Well, we live in the age of Twitter. Twitter, where pithiness rules. How many of you have a Twitter account? Wow! How many of you are following me on Twitter? Why are the rest of you not following me on Twitter? I remember the first time I received an invitation from a friend of mine. This was many, many years ago when Twitter was just getting started. And it was an invitation to follow him on Twitter. I had no idea what it was. And I looked into it a little bit, and I thought it was the silliest thing in the world. Why would I want to know what my friend is doing at any time of the day or night? Why would I even care? And then I learned that when he sent out something for me to follow, it was called a tweet. And I thought, well, he had to check in his man card on that one. I mean, why would I want to be a part of this thing called Twitter? So I resisted until eventually I joined the social media revolution. And Twitter tells us to say what we’re going to say in 140 characters or less. Try it sometime. It’s not easy. It takes discipline. It takes creativity. It takes a bit of a writer’s flare to be able to tweet something that’s worth reading, let alone worth remembering. And the truth of the matter is, most of the stuff floating around in the Twitter-sphere is empty chatter. That’s why you tweet something and, you know, it might have a second or two of life out there. But then it just goes beyond. But we’re in this age of Twitter where pithiness rules. Bill O’Reilly even says if you’re gonna write something into his highly-rated cable program, what does he say? Keep it pithy, right? Keep it pithy. Well, I kind of agree with a scholar named Bruce Waltke, who wrote a two-volume commentary on the book of Proverbs. Waltke says, “In a world bombarded by inane clichés, trivial catch words and godless sound bites, the expression of true wisdom is in short supply.” And I agree with that wholeheartedly. And that’s why today I’m beginning a brand new series of messages from the pithiest book in the Bible. It’s called the book of Proverbs. You ever read the book of Proverbs? I hope you have. Because, you know what? Proverbs is a success manual for life. Proverbs is gonna help you live life skillfully and successfully from God’s point of view. Proverbs is also a parenting manual. Do we have any parents or grandparents here? Do you ever wish that somebody had given you a manual, a guide to how to rear children? It’s all over the book of Proverbs. And I love Proverbs and its child-rearing advice because it doesn’t shy away from appropriate measures of discipline.
Proverbs is also a repository for divine wisdom. And it’s part of the larger collection of what we call wisdom literature in the Old Testament. Do you know from five wisdom books in the Old Testament? Can you say them with me? Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Psalms and Proverbs. It’s kind of a mini-library in your Old Testament. It’s known as wisdom literature. It was a particular kind of literature because there were wise sages all throughout the ancient world who would collect, well, wisdom, various kinds of wisdom. This is God’s wisdom. Think of these five books of wisdom this way. Job is God’s wisdom on pain and suffering. You’re going through a difficult time, a painful time, a time of suffering. You need to read the book of Job and get God’s perspective on it. Ecclesiastes is God’s wisdom on the nature and meaning and purpose of life. That’s Ecclesiastes, written by Solomon himself. Song of Solomon. You ever read the Song of Solomon. This is God’s wisdom on love, marriage and sex. Now, some of you are gonna read this afternoon. You didn’t know there was a book of in the Bible about love, marriage and sex from God’s perspective. But it’s there contained in an Old Testament book of wisdom called the Song of Songs or the Song of Solomon. Psalms is God’s wisdom in our vertical relationship with Him. Proverbs is God’s wisdom in our horizontal relationships with one another. That’s why we’re gonna talk about wise sayings. Guidance for everyday life. Divine guidance for your everyday life. This is the book of Proverbs. And so Proverbs has a wide, wide array of topics that it covers. I’ve already mentioned a few, but marriage and family, finances and friendships, child-rearing and the disciplines that goes along with that. You know, in the book of Proverbs we’re gonna casually meet a number of folks like the wise, the wicked, the fool, the simple, the scorner, the slothful, the sluggard. That’s my favorite one. Not because of what the sluggard represents, but I just love the name, the sluggard. Say it with me. The sluggard.
