Digging Deeper into Proverbs
1 Corinthians 14:7–11 If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? 8 And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? 9 So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, 11 but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me.
As mentioned yesterday in our first sermon on Proverbs, the plan is to augment the Sunday sermons with additional material time would not permit to add in then.
The very name of the book of Proverbs comes from a Hebrew word which as one lexicon puts it: “Inevitably the meaning is “to become like, to be comparable to.” The way the proverbs work is that they employ comparisons over and over again. Some comparisons serve to help you know what some things are like, and others to show you how things are not alike. In fact, most obvious are 4 different kinds of “couplets” throughout the book. Keep your open for them.
a. Contrastive Couplets The word BUT is often used so that it brings the contrast to light. So in Prov. 25:2 we read “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, BUT the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” It shows you how God in His sovereign position of rule, differs from human beings in position of authority. God is puts things in front of us in ways that are meant to get us digging into them – and in the process to find out more about Him.
In 18:2 we see that “A fool does not delight in understanding, BUT only in revealing his own mind.”
The word “BUT” signals the contrast.
b. Comparative Couplets: In these, the words LIKE or SO are the key words to see what He is getting at. Prov. 25:3 “As the heavens for height and the earth for depth, SO the heart of kings is unsearchable.” We are to see how ALIKE the two ideas are.
c. Complementary Couplets: These forms are one of the ways Hebrew poetry works – by the second part of the phrase amplifying and expanding the first part. An example would be 13:14 “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, To turn aside from the snares of death.’ Or 14:10 “The heart knows its own bitterness, And a stranger does not share its joy.”
The first and second statements complement each other, and perhaps expand the idea a bit.
d. Cautionary Couplets: These usually have words like LEST and DO NOT in them. They are meant to sound warnings. So in 25:8 “DO NOT go out hastily to argue your case; Otherwise, what will you do in the end, When your neighbor puts you to shame?” And 25:9-10 “Argue your case with your neighbor, And do not reveal the secret of another, LEST he who hears it reproach you, And the evil report about you not pass away.”
It is through these devices that The Holy Spirit has written His Word in ways that will both click in our minds, and make it easier to remember the key concepts. God has given us His Word to speak to us, so that we know what His “voice” sounds like. Our God is the Master Communicator. He speaks so as to be understood. He expects to be understood.
Hearing the voice of God is not an exercise in crystal-ball gazing, or trying to discern secret messages and decode impressions and feelings. As you read the Word more and more, His voice becomes clearer and clearer. And this itself becomes a filter, so as to distinguish the way He speaks, from the our own hearts and minds, the World or the Devil.