In the Book of Proverbs God applies his wisdom to the circumstances of everyday life. He shows us the consequences of all the ways in which a person might walk. It speaks about the maze of difficulties in this world, and our conduct in it. It tells of God’s government that involves a person reaping what is sown. This is so for Christians too, even though we have been met by grace. Even in a day of grace, God’s government remains. It is admitted that this book does not give Christians their heavenly calling such as we have in Ephesians, but the Lord Jesus quotes from it, and we need its instructions for daily life.
The precepts of this book of Proverbs guide us into practical happiness by showing us the need of maintaining our earthly relationships in God’s way. It is not just human prudence and sagacity that is enjoined. The fear of the Lord is the subject here, because it is the beginning of wisdom. In summary, we have divine wisdom as it applies to the details of life, in the midst of the confusion brought in by sin.
In Ecclesiastes, we have the opposite of Proverbs in a sense. It is the experience of a man who retains his wisdom, in order to make a right assessment of everything, and tries everything that is believed possible to achieve happiness on earth. He had the means to try everything that people think can lead to happiness. The result - he found it to be vanity or emptiness, and to be “pursuit of the wind”, or vexation of spirit. The greater the capacity of enjoyment, the deeper and wider is the experience of disappointment. Pleasure does not satisfy. Even the idea of obtaining happiness in this world by an unusual degree of righteousness, is said to be flawed.
We must remember that it is this world that is the scene of discussion – that which is under the sun. The phrase "under the sun" is used frequently. It is a set of conclusions drawn from experience of what takes place in the world around. The knowledge of God teaches us that there is judgment to come, but to people in the world, nothing is known beyond this life. That is why some passages appear at first sight to be a bit infidel. There is no discussion in this book about redemption or grace, but only of the experience of this present life. The writer concludes that a person’s occupation is to fear God and obey him in all things.
Proverbs gives us practical moral guidance for our daily life here. Ecclesiastes gives the results of a person trying to find happiness with everything this world can provide.
I have many verses in these books marked in pencil in my Bible. Eccles. 5:8 is a great comfort when injustices occur: “If you see the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter; for a higher than the high is watching, and there are higher than they”. Chapter 11:8 is a good verse to preach from: “If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth; and if a tree fall toward the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falls, there shall it be”. God’s blessing now is available to the whole world; the clouds are full of rain. When the tree falls - when a person dies – the destination is fixed. The south is regarded in scripture as the favourable direction (in the northern hemisphere, warm weather comes from the south). The north is obviously the opposite. Ultimately it is heaven or hell. And the last chapter, “Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth…” is remarkable for its poetic imagery.
In John 7:38 the Lord cries: “as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water”. Have you found that scripture? Try Proverbs 18:4.