(this transcript has been lightly edited for readability)
So because I don't think that the Proverbs is fully understood for the richness that is there, I want to spend a few of these episodes that we have together to just lay a foundation for understanding the riches that are in this portion of Scripture. So here's the first thing I want to say is that every proverb tells a story. You don't really understand the proverbs unless you understand that they're not mechanical, they’re narrative; that embedded in each proverb is the plot line of the whole redemptive story. Every proverb carries that plot line; there are three pieces to that plot line.
First, creation. The Proverbs points us to the world as God meant for it to be, the world according to God's perfect design as the great wise creator that He is. As you read the Proverbs, you ought to mourn for the loss of that world. It's all over; the Proverbs should make you sad that the world we live in is not actually the world as God designed it. And we’re confronted with just the beauty of God's created plan.
The Proverbs has the next part of the plot line, the fall. We’re confronted with a world that is damaged and dysfunctional, that just doesn't operate the way that God intended. We’re confronted with a world that is now a place where foolishness is just everywhere, where dark dangers confront us, where temptation exists.
And we are then blessed by the third part of the plot line; it's redemption, it's a world restored by grace, a world reconciled by God's goodness. You say, “Well Paul, how does that help me understand the Proverbs?” Well, let me give you an example. One of the popular Proverbs is Proverbs 15:1. It says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Now, think about this. Is that proverb actually telling me every time I give a soft answer to an angry person, I will turn off his anger? Well, you know that that's not true; that won’t always happen.
So what is that proverb about? The proverb is about this, that meek Christ, who uttered when threatened, “uttered no threats but committed himself to His heavenly Father who does all things justly,” (1 Peter 2:23) meek Christ will win. And so, when I choose to entrust myself to my heavenly Father and speak softly in the face of a person's anger, I’m moving in the same direction as the biblical narrative; I'm moving in the same direction as God's story; and ultimately, that direction is a pathway of blessing.
All the anger of all of the enemies will one day be silenced, and we will enjoy perfect peace and perfect harmony and perfect righteousness forever and ever and ever! That story is embedded in that proverb, and so although I may not get that reaction today, it's going to happen. And because I'm heading in the same direction as God's story, I will be blessed along the way for doing that. That's how every proverb works. Every proverb is eschatological; it looks to the future and all the promised blessings of what it means to follow God. They're not just mechanical; they’re embedded in that story. They preach the story of creation, fall, and redemption. And when you see that, they explode with deeper meaning and deeper encouragement than that mechanical view of the Proverbs.