Does Jesus Show-Up in Proverbs?

Yes he does.

If Jesus’ life and teachings reveal the fulness of Scripture (Matt. 5:187-19; Lk. 24:27; Jn. 5:39, 46), then followers of Christ will hear the words of Proverbs in a brighter light than those in Solomon’s day would have heard them. 1 Corinthians 1:30 says, “…Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.” Jesus is the wisdom of God made known to us. All throughout the books of Proverbs, wisdom takes center stage. We all grasp the idea of wisdom. Most likely, our minds wander to that one-two people in our life (e.g. grandfather, grandmother, teacher, church leader) who always knew the right course of action. They knew from the teachings of others, or from their own positive/negative experiences. We see parallels to that knowledge throughout Proverbs. And, it’s likely the book of Proverbs influenced those we look to for wisdom. 

But, Proverbs is not just your average book of wisdom. No. If we take seriously, the reality that Jesus truly is the revelation of Scripture, then we should notice Jesus in Proverbs. Now, if you do a word search of Proverbs, you won’t find the words “Jesus” anywhere. But, you will find his characteristics popping-up everywhere. If Jesus is the wisdom of God, than — as a the theology professor I had in college noted — every time we encounter the attribute of “wisdom” (or, basically, any moral attribute in Proverbs), we can simply switch that attribute with the name of Jesus, and it should still make theological sense. If we begin to see Jesus throughout the book of Proverbs, my guess is that we will see wisdom of Proverbs to a depth, that before was not possible. Jesus makes our reading of Proverbs go from a grainy analog signal — to — 4K High Definition and greater. That is so because Jesus full-fills the wisdom of Proverbs. He brings the wisdom of Proverbs to life. He makes the wisdom of God known in viid, concrete, human form.

So, when we read Proverbs 1:1-7, "The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young—let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance— for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction." We are encountering Jesus — his: instruction, understanding, insight, prudent behavior, righteousness (right-ness), justice, fairness, discretion, discernment, guidance, proper fear of the Lord, and knowledge.

Daniel J. Trier, in his theological commentary on Proverbs & Ecclesiastes, highlights three basic types of literature that we encounter in the Old Testament: (1) there is narrative and history. We could call this the history of God’s salvation mission. (2) There is law — Trier calls this God’s civic framework and the glue that brings continuity to the community of God’s people. (3) There is wisdom literature. Now, If the narratives and law of the Old Testament provide a skeleton (framework) of what God is doing, than Proverbs is the muscles and flesh of what God is doing. Proverbs gives us an insight into what application of God’s story and law looks like in everyday life. Trier says it this way, “Wisdom [Proverbs] is the application of Torah [God’s Law], resulting in Godly character.”

My hope is that, as you think back on the words that you read in proverbs, that you will see Jesus; and that through that reading, Jesus is pulling you closer to the heart and life of God — the good and wise life.