Dr. Dominick Hernandez is our speaker this year at the Philly Young Adults Conference, and I wanted to recommend his recent book, Proverbs: Pathways to Wisdom. I have several commentaries on Proverbs, but have never really ran across a book like this before. What Dr. Hernandez has done is to give you a short, very readable introduction to the book of Proverbs, which is basically a guide for how to read Proverbs yourself. A lot of us know the Proverbs is a place to turn for immediately relevant wisdom and insight into life, but it can also be a little confusing to read at times. Why is it written the way it is? Why do some of its directions feel obscure? This book will give you the “lay of the land” and you can use it kind of like a road map–if you get the basic principles for reading Proverbs (which Dr. Hernandez explains) down, you’ll be able to read Proverbs yourself wisely, and with a ton of benefit. For instance, here is an excerpt, where Dr. Hernandez is discussing how the idea of “humility” is discussed in Proverbs:
Humility is anything but abstract in Proverbs. The book provides plenty of practical advice dedicated to how to be a humble person. Contrary to familiar perceptions, humility is not a characteristic of weak people who mope around as if they were nobodies. Humility in Proverbs emerges from maturity in wisdom, which prevents the wise from thinking too highly of themselves. Humble people who refrain from exalting themselves to unmerited positions and thus seeking their own glory. Proverbs 25:6-7 gives a practical illustration of what it looks like to be humble:
“Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great, for it is better to be told, ‘Come up here,’ than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.”
The wise recognize the inherent problem with the self-exaltation: it eventually leads to creating expectations regarding how you desire to be treated that are not always matched by how you are actually treated.
In practical terms for out day and age, those who want to put themselves in positions of honor have a decent chance at being humiliated in front of others. Sometimes, we can exalt ourselves to “royal status” in our minds within contexts of our homes, among our colleagues, and even with our friends, causing us to have unrealistic hopes of being favored in accordance with our imagined status. Whether we actually desire to sit with royalty or consider ourselves some sort of “royalty” in our minds, Proverbs’ message is that self-exaltation is unwise and will eventually lead to disappointment and disgrace (11:2). Those who persist in self-exaltation potentially face “the fall” – the eventual consequences of striving to elevate themselves. As Proverbs 16:18-19 instructs,
“Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. It is better be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud.”
Yet, Proverbs is quick to present humility as the characteristics that not only prevents one’s downfall, but also is what brings about proper recognition: “Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, / but humility comes before honor” (Provers 18:12; see also 29:23).
Those who are eventually honored are, in fact, recognized for their humility (see Luke 14:7-11). Recognizing that humility comes before honor is a distinct characteristic of those who fear the Lord – our constant posture of obedience stemming from our love of God – facilitates a realistic view of who we are and prevents false expectations concerning how we should be treated by others.
In this sense, humility prevents anger.
As we strive to be humble people, let us be considerate of others and resist imposing upon them expectations relating to how we suppose we deserve to be treated. We are compelled to take all of the practical steps we can in order to stray away from overly admiring ourselves and, thereby, falling into self-praise. Let us be wise and humble people who attract the right type of praise, which is ironically noticed as a result of our humility (12:8). Irrespective of whether or not we receive accolades, or even the respect we think we deserve from others, let us prefer to remain quiet without “hand in our mouth” in humility rather than exalting ourselves in pride (30:32)