Proverbs Are Not Promises

Alan explains the meaning and purpose behind the genre of Proverbs.




0:00 Proverbs are not promises. Let me say that again, proverbs, in the Bible, are not promises

0:09 that God is required to satisfy for you. And this is important to understand

0:16 because there is this field of theology called hermeneutics, and hermeneutics is

0:22 the art and science of biblical interpretation. And when you study

0:25 hermeneutics, you come to realize that the Bible is written in different genres,

0:30 different literary styles. So there is narrative, there is poetry, there's wisdom

0:36 literature, there's apocalyptic literature, there's epistle, there's

0:39 gospel. So these are all different literary styles the Holy Spirit has

0:43 inspired human authors to write the Bible in. Well, each of these different

0:47 genres, each of these different, literary styles have their own interpretive

0:51 principles that you have to be mindful of when you read a text that is written

0:57 in a particular literary style or genre. And if you ignore those interpretive

1:01 principles, you can misunderstand what's being communicated. And so when it comes

1:06 to Proverbs, it's important to realize that as a part of its genre, one of the

1:11 most important interpretive principles is to remember that they are not

1:15 promises by God, rather, proverbs are the way life generally goes. Proverbs

1:23 entail probable outcomes, not guaranteed outcomes. So take, for example, a modern

1:29 proverb like, "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." Notice, it's a

1:34 short, pithy way to capture an idea. And is it true that if you eat fruits, and

1:41 apples, and vegetables, and things like that, that generally you'll be a healthy

1:45 person? Yeah, it is generally true. Is it a promise? Is it a guarantee that if you

1:50 eat an apple every day you will never have to see a doctor? Well, of course not.

1:54 We all know that's not the case, right? So, is that a violation of that proverb? No, it

1:59 just means that, no, generally speaking, if you eat a healthy diet, you'll generally

2:04 be healthy, but it's not a guarantee or a promise. Now, think of a biblical proverb

2:08 like, I'm thinking Proverbs 16:7. Hope I'm getting it right, now. So here the

2:15 proverb is this: "If a man's ways are pleasing to the Lord, then he makes even

2:21 his enemies to be at peace with him." Okay, well let's think about this. Was the

2:26 Apostle Paul, were his ways pleasing to the Lord? Well, I think we can safely say

2:31 yeah, they were. I mean, here's a man who proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ

2:35 faithfully. He wrote Bible. It's pretty good.

2:39 Were Paul's enemies made to be at peace with him?

2:42 No, not at all, right? I mean, they try to kill him. In fact, they succeeded. They

2:47 they cut off his head. This is hardly peaceful. Well, does that mean that God

2:51 didn't satisfy or or fulfill His promise to Paul? No, it doesn't mean that at all.

2:56 Because remember, proverbs are not promises. Now, where I think that a lot of

3:02 people got into trouble with not paying attention to this particular

3:07 interpretive principle with regards to Proverbs are Christian parents who will

3:12 cite Proverbs 22:6 that says, "Train up a child in the way they should go, and when

3:17 they get older they will not depart from it." And the way they interpret this

3:21 passage is they take it as a promise from God. If they, as Christian parents,

3:26 train their child to be Christian, that even if one

3:32 of those children now has grown up and is no longer following after the Lord,

3:36 it doesn't matter. That's okay. That child will eventually come back to be a

3:41 follower of Christ because, after all, the parents have done their job. They've

3:44 raised their child in the way they should go, and now it's up to God to

3:48 fulfill His promise to bring that child back to faith in Him. And so these

3:53 Christian parents are like, "Okay, now I'm going to be hands-off. I don't have to

3:55 worry about it because God's gonna fulfill His promise." Remember, though,

3:59 proverbs are not promises. Proverbs are the way life generally goes, they're general

4:05 principles for life, and there is no promise implied by Proverbs 22:6. And so

4:11 these Christian parents shouldn't think that way but actively pursue their

4:15 children, pray for them, love them, and yeah, do pray that God will bring them

4:19 back to faith. But they cannot consider it a promise that God needs to deliver

4:24 on because proverbs are not promises.

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Alan Shlemon