These are the proverbs of Solomon, one of the most renowned kings in the history of Israel. The word translated “proverb” is the Hebrew word “mashal.” The root of the word contains the idea of “compare”—it is translated throughout Scripture as “parable” just as often as “proverb.”
This gives us some insight into the nature of these sayings. Proverbs are not prescriptions. It is not about a formula for how to manipulate circumstances and bend them to our will. That might be wishful thinking, but doesn’t work in reality. The proverbs are, in a sense, “comparing” our human perceptions to the reality of God’s world; trying to connect the two by providing principles that shape our perspective and inform our choices such that we live constructively—that is to say, wisely.
Like parables, the proverbs are meant to guide us “to wisdom”, that is, into a way of living. A way of thinking and perceiving. It is about molding and shaping our perceptions, values, and character into something that is consistently in tune with God, not just as a rule-follower but as someone who understands and practices the essence of the divine. One who sees the world through God’s eyes, and acts accordingly.
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” or vaporous nature of all that surrounds us. 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 within certain areas of life. Proverbs leads us to choose a true perspective in all areas of life, and 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 the key actions to take that lead us to the path of wisdom.
The third chapter of The Book of Proverbs is a continuation of Solomon’s case that wisdom is the key to fruitful living.
The chapter begins and ends by touting the ways in which the Lord will reward those who pursue wisdom. It also warns about the dangerous consequences of wickedness. Throughout his warnings and supplications in this chapter, Solomon stresses the importance of choices.
The choices we make have significant consequences.
Solomon reminds us in Chapter 3 that wisdom was prevalent in the foundation of the world. It is an ingredient of creation, there from the beginning. Wickedness is a perversion of this ingredient, an act of taking reality and trying to remold it into our own image. This inevitably brings disastrous results.
The key to wisdom is where we place our trust. When we put our trust where it belongs—in God rather than in our own reasoning or external circumstances—we discover that the key to life is not control, but submission. That by trust, we gain access to the peace, joy, and riches we desire. Even these riches are not given in the way the world (and our sinful flesh) want them—as comfortable circumstance and ease. They come as gifts of perspective. The only path to truth is understanding. Perspective transforms the idol of “more” into the arena of peace. It does not change things as much as it changes the way we see things. The way we perceive.
Throughout The Book of Proverbs, wisdom is given as the key to vibrant living. Solomon is constantly trying to convince the audience of the importance of wisdom, the necessity of remembering it throughout all of life’s twists and turns, and the great benefit it brings when relied upon. He calls for our commitment to wisdom. To apply wisdom to any circumstance we may encounter, relying on a consistent faith in God.