04 September 2013

Beauty, art, wisdom, knowledge of God, and Proverbs 2

by Dan Phillips

Preaching through Proverbs is being quite an adventure. Though I've done studies, conferences, sermons, and a book on it, I've never actually preached through Proverbs. As you'd imagine, it's being quite a workout.

Among many things, the exercise is deepening my appreciation for the artistry of Proverbs, something often visible only in Hebrew. For instance, chapter two is one long Hebrew sentence composed of 22 verses, mirroring the 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet. It divides neatly into two sections of eleven verses each. The main movements of the first are dominated by sections begun by words starting with א (aleph), the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet (if [v. 1], then [vv. 5, 9]). The second section is structured by sections beginning with ל, the middle letter of the Hebrew alphabet (to deliver you [vv. 12, 16], that [v. 20]).

Judging by the work of the Holy Spirit in Scripture as surely as that of the Trinity in creation, God is no utilitarian pragmatist, but is a lover of beauty and art. Indeed, He is its original and font. I brought this (and more) out for our dear folks in beginning my sermons on this chapter.

That said, while Derek Kidner's comment on Proverbs 2:1-5 overlooks the structure of the Hebrew text, it is a good example of what is particularly delightful about his commentary. When I first read the commentary, decades ago, I looked down on it because of its brevity. As the years passed, I came to see that Kidner's brevity mirrors Solomon's own. He had a poignant knack for saying a great deal in very few words. For instance, I call as witness his comment on the first five verses:
2:1–5. Wisdom, hard-won. This is the essential counterpart to 1:20ff., where wisdom was clamouring to be heard. Here it is the pupil who must clamour (3). Yet the search, strenuous as it must be, is not unguided. Its starting-point is revelation—specific (words) and practical (commandments); its method is not one of free speculation, but of treasuring and exploring received teachings so as to penetrate to their principles (see the verbs of 1–5); and its goal, far from being academic, is spiritual: the fear of the Lord … the knowledge of God (5). With these two phrases verse 5 encompasses the two classic Old Testament terms for true religion—the poles of awe and intimacy. 
[Kidner, D. (1964). Proverbs: An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Vol. 17, p. 59). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.]
Deftly-said, true, and instructve.

Dan Phillips's signature


donsands said...

Jesus said, "Man cannot live by food alone, but we need every Word of God to feed on. For the Word is genuine food."

Thanks for the good post.

"And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God."-Paul, Col. 1:9-10

"I know my Redeemer lives."

LanternBright said...

Dan, I've yet to have the opportunity to read your Proverbs book, unfortunately. (It's on deck for this year, though!) I know that Waltke's two volume NICOT contribution is supposed to be something of a gold standard, though--what's your opinion? Does it hold up to the hype?

DJP said...

Oh, it's very good, and will be used for a very long time. It's also quite technical. Andrew Steinmann's commentary (from Concordia) is also exceptionally good. Both give great attention to the details of the text, both write as convinced Christians (Steinmann more obviously and consciously so), and both help with the structure.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff as usual Pastor Dan. I listened to the sermonaudio of this message from Sunday and borrowed some of your insightful turn-of-phrase for a staff devotion this morning. The chaplain and I have been concerned about the lack of reverence from the guys we are working with (even from those that seem to be on track with discipleship) and your post about the connectedness of those twin poles of awe and intimacy really struck home. I wonder if an over-emphasis on intimacy with God by the ModAmeriChurch (coupled with Gutless Grace) has contributed to a downgrade in our reverence for Him. Just wondering...

I found a bible study by Paul Washer called The One True God which we have been using to try and and lead the men to a healthy perception of God. But the study you have done and are sharing from Proverbs has dove-tailed nicely into what's going on 'round these parts. Thank You!

(still need to get the book...oh well, next month's budget perhaps :0)

DJP said...

Thanks, that's very encouraging!

Not to make life difficult or break the bank, but the book's on sale now for like 36% off, if I'm doing my maths right: http://bit.ly/u90nHM.

Chris Brannen said...

"Awe and Intimacy"

This blessed me today. Thanks for posting this.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

Your wonderful book and the artistry that your post refers to make me really wish that I knew Hebrew. I think it would deepen my appreciation and understanding of the scriptures. I wonder how my pastors would respond if I suggested that they offer to teach Hebrew to anyone interested.

Jason and Jodee said...

Well I can't find the star rating, but be sure to keep this series of posts up! Good insights. I just started preaching Proverbs and it's more challenging than I thought. But it is a good workout!

Do you have a recommendation of the top commentaries for Proverbs? Certainly GWIP is a great resource and I've appreciated it in my own preparation.


DJP said...

You'll notice a partially-annotated bibliography at the end of GWiP (AKA #ProvDJP). One that has come out since then is Andrew Steinmann's Concordia volume on Proverbs.

If a pastor were asking me three must-have's, I suppose I'd say... I'd say I can't! Because I'm tussling with the Hebrew text, it's specifics and shape (as every pastor should), I'm finding the most help in Waltke and Steinmann. But I love Kidner and Bridges, and Crenshaw is surprisingly useful given his different doctrinal wheelbase, and I use Longmann. Oh, and Michael Fox. And John Kitchen, and Lange's, and Delitzsch, and the Pulpit Commentary...

Oh, I look at Duane Garrett, too, but usually am disappointed.