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September 11 – What is a proverb?

“Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles.” – Proverbs 1:5-6

Scripture reading: Proverbs 1:1-7

A proverb is a catchy saying that captures some truth about life. All cultures use proverbs to hand down wisdom from generation to generation. Consider some pithy sayings in our own culture. “Make hay while the sun shines.” “Haste makes waste.” “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” “A stitch in time saves nine.” “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” “Play with fire, and you’ll get burned.” “Don’t dish it out if you can’t take it.” Discuss these and others you know.

Proverbs is a collection of inspired proverbs, given to us by God. Handle individual proverbs with care. Misapplied, they are useless at best, harmful at worst. “Like a lame man’s legs, which hang useless, is a proverb in the mouth of fools… Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools” (Proverbs 26:7,9). Take Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Treated as an absolute promise rather than a generalization, it can torment the souls of faithful parents when a child goes astray.

Also, many proverbs are descriptive rather than prescriptive. For example: “‘Bad, bad,’ says the buyer, but when he goes away, then he boasts” (Proverbs 20:14). This is not a recommendation for how to do business with others!

Suggestions for prayer

Thank God for giving us a treasury of proverbs. Ask Him to help you understand and apply them.

Pastor Richard Zekveld, his wife Nancy (nee Vandermeer), and their five children live in South Holland, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Richard has pastored Covenant Fellowship Church of South Holland (PCA) since 2015, he also works part-time in jail ministry as a chaplain for Chicagoland Prison Outreach. Get this devotional delivered directly to your phone each day via our RP App. It is also available in print, for purchase, at

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