Proverbs is both a fascinating and frustrating book when it comes to preaching. Some expositors shy away from it because it does not lend itself to verse-by-verse preaching, and even the experts struggle with how it points to Christ.
But Proverbs is not just a book of helpful tips that can change behavior. The purpose of Proverbs, just like every other book of the Bible, is to save and sanctify those who read it.
This is the second post of three that hopes to begin the conversation about how we can preach Proverbs so that it both leads unbelievers to Christ and explains how to be further conformed to His image. If you missed the first post, you can find it here.
If you’re looking for a more comprehensive and in-depth look, you can check out my book “Preaching Christ from Proverbs.”
The Wise Prophet
Proverbs 1:20-33 presented Wisdom as a “turn or burn” street prophet who appealed to the simple to turn and not perish. Solomon used a linguistic device called “personification,” where the author gives human characteristics to an abstract idea. Just like when someone says, “Lady Justice is blind”—a personification of the abstract idea of justice that seeks to communicate that justice is objective. In these verses, Solomon personified his wise teaching i.e. the teaching of Proverbs) as a street-preaching prophetess to communicate how important it is. Whether or not the reader embraced Solomon’s teaching would determine if one was swept away in the whirlwind of God’s judgment or lived securely because foolishness is not just a character defect. Foolishness is a rejection of the Lord himself!
However, in Proverbs 8-9, Solomon also revealed that Woman Wisdom does not just stand for his wise teachings, but she also stands for the wisdom of God. In the fullness of time, God reveals to us what Solomon could not have fully known – that Jesus is God’s Wisdom. Paul writes to the church at Corinth, “But to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God…It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:24, 30). Christ is the embodiment and fulfillment of the wisdom of Proverbs, in the same way that he is the embodiment of the Word itself (John 1:1-14). He is the very wisdom and word of God. Ultimately, wisdom is not a set of ideas; wisdom is a person – Jesus Christ. You need to believe him. If you do, then he will pour out his Spirit on you and make you wise (Prov. 1:23). If you reject him and his teaching, then you will perish.
Jon Akin is the Senior Pastor of Fairview Church in Lebanon, TN