30 July 2013

The key idea (and sine qua non) for understanding Proverbs (and everything else of consequence)

by Dan Phillips

Joe Carter, good brother that he is, had a very clever, creative idea. He asked himself: What if wise King Solomon were the speaker at a graduation ceremony? What sorts of things might he say?

As it turns out, Joe figures that the sagacious sovereign would make a number of disconnected, semi-random observations about life. Joe gets this from his read of the book of Proverbs which, I take it, Joe sees as doing about the same thing. In fact, Joe characterizes Proverbs as "a wildly popular advice book." This is how many people view Proverbs.

And so Solomon's speech is a series of largely disconnected bits of wisdom, including this: "One of the most important things I know is this: Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge."

"One of the most important things I know," he says. Towards the top of a long list. There are many other important things on the list, but this one shares a place at the top, along with them.

As you doubtless know, Proverbs has long been a love of mine. And as you Faithful Readers know, I actually wrote a book on it. In that book I make the case that all of Proverbs actually centers on a particular theme, a theme that Solomon characterizes not as "one of the most important things" he knew, but the most important thing, the sine qua non of knowledge and wisdom. Without that foundational reality at the very start, there's no knowledge and no wisdom.

That theme is the fear of Yahweh.

I say all that to point you to the sermon I recently preached on that verse and that concept. In that sermon I sketch out both the meaning and importance of the idea in all of our thinking. I also show how revolutionary this truth is when it comes to to how we read and understand the book of Proverbs.

A number of  you have shared that the Proverbs book has been helpful to you in seeing Proverbs in a new light. In fact, a number have told me that the chapter on the fear of Yahweh is "worth the price of admission" all by itself. Hearing that, to say the least, doesn't ruin my day.

If that sermon and concept, and/or the book, are of any value to you, may I ask you two favors?
  1. Tweet and blog the link to the sermon.
  2. Tell people like Joe (though I think Joe himself now knows about it) about the book.
As to that latter, I'm still finding that a surprising number of people — including those with well-earned reputations for being information-centers for YRRs — somehow seem unaware of God's Wisdom in Proverbs. Well, only God can know everything. Right? So share it with them, if you're willing. Assume that (A) they don't know about it, and (B) since they have great love for the OT and for Proverbs and for Christian books of substance on both, they will be delighted to learn of, and spread the word about, a new book that God is using to open up Proverbs to all who read and use it.

After all, don't we all hope to see significant gains in reading, understanding, preaching and living the marvelous book of Proverbs? Old Testament scholars like David Murray and Jim Hamilton (both rightly much-loved by TGC-type bloggers and Challies and all) say this book helps in that direction. The publisher did a terrific job in presenting it, for which I'm very grateful. You can help do the sort of word-spreading that larger publishers like Crossway and Nelson and others have built in to their much-larger organizations. Nothing is so catching or persuasive or winsome as enthusiasm, and I know many of you have it for this book.

Some of you have said, "I only have a few readers/followers." Sure, I get that; but you read and enjoy writers and pastors and conference speakers who influence a great many. Share this with them, warmly and winsomely and persuasively, and they may thank you for it!

I surely do!

Dan Phillips's signature


JohnCP said...

Why no kindle edition?

DJP said...

Do you have the hard copy?

David Regier said...

I have the hard copy, and I think it's definitely suitable for kindling.


Aaaaaand I just broke Prov 26:19.

It is an excellent resource, and I will continue to recommend it.

Kerry James Allen said...

I bought three. One to keep, two to give. Surely that gives me some cred.

DJP said...

De luxe cred.

Frank Turk said...

You ...
You wrote a book on Proverbs?

Was it published? Because I can't believe that TGC and Challies haven't reviewed it yet since they are always looking for new, good and godly resources for serious contemporary Christians.

Solameanie said...

Blogged and tweeted both.

DJP said...

Thank you!

Doug Hibbard said...

That reminds me.

I need to get back my lent-out copy.

And I'll work on getting word out through the people I know.

Anonymous said...

Amazon link posted on facebook. By the way, I noticed OSH hasn't seen the Amazon page..

"That theme is the fear of Yahweh."

A concept that 95% of Christian churches are completely unaware..and something that is crucial to understanding the Gospel (and pretty much the entire Bible).

JohnCP said...

Hi Dan

I asked about the kindle because this book is not readily available in South Africa. Shipping and import duties places many good books beyond our means.
I do not have the hard copy. I Would jump at the chance to buy it if it was available on kindle.

DJP said...

Thanks, Paul, I appreciate it.

DJP said...

John, thanks; I think the publisher's looking into it. It might come out on Logos first. Do you have that? You can get the basic engine for free.

BTW, do you know about this source for free shipping anywhere in the world?


I see they're currently out; I'll try contacting them.

Zorro! said...

My wife and I are going to go through it together.

It is a great resource - an engaging read, but detailed and scholarly enough to use as a reference type book, as well as being worth reading more than once.
I appreciate the questions, which can indicate if I fully comprehended each chapter.

As a small grade school child, reading through Proverbs, I walked away understanding (if little else about the Bible) that Wisdom and Understanding were the most valuable thing a person could acquire, and that fearing God was the way to get those. Now this book helps me understand what all that means, and what it meant to Solomon, and how that is a Pan-Biblical theme.

You did a good job, and we appreciate the effort it must have taken.

DJP said...

Thanks very much, Sr. Zorro! I appreciate it.

Now go tell people who will tell people!


DJP said...

Oh, btw, two other ways if you appreciate the book and want others to benefit as well:

Write a review at Amazon
Blog a review