Life in a Nutshell

Bible Book: Proverbs 
Subject: Wisdom; God's Truth; Life, God's Will In; Proverbs

There was once a conversation between a puppy and an old dog. The puppy said, “I have mastered philosophy. I have learned that the best thing for a dog is happiness, and that happiness is my tail. Therefore, I am chasing it, and when I catch it, I shall have it.”

The old dog replied, “I, too, have judged that happiness is a marvelous thing for a dog, and that happiness indeed resides in my tail. But, I’ve noticed that when I chase it, it keeps running away from me and I never get it. But, when I go about my business, it follows after me.

The book of Proverbs is not just a book of pithy maxims or catchy sayings. Rather, it is a book filled with the wisdom of God given through a man who had learned many things the hard way.

In 1 Kings 3:12, God gave Solomon one wish and Solomon asked for wisdom. Solomon went on to become, not only the wisest man, but the wealthiest man in the world. Someone has said, “Solomon asked for the best, and God threw in the rest.”

In 1 Kings 4:32, we learn that Solomon’s wisdom is expressed in his writing of 3000 proverbs and 1005 songs. Solomon wrote 3 books.

Song Of Solomon: Young man full of Love/Romance Proverbs: Middle aged man full of Learning/Reason Ecclesiastes: Old man full of Lamentation/Regret

To study Proverbs in an expositional, verse-by-verse study is almost an impossible task. The subject matter seems to change with every verse. It abounds with characters which stand in “bold relief drawn by a skillful sage.”

W. Graham Scroggie describes them in graphic form as “the prating fool winking with the eye; the practical joker; the talebearer who harps on a matter separating chief friends; the whisperer whose words are like dainty morsels going down into the innermost parts of the belly; the backbiting tongue drawing gloomy looks all around as surely as the north wind brings rain; the speculator holding back his corn amid the curses of the people; the man of wandering life like a restless bird; the unsocial man that separateth himself; and, the cheerfulness that is a continual feast.”

Central Theme

Godly wisdom and instruction for living, where the “fear of the Lord” is the central theme.

Central Truth

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” (1: 7)

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. [6]In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (3: 5-6)

Central Thrust

What the book of Psalms is to our Devotional life, the book of Proverbs is to our Daily life. It is the wisdom of God, communicated through a man who speaks from the voice of experience, to help us avoid the pitfalls by applying the principles of God’s Word.

Ray Stedman writes, “The message of Proverbs is that life can never be fully understood nor fully lived except through a relationship with God. The complexities and perils of life are simply too big for us to handle ourselves. We need the timeless, priceless, endless wisdom of God.”

Genesis: The Book of Ruin Exodus: The Book of Redemption Leviticus: The Book of Regulations Numbers: The Book of Readiness

Deuteronomy: The Book of Remembrance Joshua: The Book of Realization

Judges: The Book of Regret Ruth: The Book of Romance

1-2 Samuel: The Book(s) of Royalty 1-2 Kings: The Book(s) of Revolt

1-2 Chronicles: The Book(s) of Renewal Ezra/Nehemiah: The Book(s) of Rebuilding Esther: The Book of Rescue

Job: The Book of Restoration Psalms: The Book of Refrain Proverbs: The Book of Reason

Proverbs is divided into 3 main sections. Proverbs 1-9: Moral Issues

Proverbs 10-24: Miscellaneous Issues Proverbs 25-31: Monarchial Issues

I. Instructional Matters

Proverbs 1-9 - Instruction given to a young person from a father

The key to understanding Proverbs is found in 1 phrase. “My son:” 23 times in Proverbs

Letter Written From A Father To His Son

We can leave our children money, but they will Spend it.

We can leave our children property, but they will Sell it.

We can leave our children wisdom, they can never Shun it.

[1:1-6] “To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding. [3]To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity. [4]To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion. [5]A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels. [6]To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.”

Proverbs 1:1-7 lays the foundation.

Proverbs 1:8 begins a series of 10 father-son discourses.

A. Where Wisdom Begins

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” [1: 7]

3 words for “fools” in Proverbs.

The most common word is ‘kesil,’ used 49 times. The word literally means, “Growing thick of fluids.” It speaks of a thick-headed person who refused to listen to counsel.

