Well, tomorrow is the end. The end of an era. *sniff* It will be my last sermon in Proverbs. To celebrate, I thought I'd give a book review round-up of the books I've used in my studies:
The Book of Proverbs, Chapters 1-15 & The Book of Proverbs, Chapters 15-31, by Bruce Waltke (New International Commentary on the Old Testament series) - These were simply outstanding and incredibly helpful. Around chapter 7 or 8 of Proverbs, I decided to bite the bullet and preach straight through the book rather than go topically through the rest of it. It was Waltke who convinced me this was possible by showing me that Proverbs isn't as haphazard as we normally think. He does a great job separating out different sections of Proverbs and getting to the meat of the matter. These are fairly scholarly books, but they are absolute musts for any pastor or teacher working through Proverbs. Waltke's Proverbs commentaries are, for me, the standard by which all others are measured.
Proverbs, by Derek Kidner - This is volume 15 of Tyndale's Old Testament Commentary series, a great set of small, paperback commentaries that manage to be immensely helpful. I've already enjoyed Kidner's writings on Genesis and Psalms, and I was not disappointed by this 180-page welterweight. Due to space limitations, Kidner obviously does not deal with every question or possible application. But somehow he manages to answer most of the questions I had about different verses. Also, the first 50 pages contain wonderful introductory material and excellent subject studies to which I referred many times over the last two years. While he deals a little with the original languages, this is one that anyone wanting to understand Proverbs deeply could benefit from.
How to Read Proverbs, by Tremper Longman III - My opinion on this book has come around since I began preaching Proverbs. Though I disagree a little with the amount of freedom that Dr. Longman takes with applying the Proverbs, this is one of the best introductions to wisdom literature I've read. Longman carefully takes the reader through everything he needs to know in order to gain the greatest benefit possible from Proverbs. He explains what proverbs are and how to read them, he explains how to find Christ in the pages of the Proverbs, and he gives a few examples of how we can use the Proverbs to find specific help for things like our money, our words, and our wives/husbands.
Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth: Studies in Proverbs, William Arnot - Arnot was a 19th century pastor in Scotland. This book of more than 100 short sermonettes through Proverbs is his lasting literary contribution to the church. Arnot does not deal with all, or even most, of Proverbs, choosing rather to focus his thoughts on one verse at a time. These sermonettes would profit any reader, but could be especially suited for family worship with teenagers (especially boys - Proverbs is their book!). Good stuff.
Proverbs: Everyday Wisdom for Everyone, by Eric Lane - To be honest, I stopped working with this commentary partway through my time in Proverbs. Though I didn't find much to disagree with, its format is not helpful for a preacher. However, it could be a great book for individual or family worship. Though Lane doesn't believe Proverbs has much discernable structure to them (contra Waltke), he organizes the book according to the chapters of Proverbs. The content of his chapters is mostly an application & sermon-style. Though I could wish he wasn't so tied to Proverbs' chapter divisions, I could see folks reading Lane profitably along with their devotions or in preparation for Bible study.
Wisdom for Today's Issues: A Topical Arrangement of Proverbs, by Steven Voorwinde - This small book is simply a rearrangement of the book of Proverbs into topical sections. So, for instance, if you'd like to know what Proverbs says about money, you could just read pages 154-160. Because I didn't preach topically, this book was only marginally helpful; obviously, though, it could be helpful for those needing quicker answers from Proverbs. But...if you're tempted to study Proverbs regarding just one subject, heed these words from Longman (above): "the first step is to read through the whole book, noting those verses that bear on the topic we are interested in...This may sound mechanical, but it isn't, at least not entirely." In other words, if you simply pull out from Proverbs all those verse that mention "money" or "wealth" or "poverty", you're going to miss other verses that don't have those words yet bear directly on the topic you're studying. To put it another way, if you choose to study Proverbs like Voorwinde's book, make sure you treat Proverbs like a whole book and not a random collection of helpful thoughts.
Proverbs, by Charles Bridges - This classic commentary is best described as Puritanical. In a good way. Mostly. Bridges deal carefully and exegetically with each verse of Proverbs, leaving the reader satisifed that he hasn't missed anything. Like many Puritans, he's apt to read too much into the text, making laws out of applications. But, studying for sermons, whenever I got stuck on a question or verse, Bridges was usually able to take care of me.
Ending Proverbs, my prayer is that God's people here in Lafayette will have a taste for how God's glory can be pursued in every corner of life, that they will have such a vision for His glory that they'll hold dearly to this book of wisdom, seeing in its pages the life of Christ in everyday situations.
My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"