We’ve lived in Washington, D.C., for about a decade. And this has nothing to do with the sermon. Let me just tell you a little story here. But in Washington, D.C., there is something called slugging. And slugging is when you want to try to get on the HOV line, but you’re just one driver. And so you can park in various places around the nation’s capital, park your car way out here in the suburbs, per se, and get in a slug line. And somebody who is driving down to the District or to the Pentagon will come by and pick up a slug or two who slug their way into the back of your car. And that way you can, you know, qualify for the HOV lane. It’s called slugging. Weirdest thing in the world in the nation’s capital. There are a lot of weird things going on in Washington, D.C., but slugging is the weirdest I’ve ever seen. And there are rules for slugs. Don’t talk to your driver. Don’t bring your coffee cup in the back of my car if I’m gonna slug with you. It’s just a weird, weird thing. Well, there’s a different kind of sluggard that we’re gonna meet in the book of Proverbs, because Proverbs instructs industrious persons in how to plan their work and work their plan. Proverbs also, in the same breath, challenges the lazy and slothful person to get out of bed and get to work in the morning. That’s the book of Proverbs.
You’ll be interested to know that in Proverbs, wisdom is personified as a virtuous woman. She is at her best when she instructs men to steer clear from the smooth tongue of the adulteress. I said earlier that Proverbs is a parenting guide, and it is. And no more so than in Proverbs 5, 6, and 7. Parents, grandparents, if you want to teach your kids and your grandkids about sex, you need to take them to Proverbs 5, 6, and 7. It’s not about the birds and the bees. It’s about the blessings and the curses. And later in this series we’re gonna take a week and talk about making wise choices about sex. It’s right here in God’s Word. It’s right here in this book of divine wisdom. It’s right here in the book of Proverbs. But there is more. Proverbs also addresses both positive and negative virtues, like honesty and integrity, jealous and envy, love and hatred, kindness and malice. This book of divine wisdom, watch out here, it has a lot to say about what we say and how we say it. Before you read the book of Proverbs you need to be forewarned that if you use your tongue as a gossip, a slanderer or a backbiter, Proverbs is gonna rebuke you. The fool is the person who uses his tongue to tear people down. The wise person uses his tongue to praise God and to build people up. It’s all there in the book of Proverbs. And are you starting to understand why I love the book of Proverbs so much? It is chock full of gritty, useful, everyday wisdom from above. And did you know that you can read through the book of Proverbs a chapter a day for 31 days and read it through in one month. That’s your homework in this series is to read through and entire book of Proverbs. You can probably read one chapter a day in about 10 or 15 minutes. Read it through twice. You know, an apple a day will keep the doctor away. No, a chapter of Proverbs a day will fill your heart and your mind with wisdom from above. Add to that chapter a day five chapters from the book of Psalms, and you can read the book of Psalms and the book of Proverbs through in one month and, in doing so, saturate your heart and your mind both vertically and horizontally with God’s wisdom. If you’re not doing that, friends, if you’re not reading God’s Word, His love letter to you and this repository of divine wisdom, in the words of Proverbs, you're a fool. Because you’re relying more on man’s wisdom and man’s guidance than you are this divine repository of wisdom known as the book of Proverbs.
Now, some of you may be asking, you know, “Pastor, what exactly is a proverb?” And let me try to define that for you. Well, one scholar says that Proverbs are pithy statements that summarize in a few choice words practical truth relating to some aspect of everyday life. I don’t know. You pick the aspect of everyday life that you're facing right now. Even as this New Year begins, what aspect of everyday life do you need some wisdom, do you need some guidance, do you need some counsel on? And where else would you go first but to this divine repository of wisdom from above to learn how to live life skillfully and successfully? Why are you neglectiving God’s Word so much, especially the reading of Proverbs? I mean, the Bible is the best-sellign, least-read book in all of history. And that ought not to be true among Christians who say they are God-followers and who believe this book to be, well, the Word of God.
