The Christ of Proverbs: David Murray on Discovering Jesus in Proverbs

David Murray’s hot-off-the-presses Jesus on Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament (Thomas Nelson, 2013) just arrived at my door!  I look forward to reading it straight through eventually and perhaps reviewing it somewhere (at very least, here on the blog), but as it is just in and I’ve got other reading more pressing, I had to content myself by skimming quickly through chapter 15, “Christ’s Proverbs: Discovering Jesus in the Old Testament Proverbs.”  Wisdom literature is a special interest of mine (I spent two summers preaching through portions of Proverbs in an effort to put-to-work my biblical-theological ruminations on the subject),  hence my choice of this chapter over so many others!

With the exception of Graeme Goldsworthy’s Gospel & Wisdom (in The Goldsworthy Trilogy), few writers have tried to connect Christ with Old Testament wisdom beyond simply noticing his “sage” teaching and occasional citations from Proverbs or (at least) proverbial wisdom.  Murray, however, does a wonderful job of connecting Christ to Proverbs in a deeper and more meaningful way.

I was glad to hear Murray connect wisdom with law while also noting that there are differences between the two.  His description is really nice:

Just as the holy light of Jesus shines through the Ten Commandments, helping us to discover our sins of life and heart, so the holy light of Jesus shines through the specific proverbs.  If the Ten Commandments are like ten blinding spotlights, the proverbs are like hundreds of burning lasers, targeting our sins more specifically and painfully.  And like the spotlights, the point of the lasers is not to turn us into a bunch of legalistic do-gooders.  It is to show us that we are no-gooders, that there is only one Good, and that is God.

Like the Law, Proverbs not only demonstrates the need for Jesus’ death but also explains the nature of it.  Proverbs vividly describes the typical kind of human scheming and plotting that characterized Jesus’ crucifiers.  The proverbs deepen our understanding of the Law’s curse that was heaped upon Jesus, and they demonstrate the divine principle of penal justice that He would experience in His body and soul.

Pgs. 178-179.

Though Ben Sirach does seem to overly identify wisdom and Torah (Sirach 24:23), there is some significance to the fact that Moses commanded Israel to “keep and do” the “statues and rules” that the Lord had revealed to him, giving them the motive (כי) clause, “for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people'” (Deut 4.5-6).  In many ways, Paul echoes this in Eph 5:15 & 17 by commanding wisdom and forbidden folly.  People are commanded to be wise and in this sense, Proverbs is indeed law.

And yet Murray does not leave us here under the condemnation of our failure to measure up to God’s perfect standard of wisdom, but instead points us to Christ as the one who fulfilled OT wisdom:

The Old Testament leaves us looking and longing for the Wise One who would fulfill the Law and Proverbs.  No surprise then that Jesus Christ exactly fit that profile.  Time and again, Jesus is not only portrayed as the wise man but also identified with the wisdom of God.  Truly, a greater than Solomon is here….

As He read Proverbs, Jesus must have been deeply influenced by the expectation of the Wise One.  He was indeed the Wise Son who pleased His Father in every area of life.  He was the Wise Teacher whose unparalleled words of wisdom have stood the test of time.  He was the Wise Host who invited weary, hungry, and thirsty outcasts to His gospel banquet and who also promised us a never-ending feast above.  He is the Wise Creator, who demonstrated His goodwill toward and delight in humanity throughout His whole earthly life.  And He was – and is – the Wise Bridegroom looking for an undeserving wife….

The greater Solomon is here – greater in holiness, greater in glory, greater in power, and far greater in wisdom.  Let us worship His wisdom, let us hear His wise teaching, let us be made wise unto salvation, and let us live wisely to His glory and honor.

Pgs. 184-186.

Not only was Jesus the wise man (Luke 2:40 & 52), the one “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3), by faith alone Christ is “our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor 1:30).  We will never be dissected in the final judgment by the laser beams of the wisdom-law, but will stand glorious before the father, clothed in Christ’s own perfect wisdom-righteousness.  This is why we can delight in Proverbs, for Christ has set us free unto wise living as he bore the curse for our folly.

I’m excited for this popular-level book and believe it will be a wonderful help for Christians seeking to know better how the Old Testament is a book about, and a book fulfilled in Christ!

(Note: David Murray’s blog, HeadHeartHand Blog, can be found here.)

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R. Andrew Compton
Christ Reformed Church (URCNA)
Anaheim, CA

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8 comments on “The Christ of Proverbs: David Murray on Discovering Jesus in Proverbs

  1. Nevada says:

    Hi Andrew,
    Interesting sounding book. Reminds me of a recent book by my former Semitic languages prof at Calvin Seminary, Michael Williams: “How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture.” I haven’t read it, but it looks like a decent work also. Williams has 66 chapters dealing with each biblical book in a christo-centric manner. The chapter on Proverbs is entitled: “Wise Order.”

    • Interesting. I didn’t know about that one. It’s on the wish list!

      I remember that Mark Dever also did something along those lines, though his was 2 pretty thick volumes. I believe they were published sermons and each chapter was a sermon covering the entire book. I thought it seemed a bit ambitious (I sat under a series like that once and it was REALLY hard to do justice to each book – especially the long ones), but I appreciated the intent.

      ~Andrew

      • Nevada says:

        Hi Andrew,
        I think Williams’ book is the result of a kind of English Bible survey course required for all incoming seminary students in the new CTS MDiv curriculum. (My sense is that the seminary can no longer rely on incoming students having adequate Bible knowledge…. Catechism and Bible reading seem to have fallen on hard times….) At any rate, Williams wanted to encourage thoughtful Christo-centricity, and I think it’s great idea.

        • That’s a really cool idea. I’m even wondering if it might serve well as a candidacy exam preparation tool … Something a little more updated from William Hendriksen’s survey … I’ll definitely need to pick it up! ~Andrew

  2. Jon Reed says:

    Its truly a wonderful book, pointing the church to an overlooked fact and that is that Jesus is the subject of Scripture and it all points to Him. Ive recently begun looking at Jesus in the Psalms on my blog and it has truly brought about a clarity in my preaching/thinking. Thanks for your blog

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