MEN AT FIRST CHURCH
Over the course of the next few weeks we will be stepping into a study on Proverbs following the First Church Sermon series but with additional resources and discussion just for men. Sign up today if you would like to join an online virtual zoom table group. Once you have signed up your table leader will contact you with instructions. This will be a great opportunity to connect with other men during this difficult season. We hope you will join us! Register using the form on this page below.
Download Week One’s Worksheet HERE
Introduction to the Book of Proverbs
Consider watching this video before you begin your study.
Breakdown of the book (as outlined in video above). This is how we are going to cover them as part of our study together:
- Introduction and purpose of Proverbs 1:1-7 (Week 1)
- Letters from Father to a Son; Chapters 1:7 – 9:18 (Week 2)
- Four poems of Lady Wisdom: 1:20-33; 3:13-20; Ch 8, Ch 9. (Week 3)
- Ancient Proverbs; Ch 10-29 (Week 4)
- Proverbs of Agur (Ch 30) and Lemuel (Ch 31). (Week 5)
Note as we read Proverbs together, there are very few references to Israel’s history, covenant promises, or religious practices. These are instructions for living and helping us further understand God’s moral and practical desires for us as we live and relate to this world and situations around us.
As Proverbs 4:20-23 teach us, they are light and life to those who pay attention.
20 My son, pay attention to what I say;
turn your ear to my words.
21 Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart;
22 for they are life to those who find them
and health to one’s whole body.
“Proverbs offers wisdom and guidance for success in all the spheres of life that a young man in ancient Israel might face. Yet it is also timeless, with significant application to readers today” – © Tyndale House Publications
“Biblical wisdom invites us to ponder the nuances and complexities of life; it invites us to become wise” – R.C Van Leeuwen
Questions and discussion material for Week 1:
- Read 2 Chronicles 1:1-12 with 1 Kings 4:49-34. Why did Solomon ask God for wisdom? What was the depth of God’s answer to this request?
- List as many “purposes” of Proverbs as you can find in Proverbs 1:1-4.
- What personal challenge is found in Proverbs 1:5-6?
- Proverbs 1:7 states “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction”.
- What does the phrase “fear of the Lord” mean to you?
- How have you experienced the second half of this passage either in your own life or seen it in the lives of others?
Download Week Two’s Worksheet HERE
Letters from a father to a son.
Proverbs 1:8 – 7:27
This link takes you to a Bible Project podcast where the developers of the Bible Project speak of Wisdom (Hebrew word Chokmah) as found in Proverbs and its deeper meaning beyond just intellectual understanding. This audio is fairly long but I encourage you to listen to at least the first 10 minutes (there is a break in the podcast at the 10 minute mark). The rest of it is very good and definitely worth a listen if you have the time.
Read Proverbs 1:8 through 7:27. With the perspective given of Wisdom being Chokmah (or wisdom that is not only intellectual knowledge, but action rooted in the knowledge of God’s moral law) as outlined in the audio link above.
Notice also as you read these letters, the father encourages his son to follow his wise advice with the goal of an enriched life based on true knowledge rooted in the ‘fear of the Lord’ (Proverbs 1:7). When you read, focus on how the father introduces topical changes to his son with a call to “listen to his advice” then contrasts the rewards of listening to the errors of not following his advice. It is also interesting how the instructions for the child seems to follow the child’s growth into manhood as the chapters progress.
Also notice that in this introductory portion (letters to a son in Chapters 1:8 – 9:18) wisdom is referenced as a woman throughout this book. There are 4 poems embedded into these letters (1:20-33; 3:13-20; Ch. 8 and Ch. 9) written by lady wisdom that we skip over for now, but will be discussing together in next week’s lesson.
For now let’s focus on the advice of the father to his son.
Questions and discussion material for Week 2:
1. How does Solomon describe the desire we should have for wisdom in 2:3-4? List the result of this desire found in verses 5, 8-11 of this same chapter?
2. In chapters 4-7, pick 3 sections introduced by the father encouraging his son “to listen” and contrast the rewards for listening to the consequences of not following his advice.
3. Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:16. List as many things as you can about the gift wisdom gives as compared to the wisdom of the world.
Download Week Three’s Worksheet HERE
Lady Wisdom: Proverbs 1:20-33, 3:13-20, Ch. 8, Ch. 9
The below link takes you to a Bible Project video where the developers of the Bible Project speak further about the Wisdom Literature in the Bible. They expand further on Wisdom and the Hebrew word Chokmah and wisdom portrayed as a wise woman. Bible Project: Wisdom Literature
We continue in this week’s study with the section of a father writing letters to his son. However in this week’s study, we transition to Lady Wisdom. In our study last week, we learned about ‘Chokmah’ and how this wisdom involves more than just intellectual knowledge.
Since the word for “wisdom” in Hebrew is grammatically feminine (ḥokmah), when this personification occurs “wisdom” is cast as a lady. Like other languages, Hebrew nouns are classified (arbitrarily) by grammatical gender. What all this means for our topic is that “wisdom” is not an actual woman or feminine entity who assisted God at creation (Prov 8:30). The language simply reflects the grammar as a wise woman of influence giving us direction of wisdom.
“Lady Wisdom still cries out in the streets of our cities, calling us to follow a different drummer. That drummer is Jesus, God-in-the-flesh who gives us a different perspective on life, a different drumbeat. When we fall in behind him, his example will reshape our thoughts and actions. If we make paying attention to Jesus a serious pursuit, it will change us completely” © Tyndale House Publications
Read Proverbs 1:20-33; 3:13-20; Ch. 8 and Ch. 9. Just a note for your reference (if you are into these kinds of things). There are differences in scholar opinion on whether Proverbs 3:13-20 is an actual poem ‘from’ Lady Wisdom or just a section of verses ‘about’ Her. You can see the reason for this uncertainty as in the other passages; lady wisdom refers to herself in the first person (“me”, “I”, “my”). In 3:13-20, the author is emphasizing wisdom throughout, but she is not represented in the first person.
Questions and discussion material for Week 3:
- In your own words, what is wisdom? What else does wisdom need besides knowledge?
- From Proverbs 1:22, what 3 groups of people is Lady Wisdom addressing? Contrast the outcomes of listening to her counsel with rejecting it in verses 23-33.
- From Proverbs 3:13-18 and 8:32-36, list some of the rewards of wisdom.
- How is Lady Folly described in 9:13-18? What do you think verses 17 and 18 mean?
Download Week Four’s Worksheet HERE
Solomon’s sayings: Proverbs 10-29
We continue in this week’s study with the largest section of Proverbs. We move past the opening section of the book which contained 10 speeches from a father to his son and the poems of Lady Wisdom, to the center and largest section of the book with hundreds of ancient proverbs of Solomon.
In reading Biblical poetry, it is helpful for us to understand the nature of biblical poetry and its construction to more fully realize its depth and meaning. In the links below, you will find two videos from The Bible Project on biblical poetry.
For me, these videos have been helpful in my reading of poetry in scripture. It helps me to understand that this poetry is “free verse” and is different from the “image” of poetry as I had previously understood it. It helps me look for the author’s use of “couplets” to complete, deepen and contrast the thought.
For this week, read through Chapters 10-29 of Proverbs. It is difficult to develop questions on such a wide array of topics contained in these passages. So for this week we are going to expand on Proverbs 1:7 and 3:5-7 studied earlier, which emphasize the nature of pride in our lives and how it directly opposes the wisdom found in our ‘fear of the Lord’. So in our reading, look specifically for contrasting phrases of pride and humility.
“There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which everyone in the world loathes when he sees in someone else; and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves. There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it in ourselves, the more we dislike it in others. The vice I am talking of Pride or Self-Conceit; and the virtue opposite to it, in Christian morals, is called Humility…it was through pride that the devil became the devil. Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.” -C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
I hope as you read through this section of Proverbs, you take time, slow down and enjoy the creative nature of the author. If you don’t have the time (or the patience) to read through this entire section, choose to concentrate and focus on a portion of the passages rather than quickly read the entire passage just to get it completed.