Now, there are many English proverbs that we could talk about. I made a list of a few of them. I’m gonna start them out, and you finish them for me. Let’s see if we can remember them together. Two wrongs don’t make a… (Right.) The pen is mightier is mightier than the… (Sword.) When in Rome, do as the… (Romans do.) When the going gets tough… (The tough get going.) You’re good at this. Birds of a feather… (Flock together.) Practice makes… (Perfect.) One man’s trash is another man’s… (Treasure.) A penny saved… (Is a penny earned.) Yada, yada…. No, that’s not one. I had a 6th grade math teacher named Mr. Hall. And I remember him because he was kind of quirky. He had a handlebar mustache, and that was pretty cool for, you know, kids in the 6th grade to see his handlebar mustache going way out to one side and the other. I don’t remember much math. I wasn’t really good at math. That’s why I’m a preacher I guess. But Mr. Hall, in his quirkiness, he always put a pithy saying on the door to his classroom every day. So it was kind of fun to go to his class and to find out what that little pithy saying was. And the only one I ever remember was this. You jump, and, on the way up, I’ll tell you how high. Now, what’s that supposed to mean to a 6th grader? I mean, I’m spending my entire time in math class just scratching my head trying to figure out what this pithy saying meant. But I do know this. I don’t know what Mr. Hall meant, but I do know this. Neither the pithy sayings he put on his door, nor the ones that I just read and we completed together, not one of them is found in the book of Proverbs. Not one is found anywhere in scripture. In fact, I can think of some others that are also not found in scripture, like this one. God helps those who… (Help themselves.) Not anywhere in the scriptures. It might surprise some of you. Cleanliness is next to… (Godliness.) You may have been telling your kids that, you know, to get them to clean up their room, but you won’t find it in the book of Proverbs. So what’s the difference between, you know, some good advice here, some pithy advice, some memorable advice and what we have here in the book of Proverbs?
Well, Warren Wiersbe, a trusted Bible teacher and scholar, says, “Throughout the centuries, familiar maxims and proverbial sayings have been compiled into books, but no collection is more important than the Old Testament book of Proverbs. For one thing, the book of Proverbs is part of scripture and therefore is inspired by the Spirit of God.” He says, “Proverbs contains much more than clever sayings based on man’s investigation and interpreting of human experience. Because God inspired this book,”—and I would suggest to you even further, the collection of these proverbs—because God inspired it, “it is part of divine revelation and related to concerns of human life to God and the eternal.” He says, “The book of Proverbs, furthermore, is quoted in the New Testament and therefore has practical applications for the lives of believers today.” Now, all truth is God’s truth, wherever we find it. But what I want to suggest to you about the book of Proverbs is 100% of it is pure, untainted wisdom from above. It will never misguide you. It will never tell you to do one thing and then do, you know, the complete opposite. This is not based upon human wisdom. This is wisdom from above. Where am I getting that phrase? I’m getting that phrase from the New Testament book of James. James is New Testament wisdom literature. James has a rhythm and a cadence and a way of kind of communicating in his New Testament letter that is a lot like the sages of the Old Testament and even the wisdom literature and teachings of Jesus. James says in James 3:17, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.” Do you need that kind of counsel this year? Do you need that kind of counsel right now? James contrasts this wisdom from above to wisdom from below that he says is earthly and sometimes demonic. You and I, friends, need to have the ability to discern between counsel, guidance, wisdom, instruction, knowledge that is from above versus what is from below, that which is humanistic, that which is even demonic by definition according to James. Do you have that kind of discernment? You won’t have it if you ignore this book called the Bible, let alone the book of Proverbs.
Now, here is something else we need to understand about Proverbs before we dive into the introduction. Proverbs is full of principles, not promises. Now, what do I mean by that? Well, you can read the book of Proverbs, and then you can scan your life or somebody else’s life and look at a point in time and you might find an exception to the rule, because they’re principles. We interpret Proverbs this way. Generally speaking, this is the way life works. But here is what you need to understand as you meet both the wise person and the fool in Proverbs. The fool is the person who says, “I’m the exception to the rule. I’m the exception to the rule, and I keep living my life contrary to the instruction from God’s Word. And I’m gonna be just fine.” You’re a fool if you think that way and if you live that way. Oh, at a point in time you might be that exception. But as time goes out, the principles, the truth that is spoken in this book will play itself out every time.
