Proverbs, Vertical Teaching for Horizontal Living

15 April 1912, it was Sunday night and John Phillips was the wireless operator on board duty for the Titanic in the North Atlantic. He received a message from the USS California 10 miles away at 11pm warning him of a large ice field. Mr Phillips had been working all day transmitting messages and was tired. He simply replied, “Shut up, shut up, I’m busy”. 40 minutes later the Titanic collided with an ice berg at high speed, causing too many holes, breaching the safety walls inside the ship to isolate the water leaking in, flooding too many compartments. It began to sink! Something which Mr. Phillips didn’t really believe could happen.  Over 1,500 passengers and crew sank into a watery grave by 2.20am. One of the worlds most horrible human disasters took the greatest cruise ship of all time to the bottom of the ocean. The reason? Actually there were a few mistakes which culminated in the Titanic’s tragedy, but the very first mistake was this: Mr. Phillips ignored the warning! He had the wrong attitude towards a warning from wisdom. It is wise to avoid ice fields.

King Solomon’s kingdom proved to be the Titanic among Hebrew reigns. He had the greatest of wealth & wisdom, with unprecedented peace & prosperity, while Israel seemed to be unsinkable, Solomon ordered full speed ahead, only to be hit by huge icebergs which sank Israel. One of the worlds’ greatest spiritual disasters is having Solomon at the helm while icebergs caused 4 huge holes in his life (Eccl. 2:1-2, 1st Kings 4:26 & Duet 17:14-16).

1- Misdirected wisdom (Eccl 1)

2- Misdirected wealth (Eccl. 2:1-2, 1st Kings 4:26 & Duet 17:14-16)

3- Misusing women (Duet. 17:17, 1st Kings 3:1-2, & 11:3, Eccl. 9:9)

4- Mixed worship (1st Kings 11:4-8, Eccl. 5:1-7)

The book of Ecclesiastes is a record of Solomon’s regret and despair as he rehearses the utter uselessness of squandering God’s wisdom, blessings and power, and spending them all on our self. One of the most important points we can learn from Solomon’s derelict duty is that wisdom itself cannot save you, knowledge cannot save you, nothing can save us from all our sinful mistakes, other than God’s grace and the blood of Jesus.  David said it best on his deathbed to his son Solomon, “…pay close attention to your ways, to walk before God in faithfulness with all your heart and with all your soul and you will not lack a man on the throne of Israel” (1st Kings 2:4). What Christians should hope Proverbs does for us, is this: enlighten us into the mind of Christ, so we can react the right way when we receive warnings. 

Solomon’s spiritual failures resulted not because he lacked knowledge, but because he fell short in the discipline of growing, “knowing” the truth into “being” true and then on into truly “doing” what is right. Solomon’s sinful unwillingness to heed his own words doesn’t diminish the value of Proverbs in any little way. It is a huge and powerful house of wisdom for us today. Paul told Timothy (2Tim. 3:16), “All Scripture is inspired of God….”. If only Mr Phillips had read Proverbs 14:35 on the night he received his warning about the ice. “The Captain favors a wise servant, but his anger falls on a disgraceful one”. How could that have changed history and saved lives?  If Mr. Philips had desired to be a wise servant he could have at least passed on the message from the USS California. No one knows what the Captain would have done. How can Proverbs change our life?

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