That is the word for “fools” used in Proverbs 1: 7. A wise man will fear the Lord; but, a thick headed, hard hearted fool will reject wisdom.

The “Fear Of The Lord” Is Not The End Of Wisdom; It Is The Begginning Of Wisdom.

“Fear of the Lord” is not being afraid, or terrified of God. The fear of God stems from our love for God.

Ray Stedman says, “The ‘fear of the Lord’ is not the fear that God might hurt us, but rather the fear we might hurt Him.”

Lloyd John Ogilvie comments, “Wisdom is the special gift of God for our guest to know His will. It is beyond intellect and knowledge. It enables a person to hear with God's ears and see with God's eyes. It is the vertical thrust of the mind of God into our minds, making discernment possible on the horizontal level of human affairs. If we long to know God's maximum for our lives, then wisdom is the gift we need."

True wisdom begins with the “fear of the Lord.”

B. What Wisdom Bestows [Proverbs 3-5]

Beginning in Proverbs 3, the father’s counsel is directed toward a young man as he grows up and leaves home. The father addresses issue like sex, unwise decisions, bad choices, and prevalent temptations.

He describes the excellency of wisdom.

[4:5-9] “Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth. [6] Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee. [7]Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. [8]Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her. [9]She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.”

He then describes what wisdom bestows upon a life that embraces it.

[3:35] “The wise shall inherit glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools.”

The whole section is built upon one foundation.

[3:5-6] “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. [6] In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

How do we “trust in the Lord with all our heart?” By leaning not “to our own understanding.”

C. Why Wisdom Beckons [Proverbs 6]

Proverbs 6 is one of the tough chapters of the Bible. But, it discloses why the wisdom of God is so vital. The wisdom of God shows us in what God delights, as well as of what God despises.

[6:16-19] “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him. [17]A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood. [18]An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief. [19]A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.”

God hates 6 things. But, the 7th thing he lists is an abomination to him…”he that soweth discord among brethren.”

Discord: Heb. “madan.” A political word meaning strife or contention. The word was used to speak of creating division by sowing seeds of doubt in order to gain support for oneself.

An Abomination To The Lord

D. How Wisdom Blesses [Proverbs 8-9]

Proverbs 8-9 personify the 2 ways of life.

Proverbs 8: Wisdom is seen as a beautiful woman, calling those who will follow her to come away to the place of victory, achievement and success in life.

Proverbs 9: Foolishness is personified as an evil woman, attractive, alluring, tempting the unwary to step aside into death. Folly thinks that everything it does is right. [9:15-16] “To call passengers who go right on their ways. [16]Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither.”

Such are the 2 roads to travel in life. Following wisdom leads to success. Following foolishness leads to shame.

II. Incidental Matters

Proverbs 10-24 deals with a variety of miscellaneous, incidental matters in life. The section begins with pithy, practical words of advice, made up of comparisons/contrasts.

Comparisons: [10:17] “He is in the way of life that keepeth instruction: but he that refuseth reproof erreth.”

Contrasts: [11:22] “As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion.” [12:20] “Deceit is in the heart of them that imagine evil: but to the counsellors of peace is joy.” [12:25] “Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad.”

A. Parental

The home is one of the common subjects in Proverbs. Again, it is a letter from a father to his son. The home is given promises, precepts, and principles.


[29: 15]" The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.” [13: 24]" He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”

[23: 13-14] “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. [14]Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.”


[13: 22] “A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children.”

[17: 6] “Children's children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers.” [22: 6] “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Train: Heb. ‘chanak’—“to narrow, to hedge.”

The word was used to speak of how cattle were corralled. Parents have the responsibility of providing direction in the home by hedging, corralling, and leading their children in the things of God.

Note that C. H. Spurgeon said, “Train up a child in the way you wish you had gone.” It is not an Uncoditional Promise

It is an Undeniable Principle

It is not a guarantee that they will be saved, or never get into trouble. The responsibility of the verse lay on the parent, not the child. It is a principle that parents should seek to live by.

B. Psychological

[19: 3] “The foolishness of man perverteth his way: and his heart fretteth against the Lord.” Have you ever blamed God for something YOU did wrong? I have, you have, and we all have.