So with that in mind, let’s go to Proverbs 1. And I want to talk a little bit about what we’re gonna gain from a study of the book of Proverbs. Let me just read verses 1-6 again. This says, “The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel.” Let me just stop right there. Solomon is a familiar character in the Old Testament. He was King David’s son. And God said to Solomon, “Solomon, what do you want, and I’ll give it to you.” And Solomon was at least smart enough not to ask for riches and wealth and all that. He said, “I’d just like some wisdom. I need some wisdom.” And God made Solomon the wisest person in the ancient world. I mean, there were some really wise people, the sages of the ancient world that were traveling around. I mean, Solomon put all of them to shame. And understand the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he wrote Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon and Proverbs. Solomon was given great wisdom. But you know the story of Solomon. He lived the life of a fool, especially when it came to women and sex. Oh, he knew the truth. But he lived the life of a fool. Solomon though he was the exception to the rules that he (0:19:00.0) wrote down. But this book of Proverbs was written and collected and compiled under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit by Solomon, son of David, king of Israel. By the way, it’s also an encouragement to me that God can still use a fool. He can still use us when we mess up. And He used Solomon. He used David. He used a lot of people in the Bible who didn’t have a perfect record. So that’s an encouragement I want to give you today, and to myself.
Solomon goes on to say, “To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth— Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles.” Now, there are (0:20:00.1) several words that you can underline or highlight in your Bible there. Words that have similar meanings to them but slightly different nuances. We won’t take the time to, you know, highlight all those nuances and their meanings. That gets a little bit repetitive, but it’s words like wisdom, instruction, understanding, prudence, knowledge, discretion, learning, guidance. Solomon is telling us what we’re gonna get from the book of Proverbs, what the purpose of the book of Proverbs is.
And I jotted down four or five things that we might gain from our study of the book of Proverbs. Number one, we’re gonna learn to practice the art of skillful living. To practice the art of skillful living, because the word “wisdom” is the Hebrew word chokmah. Say that with me. Chokmah. Say it again. Chokmah. You’re good Hebrew students this morning. It’s kind of fun to say the Hebrew language. Chokmah. You know, if you’re really a Semitic, it’s chokmah. I just say chokmah. All right. Chokmah applied to anything in which you had a particular skill in an area of life. So, for instance, a business person has business chokmah. He’s able to make a profit. A politician has political chokmah. It’s the skill to get elected. A medical professional has medical chokmah, the skill to heal a broken bone. An athlete has athletic chokmah, a skill in their particular sport. So generally speaking, this wisdom from the book of Proverbs is going to train us in the fine art of skillful living. We’re gonna learn how to practice the art of skillful and successful living. It’s one thing to have knowledge. And we’ve got a lot of educated people in our world today. You know, you might have one of those names that has all these letters behind your name, and it looks like alphabet soup. We’re not talking about education here. Because there are a lot of educated fools. You know what I’m talking about? And the only thing worse than an educated fool, you know what it is? It’s an uneducated fool. That kind of covers every one of us in the room, right? Educated or uneducated. But wisdom is the ability to take knowledge or truth and instruction, especially from God, and skillfully apply it to your life. And that’s where a lot of us as Christians are missing it. Oh, we’ve filled out all kinds of notebooks and sermons notes. And we’ve got this Bible study and that. When are you taking time to apply this into your life so you're living life skillfully and successfully and not making the same mistakes over and over and over and over again? You don’t even have to make the mistake the first time if you’ve saturated your heart and your mind with wisdom from above. That’s the idea here.
So first we’re gonna gain the ability to practice the art of skillful living. Secondly, we’ll develop mental agility. Do you see that phrase in there “to understand words of insight,” or “understanding a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles”? It takes a mental agility to do this. If you have athletic agility, you have the power to move quickly and easily. I’m sometimes amazed at the athletic ability of people in professional sports. I mean, just the size. You ever been to a professional basketball game? I know you’ve been to your kids and your grandkids little peewee game. Go to a professional basketball game. Sit down low, and you're gonna look up like this. These guys are huge. They’re freaks of nature. You go to a professional football game. You’ve got some offensive lineman who is, you know, 6’ 7”, 325 pounds and has the agility to run the 40 in 4.7 seconds. That’s unbelievable athletic agility. Well, Proverbs is gonna give you mental agility. That’s the ability to think and draw conclusions with sharpness because you get God’s perspective on something. There are a lot of people just chattering and twittering and throwing out all kinds of pithy little statements and wanting you to listen to them here and listen to them. Do you have the ability, the mental agility, to think and draw conclusions quickly and to understand the difference between earthly and even demonic wisdom and wisdom from above? You need that kind of mental agility in a world like we’re living in today that is so saturated with empty chatter, as pithy as it might be.
