One test of the value of a book is whether the author follows his own advice, and (if he is writing on a biblical book) whether he has learned important lessons from it himself. The author of this book cannot be faulted in this respect. Dealing with the largest Old Testament wisdom book, he shows a lot of wisdom himself in the comments he makes. Moreover, he writes most attractively.
He starts by discussing the foundational concept of wisdom as found in Proverbs. You should read this carefully before going on to the topical chapters, where he considers its teaching on various important and well-selected matters – work, wealth, friends, marriage and children.
To give you the flavour of a book crammed with quotable quotes, here are some samples: ‘Proverbs is not a collection of simplistic formulas for guaranteed success’ (p.17). ‘While God’s timing is always perfect, it is never predictable’ (p.19). ‘There is no rewind function on our words’ (p.29).
And further: ‘Go to the ant … consider its ways.’ ‘What an ironic testimony to the extent of our fallen nature! Here the book of Proverbs calls for humanity, the very pinnacle of God’s creation, to be instructed by a mindless, soulless, tiny insect’ (p.50). ‘The purpose of providing a financial inheritance to our heirs is not so that they might become self-indulgent. Rather, it is so that they may be more useful in the work of God on earth than we have been’ (p.107).
The chapters on wealth make interesting reading in these days of economic recession, and much he says is helpful. If I have a quibble, I would have liked the section on stewardship to be longer, and I was particularly disappointed not to see a reference to the financial implications of the church’s responsibility for overseas mission.
Without doubt, our author has got right inside this Bible book and it has got inside him. His love for it is almost tangible. It is not often that, on finishing a book, I find myself feeling I want soon to read it a second time.
But I do want a second bite at this particular cherry. More importantly, I want in future to spend more time in the Book of Proverbs.