Proverbs of the Wise I
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Proverbs, that portion of the Word of God which we are studying together. We are going to begin the discussion of a new division in the book of Proverbs. I think it would be wise for us to review briefly the analysis of the book of Proverbs which we gave you when we first began our study.

You will recall that the preface to the book of Proverbs is found in Ecclesiastes, chapter 12. The introduction of the book contains reference to its title, to its purpose, to its value, and to the motto which characterizes the book itself. All of these things we have considered together in our introductory study to the book of Proverbs.

After we looked at the introduction to the book, we considered with you the various divisions to which the book fell naturally, reminding you that we have discovered in our study of the Word that the Holy Spirit of God has placed in every book in the Bible an outline which is discernible if one takes the time to find it.

The divisions into which the book of Proverbs fall are several. The first one we labeled Solomon's Advice To His Sons . The advice which Solomon gave to his sons was found in thirteen lessons on wisdom in the portion of the book that began with chapter 1, verse 8, and continued through chapter 19, verse 18. We discovered that each one of those lectures began with the words, “My son.”

The second division which we have just completed studying was called The Personal Proverbs of Solomon . We injected the word personal before the word proverbs because in the minds of some people the entire book of Proverbs is the Proverbs of Solomon, and as you have seen and will see, this is not necessarily true. Some of the proverbs of Solomon are there, but not all. This particular section beginning with chapter 10 and going through chapter 22, verse 16, contains the personal proverbs of Solomon.

The third division, which we are about to consider, is termed, The Proverbs of the Wise , and it begins with chapter 22, verse 17, and goes through chapter 24, verse 22. You will notice we have the words repeated again: “The Words of the Wise,” so we have learned to designate the first division, The Proverbs of the Wise I , and The Proverbs of the Wise II because we do not know the identity of the wise , so we are not able to designate each division by the name of the individuals who are responsible for the writings of them.

The fifth division has been termed The Gleaning of Hezekiah's Men because this refers to the fact that King Hezekiah had some of his scribes go through some of the dusty, old rolls in the temple and glean out some of the Proverbs of Solomon that had been hidden away in these various rolls.

When I make that statement, you are intelligent enough to know that we are not reflecting upon the inspiration of the Word of God, which was done by the Holy Spirit of God. The Word is inspired.

The sixth division, we have termed The Words of Agar , and they are found in chapter 30. The seventh division, The Words of Lemuel , are found in chapter 31, verses 1-9, and then there is what we term An Appendix to the Book because it seems to be a separate entity within itself. It is a description of the perfect wife or the capable woman. One may wonder why this would be injected at this particular point, but when we come to the words of Lemuel, we will discover that Solomon gave a great deal of credit to his mother for the wisdom that was his outside of that gift of wisdom which God gave him. You will recall that when God gave him permission to ask anything that he would of Him, Solomon did not ask for gold; he did not ask for silver. Rather, he asked for the gift of wisdom in the providence of God and God said, “Since you haven't asked for any material thing, I am going to give you wisdom such as mortal man has never known,” and this, of course, proved to be true.

Who Were the Wise?

We suggested to you that we are going to discuss this first section of The Proverbs of the Wise , and immediately there should be a question in your mind, which would be, “Who are the wise?” Are we just talking about people who are wise in general or are we talking about a specific group of people? I would like to remind you, as I ask you to turn to Jeremiah, chapter 18, that a group of people known as the wise were on a level with the priests and the prophets. In other words there were three classes of leadership in Israel at that particular time: the priest, the prophet, and the wise. They were serving on an equality as far as their respective ministries were concerned. They did not all have the same ministry, but their ministries were equally important. That is brought to your attention a number of places, but particularly in Jeremiah, chapter 18, verse 18, where we read, concerning the rebellion in Israel:

Jeremiah 18:

18 Then said they, Come and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, and let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words.

They were saying, “Let's not give heed to any of their words. There is no way we can circumvent the prophet or the wise, so let's do something to Jeremiah.” You recognize immediately that the wise were a group of wise men whom the Spirit of God inspired to relate to us truth that we need for our individual lives. Some of the words of the wise, as we have stated to you, are included here in the book of Proverbs; and as we have suggested, since we do not know the names of the wise men, we can't say that these were the words of a certain man, so we simply refer to them as The Words of the Wise I , and when we have finished our discussion of that division, we will look at The Words of the Wise II .

Excellent Things

In preparation for our study it would be wise for us to present to you an analysis of this first division because we would like for you to be able in your reading, which I hope you do, to know exactly what you are reading, so we suggest to you the proverbs of the wise falls first into a division that we have referred to as The Exhortation . As a matter of fact, we have discovered that every one of these divisions in the book of Proverbs begins with a special exhortation. It is followed by emphasis upon the theme we are going to find discussed in this particular division, and that theme is described in the English words excellent things .

