DISCOVERY for TEACHERS: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Psalms

Proverbs

The Words of the Wise

source for questions

Proverbs 22:17 through 24:34

key verse for memorization

“Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.” (Proverbs 22:28)

background

Our text contains two collections of moral and religious teachings applicable to people of all ages and walks of life: the first and longer collection is found in Proverbs 22:17 through Proverbs 24:22, and the second collection in Proverbs 24:23-34. 

The plural form of the word “wise” in the phrase “hear the words of the wise” (Proverbs 22:17) is an indicator that wise men other than King Solomon authored the first section, although he collected the sayings. Proverbs 24:23 marks the start of the second collection with the statement, “These things also belong to the wise” No reference is made to Solomon in either of these collections.

Three groups of teachers comprised the wise men of Israel: the priests, sages, and prophets. Each of these groups had a different purpose. The priests were responsible for instruction regarding the Torah (Israel’s written and oral law), the sages gave counsel, and the prophets proclaimed the words of God. It is the counsel of the sages that is recorded in this section of Proverbs.

This portion of Proverbs more closely resembles the father/son or teacher/student style of teaching in chapters 1-9 than the two-line couplets of the Proverbs 10:1 through 22:16 section covered in the previous lesson. There are frequent calls to attention scattered throughout the text (see Proverbs 22:17; 23:19, 22, 26). Most of the proverbs reflect a tone of admonition which is indicated by imperative verbs and direct address.

Suggested Responses to Questions
  1. In Proverbs 22:28, our key verse, a prohibition was given regarding moving established landmarks. When the Israelites conquered Canaan, each tribe was given a portion of land with defined boundaries. Prior to that time, Moses had warned the people not to move the landmarks establishing property boundaries once they reached the Promised Land (see Deuteronomy 19:14; 27:17). The landmarks were how each family would maintain possession of the exact property allotted to them. How can the principle in this verse apply to our Christian lives? 

    Class discussion should bring out that we live in a world where corruption, dishonesty, and immorality are increasingly commonplace. However, the principles of God’s Word remain the same for every age and every culture. When society shifts, we must be very careful that we do not move our spiritual “landmarks” — the fundamental principles of right and wrong, and of good and evil — that were established by God.

    You may wish to develop this point by asking your class to offer examples of Bible principles that do not change. They may offer examples such as the fact that salvation through Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven, the necessity of living without sin, the Biblical account of Creation, God’s plan that marriage be between one man and one woman for life, His prohibition against sexual impurity, etc.
     
     
  2. Proverbs 22:24-25 mentions an “angry” man. How would you define the word angry in this context? Why do you think we are told not to spend much time with such people?

    Your class should define an angry person as an individual who has little self-control and is prone toward rage, frustration, and explosions of temper.

    In response to the second question, your students should recognize that these verses stress the danger of wrong associations. The word learn in verse 25 actually means to “learn by association.” We will tend to adopt the characteristics of those we spend time with, and if we associate with uncontrolled and violent people, it will be a snare to our souls for we will experience repercussions from evil practices. 

    Point out to your class that the same caution applies to other negative traits as well. If we listen to complaining, we will find it more difficult to be thankful. If we spend undue time with those who are bitter, we likely will learn to hold grudges. Discuss the benefits of spending time with those who have a positive outlook, desire to please God, and are interested in talking about Him and His Word. This kind of association will generate positive results.

     
  3. The wise men of Israel warned against envying sinners. What reason is given (Proverbs 23:17-18)? How can this help shape the focus for our lives?

    These verses bring out that there is an end to consider. Even when sinners seem to be in an enviable position, there is much more to life than one’s existence on earth. If we consider the big picture, we see that Christians certainly have the very best. We may lack riches, beauty, fame, or power down here on earth, but we have an assurance of blessings that will last throughout eternity.

    In response to the second question, your group should conclude that as we focus on Christ and eternal values, the allurements of the world will grow dim in comparison. Such a focus will help us to spend time making wise investments for eternity. These verses encourage us to concentrate on the end, rather than this short span of time on earth
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  4. How can we buy the truth and then refuse to sell it? Proverbs 23:23

    The word buy in this verse means “to procure; to obtain,” and has the sense of procuring or obtaining through purchase. While we do not buy truth with monetary resources, there is a cost involved in obtaining it. Our hearts must hunger to know the truth — even truth about ourselves — and be willing to surrender whatever God calls for in order to obtain it. As we search God’s Word, we will begin to understand Him and what He desires. We should meditate on and memorize His precepts. And above all, we must obey the Word. As we accept it into our hearts and lives, even when the “sword” cuts us, we will be buying the truth. Once we buy the truth, we must refuse to “sell” it by guarding and preserving it, and by never rejecting or compromising a precept from God’s Word.

