In the first chapter of The Book of Proverbs, Solomon establishes his intent—to teach the value of wisdom so that one might live effectively in an uncertain world. To help provide his audience with a way to navigate the mystery of life through trusting in God, having faith in Him, and listening to His practical advice.
Wisdom is a pathway to effective living, in a manner that serves our true best interest. The alternative is folly. It is a binary choice. Folly often seems best to us, but is actually self-destructive. It’s not always easy to tell which is which. Proverbs provides training on how to discern the wise path.
The Book of Proverbs is a practical guide. It shapes our perspective on life and provides a blueprint for how to live according to the path that leads to our greatest benefit. Proverbs leads us to learn and grow, to apply true insights constructively. It explains how cause-and-effect actually works in God’s creation. In a word, Proverbs shows how to learn wisdom.
In the Book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon describes how life in this world is enigmatic, beyond our control, and in many ways incomplete (Ecclesiastes 1:2, 3:11). His conclusion is that mystery is an invitation to faith, an opportunity to trust God (Ecclesiastes 12:13). In the midst of the conclusion of Ecclesiastes, it says that Solomon (the teacher) has “set forth many proverbs” (Ecclesiastes 12:9). This is a reference to The Book of Proverbs, Solomon’s attempt to get into the weeds and talk about the practical realities of daily life.
Ecclesiastes might be thought of as a philosophical foundation for wisdom. It shows the way to properly view the many aspects of life we cannot control, the “hebel.” “Hebel” is often translated as “vanity,” but a more accurate translation is “vapor.” This is what Solomon ponders in Ecclesiastes—the vaporous nature of life which we cannot grasp. The main thing Ecclesiastes shows us is the importance of choosing to trust God, and make good choices based on that trust.
Proverbs will reiterate the philosophical foundations of Ecclesiastes, then zoom in and expand upon the practical application of trusting God and choosing a true perspective in all areas of life. The wisdom in Proverbs creates a foundation from which we can choose actions that are constructive, beneficial, and fulfilling.
There are only three things we control in life: who we trust, our perspective, and what we do—our actions. Ecclesiastes makes this reality abundantly clear. Trying to control what we cannot leads to complete futility. Trusting God however provides a foundation for constructive living. Proverbs teaches us how best to steward the choices we have—how to trust God, how to choose His perspective, and key actions to take that lead us to the path of wisdom.
Solomon’s audience are youth—young people. He wants to get to them early, to set up the parameters for choices and consequence, for wisdom versus foolishness, and for what is truly in their best interest. Each of these requires making a choice.
In Chapter 1, Solomon sets up the two diverging choices we have set before us. On one hand is the choice of wisdom, calling to us from the streets. It is the design for our lives and for the world. On the other hand is the self-destructive and violent path of sinners, diverging from God’s instructions. Foolish people lose their alignment with reality and truth by derailing to a lesser way.
In this opening chapter, Solomon is working hard to set the stakes. He implores us to see how important and immediate the choice is between wisdom and folly. He wants to show which is truly in our own best self-interest and why. He wants to warn us of the slippery slope of choosing the foolish way, and guide us to the great hope and joy available when we align with God. When we commit to the way of wisdom. Chapter 1 makes it clear that if we desire to follow the path of wisdom, we must be intentional in choosing to listen to wisdom, understand its ways, and choose to follow in its path.
Solomon begins The Book of Proverbs by establishing the authority from which he writes. He then fires off a set of clauses that set up the purpose of life and the intent behind the book.
Wisdom is not something we can do by ourselves. We need the help and instruction of others and, most importantly, a trust and dependence on God.
The Wisdom of God is not the only voice vying for our perspective and trust. Sin calls us toward the path of foolishness, a perversion of the good for which God intends.
The Book of Proverbs is committed to explaining the reality of how life works. Solomon does this by discussing the ineffectiveness and danger of foolishness.
Wisdom (personified as a woman) shouts in public, beckoning all to hear and obey.
Lady Wisdom warns of the reality that some will continue to ignore her calling. This results in a myriad of undesirable consequences.
Lady Wisdom warns that trying evil for a time and/or using wisdom only for circumstantial change is not going to work.