Phillips translates the verse, “A man’s own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the Lord.”

Man started blaming God in the Garden of Eden, and we have done it ever since. We refuse to be responsible for our own poor choices, decisions, and judgments. It’s all because of the “foolishness” of our own heart.

C. Relational

Solomon was big on relationships. He dealt with 4 main areas to focus on to build a healthy, lasting relationship with others.


[15:1] “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”


[19:27-32] “An ungodly man diggeth up evil: and in his lips there is as a burning fire. [28]A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends. [29]A violent man enticeth his neighbour, and leadeth him into the way that is not good. [30]He shutteth his eyes to devise froward things: moving his lips he bringeth evil to pass. [32]He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.”


[27: 6, 10] “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. [10] Thine own friend, and thy father's friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother's house in the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off.”

[17:17] “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

Friends don’t bail out, burn out, or back out. A true friend sticks by your side through the good, the bad, and the ugly. Friends don’t use, abuse, or misuse their friendship. They are more in it for their friend, than they are for themselves.

[18:24] “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”

Solomon seems to say, “In order to HAVE a friend, we must Be a friend.”

Be Friendly To Everyone

Don’t Have Everyone As A Friend


[22:24-25] “Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go. [25]Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.”

[25:19] “Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.”

It has been said, “We will be the same 5 years from now that we are today, except for 3 things: the books we read, the places we attend, and the people we hang around.”


[25:21-22] “If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink. [22]For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee.”

D. Spiritual

The greatest advice Solomon gives is in regards to spiritual matters.

[14:12] “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” [21:2] “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts.”

[10:29] “The way of the Lord is strength to the upright: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity.”

[12:15] “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.” [20:27] “The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly.”

We get back to the very reason for our existence. We were created to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit. He is the light. We are the lamp. When the lamp of the human spirit holds the light of the Holy Spirit, we finally, and fully, begin to understand ourselves.

III. Influential Matters

Proverbs 25-31

Primarily deals with those in authority. But, also with personal matters that are very influential to our lives.

A.Tough Times

[26:2] “As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.” Like a fluttering bird or a darting sparrow, an undeserved curse never comes to rest.

Ray Stedman writes, “If someone says something nasty about you, and it is not true, don’t worry about it. Nobody will believe it. Those who do believe it aren’t important.”

2 responses: We can Resent them or we can Release them.

If we Resent them, we Resemble them.

If we Release them, we Redeem ourselves.

(26: 3-12): How to Respond to Foolishness (26: 13-16): How to Respond to Laziness (26: 17-23): How to Respond to Slanderers (26: 25-28):

How to Respond to Deceivers

B. Timeless Truths

Proverbs 30—Written by Agur from a prophetic standpoint. He categorizes his saying in a numerical way comparing spiritual truths to the created world.

[30:15-16] “There are three things that are never satisfied, yea, four things say not, It is enough: [16] The grave; and the barren womb; the earth that is not filled with water; and the fire that saith not, It is enough.

C. Touching Tributes

Proverbs 31—Written by King Lemuel (Some believe to be Solomon) Touching tribute about his own mother.

Her Work

[31:13-16] “She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. [14]She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar. [15]She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. [16]She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.”

Her Wisdom

[31:26] “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”

Her Worth

[31:10-12] “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. [11]The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. [12]She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.”

[31:28-31] “Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. [29] Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. [30]Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. [31]Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.”

Mother Theresa once wrote:

Life is an opportunity, Benefit from it.

Life is beauty, Admire it.

Life is bliss, Taste it.

Life is a dream, Realize it.

Life is a challenge, Meet it.

Life is a duty, Complete it.

Life is a game, Play it.

Life is a promise, Fulfill it.

Life is sorrow, Overcome it.

Life is a song, Sing it.

Life is a struggle, Accept it.

Life is a tragedy, Confront it.

Life is an adventure, Dare it.

Life is precious, Value it.

Life is life, Fight for it.

If that is life in a nutshell, then the book of Proverbs is the rulebook to live the life.



“Exploring the Scriptures,” John Phillips, pg. 100.
“Adventuring Through the Bible,” Ray Stedman, pg. 268.