The simple are those who have not yet fallen into the absurdity of the fool’s life but are not wise either. The simple are the morally naïve. They are childish in their outlook on life and lack the maturity to see what’s truly valuable. They are easily swayed, like the simple man who is seduced to the adulteress’ bedroom in Proverbs 5. He’s like an ox being led to the slaughter. The simple are easily overcome by life’s circumstances which wisdom could have saved them from. Proverbs 22:3 (ESV) says, “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.”
They stand at the fork of the road of life. Which path will they take? The wise. The simple. And the fool. Which one are you? Truth be told, most of us are tragic mixtures of all three with perhaps some moments of stellar wisdom, but some foolish failures as well.
Here is the purpose of Proverbs. Back to chapter 1.
“The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth.” (Proverbs 1:1-4)
There’s no hope for the fool. The fool says, I don’t need this! If that is you, you are going to hate a summer in Proverbs because it’s all so silly. It doesn’t connect with you. So, I’m not even going to try to convince you.
The purpose of Proverbs is to expose the fool, confirm the wise, and move the simple toward a life according to wisdom. Left to themselves, the simple are attracted to the self-centeredness of the fool and will trend foolish. Proverbs urges the simple to leave their simple ways.
So, Mr. Solomon, how do simple people standing at the fork of the road choose the path of wisdom?
Here is where Proverbs hints and the gospel reveals. This is Proverbs describing how wisdom works its way into the heart and transforms a life.
You have here this basic concept of the fear of the Lord. Again, this is not where I’m cowering; I am treasuring. I am reverencing. I am worshiping the Lord. He is the most important thing in my life. And that in my heart influences the way I think about things and the way I feel about things and my conscience even is dictated by this reverencing of God. If you look at these concentric circles, you see that when I am thinking the will of God, when I’m feeling the will of God, it changes the way I live.
God has so ordered the world that there are consequences built into this society where if we live this way (way of death) these are the things that generally will happen to you. And if I live this way (way of life) these are the blessings that generally will happen to you. Proverbs is written to help us live wisely—for us, like the Israelites, to flourish in life. So, the ways and the consequences and Proverbs are going to emphasize them and there is a path of death and there is a path of life and Proverbs is urging us toward the path of life and obviously in the gospel, eternal life.
Or let me “New Testamentize” this:
We replace the fear of the Lord with faith in the Lord Jesus. Here on this side of the cross. How does this happen for us? It happens when I, by the grace of God, trust in Jesus as my Savior. Now Jesus assumes the throne of my heart. I am surrendering my life in faith and obedience to Jesus and that divine throne now is shaping the way I think about things and the way I feel about things and it shapes my conscience and it changes the way that I live. The Bible calls this repentance and obedience and sanctification. And the result is that the consequences of the direction of my life now being lived more consistent with the will of God increasingly lead toward life and shalom and flourishing and peace and the blessing of God.
I don’t have to know you personally to know that you didn’t wake up this morning thinking I want to be a colossal failure in my life. None of us do. We want to be successful in the eyes of God especially. And we desire those blessings in our life. And so the question that Proverbs asks is, do you have the fear of the Lord in your heart? The question the gospel asks is do you have faith in the Lord Jesus? Over time, we are living on either the side of death or we are living out the life of Jesus Christ—living according to his will and purpose in our lives. And Proverbs urges us to live that way.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
© 2019 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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