However, before this blog follows suit, I'd like to summarize a few of the most important points from the whole study of Proverbs, so that the information that was most helpful to me can continue bearing fruit for many of you. My main source for this came from a former professor of mine, Tremper Longman III, in his excellent book How to Read Proverbs. I adapted his method a bit after drinking enough of the Gospel Coalition koolaid (not to knock it, I really believe it), which presses us to look for the Gospel of Jesus in any text, Old or New Testament, and to read and understand it all through the lens of the gospel.
Without further ado, here are the principles for studying the book of Proverbs:
1. Proverbs is about Wisdom. Wisdom (which has in its family knowledge, insight, prudence, and righteousness) is the ability to navigate life (and all of creation) well.
2. Proverbs as a book highlights the most important areas in life which require wisdom. The areas I chose to focus on in preaching were: attitude, relationship with God, relationship with others, marital relationships (and singleness), parenting, communication (speaking and listening), and money (riches, poverty, generosity, and work). There are certainly more; the skill here is to read the book and allow the key themes to rise to the surface as you read.
3. It is necessary and helpful to focus on each area one at a time. Read through the whole of Proverbs making note of every statement that seems related to your particular topic. Create a list.
4. Once you have that list, it's time to start working on what each proverb means. You'll need to employ interpretive tools here: take note of the poetic imagery, the contrasts, the unique comparisons. Each one explains something about your topic from a new light. Take special care to see how proverbs relates your topic to God.
5. Having sought the meanings of the proverbs, what major timeless principles have emerged? Make a list.
6. What does your list of principles tell you about the gospel? In other words, do you see in them a need for Jesus? How did Jesus live according to them? Do you see anything that connects to any of his teaching? Would it be possible to live according to these principles on your own strength? IF you have rightly found the principles contained in the proverbs, you will have found a picture of how Christ in You, the hope of glory, will behave if you surrender your heart to his.
I deeply enjoyed studying Proverbs. May it be a lifelong lesson for all of us!