The purpose of the words of the wise—what they want to accomplish in this section—is to develop a personal trust in the Lord, an assurance of truth, and an answer of hope for every individual who spends any amount of time in The Proverbs of the Wise , which, after this exhortation, falls into divisions developed by the Holy Spirit of God. We would like to call these to your attention.

First, the wise men talk to us about things not to do. Then they discuss with us the value of family training. Then they discuss the three kinds of company to shun, and then they discuss in a climactic way the pleasant riches of wisdom's house. Three times thus far in the book of Proverbs we have found God comparing the acquiring of divine wisdom to the building of a house. In this particular portion of the Word we are going to find not only the house built, but we are going to find the house divided up into chambers or rooms. We are going to find the treasures which are in those various chambers or rooms as we go along in our study.

A Fourfold Appeal

That is the analysis of this particular section. Turn back to Proverbs and notice with me the exhortation which is found in verses 17-21:

Proverbs 22:

17 Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply thine heart unto my knowledge.
18 For it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them within thee; they shall withal be fitted in thy lips.
19 That thy trust may be in the LORD, I have made known to thee this day, even to thee.
20 Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge,
21 That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee?

These words describe the exhortation with which this particular division is introduced to us, and you will notice what I am pleased to refer to as a fourfold appeal . This is one of the ways that we know we are coming to a new division in the study of the book of Proverbs. There is always an appeal on the part of the Holy Spirit to heed what He says. Any preacher knows the importance of this. I have often said to you that it is sometimes amusing to me to stand before a congregation of people and notice what people are doing while the Word of God is being delivered.

I don't often say anything about it, but there have been times when I thought it necessary to interrupt the message to say something about it. It is an amazing thing to me how folk can glean anything from what the preacher has to say and do some of the things they do during the course of the delivery of the message. As I said, I seldom do anything about it. The only time I do is when what they are doing is not only hindering their reception of the Word of God but hindering other people in their reception of the Word of God's truth. I suppose every preacher has felt some time or other that he would like to begin every message: “Now, please listen to what I have to say because what I have to say is really important, and you need to hear it.”

I would suggest to you parents (I always take advantage of the opportunity to drop little hints along the way in this respect) that you ought to train your children to listen from the very time that you bring them to church. If you can't have them do anything but listen to one word that the preacher says, you ought to train them to listen. I have known individuals who, when the preacher begins to speak, don't even wait to see whether they are interested in what the preacher has to say or not. I have seen people squirm around and settle down in the seat and get ready to take a nap as soon as the preacher begins to speak because they have been taught from childhood (perhaps unconsciously) that the time to quit listening was when the preacher got up to speak. I do feel like saying, as the wise men said, “Listen carefully to what we have to say.”

He presented his appeal in a fourfold manner by first saying, “Listen closely.” That isn't exactly what he said. If you look at verse 17, he said:

Proverbs 22:

17 Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise…

When we paraphrase that to emphasize the simplicity of it, what he was saying is, “Listen very closely to what I have to say because what I have to say is very important.” He wasn't interested only in the individuals listening to what he had to say; he wanted the individuals concerned to apply their hearts to what he said. Notice in the last part: “…and apply thine heart unto my knowledge.”

You see, this is the problem that most of us have. We get it into our heads, but we don't get it into our hearts. I have known people who could spout off doctrine and have every comma and colon in the right place, but their lives gave a lie to the truth that they spoke about. This is one of the dangerous things about receiving the Word alone. You need to apply your heart.

The third thing that he said was, “These things that you receive, make them a very part of yourselves.” Notice in verse 18, he said:

Proverbs 22:

18 For it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them within thee…

Make them a very part of your life. When he said, “It is a pleasant thing if you keep them within thee,” a lot of people misread it and never make any effort to share the truth that they have received; but you notice the manner in which he wanted them to make it a very part of themselves by saying, in the last part of verse 18, “…they shall withal be fitted in thy lips.” I have summed that up in a few words which are familiar with you young people—“pass it on.” The truth that you receive which becomes a part of your life should be fitted to your lips. You should be able to convey the truth that you receive in your own words, and I think that is the reason the text here is suggesting that you fit the truth to your lips.

It isn't necessary to say it the way Joe Temple says it. Joe Temple is going to die some day if the Lord tarries and be very largely forgotten. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't want you to say it the way I say it. I don't like to hear other people presenting truth in the words of other Bible teachers. It makes me wonder if you just got the vocabulary and haven't gotten the truth. It is important to pass it on, fitting the words to your lips, saying it in your way so that it is indicative that it has become a very part of yourself.

