I ran into this quote on the book of Proverbs from William Smith in the middle of an article on parenting. Nice, practical article, for those of you who are interested. But notice the wide application, to all of us, that he offers for Proverbs:
The book of Proverbs is dedicated to this notion that living well within God’s world requires conversation. It takes the form of a father personally addressing his son, passionately pleading with him to gain wisdom and understanding (Prov. 1:8–9). If the son listens, then the father promises that he will escape being a fool and won’t ruin his life (Prov. 1:32–33). That transformation from fool to wise man takes place as one person talks to another about who God is and how he affects all of life.
As you read, however, you realize this isn’t simply a book for children, despite addressing “my son” multiple times, because a wise person develops a taste for transforming conversations that continue his entire lifetime.
He surrounds himself with a steady rhythmic beat of God-oriented conversations.
He welcomes people who will talk to him about himself and about his life and how every part of life relates to God (e.g., Prov. 1:5; 12:5; 15:22).
More than that, he commits himself not simply to hearing from others, but to joining the discussion, speaking to others who want to hear so that their lives will be enriched (e.g., Prov. 12:18; 15:7; 16:23). The book of Proverbs pictures the person who grows wise as someone who swims in a sea of words without drowning.
It’s worth noting that even after Jesus pours out his Holy Spirit on his people, he remains committed to maturing his people, in part, through their conversations with each other (e.g., Rom. 15:14; Eph. 5:18–20; Col. 3:16; 1 Thess. 5:14; 2 Tim. 2:2, 24–26; 4:2; Titus 1:9; Heb. 3:13). He expects you to participate in an ongoing, never-ending conversation with his people that links Christ and faith in him to life, because every one of God’s people shares in his ministry of words (1 Pet. 4:10–11).
“Swimming in a sea of words without drowning,” is a great image. When the words are wise, and shaped by God’s words, it’s a good sea to swim in. In fact, when the words are God’s words, it’s the sea we’re supposed to be swimming in. And we all do swim in a sea of words. Who speaks the words that make up the sea you swim in?
“He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.”
The words of Scripture, the book of Proverbs, solid pulpit teaching, real conversation with real friends who follow Jesus–these are the God-given means for filling up our mental space with wise, helpful words.
What sea do you want to swim in?