Thirdly, Proverbs will help us gain moral insight. Not just mental agility, but moral insight as well. I see the phrase in verses 1-6, “to receive instruction…in righteousness, justice, equity.” Do you know at any given time what is right, what is just, and what is fair? I’ll just tell you. That’s in short supply today in our world. Even, sadly, in our justice system. What is right, what is just, what is fair. You need to get God’s perspective on life in order to have the agility and the insight in a moment to say, “This is the decision we need to make.” You remember to time in the Old Testament when somebody brought to Solomon two mothers who were fighting over a single baby? They both said it belonged to them. They both had their stories to tell. And Solomon, who had great wisdom, just sat there and listened. How do you make a decision? How do decide? I mean, they didn’t have DNA testing and all that back then. But Solomon did something that was really, really wise. He says, “Well, here is what we’re gonna do. We’re just gonna chop the child in half and give you half and the other half.” He wasn’t really gonna do that. He just wanted to see the reaction of the two women here. And the real mother broke down in tears and said, “No, you take the child.” And Solomon said, “Okay, you get your child now.” That’s mental agility. That’s the ability to dissect a situation with wisdom in a moment and make the right decision. Do you have the ability to do that? Saturate your heart and your mind with Proverbs. Read that chapter a day coupled with five chapters from Psalms. Vertical, horizontal wisdom. You’re gonna get it. You’re gonna grow in this.
Number four, we gain from Proverbs the ability to grow up and become street-smart. Look at verse 4. “To give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth.” The word “simple” here is not…well, it means gullible. It means, you know, someone who is naïve. This is somebody who makes the same mistake over and over and over again. They pay the stupid tax over and over and over and over again. Wasn’t it Judge Judy that says, “Beauty fades, but stupid never goes away.” And that’s true of the fool in Proverbs. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…you know, that kind of thing. The simple person is gullible. You know, a sucker is born every minute. You ever heard that? Some people never grow out of that naiveté and gullible-ness. Proverbs helps that. It helps you become wise and discern the situations you're in. It’s knowledge and discretion for the youth. How many of you have middle-school, high-school, or college-age kids in your family right now or that age yourself? Get them here to this series. Do whatever you can to get the within earshot of a study of the book of Proverbs, because this book was primarily written for the next generation. You as parents and grandparents need to be here so you know how to train the next generation, because that’s what Solomon is doing. Over and over again in Proverbs 1-9 you hear things like, “My son, my son, listen to the counsel and the teaching of your mother and your father.” He is training the next generation of kings in wisdom from above. And you have a responsibility. I have a responsibility as a parent, as a grandparent to train up our kids in God’s wisdom. If you are a middle school kid or high school kid or a college kid, get your tail here for the next 10 weeks and sit here and drink in this study from the book of Proverbs. Read it for yourself, because it will give you knowledge and discretion and prudence, even in your younger years. I’ve met some young people who have so taken to the Word of God they have—here’s the phrase—wisdom beyond their years. Because we’ve bought into the lie that a little bit of gray hair means you're wise. No, you may just be an old fool, making the same mistake over and over and over and over again. Paying that stupid tax over and over and over again. I say to grow up and become street-smart. Not the kind of street-smart you’re thinking about. I’m talking about streets of gold kind of smarts. Remember this is wisdom from above. Streets of gold. Wisdom from heaven. That’s the kind of street smarts you need, and you’ll find it in the book of Proverbs.
