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. Several years ago, while I was in seminary, some fellow students, a few professors, and I went to dinner with someone who is considered the Yoda of Christ-centered interpretation. I was in the process of completing my doctoral studies on the Christocentric interpretation of Proverbs, so I was thrilled to get to ask him some questions.
When it was my turn I asked, “As a pastor how can I preach Christ from the details of the text of Proverbs week in and week out in a manner that is both practical and faithful to the text?” He sat still for several seconds and then replied, “Well, it seems to me that in 1 Corinthians Paul calls Jesus the ‘Wisdom of God.’” Then he nodded his head and said, “Next question.” I thought to myself, that’s it? Needless to say, I walked away from our discussion still confused about how to preach Christ from the Proverbs.
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. But still many preachers (and scholars) are skeptical about preaching Christ-centered sermons in Proverbs. Our next three posts will seek 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’re looking for a more comprehensive and in-depth look, you can check out my book “Preaching Christ from Proverbs.”
Jesus is the Wise King of Proverbs
King Solomon was the wisest man in ancient Israel, and he sought to impart that wisdom to the nation by speaking and writing proverbs (1 Kings 4:32). He opened up Proverbs in his introduction by giving the purpose of the book (Prov 1:1-7). The wise king wanted to produce wisdom in the people of Israel, and he told them that fear of the Lord was the key to wisdom (1:7). Thus, wisdom was more than intellect. The problem for Israel was that not only were they not wise, but their kings were fools too. Solomon repeatedly warned his son not to fall for the foreign woman, but Solomon fell for foreign women (1 Kings 11). Solomon attempted to train his son in wisdom, but his son foolishly split the nation in two by listing to his peers rather than the wise counsel of the elders (1 Kings 12). Israel’s kings’ repeated failures led to the development of an increasing hope for a wise king one day in the future.
Then, Isaiah 11 described the Messiah as one who would embody the prologue of Proverbs. He was described with the exact language of Proverbs 1:1-7. Isaiah wrote, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord— and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.” We find the fulfillment of this promise in Jesus Christ. He was given throne of David (Luke 1:32). He was anointed with the Holy Spirit at his baptism (Matthew 3:16). And, Jesus himself said, “The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.” Jesus is the Spirit-anointed king who is wiser than Solomon, and not only does he teach wisdom, he actually lives it out and enables his followers to do so as well.
Jon Akin is the Senior Pastor of Fairview Church in Lebanon, TN