How can we then summarise what we have learned throughout January as we’ve journeyed through the book of Proverbs? We started by learning that it aimed to give us ‘a manual for living’ so that we might have a ‘grasp on reality’ (Prov 1) . We’ve seen that wisdom is the word that is probably the recurring theme of the book: Proverbs is part of the Bible that is known as the ‘Wisdom literature’ (comprising Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs), so it’s only fitting that this is the theme that dominates. Wisdom, often personified and painted as being more valuable than rubies and other precious stones or metals, is more than intelligence or knowledge: it’s practical knowledge, applied knowledge, knowledge ‘made flesh’ and lived out in everyday situations and circumstances, knowledge that has an impact on how we speak, live, love, relate to others and worship God.

The wise and the foolish are contrasted throughout the book. We see how they act and can judge their wisdom (or lack of it) from their actions. Jesus taught “every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognise them.” (Matt 7:17-20) Proverbs reminds us vividly that our faith will become visible through our words and actions. The wise person will choose good goals and will keep a long-term view of life, shunning the human tendency to settle for short-term gratification. Ultimately, our lives will be judged by how we have responded to God; thus, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov 1:7, 9:10).

Wisdom is life in the flesh, however: not some esoteric principle which can only be understood by scholars. It’s down-to-earth, everyday, practical living. Jesus is described as ‘the Word made flesh’ (John 1:14). He came to reveal the Father to us: “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” (John 1:18) We might have found it hard to understand what God is like… hard to fathom what He wants of us… hard to understand godliness, but Jesus has come and revealed these things to us. Now we see what the Father heart of God is like. Now we understand how much we are loved. Now we understand!

Proverbs takes us by the hand and leads us into wisdom so that we can choose to live well. Jesus takes us by the hand and leads us to the Father. We are a privileged people, for not only do we know who God is and what He wants from us, we are actually led by God and indwelt by His Spirit so that that work of maturing and transformation is carried out in us.

Let’s live wisely and well throughout 2012.