Christ In The Proverbs


It has been a practice in my family to read the Bible serially at family worship. We usually read the Old Testament in the morning and the New Testament in the evening. But some of the Old Testament books can be very long, and so we have made it a practice to revisit the book of Proverbs between these books.

We have come back to Proverbs many times over the last several years. Most times, we would read a short section of about 10 to 15 verses, and then I would pick out three outstanding verses to explain and apply for the children. But recently we came back to Proverbs again after reading through Samuel and Kings, and we decided to do something different. This time, we read the whole chapter, and then I had the children take turns to pick a verse each. Each child is to read a verse and then make two remarks: firstly, what moral lesson or principle we may learn from it; and secondly, what the verse teaches us about Christ? It could be about His Person and works, or something that Christ said or did that we are reminded of by the verse.

We had a shaky start. I was a little unsure if we would be able to enjoy the exercise as we had never done it before. Will we really be able to see something of Christ in every verse? It is one thing for me to choose familiar verses or verses for which I know a clear Christological connection; it is quite another thing to have the children, especially the younger ones, choose almost at random any verse that strikes them as interesting.

But we are more than two-thirds through the book now, and I must say that we have enjoyed the exercise and I have personally been amazed at how easily every verse in this book points us to Christ! Of course, the younger ones need some prompting, and sometimes even the older ones are baffled. But we have yet to come across a verse for which we could not draw or, at least, tease a connection to Christ.

Let me share a few examples to the end that we may be encouraged to see how the book of Proverbs is not merely a collection of moralistic sayings.

Proverbs 1:7

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

This verse is quite familiar. The principle it teaches is clear: Unless we fear the LORD, we will learn nothing and remain foolish. But what has this verse to do with Christ? Much in many ways! For example, we can think of “the LORD” as referring to Christ. “The LORD” when it occurs in the Old Testament can sometimes refer to Triune God, sometimes to the Father, and sometimes to the Son, and sometimes to the Holy Spirit. But our text reminds us of the time when Peter’s eyes were opened as to who the Lord Jesus was. He feared, and he fell on his knees and cried out: “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Lk 5:8). This was the beginning of knowledge and of purposeful Christian service for Peter. “Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men” says the Lord to him (Lk 5:10).

So unless we recognise the Lord Jesus Christ for who He is and fear and love Him, and therefore love His Word (He is the Word), we can have no true knowledge and wisdom.

Proverbs 7:2

Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye.

Again, this is easy enough as a moral instruction. We must keep God’s commandments if we are to live a life of meaning and the enjoyment of God. But when we cast our eyes on the Lord, we are reminded of how the Lord Jesus kept the commandments for us, and died for us in order that we may live because we are unable to keep God’s commandment. And so He says to us: “If ye love me, keep my commandment” (Jn 14:15).

Proverbs 11:1

A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight.



 
The practical lesson is obvious. Dishonesty is hateful to God, whereas He loves integrity. But what has this to do with the Lord Jesus Christ? Clearly, it was upon the principle of justice that Christ came to suffer and die for us. Injustice is so hateful to God that He did not leave our sin unpunished but did punished Christ for them so that we might enjoy His love. But isn’t it injustice to have a third party pay for our sin when he never did sin? Yes, it would be, except that Christ is not a third party. He is, after all, God, same in substance with the Father. He is the aggrieved party bearing the debt owed in His own body and soul.

Proverbs 14:17

He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated.

A quick-tempered man often does foolish things which he would later regret. On the other hand, a man who schemes to get what he wants is hated when his wicked schemes are discovered. The Lord Jesus demonstrated that anger is not necessarily sinful by the display of anger towards the money changers in the temple. But His anger was deliberate and righteous, and while he, no doubt, does all things purposefully, His intentions are never wicked but always designed for the good of His people. We get an idea of this in the prayer of the Lord before He raise Lazarus. He says: “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me” (Jn 11:41-42).

Proverbs 16:31

The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.

The moral lesson is fairly obvious. An aged person who is righteous is very respectable. His grey hair is like a crown of glory to him. On the other hand, an aged person who is walking in sin is contemptible. His grey hair is a nadir of shame. We have got to pursue righteousness if we would be respectable in our latter days. But what has this got to do with our Lord Jesus? Our Lord never came to having a hoary head. He did not need that crown, for He has been crowned with many crowns (Rev 19:12) for His perfect righteousness! And He promises to give a crown of glory to all His undershepherds who serve as godly examples to the flock (1 Pet 5:4).

Proverbs 26:4-5

4  Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. 5  Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.

This is an initially perplexing couplet. We should not respond to a fool according to his folly, eg., with a foolish answer which we may think befits his question, lest we be also like him. We should rather answer a fool according to his folly, viz. in a way that exposes his folly, lest he thinks himself to be wise in his own conceit.

This is almost too theoretical and not helpful until we turn our eyes to the Lord. When we do so, what do we see? We see Him responding to the question of the Pharisees and Herodians: “What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?” (Mt 22:17). See how He does not answer according to their folly with a “yes” or “no” answer. It is not as simple as they might think. But see how He answers according to their folly, in a way that unravels their foolish attempt to trap Him.

Proverbs 27:5-6

5 Open rebuke is better than secret love. 6  Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

The moral lessons from these verses are obvious, but how do they point us to Christ? It is not obvious now? The Lord does not always rebuke errors openly, but when He has to, He does not hold back for fear of offending. He admonished His disciple, sometimes sternly, rather than sweeping everything under the carpet. By contrast, there is Judas Iscariot who betrayed Him with a kiss while pretending to be a friend. Those who, for whatever reason, pretend to be a friend, but secretly bear grudges or grievances are being Judas like, rather than Christ-like.

Conclusion

I think we get the idea. It is possible to see Christ in every verse even in Proverbs! It may require a bit of prayerful thinking, but we can come out with something that is not necessarily forced.

But why this exercise? Because the Christian life is not only about doing or not doing. It is not merely about demeanour and moral attitudes. It is about Christ! It is about Christ-likeness. It is about Christ-centredness. It is about walking with Christ. It is about walking for Christ. It is about walking because of Christ! It is about loving Christ and loving as Christ loves.

Such is a life that is truly meaningful, and truly worthwhile. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). Unless we understand this principle and live upon this principle, we shall live amiss and bring to ourselves a lot of unnecessary heartaches and sorrows. Oh may the Lord grant us that as we seek to know and reflect upon Him more and more through His Words that we may be “changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor 3:18). Amen.

JJ Lim