Number five, from the study of the book of Proverbs you’ll meet Jesus. You say, “Well, wait a minute, Preacher. This is in the Old Testament. Jesus is in the New Testament.” No, Jesus is in every book of the Bible, prophetically looking forward to His first advent in the Gospels, His life beyond the Gospels, prophetically looking to His second coming, His second advent. But we’re gonna meet Jesus, because Paul says in his letter to the Colossians—listen to this—he says of Christ, “In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Contained in Jesus Christ is all the wisdom you need, all the knowledge you need, all the ability to make this decision or that decision contained in Jesus. Hidden in Him are all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge.
Hold your place here in Proverbs and turn just a couple of books over to the book of Isaiah, Isaiah 40. These verses aren’t on the screen. This is extra. I toss this in free of charge this morning. Isaiah 40:13. Listen to this. “Who has measured the spirit of the Lord, or what man shows him counsel? Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice and taught him knowledge and showed him the way of understanding?” Rhetorical questions these are. And the implication is, nobody taught God. Nobody taught Him any knowledge or gave Him any counsel or any insight into anything. Contrary to what the open theists say. You know what open theism is, don’t you? That’s the idea that, well, the reason, you know, the world is the way it is is because God is evolving and He’s learning. He is learning. He is just as upset about things as we are, but He is growing and learning. And that’s called open theism. It’s also called hogwash. Okay? Nobody ever taught God. Nobody ever gave Him counsel. He never went to school. He never hired a tutor. He doesn't need that. He has perfect knowledge, perfect wisdom, perfect counsel every time for all of eternity. In Jesus Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Back during the colonial days when this country was founded, our educators understood this. Most of the universities and colleges were started by Christians and for Christian purposes. They used the Bible in their education because they understood that all the hidden treasures of wisdom and knowledge are found in Jesus Christ. There is no education apart from the knowledge of God that isn’t humanistic and even demonic. We’ve got to put that category in there. But wisdom comes from above. And you’ll never exhaust the knowledge and counsel and wisdom of God. You can’t go to a library, even the Library of Congress, and find a library that contains all of the wisdom of God. Isaiah tells us in verse 28 that his understanding is unsearchable. There is not a search engine on the planet—Google or Bing or Internet Explorer or Safari—there’s not a search engine or the combination of all the search engines that contain all the knowledge and all the wisdom and all the counsel and all the insight that God has. You’ll never find a place that contains all of that. Paul said at the end of his instruction about the sovereignty of God in Romans 9, 10, and 11, he says, “Oh the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and unfathomable his ways!” Even the great apostle Paul, this great theological mind, could not exhaust the wisdom and the knowledge and the counsel of God. So why would you go to somebody else, some human, some friend, some fortune teller, some goofball out there before you ever go to God? Why would you ignore what He tells us and He gives us so graciously in His Word? Why would you not saturate your heart and your mind with a reading of the book of Proverbs, let alone all the wisdom of scripture, so that you're able to discern when you go to other so-called wise counsel the difference between humanistic thinking and philosophies and wisdom from above? You're gonna meet Jesus in the Proverbs, because in Him are hidden all the treasures and all the wisdom and knowledge of God.
One last thought, and then we’re finished up. What is the secret to unlocking divine wisdom? Well, it’s there in verse 7. It’s the most important verse in the entire book of Proverbs. If you don’t get this, you’ll miss the book of Proverbs. Proverbs 1:7. Let’s say it together. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Again, the early educators who were responsible for getting this country started understood this verse. The McGuffey Reader. You ever heard of that? It teaches the ABCs in relation to verses in the Bible that start with A, B, C, D. That’s how they learned their ABCs back then and taught the Bible at the same time. Pretty wise to do that. But we live in a time where the fear of the Lord is missing. You say, “Well, Pastor, what’s the fear of the Lord all about?” Well, there’s kind of two sides to the fear of the Lord. It’s the beginning of knowledge. It’s important for us to understand that we’re not gonna get anything from the book of Proverbs unless we possess this thing called the fear of the Lord. So two sides to this idea of the fear of the Lord. One is to be afraid. You know, you fear something. You cower in His presence. There is a sense, if you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, if you don’t know that your sins are forgiven through a cross of Christ and His glorious resurrection, then the Bible says it’s a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of a living God. You need to know that. But for the believer in Jesus Christ, He has not given us a spirit of fear and of timidity, but of power and of love and of a sound mind, the New Testament tells us. God doesn’t want us walking around cowering in fear. That’s not the believer in Jesus Christ. No, the other side of fear, you know, the other side of this two-sided coin is that fear is awesome respect for who God is and what He says in this book. Awesome respect for it.
