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Think about the young people you know, and hold them in your prayers as you read Scripture today.


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Bible passage Proverbs 1:1–19


Proverbs 1

Prologue: Purpose and Theme
 1 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:

 2 for attaining wisdom and discipline;
       for understanding words of insight;

 3 for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life,
       doing what is right and just and fair;

 4 for giving prudence to the simple,
       knowledge and discretion to the young-

 5 let the wise listen and add to their learning,
       and let the discerning get guidance-

 6 for understanding proverbs and parables,
       the sayings and riddles of the wise.

 7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,
       but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

Exhortations to Embrace Wisdom
Warning Against Enticement
 8 Listen, my son, to your father's instruction
       and do not forsake your mother's teaching.

 9 They will be a garland to grace your head
       and a chain to adorn your neck.

 10 My son, if sinners entice you,
       do not give in to them.

 11 If they say, "Come along with us;
       let's lie in wait for someone's blood,
       let's waylay some harmless soul;

 12 let's swallow them alive, like the grave,
       and whole, like those who go down to the pit;

 13 we will get all sorts of valuable things
       and fill our houses with plunder;

 14 throw in your lot with us,
       and we will share a common purse"-

 15 my son, do not go along with them,
       do not set foot on their paths;

 16 for their feet rush into sin,
       they are swift to shed blood.

 17 How useless to spread a net
       in full view of all the birds!

 18 These men lie in wait for their own blood;
       they waylay only themselves!

 19 Such is the end of all who go after ill-gotten gain;
       it takes away the lives of those who get it.



New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society


Audio Bible passage


The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).


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Focus and influences
If you drew up a list of those things that young people focus on I reckon it would include education, friends, money and, in the ‘selfie’ generation, their appearance. Young migrants seeking a better life in North America, Europe or Australasia often cite getting an education as their major motivation, and hurtful observations about someone’s appearance can be so distressing as to lead to serious mental illness, especially if those comments come from your peer group.

The opening of Proverbs suggests that not much has changed in three thousand years.

The problems of youth
Proverbs is addressed to young people who faced the same pressures in the ancient world: needing to understand the world around them (vs 2,3); vulnerable to falling in with the wrong crowd (vs 10–14) and losing life’s possibilities (v 19); and concerned about what will make them attractive – in this case some fancy necklace and hair attire (v 9).

But the writer says what is most important is not the knowledge they gain, the riches they acquire, nor the looks with which they are blessed, but wisdom – the ability to live wisely and virtuously. That starts with a right relationship of trust in God and obedience to his ways, and never moves very far from that foundation, no matter how wise you become.


Respond


‘Lord, wisdom begins with you. Grant to me wisdom today in every choice I make. Amen.’

Paul Goodliff


Introduction to Proverbs 1–9


Proverbs comprises seven collections, all except one (22:17) with a clear heading (1:1; 10:1; 22:17; 24:23; 25:1; 30:1; 31:1, NIV). We shall study Collection 1, which provides the key to interpreting the rest of the book. The core of this collection is 1:8 – 8:36, to which there is an introduction (1:1–7) and an epilogue (9:1–18). The father’s lectures to his sons (or children?) are framed by two addresses by Lady Wisdom (1:20–33 and 8:1–36). Two questions which may arise are (1) how does this book attend to, and emphasise, the wisdom of a woman? and (2) why does the overture of this book take so long and why is it so repetitive?

These wisdom sayings are paralleled in many cultures, because all societies have their proverbs. It would be a mistake, however, to think that they are just slogans or witticisms to help us get ahead in life. The author or editor of Proverbs clearly indicates that inattentiveness (or, worse, scorn) towards these sayings is the way towards death. In the words of John Webster, ‘What we encounter in scripture is the terrifying mercy of God’s address’1. The writer urgently advises turning away from the wrong path and remaining devoted to ‘the way to life’ (eg 10:17). All that he says about instruction, training and correction is tethered to the Old Testament’s cardinal virtues of righteousness and justice, with the knowledge and fear of God. He assumes that we have memorised all these sayings (22:17,18)! As we do this, we shall learn the foundation of our security: ‘So to love the will of God … that whether or not we live or die, we accept as a great gift whatever form our trials may take.’2