Here is a very basic outline of Chapters 10-29 of Proverbs for your reference as you read this week.
- Observations of moral virtues and their contrary vices
- 25:1-7 – Observations about kings
- 25.8-28 – Avoiding causes of quarrels, and sundry causes thereof
- 26:1-1-12 – Observations about fools
- 26:13-16 – Observations about sluggards
- 26:17-28 – Observations about contentious busy-bodies
- 27:1-4 – Observations of self-love
- 27:5-10 – Observations of true love
- 27:11-22 – Observations of care to avoid offenses
- 27:23-27 – Observations of household care
- 28:1-28 – General observations of impiety and religious integrity.
- 29:1-14 – Observations of public government
- 29:15-21 – Observations of private government
- 29:22-27 – Observations of anger, pride, thievery, cowardice & corruption
Questions and discussion material for Week 4:
- How does the author make the transition from the section of letters to a son (Chapters 1-9) to this next section of Proverbs in verses 1-3 of Chapter 10? What contrasting phrases are used here?
- What are some consequences of pride? (11:2, 13:10, 15:25, 16:18-20, 18:12, 25:27)
- How does the nature of pride oppose our call found in Micah 6:6-9?
- Why is it so much harder to identify our own pride than the pride of others?
- What area of pride do you find most prevalent in your life?
Download Week Five’s Worksheet HERE
Agur and Lemeul:
Proverbs 30 and 31
Well, we are nearing the end. This is the last week of our study on Proverbs together. Here is a link to one last video to watch, courtesy of The Bible Project. This video is a summary of the books of Scripture written by Solomon.
In this week’s reading we move from the main body of Proverbs to the last 2 chapters written by Agur and King Lemeul. When the men of Hezekiah gathered additional material for Proverbs (see Proverbs 25:1), they added these words of Agur (Proverbs 30) and King Lemuel (Proverbs 31).
King Lemuel is not in any recorded list of the kings of Judah or Israel, so he was probably a pagan king who put his trust in the God of Israel. We have no other mention of either Agur or King Lemuel in scripture and nobody is completely sure who these two men are.
Agur begins his writing with a confession of his faith (30:1-6) and a very humble prayer (30:7-9). He then gives a stark contrast as to his wise prayer by citing the actions of a ‘fool’ in 30:10-14.
After this introduction Agur breaks the rest of his message into 6 strange groups of ‘fours’. I’m not sure anyone fully understands each of these, but if nothing else, I’m sure you will find it interesting and the more time you spend with them, the more interesting they become.
King Lemuel explaining that his words that follow are “what his mother taught him” (31:1), begins chapter 31 with instructions for being a wise king (2-9) and concludes the chapter with most likely the most well-known (and concluding) verses of Proverbs that describe a virtuous and capable wife (31:10-31). In reading this, we need to remind ourselves that these words are what King Lemuel’s mother had taught him and are examples of what a mother would wish for in a wife for her son. It is not a wife job description, but a picture of wisdom to the son in qualities frequently overlooked in choosing a wife.
The challenge becomes real when we, as men, reflect not only on the virtues of the woman here, but consider how these words would be written if they were written from a father to his daughter on what to look for in a virtuous and capable husband (just an interesting idea to consider).
Interestingly these verses form an acrostic poem where each verse begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Which, by the way, would make it easier for the student to remember.
Obviously, our reading for this week are Chapters 30 and 31 of Proverbs.
Questions and discussion material for Week 5:
- What did you find interesting about Agur’s confession of faith and his prayer in Proverbs 30:1-8?
- From Proverbs 30:9, What is the reason for Agur’s fear of riches? What about the reason for his fear of poverty?
- Which “group of 4” in Proverbs 30 did you find most interesting? Why?
- What blessings does a husband receive from a virtuous wife (Proverbs 31:11-12)?
- From Proverbs 31:28-31, What is the ultimate emphasis on a virtuous woman and how should her family respond?
Now that we are done going through the book of Proverbs together, I would recommend listening to the first video we watched together summarizing the entire book. I think you will find it very interesting how much more you understand and follow as they go through it.