My fear is that we’ve become a fearless nation. Let me start there. We became a fearless nation when we took down the Ten Commandments in our classrooms and we said we don’t need that stuff, disrespecting God’s Word. And then we’re sitting here a generation later scratching our heads, wondering why our culture is spiraling out of control. And nobody has the ability to discern what is right and just and fair. Nobody can figure out how to fix it because we’ve lost the fear of God, that awesome respect for what He says in His Word. We’ve lost that in our country. And I pray that a revival would come to God’s people and to our nation where we are once again a nation that fears God.
But you may have lost the fear of the Lord in your own heart. Simple thing. Is this book collecting dust on your shelf at home? You know, best-selling, least-read book. If you're not in the Word of God regularly, then aren’t you disrespecting what He says to you, this love letter that He wrote to you, this repository of wisdom? You couldn’t care less enough about it than to pick it up and at least read it every day, a portion of it. The fear, the awesome respect for who God is and what He says is the beginning of knowledge. He will open up the flood gates of knowledge and wisdom and insight and discernment and prudence. The ability to make the right decision, to say what is right and just and fair. And He’ll open up the flood gates if you just move a little bit toward Him and say, “God, I have such respect for this book. I’m gonna carve out a time in my day every day to read it.” If the President of the United States wrote you a letter—you got it in the mail—would you read it? Or would you disrespect the office so much you’d just toss it in the trash or just, you know, “Ah, I got that six months ago. I haven’t picked it up for a while.” That’s the way a lot of us are with the Bible. And what I’m encouraging you to do in this series, your homework is very simple. Read a chapter of Proverbs a day. Try to add five psalms to that. That’s your assignment for the next 10 weeks. In doing so, you’ll read through the book of Proverbs and the book of Psalms a couple of times. And let’s remember that the fear of the Lord, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. But as Proverbs does so wonderfully, in a pithy little way, it turns it around the other way. “Fools despise wisdom and instruction.” And the question over these next 10 weeks is, are we going to be a church full of fools or wise people?
Let’s pray together. Every head bowed, every eye closed. I want to think the best of you this morning. You say, “Pastor, I want to be on the wise side of things and recommit myself to a study of God’s Word and, in particular, the book of Proverbs.” If that’s true of you, would you just lift up your hand and lift up your Bible and say, “That’s me. I’m gonna commit to that in a fresh way.” Thank you. Others of you may be here this morning, and you didn’t know that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge were wrapped up in this person called Jesus Christ. And God is doing something in your heart this morning to bring you to the foot of the cross, perhaps for the first time in your life, to say, “God, I’ve been the biggest fool in the room, thinking that I’m the exception to the rule. Thinking that I can thumb my nose at Your ways and at Your Word. I come to church once in a while when I get myself into a pickle and I think I need that God thing. I’ve been seeking all kinds of worldly wisdom, and I’m into the philosophies of the day.” It’s time for you to come home and come to the cross. Come to the cross where you’ll find all the hidden treasures of wisdom and of knowledge. Just come by faith right now in the quietness of this moment. Just reach out in the quietness of your own spirit and say, “God, I’ve been a fool, a sinful fool. Forgive me. Cleanse me. Make me new from this day forward in Christ. Give me that gift of eternal life. Give me a fresh start. Give me a hunger and a thirst for this book You’ve given to us so I can live life skillfully and successfully.” Father, that’s my prayer for all of us in this room. That we would take Your Word and put it into practice. We’ve heard the truth. Some of it may have gone “ouch” a little bit. But, Lord, we’ve heard the truth, and now it’s time to do something about it. Give us the courage to do so. We ask in Jesus’ name, amen.