FOR FURTHER READING
The NIV is our core text but occasionally I have suggested a different translation of my own.
FD Kidner, Proverbs, IVP, 1984
BD Waltke, Proverbs 1–15, Eerdmans, 2004
M Fox, Proverbs 1–9, Yale University Press, 2000

 

1 Webster, Holy Scripture: A Dogmatic Sketch, Cambridge University Press, 2003, p41
2 MD O’Brien, Empire of the Sun, Ignatius Press, 1999, p736


Deeper Bible study


‘Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? And where is the knowledge we have lost in information?’1

I begin by thanking God for Solomon, a wise though flawed king. I also thank God for my father and my mother (perhaps long dead), without whom I would not exist, for whatever wisdom I gained from them and especially if they instructed me in God-fearing love and obedience. As I reflect on the (at least fifteen) wisdom nouns in the prologue (vs 1–7) I wonder how my children and grandchildren (if I have any) or the young people for whom this book was written may gain and practise the qualities described here, especially the most fundamental one: an affectionate and awe-filled regard for and obedience to God’s good laws (v 7). Do I myself know this? Show this? Embody this?!

The father’s first lecture is about avoiding gangs, resisting peer pressure – a key skill for young people (and for older people?!). Which way shall I go? Which house shall I enter? Which voice shall I heed? These questions echo throughout Proverbs: one most fundamental question is ‘How do I know what I know and how do I know it is true?’ The father’s teaching, the mother’s graceful garland seem so much less enticing than the gang, the lots, the loot! Verse 17 notes the obvious truth that no bird flies deliberately into the hunter’s net! In this past century we have seen, in different parts of the world, whole nations stampeding into the arms of tyrants! Do I have the guts, the moral courage to stand against collective lunacy, even when pelted with insults, mud and stones?

The father concludes his warning with a blunt, global (‘all’, v 19) statement: ‘The rippers-off will be ripped off!’ (v 19a, literally). Sin has a boomerang quality (See also Proverbs 26:27; 28:10; Psalm 9:16), though I may not see the payback in my lifetime. If the vindication seems delayed, I wait for it.

Howard Peskett

 

1 From TS Eliot, Choruses from the Rock


Bible background: Proverbs overview


The book of wisdom

Proverbs is the work of several authors, three of whom are identified by name – Solomon, Agur and Lemuel. At least one section of the book is anonymous. The bulk of the book is taken up with the proverbs of Solomon (10:1 – 22:16; 25:1 – 29:27). He is credited with having written 3,000 Proverbs and 1,005 songs (1 Kings 4:31,32).

The book consists of down-to-earth observations which no doubt Solomon and others had gathered from many different sources, supplementing them with their own experiences of life. The purpose of the book is clearly stated at the outset (1:2–6). A recurring emphasis in the book is ‘the fear of the Lord’.

What is a proverb?

Proverbial teaching represents one of the world’s most ancient forms of instruction. Here are clear crisp sentences, capable of being easily memorised and passed on from generation to generation.

Solomon was a man of many parts. He was not only a king but a philosopher with remarkable powers of intuition and discernment, and also a scientist of no mean ability. Sadly, in his private life, he did not always live up to the wisdom he knew.

God’s wisdom

In Proverbs, wisdom is represented as dwelling with God from all eternity. It is personified so that, at times, ‘wisdom’ can be seen as representing Christ (Proverbs 8:23–31; see John 1:2; Hebrews 1:2; Colossians 2:3). It is pointed out that wisdom is available to every man. The wise are those who heed God’s commands while the foolish ignore them. Wisdom is all-important in the business of living (4:7).

Structure

Many attempts have been made to analyse the book of Proverbs. Some commentators have pointed out the three divisions represented by the use of the phrase ‘the proverbs of Solomon’ (1:1; 10:1; 25:1). It is further suggested that proverbs with pronouns in the second person were proverbs for Solomon taught by his teachers, while those pronouns in the third person were proverbs by Solomon himself. It is, however, very difficult to be sure.