When we were looking with you at the analysis of this particular section, we suggested to you that the theme of this particular section could be described in the words excellent things , and you find the wise using that phrase down in verse 20, where we read:

Proverbs 22:

20 Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge,

This is one of those places where you need to read your Bible very closely. If you read that and didn't give thought to it, you would assume that it meant exactly what it said—that the wise were writing about excellent things, the best kind of knowledge. As a matter of fact, if you were familiar with your study of the book of Proverbs, recalling what you had already learned, you would know that in chapter 8, this very same English phrase is used. Notice chapter 8, verse 6:

Proverbs 8:

6 Hear; for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things.

You will notice the English words there: excellent things . There it means exactly what the English words imply—things that are best for you to hear. But when you go to Proverbs, chapter 22, verse 20, and you read these same English words and discover that they don't mean the same thing, you need to sit up and take notice because the words excellent things do not come from the same Hebrew word from whence they come in chapter 8. As a matter of fact, these two words, excellent things, come from the Hebrew word shalosh , which is translated by the number three. The etymology of this word is such that it developed into several different ideas. For example, when three men were spoken of, the third one was always best. If three men were riding in the chariot, the third man had the third seat back for the purposes of protection. Several ideas like that are given to you as you study the etymology of the word, and so our translators thought the best way to translate it was by the phrase, excellent things , meaning that three is the number which is related to that which is best, as far as the meaning of this word is concerned.

Personally, I am going to suggest to you that I don't think that is what the Holy Spirit had in mind at all. I think He had in mind exactly what the word means—three. I think you could read this verse: “Have I not written thee three things in counsel and knowledge…” because it is an interesting thing to me to notice, as we pointed out to you in the analysis of the book, that there is a threefold purpose for the wise men writing as they wrote at this particular time. I think that the Spirit of God intended us not to speak of excellent things, though certainly these things of which we speak are excellent, but I think the Spirit of God wanted us to keep in mind that He had in this particular discussion for us a threefold purpose that every active Christian ought to be interested in and ought to pursue.

A Personal Trust

The first purpose that the Spirit of God had in mind, I have referred to as A Personal Trust . Look down at verse 19:

Proverbs 22:

19 That thy trust may be in the LORD, I have made known to thee this day, even to thee.

That the individual might have a personal trust in the Lord—this is exceedingly important. Do you realize that there are many people today who have to use individuals for crutches in order to live their Christian lives? Don't misunderstand me. I think that in the early days of your Christian experience it is necessary for you to lean on people. I think there are days when you come through the valley of the shadow when you need to lean on somebody. I think there are times when the river gets deep and the water rises high and you just can't go it alone. I think that you are a very foolish individual if you reside within the palace of your pride and refuse to seek any help from any stronger Christian.

We are told in Paul's letter to the Galatians that we should bear one another's burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ. We are told that if a person is overtaken in a fault (that doesn't mean that you are hiding behind the door to watch something that he does, but if a fault overtakes him) you who are spiritual should restore such a one in the spirit of meekness. That certainly indicates that there are some Christians who are meant to be undershepherds and bear the burdens of one another; but the thing that the wise men wanted people to whom they addressed their words to have was their trust in the Lord and not in men nor in what men say.

Occasionally, when I am discussing some spiritual truth with individuals, they will say to me, “Well, so-and-so said this,” and depending on what mood I am in, I answer them. But sometimes I am not very nice and I say, “I don't give a hoot what so-and-so said.” It is not important to me what so-and-so says. What does the Word of God say?

Beloved, your faith should stand in the Lord. Turn to I Corinthians, chapter 2, because the Apostle expresses what I am trying to get across to you in words much better than any I could express. The Apostle was speaking of his proposed visit to the Corinthians. In chapter 2, verse 1, we read:

I Corinthians 2:

1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

Let me pause here for a moment to correct what I think is a ridiculous error that some people have developed from this verse. You know, I have been criticized for teaching the Word of God. I have even had people say to me, “Well, I won't be back very often because when I go to church, I want to go to church; I don't want to go to school, and I feel like I have been to school when I have been to your service.” I have actually had people say that to me, and I have had preachers say to me, “I am like the Apostle Paul. I determine not to know anything but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” They interpret this verse that all Paul did while he was in Corinth was to preach the Gospel—just told them that Christ died for them, didn't tell them anything else. That is an asinine interpretation of that verse of Scripture. Notice verse 3:

I Corinthians 2:

3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:

I want you to pause there because some folk misinterpret this, and they say Paul was ignorant and that he didn't know how to talk. His language was poor; his grammar was worse, and he said so. This is not what he is talking about at all. Paul was an intelligent scholar, well educated. He sat at the feet of Gamaliel. What he is saying is, “I was not using all of my learning. I was not using my extensive vocabulary to present the message,” because in verse 5, he said:

I Corinthians 2:

5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

He goes on to say in the next verse: “Howbeit we speak wisdom. We are not the dumb dodos you think we are, but we presented the truth so that your faith would not stand in a loquacious man, but your faith would stand in the demonstration of the Spirit of God.”

