Of the sixty-six books that comprise the Bible, the Book of Proverbs stands alone. It neither tells a story from the past nor offers a prophecy about the future. Rather, the Book of Proverbs is a collection of quotable one-liners – bite-size portions of wisdom that provide long-lasting spiritual sustenance.
In his book, Roaring Lions, Cracking Rocks and Other Gems from Proverbs, Warren Baldwin adds a fuller dimension to the succinct nature of Proverbs through a series of short essays.
Each essay reads like a devotion by applying a particular proverb to a real-life situation. In this way, every essay serves to draw deeper connections between the ancient text and modern-day living. However, the “real aim of Proverbs,” Baldwin explains, “is not to equip us with witty sayings to help us function more professionally in the world; it is to promote godly character so that we can enjoy virtuous relationships with God and people” (11).
The purpose of Proverbs is to promote godly character.
I appreciate how Baldwin articulates this further: “Wisdom is skill at living. Just as people have skill in carpentry, sports or music, people can have skill in living … To be wise is to be a craftsman skilled in the art of making good choices, maintaining healthy relationships, and living faithfully for God” (191). And these essays on proverbs do just that; they expound on ways that regular folk, like you and me, can grow in godly character.
Warren Baldwin’s exegetical treatise on Proverbs consists of 118 essays that are arranged by such topics as marriage, parenting, relationships, responsibility, community, and spiritual living. Under the banner of “Community,” for instance, Baldwin describes the practice of patience and the art of overlooking an offense, both of which are needed skills in healthy relationships.
“A man’s wisdom gives him patience;
it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” – Proverbs 19:11
Taking this singular proverb and expanding it further, Baldwin conveys a clear hallmark of maturity: “One way we know if we are gaining mastery in the art of living well is by how we respond to insults, putdowns and other offenses … If someone attacks our work or family, it is natural to reach into our arsenal of verbal weapons and counterattack” (191). This is so true – and understandably so. Of course we want to defend our loved ones whenever they are verbally demeaned or slandered in some way. Yet, the mature believer who wishes to honor God with both his words and his deeds has developed the discipline of turning the other cheek (Luke 6:29) and keeping a tight reign on the tongue (James 1:26). Yes, this is sometimes hard to do, but God rewards those who respect his commands (Proverbs 13:13).
One of the things I appreciate most about Baldwin’s approach to the Proverbs is his unwavering commitment to communicating God’s holy truth. Baldwin boldly tackles what is oftentimes considered, in today’s postmodern world, a “touchy subject.” For example, when it comes to marriage – the way God intended it – Baldwin engages with the Proverbs head-on. In fact, the topic of marriage is the very first chapter of his book!
“May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice
in the wife of your youth” – Proverbs 5:18
In our fast-food culture, the concept of permanence is fading fast. As Baldwin explains it: “We are a ‘throwaway’ culture. We eat our meals on plates with utensils that are all thrown away. No permanence” (19). I think we can all relate to that. But the deeper implication here is the way that marriage – a holy covenant between two people – is also considered temporary and disposable.
The one aspect that I would like to read more about is the historical context in which the Book of Proverbs was written. These words of wisdom are applicable to any current setting, yet is would also be interesting to know more about the background behind the sayings. I understand that a follow-up book on Proverbs is in the works, so I look forward to discovering more applications for these ancient adages.
The book, Roaring Lions, Cracking Rocks, makes for great devotional reading. As I have absorbed the material, there is so much more I could write about. And I will probably follow up with additional posts on individual essays that really took me to a deeper level of thinking regarding certain passages of Scripture.
I recommend Roaring Lions, Cracking Rocks and Other Gems from Proverbs and hope that you will check out the author’s blog: Family Fountain. You can order Warren Baldwin’s book from either amazon or his website(but I believe his website offers a better deal).