    Popular thought in the world today is that truth is not absolute but relative — that what is truth for one person may be different for someone else. It is vital for us to understand that there is only one truth, and it is found in God’s Word. Every philosophy, teaching, or perspective, must be measured by God’s Word to determine if it is right or wrong. 

     
  5. What do you think the “house” referenced in Proverbs 24:3-4 represents? What principle is this proverb teaching?

    Some Bible scholars suggest the word “house” is symbolic of the family, and others feel it references a man’s character. In either case, the principle clearly is that careful application of wisdom will result in a solid foundation for living. Not only will the wise individual’s house be “established” (solid and secure), but “precious and pleasant riches” (evidence that the individual is blessed by God) will fill its rooms.

    Amplify this point by discussing specific ways we can build our houses through wisdom. If the house symbolizes family, specific ways could include carefully teaching our children the ways of God, honoring Him in the activities of the home, making sure we follow Biblical principles of behavior, maintaining a respect for things holy, having regular times of family worship, tithing, etc. If we identify the house as a symbol of Christian character, we can build it through careful study of God’s Word and the application of the principles of wisdom found therein. In either case, the result will be the blessing of God upon our houses, and His approval of our efforts to build in a manner pleasing to Him.

     
  6. Proverbs 24:6 points to the benefits that accrue to the one who listens to the counsel of the wise. When attempting to find God’s will in important decisions, why can it be helpful to seek advice from those we know are godly people? Proverbs 24:6

    We should always first go to God’s Word for guidance, and we should pray for God’s Spirit to direct us. However, the counsel of godly men and women can point us in the right direction and give us confidence that we are making wise decisions. Godly people who have been through experiences similar to ours are in a position to give good counsel. We can benefit from their wise instruction and their warnings of pitfalls.

    For young people, it is often godly parents who are the primary advisors. For others it may be a pastor, minister, or an “old-timer” in the Gospel. You may wish to ask individuals in your class to tell of times when they avoided pitfalls because they listened to good advice, or conversely, times when they endured negative consequences because they did not heed good advice.
     
     
  7. In Proverbs 24:10 we read the observation, “If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small.” The sage was reminding his hearers that the time of crisis reveals our true mettle. How can we refrain from fainting or becoming discouraged when we face adversity?

    Class suggestions will likely bring out the importance of keeping our focus upon God, reminding ourselves of His promises, and thinking of others in the Bible and in our own circles of acquaintances who have faced hard times and triumphed. 

    How we view adversity will make a difference regarding whether or not we faint. It is vital to remember that trials can work to our advantage. They can teach us to lean more upon the Lord — to appreciate and rest in His strength, and to prove the reliability of His promises. Many have found that God was the closest in their darkest nights. When we view our challenges as an opportunity to gain spiritual ground, we will find comfort and strength. Ultimately, those very experiences may provide us with opportunities to minister to others who face similar hard circumstances. 

    Your class may enjoy sharing times when trials ultimately brought good into their lives.

     
  8. Throughout the Book of Proverbs we find numerous warnings against laziness, and encouragement to diligence. One example of such admonition is found in Proverbs 24:30-34, where the field of the sluggard is described as being overgrown with nettles and thorns. While diligence is unquestionably beneficial in physical labors, this word picture has application to our spiritual lives as well. Why is diligence necessary spiritually?

    Class discussion should bring out that just as diligent labor brings material gain, diligence in spiritual matters brings spiritual gain. While our relationship with God is not based upon works, there are many Scriptures which point to the necessity of striving or investing effort in the Gospel. We must be diligent to resist the allurements of the world, quick to eliminate any negative attitudes or habits, and willing to keep the fields of our heart “plowed up” and ready to receive the seed of the Word of God.

    The Bible is clear that we need to be consistent. We cannot grow weary in well doing; we must persevere. We must be instant in or out of season — ready at all times. There may be toil and tears. We may not see the results of our efforts in this life but some day, we will have sheaves to lay at the Master’s feet. It will be worth it all!
conclusion

As we heed the wisdom offered by the godly, we will find our lives enriched on this earth. And there will be even greater treasure awaiting us in Heaven.