We observe the very familiar “Wednesday night prayer meeting” at my church, and try to dedicate half our time to corporate prayer, and half to a brief study or meditation on God’s Word. Because I find it so much less nerve-racking when preparing to work through a book or large portion of Scripture rather than choosing something different each week, we began in one of my very favorite books two weeks ago, the book of Proverbs. This rich, God-breathed call to wisdom has much to offer us in learning the “skill of living,” but it is much more than a collection of handy but secular how-to’s. It is a roadmap of the Narrow Way (Mat 7:13-14), an urgent plea to seek the One in whom “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden.” (Col 2:3) Like every other portion of God’s revelation, Proverbs exalts the beloved Son of the Father. The Way of Wisdom is the Way of Christ.
Here are four books that I find to be useful guides :
Tremper Longman III, Proverbs. Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom Literature. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006. Longman seems to be “Mr. Wisdom Literature,” having also written commentaries on Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and a short work on the Psalms. Longman is one of the few conservative OT scholars who makes no apologies for reading the OT in light of the New (the only way it was ever intended to be read, according to the Lord Jesus himself). Geared at seminary students and Bible teachers, this is a very readable commentary with an excellent introduction. I highly recommend it for any one teaching Proverbs .
Tremper Longman III, How to Read Proverbs. Downer’s Grove: IVP, 2003. This is a wonderful little handbook to read along with Proverbs that deals with most any question the lay reader or teacher might have. Aside from addressing key theological and canonical issues in a non-technical way, he also gives examples of how to do topical studies from the Proverbs. Immensely useful, and accessible enough for a Sunday School class or small group to work through with a capable facilitator / teacher. If you don’t get the verse-by-verse Baker commentary, this would be $11 well spent, and will go a long way in helping you seek wisdom.
Charles Bridges, A Manual for the Young. Vestavia Hills: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2005. (originally published 1845) I love Charles Bridges. He is the author of one of the very best and most comprehensive books on pastoral ministry, The Christian Ministry, but is perhaps better known for his commentaries on Psalm 119 and the Proverbs. Like Ryle and Spurgeon, Bridges is one of those latter-day Puritans (nineteenth century) who has all the best theology and practical application at his fingertips. I ran across a discounted copy of A Manual for the Young through a great sale Solid Ground was having. It only contains Bridges’ exposition of chapters 1-9, and has convinced me that purchasing his full-length commentary will be a necessity. Very quotable.
Graeme Goldsworthy, The Gospel and Wisdom. (The third portion of the Goldsworthy Trilogy. Carlisle, Cumbria: Paternoster, 2000) Goldsworthy has been helping me the last several years to step back and see the small portions of Scripture in light of the big picture of what God is accomplishing in Christ, including the OT wisdom literature. Gospel and Wisdom does not lead you verse-by-verse through Proverbs, but instead offers a philosophy and theology of understanding all of the Wisdom literature in light of the Gospel. While I would not want this to be my only commentary on Proverbs, I am greatly indebted to the framework he has to offer.
Finally, Dr. Russell Moore’s 4-Part mp3 series from the book of Proverbs, “Walking the Line” is an excellent meditation on “Glimpses of the Christ Life in the book of Proverbs.”