The Proverbs: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Life

Four young men have grown up around our dining room table, and the book of Proverbs has shown up as a regular on the breakfast menu, along with the oatmeal and the eggs. Liz Curtis Higgs asked hundreds of her readers to choose their favorite verses from the Proverbs and then narrowed the list down to the top 31 Proverbs to Light Your Path, a month’s worth of daily wisdom, comfort — and jarring insights.

Liz loves words and has dug deep into each text, phrase by phrase, holding the truth up to the light and turning it slowly so as to appreciate each facet. The proverbs are all about wisdom, but the goal Liz has in mind is to assist her readers in savoring God’s goodness. God’s words are an invitation to individual spiritual growth and a deep source of satisfaction for “the hunger no breakfast can satisfy.” (14)

Drawing from personal examples and her own humorous observations of life on this planet, Liz brings unique and refreshing insights to much-beloved sacred words:

“A person may think their own ways are right, but the LORD weighs the heart.” (Proverbs 21:2)

Of the 31 Proverbs in the book, 13 have the word but right in the middle. Liz compares but to “a hinged door” that “leads to another possibility or an important comparison. But can also serve as a flashing light, a warning, a stop sign.” (18)

“A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.” (Proverbs 11:13)

A chatty personality is delightful, and it can come in handy, I’m sure, when Liz is on the road with people coming and going in her life all the time, but she shares the dark side of loving to talk, and the proverbs offer a path of freedom away from the sins that bind us and the bad habits that slow our growth toward righteousness.

In fact, more than a hundred verses in Proverbs focus on the power of words to wound or heal. Having experienced the down side of this equation, Liz invites her readers to dream along with her about a life in which the only words we speak to one another are “pleasant” and “kind” and “fair.” (Proverbs 16:24)

“Anxiety weights down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” (Proverbs 12:25)

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” (Proverbs 17:22)

Anxiety and depression are a reality that cannot be shrugged off with a scriptural band aid. Liz knows from her own experience of swallowing pride and swallowing the daily pill for depression that the “cheerful heart” and anxiety free living are not empty promises — but there are bio-chemical realities that must be faced head on.

And just in case anyone has become discouraged in their reading of Proverbs as a list of good deeds for the habitual do-gooder, Liz makes the important distinction between “doing a good thing” and “doing a God thing.” Generous living and joyous giving flow from a relationship with the God who owns all things.

When Proverbs 18:10 declares that “the name of the Lord is a “fortified tower” and encourages readers to “run to it” for safety, it’s helpful to have a concrete image to connect with the name of the Lord, and Liz has added something to my tool belt:  a list of twenty-six names of God in alphabetical order for memorization and meditation.  (Thanks, Liz!)

The hands-on, boots on the ground mentality of 31 Proverbs to Light Your Path makes it clear that the light on our path is godly wisdom that emanates from wise choices, righteous deeds, and an intentional following of God that happens over a life time.  Each of the 31 Proverbs comes with a One Minute, One Step practical application.  Suggestions range from the very simple — list everything you are grateful for — to the more intensely meddling assignment of initiating reconciliation with someone we have wronged, hurt, or offended.

With Bible study questions in the back of the book along with complementary passages that allow Scripture to comment on Scripture, Liz has crafted a resource for individual use or for small group study. The application of ancient truth to a thoroughly modern life begins with opening the pages of Scripture and allowing the Spirit of God to speak Truth into our words, our relationships, and our motives as we are led along His straight paths.

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This book was provided by Waterbrook Multnomah through the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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The Beginning of Wisdom

Proverbs has always been a challenging read for me.

My brain wants to make outlines, and it searches in vain for a tidy way to summarize the truth of a chapter.  Proverbs 1 and 2 cooperate nicely:  wisdom.  However, the following chapters  veer off into multiple topics, and my takeaway from reading this valuable wisdom literature is that the message of Proverbs is pure and simple — except that even at its purest, it’s seldom that simple.

In Proverbs Prayers, John Mason has examined the wisdom of the Proverbs with an eye towards prayer, something we’re used to doing with the Psalms.  In fact, his thinking has opened my eyes to the promises as well as the principles that run through every chapter.  The book keeps readers grounded in the text by including all thirty-one proverbs, with each one followed by a written prayer.  Since there is hardly an area of life that is NOT addressed by the Proverbs, praying through them opens the heart to an entire cosmos of issues:

Petition – “Lord, help me to love those around me by sharing your wisdom and love today.”

Declaration of intent – “I’ll not foolishly reject understanding . . .”

Statements of belief, dear to the heart of God – “I believe that you are a fortress, a strong tower . . .”

Verbal application of principles – “If a conflict arises, help me to be patient with others by taking time to hear both sides of any problem.”

Gratitude – “I thank you . . . that  a real friend like you always sticks closer than a brother.”

Affirmation of critical doctrines – “It is your purpose that always prevails.”

Dealing with sin – “Lord, I know that I can never make my own heart clean and pure by myself.  Only you can do that, so I ask . . .”

I’m looking forward to working my way through Proverbs Prayers again, only this time, more slowly.  And rather than analyzing the message of the Proverbs, this time my focus will be to ask for Divine Help in living out their message.


 

This book was provided by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Proverbs for Wise Living

Get Wise by Bob Merritt:  A Book Review

Thank you, Bob Merritt, for doing what I have always wanted to do:  sifting  through the random assortment of life-giving wisdom in the book of Proverbs and categorizing the verses according to theme.

As a pastor, Merritt knows that the book of  Proverbs contains the wise words that our hearts need.  In fact, he equates having a wise heart with spiritual sensitivity, and then highlights eleven other extremely practical aspects of living where the application of godly wisdom to daily decisions can make the difference between success and failure, triumph and defeat, life and death.  These categories fall into four major groupings:   Personal Wisdom, Relational Wisdom, Family Wisdom, and Successful Wisdom.

Although the book reads just as Baker’s category (Christian Living) implies, it could also serve well as a teacher’s guide since it includes discussion questions and a focus verse for each chapter.  Merritt’s personal experiences have just the right blend of grimace and grin to hit home — his transparency is heartwarming.  I actually could not help but read parts of the book out loud to my husband and kids, and they had the same reaction.  The next time I teach from the book of Proverbs, this book will be nearby as I study.

I received this book free from Baker Publishing Group. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.