I found it very humbling. I found that I played the fool in my life more than I care to admit. Praise be that you and I have Jesus, who paid the price for our sins and wants us to keep on improving more than he expects us to be perfect:
“…for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity” (Proverb 24:16b, ESV).
There are three dominating categories of the Cycle in Proverbs, represented by two-thirds of the entire book: Unity with God, Commands, and Warnings. The big surprise to me is that the last one, Warnings, makes up about one third of the whole book.
But it is also true that each of these three categories have special contributions to the Cycle, since Proverbs is not narrative, but rather collected wisdom, primarily recorded by King Solomon.
For the category Unity with God, Solomon teaches that we must keep the channels open with God to allow the flow of wisdom straight from him. To have perfect unity with God, we must passionately seek and learn wisdom that only God can provide:
“For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints” (2:6-8).
But this is just an example – there are 258 more verses further defining the connection of God’s wisdom with perfect unity with God.
Commands must also be treated differently in Proverbs. Up to this point in the Bible, commands have come only from God or have been referred to as coming from God. In Proverbs, commands do come from God, but through the parents of a child. For example:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil” (3:5-7).
Trust; do not lean; acknowledge; be not wise; and turn away are all commands from one’s father. But there are 117 more verses of commands in Proverbs. As I gathered these together, I wished I had been taught when I was a child that there were more than 10 commandments. As the saying goes, commandments are not just suggestions!
The warnings came as a complete surprise to me, because they are sandwiched within verses that pose direct contrast between perfect unity of the wise and mirror image warning to fools who reject wisdom, for example:
“The Lord's curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous” (3:33).
Note the contrast between the wicked and the righteous in the same verse. There are 316 more verses with this same contrast of “a” but “b”, righteous versus wicked. When I discovered this, I thought the premise of the Cycle had been blown up, since I cannot divide up a verse in the system I developed. But then it struck me that all of the verses were warnings against being a fool by simply embellishing the contrast with God’s wisdom!
Rejecting God’s wisdom is not only to forfeit perfect unity with God. There is also a warning label on the bottle: judgment follows the fool with absolute certainty – do not ingest foolishness as defined by God in Proverbs or anywhere else in the Bible, or serious health consequences could occur!