By Simon Presland
I’ve often wondered what it would have been like to be present in Solomon’s court to hear him speak. People came from around the world to listen to him—2 Chronicles 9 states that the Queen of Sheba came to test him with hard questions but realized he had unfathomable wisdom. But those in the inner court would have been privy to deeper insights into his wisdom.
While I cannot transport myself back in time, I can read what Solomon said, and through study I can glean insights into why he made his proclamations and how they apply to my life. For the past year, I’ve been reading a chapter from Proverbs every day and studying and meditating on particular verses. I’ve found that Solomon’s wisdom has changed my perspective on life, on people, and even on God. Let me share with you some of the things I’ve learned.
Proverbs 30:5 states, “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” As I’ve read and applied particular proverbs to my life, I’ve found these words offer an overriding truth that undergirds all that Solomon wrote.
The word flawless means “perfect, unblemished, unimpaired.” Proverbs is flawless because there is no disputing God’s wisdom. He knows human nature so well, and he knows our lives so intimately that he speaks his wisdom to us collectively in this book. Yet we can personally know the perfection of his words as we learn to live by them and watch them play out in the lives of others.
For example, Proverbs 15:1 reads, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Because I tend to be a black and white thinker, I strive to be truthful about things I feel are right or wrong. However, sometimes my words can be direct, which can cause others to feel hurt or get defensive.
But by applying the first part of this proverb, I’m learning to think before I speak: Is what I’m about to say going to help or hurt? Are the words I’m choosing going to build people up or tear them down? Yes, it is good to be truthful, but as the apostle Paul says, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). God always reinforces his Word throughout the Bible, and Paul’s words reinforce Solomon’s.
The second part of Proverbs 30:5 tells us that God is a shield for us when we take refuge in him. This means that when we apply what God says, he will protect us. For instance, in Proverbs 1:7 Solomon wrote, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
Putting these two proverbs together, I realize that when I revere God, I’m more apt to listen to him and put his words into action. Doing so gives God the chance to warn me or prevent bad decisions or check my heart when I’m thinking thoughts that don’t please him. In these ways and more, he is my shield.
Proverbs is one of several wisdom books found in the Bible—the others being Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and James. Yet from Genesis to Revelation there is a common theme found in each book—relationship. This tells us that God is preeminently concerned with our relationship with him and those around us. By following the timeless advice found in Proverbs, we can have right relationships that positively affect our families, friendships, finances, jobs, and so on.
Proverbs offers practical advice for Christians seeking to live godly lives, and it has several audiences. It speaks to the young who are looking for godly relationships. It offers wisdom for men and women in leadership. It addresses parents as they raise their children. In fact, there is not a stage in life that isn’t addressed.
Proverbs 1 begins with the words, “The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel.” Although Solomon was not the only author, 1 Kings 4:32 tells us that he “spoke three thousand proverbs.” Most sayings are compact statements that express truths and offer insights into human behavior, and often there is repetition of a word or a proverb stated in different ways that aid understanding and memorization. The book can be outlined as follows:
• Benefits of wisdom and warnings against adultery and folly, Proverbs 1–9
• Wise advice for all people, Proverbs 10–24
• Wise advice for leaders, Proverbs 25–31
Our North American society has an underlying theme of selfishness and self-centeredness. However, Christians are called to selfless and others-centered lives. In my daily readings of Proverbs I’ve found that Solomon’s words help me to live this way. For instance, Proverbs 3 exhorts me to never forget God’s Word, to keep it hidden in my heart so that long life, peace, and prosperity can be mine, and I “will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man” (v. 4).
In my opinion, Proverbs 3:5, 6 are key verses to fully understanding how this book can guide my life: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” We see here that our hearts are key. It is too easy to be led astray by what we want and feel, by the influence of others, or by the world’s philosophies.
The Old and New Testament writers used the word heart to cover the fullness of our inner selves, including our thoughts, intents, and feelings. In the quoted verses, Solomon is telling us that our inner selves can lead us astray from God’s ways. But when we submit our all to God, then he can lead us in his ways. Here are some ways I’ve learned to do this:
• Proverbs 11:3-6. These verses point out my personal responsibility. I can choose integrity or unfaithfulness at home, work, or church. I can choose righteous words and actions—righteous being that which reflects God’s character—or I can do what is wicked, such as lie, cheat, or steal.
• Proverbs 13:20. I will become like those whom I allow into my life, and their influence will eventually make me wise or foolish.
• Proverbs 15:1-7. These verses tell me how to manage conflict: remain calm; present truthful and accurate information; bring healing; remain teachable; speak from knowledge and understanding.
• Proverbs 21:1. I can make plans, but I must never forget that it is God who holds my future.
I encourage you to make reading Proverbs part of your daily spiritual investment. I once heard a minister say, “We can choose the urgent or the important, but not both.”
It takes 5-10 minutes to read a chapter. In that amount of time, we can respond to several emails, reply to a few voicemails, or skim through several online articles, all of which might be considered urgent. However, reading Proverbs is important, and we should be willing to set aside the urgent to do so.
Simon Presland is a freelance writer in Clinton Township, Michigan.
The Wisdom to Lead with Integrity
Based on 28 profound leadership strategies from King Solomon, The Leadership Wisdom of Solomon is filled with true stories from business, politics, pro sports, history, the church, and the military. You’ll learn how to apply Solomon’s ancient insights to today’s leadership world.
The Leadership Wisdom of Solomon: 28 Essential Strategies for Leading with Integrity
by Pat Williams (Standard, 2010), Item 021536009