The Promises of Proverbs

Encouragement for Your Heart and Mind from Pastor David

We hear Paul the Apostle tell us by the Spirit of God that “all the promises of God find their Yes in Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:20).  Indeed, we count on the reliability of God’s promises.  Hebrews 6:18 assures us that “it is impossible for God to lie.”

Our thinking, our lives, our experience, our future—all of these things and more count on the promises of God to those who by grace through faith are in His family.

So, when we read in the volume of the Proverbs that the pursuing and using of God’s wisdom will bring about the best things in life – things like long years and healing to our bones and favor and success with God and man – can we count on what sound like promises in the Proverbs?”


There are some Biblical scholars who insist that the sages who authored the sayings in Proverbs promised too much.   That they were “too optimistic in their promises.”  Perhaps they “confused their belief about what ought to be the case with what actually is the case.”
Still others suggest that Scripture’s proverbs “are not promises but probabilities.”  Thus they are not sayings you can truly count on, but rather statements that are generally true.  They contain an element of truth, but not the whole true.

But, as Dr. Bruce Waltke points out in Volume I his two-volume work on the Proverbs, “these solutions deconstruct Proverbs and the canon (of Scripture), and so undermine Christ’s and his apostle’s claim that all Scripture is inspired of God, who does not author confusion, and that the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35, 1 Cor. 14:33).   He urges thinking about what Proverbs promises that does not undercut Scriptural credibility.


Dr. Waltke reminds us of several important realities which underscore confidence in what Proverbs promises.

First, the promises of Proverbs are regularly validated by experience.  Experience consistently demonstrates that what they describe results in the consequences stated.  The sober, the cool-tempered, the diligent usually experience health and wealth, not the drunkard, the hothead, the sluggard.  It is simply true that “sound wisdom and discretion…will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck.  You will walk on your way securely” (Prov. 3:21-21).

Second, the comprehensive volume of God’s proverbs includes “counterproverbs,” which qualify the promises.  That is, if all we read are the positive proverbs, we are not getting the full picture God gives us about life.  Proverbs includes sayings which acknowledge that the righteous can suffer and that the wicked have treasures for a season.   Some describe the suffering of the innocent.  Thus the fullness of the sayings in this volume paint the full picture, and not just the rosy one.

Third, Proverbs frequently reminds us that the reward of the righteous is often described as a blessed future that extends beyond death.  Like the hope expressed and promised in the New Testament, God’s own do not demand that all of God’s blessing be experienced in this first life.  There is an extraordinary future that lies “beyond our clinical death;” indeed, God’s promise is to ultimately uphold justice.

Derek Kidner, whose Old Testament commentaries are well worth the investment, reminds us how valuable this portion of God’s library is.

It is a book that seldom takes you to church.  Like its own figure of Wisdom, it calls across to you in the street about some everyday matter, or points out things at home.  Its function in Scripture is to put godliness into working clothes; to name business and society as spheres in which we are to acquit ourselves with credit to our Lord, and in which we are to look for His training.
The book of Proverbs reassures us that...the hard facts of life, which knocks some of the nonsense out of us, are God’s facts and His appointed school of character; they are not alternatives to His grace, but means of it; for everything is of grace, from the power to know to the power to obey. ‘The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made them both’ (Prov. 20:12)
[Proverbs, p.35].
Bottom line – you and I can count on Proverbs to be truthful Scripture, and an indispensable compass for navigating everyday living.
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