The wise men who wrote this section of the book of Proverbs had for their purpose the presentation of truth, and we will notice the truth in this section by and by, so that individuals to whom they spoke would have their faith resting in the Word and not in men. Let me emphasize again, Beloved, if you develop the habit of saying, “Joe Temple said it, so it has to be true,” that is wrong. It should be the Word. It doesn't matter what Joe Temple says. It is the Word upon which your faith must stand and not on anything else.

The first purpose of the threefold purpose which the wise men said that they had was to develop a personal trust in the Lord; that is, each individual would learn personally to depend upon Him.

Go back to the book of Proverbs and notice in chapter 22, the second purpose of the words of the wise. You will notice in verse 20:

Proverbs 22:

20 Have not I written to thee excellent things [three things] in counsels and knowledge,
21 [Notice verse 21] That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth…

That is the second thing that he had in mind. He wanted them to be assured of the truth. He wanted them to not only know it, but he wanted them to have such assurance in relation to it that nobody could cause them to doubt it.

I like this word certainty here: “That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth.” This word certainty comes from the Hebrew word qoshet which means “to weigh carefully.” You see, when the Spirit of God presented the truth, the truth that was presented was weighed carefully in the balance and nothing was found wanting in it. The truth was weighed very carefully so that nothing foreign was related to it. It was pure, basic truth.

I would like for you to turn with me to the Gospel according to Luke for an illustration of how the wise men presented the truth that it might be received with the certainty to which we refer. This represents the introduction to the Gospel of Luke as it was written by Dr. Luke, the author. Notice verse 1 of chapter 1:

Luke 1:

1 Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,
2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;
3 It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,
4 That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.

You will notice what he is saying: “Theophilus, a great many folk have been writing down things that have happened in relation to the life of Christ. Some of these folk were actually eye witnesses, but I feel directed by the Spirit of God to take all of these facts and set them down in order. As they are set down in order, you will know the certainty of those things whereas thou hast been instructed.”

Do you not see the importance of this, Beloved? If you know it, but you are not sure of it, it is not a great deal of help to you. This word certainty used in the New Testament, is an interesting word. It comes from the Greek word asphalela , and it is translated by the words “not fail.” The letter a here is a negative prefix and the word sphalela means “to fail.” When you have the negative prefix before it, it means “things that don't fail,” so that you may know that these things will not fail. It is one thing for us to know them. If we are never called upon to use them, it will not make a great deal of difference whether they are effective or not; but when the time to use them comes, we need to know that they are not going to fail. This is the purpose that the wise had in mind when they wrote this section that we are going to be studying. They wanted men to place their trust solely in the Lord. They wanted individuals to have the assurance of truth.

The Answer of Hope

The third thing they had in mind, I have termed The Answer of Hope . The reason that I have used that phrase to describe the third purpose that the wise had in mind is because of what I read in the last part of verse 21:

Proverbs 22:

21 That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; [then a new thought] that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee?

“…that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee.” What is the picture? Here is someone rushing to the people whom the wise men have taught, and they say, “We need an answer,” and the very urgency of the situation demands that they be given a correct answer. The wise men are saying here, “We want you to be so instructed in the truth that you will be able to give an answer of hope, for believe me, when these people come to you with their questions, they are not seeking information; they are seeking hope.”

That is evident because of the meaning of the word answer . The word answer comes from the Hebrew word shuwb which elsewhere is translated by the words “recover,” “rescue,” and by the word “restore.” The individual who comes to you is coming to you to be rescued. The individual who comes to you is coming to be restored to that which he has lost. This word shuwb is translated in Psalm 51: “Restore unto me the joy of my salvation.” He had lost it, and if he didn't know how to have it restored, he would have run to someone who should have known, and he would have asked the question, “How can the joy of my salvation be restored?” The very seeking of the information from those individuals would indicate that he thought they could rescue him from the dilemma in which he was.

Conclusion

So, Beloved, we say to you in closing that The Proverbs of the Wise I are designed to enable you to be thoroughly resting upon the Lord Himself, to be fully grounded in the truth, and to be quite capable of giving the answer of hope to the individual who comes to you with a question. I would say that if the Word of God does not have that result and that effect in your life, then the effort and the time spent in preparing it for exposition and expounding it is very largely lost.


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