Yesterday I suggested we must beware of legalistic moralizing when preaching the Proverbs. Tomorrow I’ll offer two simple approaches to full-length sermons on single proverbs. Today I want to share two more “foundational thoughts” that I think should be kept in mind.
Thought 2 – We should preach Christ, but let’s not be overly speculative and force Christ into every line. I won’t delve into the issues, good and bad, with preaching Christ as “lady wisdom personified” in this post. It is possible to preach Christ from Proverbs, but it isn’t a game where the most creative link wins a prize. Some of what is done with good intentions does come across as Christian gymnastics and even the most informed listener struggles to see how anyone else would have come to that conclusion from that text. Let’s be careful not to lose biblical credibility while trying to “preach Christian.” Better to preach Christ in light of the larger flow of biblical revelation than to make a hop, skip and jump from a rock badger to the Rock of Ages.
Thought 3 – Proverbs gives us a compelling framing imagery of the two women. Proverbs is a literary piece of art. Now we do lose so much in terms of the assonance, alliteration, word play, etc. – kind of like translating “a stitch in time saves nine” into Italian, or “raining cats and dogs” into Korean. And we are not really attuned to Hebraic parallelism when it comes to poetic writing forms. But we shouldn’t miss how the collection of short, memorable and pithy sayings is wrapped in a frame of human imagery. Specifically the two personified ladies of wisdom and folly. Which path will the young man take? The road to destruction in response to the heady flirtation of harlot folly, or the wonderful blessing of marriage to lady wisdom? I would be inclined to allow that kind of overt literary framing to provide an overriding narratival snapshot into which the issues of wisdom and folly can be placed in relational terms rather than mere burdens of behavior.
So much more could be said on both of these thoughts, so feel free to comment and share your thoughts.