on digging because he is wise—and because he is wise he realizes that he is not perfect — that he has areas of weakness… that he has blind spots… that he has not arrived. He is not only wise, but humble!
• Why would God ever reveal truth through “dark sayings”??? Why not reveal truth in an easier way? So that we would APPLY our hearts to wisdom… DIG deep… STUDY to show ourselves approved unto God!