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15 July 2019

Proverbs 15: wisdom applied

Paul Webber (LT pics 2016) Paul Webber Minister
Discipleship Day 2016 - bible

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been journeying through the book of Proverbs in search of wisdom. On Sunday 14 July, I spoke from Proverbs 15 where many topics are addressed.

That’s because Proverbs was written to reckon with the complexity of life, the fact that we have to spin many plates. Perhaps this week you someone was rude to you. Or an over-dependent friend has been calling you asking for your advice – every day. Or you are having problems with your builder, or your child is being bullied at school, or you need to renew your insurance. And you need wisdom for all these things at the same time!

Proverbs chapters 10 to 29 is a collection of sayings which reflect that complexity and show that God’s word is relevant for each and every one of them. In total there are nine different subjects addressed in chapter 15. Nine sermons!

But also, Proverbs was meant to be read in community, with wise mentors and leaders. People were to read a chapter and discuss it. Then in a few days, read the next chapter where the same themes are addressed, but from a different angle. When you put all these perspectives together, you obtain wisdom!

Below is a brief overview of chapter 15.

1. Live in harmony by avoiding needless quarrels (Proverbs 15:1,18)

Verse 18 also implies that a calm person avoids court proceedings if possible.

2. God’s justice inspires integrity (Proverbs 15:2–4,24–27)

in Proverbs 15:2–4, a single proverb on how God acts justly (v. 3) falls between two proverbs on the use of the tongue (vv. 2,4).

In Proverbs 15:24–27, two proverbs on God’s justice (vv. 25–26) are sandwiched between two proverbs on behaviour that leads either to blessing or to death (vv. 24,27). In both groups, the middle proverbs reveal that the moral principles that underpin the world are from the heart of God.

3. Fools don’t listen to advice (Proverbs 15:5,20–22)

Here a person’s attitude toward parental teaching (v. 5) will shape their lifelong attitude toward authority and instruction (vv. 21–22). To ‘keep a straight course’ (v. 21) is to avoid the moral hazards of life; it does not refer to reckless determination. Verse 22 is not about making decisions by committee, but rather a willingness to take on board advice.

4. Lasting prosperity comes from high moral character and hard work (Proverbs 15:6,19)

Using the ‘house’ as a picture of the warehouse of a person’s possessions (v. 6), and the ‘way’ symbolically for the success of a person’s life (v. 19), Proverbs links those who live rightly to wealth (v. 6), and contrasts laziness with uprightness (and not simply with diligence, as some might expect from v. 19).

5. Your words show your heart (Proverbs 15:7,28)

The ‘lips of the wise’ or ‘heart of the righteous’ contrasts with the ‘heart of fools’ or ‘mouth of the wicked.’ Verse 7 states the simple fact that knowledge is found with the wise and not with fools. Verse 28 builds on this and describes a practical way of distinguishing the two: the wise/righteous speak only after careful consideration, while the fools/wicked blurt out whatever hurt or random idea is on their minds.

6. Religious enthusiasm is no substitute for integrity (Proverbs 15:8–9,29)

These verses mirror what the prophets Amos and Micah will say about the people of Israel a generation later (compare Amos 5:21–24; Micah 6:6–8).

7. Fear God, for He is just (Proverbs 15:10–11; 15:33 – 16:7)

These verses are linked by their focus on how God interacts with his people. Proverbs 15:10–11 describes the punishment of death that the wicked should expect, whilst 15:33 – 16:7 describes how God works out his justice. These include the general warning to fear God (15:33), sentences about God’s wisdom and judgment (16:1–5), and a teaching on how to receive God’s blessing.

Righteousness is defined chiefly as the fear of the Lord and humility (15:33); it focuses more on motives than actions and thus excludes self-justification (16:2).

8. Smiles spread happiness (Proverbs 15:12–15,30–32)

These verses share the idea of a cheerful look (vv. 13,30a) and the importance of listening to correction (vv. 12,14,31–32). Verse 13, however, speaks of a happy heart producing a cheerful face (i.e., for the one who has the happy heart) whereas v. 30a speaks of a cheerful look giving joy to the heart of someone else. By linking vv. 13,15 with correction (vv. 12,14), the text implies that mental and emotional wholeness come from listening to sound teaching. Similarly, by linking v. 30 wise a desire for instruction in vv. 31–32, we are encouraged to consider the importance of influencing others by an affirming attitude and positive reports rather than only by the negative way of correcting faults. These verse also shows that a person’s mental health can be affected negatively or positively by what others say (good news in v. 15a, oppression in v. 30b).

9. What is true prosperity? (Proverbs 15:16–17; 16:8)

Contrary to our culture’s view, prosperity it is not to be found in wealth, possessions, and the abundance of food. The greatest treasures are a holy life, a loving home and personal integrity.

Where do you need wisdom in your life? Meditate on these verses in Proverbs and ask God to help you, who gives wisdom to all.

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