Taken from The Bible in Outline (SU, 1985)


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Job 11,12

Luke 17
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Scripture sometimes shocks because of the demands it seems to make of us. How can we be wise? Pray and read and discuss God’s Word, unlike the guy in this cartoon…

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‘Search me oh God’
Peformed by : Vicky Beeching
Written by: Vicky Beeching
Copyright: © 1997 Thankyou MusicYou can buy this and other great worship songs here

Lord reign in me
Brenton Brown
Copyright© 1998 Vineyard Records (UK/Eire)
Buy this and other great worship songs at www.vineyardrecords.co.uk




Comments
  • Rachael Hampton | Sunday, 23 July 2017

    Yes, Oakley, my husband and I did come single and were soon married, over fifty years ago. I will never forget those Beach Mission days - my first experience of Christian community and daily Bible studies led by our leader. Will continue to pray for the Summer missions and camps program in the North. Down under, camps continue in school holidays, and there are Mission planning meetings during the Winter. I am so grateful to all who give their time and energy to this work, and yes, we pray for our young people to grow up strong, confident and wise, and be kept from the pervasive and persuasive seductions that abound through the Internet particularly.

  • Rosemary Fairweather | Monday, 24 July 2017

    Thank you Barbara for your comments yesterday. I was touched and inspired. Holiday clubs and beach missions sow seeds that God waters and brings to fruit in his own time. Bless them all and those who give their time and enthusiasm.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Monday, 24 July 2017

    Perhaps it's because it's early but it took a while for the penny to drop regarding the cartoon.

  • Ken Sykes | Monday, 24 July 2017

    Re Children's missions. Anyone remember Cliff College Sunshine Corner?

  • Angela Munday | Monday, 24 July 2017

    The wise person builds a life on a strong foundation that will give lasting support.....respect and reverence for the Lord our God will keep us secure as He lovingly disciplines us and enables us to endure the storms the world will inflict on us. A loving father knows what is good for His children and wants to protect them. God is good! Goodness is pure and holy. Thankyou God for Your daily encouragement.

  • Derek Forster | Monday, 24 July 2017

    O come, Thou Wisdom from on high, And order all things, far and nigh; To us the path of knowledge show, And cause us in her ways to go.O come desire of nations, bind All peoples in one heart and mind; Bid envy, strife, and quarrels cease; Fill the whole world with heaven’s peace. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel!

  • Peter Oliver | Monday, 24 July 2017

    Yes Ken I remember Sun shine corner in the eighties .one of them was run by my church at that time.

  • Barbara Sabin | Monday, 24 July 2017

    "Sunshine Corner, oh it's very fine it's for children under ninety nine all are welcome, seats are given free sunny sunshine corner is the place for me" KEN The Cliff College song book I always take with me when I play the piano at meetings. Clifton Park at Rotherham had Sunshine Corner in the 50's We always went to Cliff College on Whit Tuesday in my teenage years. We had a wonderful teenage Minister a Rev John Lander he held Sunday evening Youth Rallies with Bible quizzes, singing and a message geared for our era. I remember singing Since Jesus came into my heart, floods of joy o'er my soul like the sea billows roll ,since Jesus came into my heart. I shall go there to dwell in that City, I know, Since Jesus came into my heart! And I’m happy, so happy, as onward I go, Since Jesus came into my heart! I am now in my 78th year and hold all these choruses , hymns and song in my heart .I pray that the children's work will continue to lead children to knowing and loving their Saviour Jesus.

  • Barbara Sabin | Monday, 24 July 2017

    GILVIN I had to look at the cartoon closely before I realised it was The fear of the Lard. Greasy fear. xxx

  • David Forbes | Monday, 24 July 2017

    Corny joke the "fear of the Lard" . Interesting change of book. Not many comments in it. What can we learn from it..it's 1st good advice is to young people faces with going with the crowd and telling them to think twice before joining in antisocial behaviour. Peer pressure is still very much part and parcel of the young persons lot. So lets see what other proverbs come tumbling out in the next few days. Lets see how we can apply them to our lives and so gain nuggets of wisdom.

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