Here is a collection of reliable resources to supplement your study of Proverbs 1–4; 15–16; 22; 31; Ecclesiastes 1–3; 11–12. FAIR Resources link to relevant questions which have been answered on the FAIR website. Other Resources link to resources outside of FAIR that are trustworthy and helpful. Under Church Resources you’ll find links to the different Come, Follow Me manuals, as well as other helpful links as applicable. Also on the page are the lesson summary and a guest scholar’s article. This week’s article is by Matt Christiansen and is titled Proverbs Primer.
In the first chapter of the book of Proverbs, we find these words: “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother” (Proverbs 1:8). Proverbs can be seen as a collection of wise sayings from a loving parent, whose main message is that blessings of peace and prosperity come to those who seek wisdom—particularly the kind of wisdom God offers. But Proverbs is followed by the book of Ecclesiastes, which seems to say, “It’s not that simple.” The Preacher quoted in Ecclesiastes observed that he “gave [his] heart to know wisdom” but still found “vexation of spirit” and “much grief” (Ecclesiastes 1:17–18). In a variety of ways, the book asks, “Can there be real meaning in a world where everything seems vain, temporary, and uncertain?”
And yet, while the two books look at life from different perspectives, they teach similar truths. Ecclesiastes declares: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). This is the same principle found throughout Proverbs: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart. … Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord” (Proverbs 3:5, 7). No matter what life holds, even when it seems confusing and random, it is always better when we trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Imagine an encounter with Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos. After introductions and pleasantries, the discussion turns more substantive, and he asks about your big picture dreams and aspirations. You seize the opportunity and lay out a detailed blueprint for the most productive, impactful, and meaningful life you can imagine. He listens intently, occasionally asking questions to clarify vagaries, and even offers bits of advice.
Your allotted time is spent (apparently, he’s a busy man), but before leaving he reaches into his suitcoat, pulls out a checkbook, and then proceeds to date and sign a personal check.
“This is for you,“ he says, barely suppressing a smile, “please use it to make those dreams a reality. I’ll be watching and rooting for your success.”
“Mr. Bezos, how can I begin to thank you.”
Dismissively he waves off the gesture, “It’s nothing,” and he begins to walk away,
But then you realize an issue:
“Uhh, Mr. Bezos,” you call out, and he turns back, “y… you didn’t fill in a dollar amount for the check.”
The smile now consumes his entire face, “Exactly.” he says. He gives you a playful wink, turns, and exits.
“A Spiritual Blank Check”
While random and unlikely, this hypothetical scenario provides a perfect analog to the context of our Come Follow Me study this week. After seeing the wheels come off the kingdom during the latter reign of David his father, Solomon sought to put Israel back on track and re-established on its spiritual foundation. In response to this righteous desire, God revealed himself to the young king with a staggering offer: a one-time gift of whatever he requested. A spiritual blank check.
That spiritual blank check becomes natural fodder as we set the stage for this week’s material. Let’s pause here for a moment and pose the question: What would I ask for with that spiritual blank check in hand? Our response serves as a type of spiritual echocardiogram, offering a valuable glimpse into the “fleshy tables” of our own heart.
Now, returning to our narrative.
Solomon could have asked for riches, political popularity, military conquests, land expansion, or a myriad of ego-fueled personal requests, but instead he responded with the following words:
“Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people: for who can judge this thy people, that is so great?
And God said to Solomon, Because this was in thine heart, and thou hast not asked riches, wealth, or honour, nor the life of thine enemies, neither yet hast asked long life; but hast asked wisdom and knowledge for thyself, that thou mayest judge my people, over whom I have made thee king: Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like.” (2nd Chronicles 1:10-12)
Why Choose Wisdom
Of all the attributes, talents, or gifts Solomon could have requested, he chose wisdom. Here too, a natural question arises: Why wisdom? To answer that question, a brief detour for doctrinal analysis is helpful.
The Book of Mormon sheds precious additional light on this topic. Near the end of his life, Jacob, the brother of Nephi, delivered what he believed at the time would be a final message to both his people and all future recipients of the Nephite record. Jacob implores both groups with the succinct admonition: “Oh be wise, what can I say more?” (Jacob 6:12)
Building upon this theme centuries later, the most famous Nephite king connected wisdom to a selfless life devoted to the service of others. He taught: “I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:17)
Benjamin’s son, Mosiah, both adopted his father’s definition, and added to it during a critical juncture of his own reign. He wrote: “And now let us be wise and look forward to these things and do that which will make for the peace of this people.” (Mosiah 29:10) Thus, those possessed of wisdom are always looking forward, weighing the decisions of the present with the consequences of the future- discerning carefully whether those consequences will bring greater personal and collective peace.
And finally, perhaps my favorite insight into wisdom, the prophet Abinadi delivered the following scathing rebuke to the Book of Mormon’s most infamous king and his cronies. “Ye have not applied your hearts to understanding; therefore, ye have not been wise.”(Mosiah 12:27)
Wisdom vs Knowledge
What valuable insight. True wisdom cannot be conflated with mere intellect or even knowledge. It is not solely a matter of the head, but a deeply interwoven union of the head and heart. The head providing clear thinking, discernment, logic, and reason; the heart providing emotive feeling, desire, motivation and enthusiasm. Working in tandem, the head and heart produce good works which provide experiential understanding. This experiential understand provides a solid working definition of wisdom, and guides covenant believers in paths of truth, goodness, peace, and prosperity.
This week we are studying the Book of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. Both attributed to Solomon, we now have the opportunity to proverbially (pun intended) sit at the feet of the man who received an endowment of wisdom directly from On High. In this regard, the divine wisdom that was transferred directly from God to his servant, is now accessible to any and all who dive deeply into these words.
Solomon’s Proverbs have proven both timeless and timely. His maxims outline a sound blueprint for a happy and prosperous life. Generally speaking, the proverbs are punchy, accessible, pragmatic, witty, and undeniably fun to read. (Proverbs 21:9, anyone?) This compilation of Solomon’s teachings begins with the king paying homage to the source of his wisdom: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and understanding.” (Proverbs 1:7)
Compile a List
There were several directions I could have gone with this Proverbs Primer. Ultimately, I spent time digesting the entire book, then decided to select one verse from each of the thirty-one chapters that carried the most weight and meaning to me (approaching it as if I could only pick one verse to keep in existence). This exercise was both fun and enlightening. I invite you to compile your own list and freely encourage imaginary debates as you find proverbs that resonate more deeply with you.
1: 33, 2:6, 3:11, 4:26, 5:21, 6:27, 7:12&26, 8:17, 9:9, 10:1, 11:2, 12:7, 13:20, 14:13, 15:1, 16:32, 17:28, 18:19, 19:11, 20:22, 21:9 (it had to be this verse, right?), 22:6, 23:23, 24:10, 25:28, 26:21, 27:12, 28:1, 29:2&18, 30:5, 31:9.
Let Us be wise
Ecclesiastes is also attributed to Solomon, but veers drastically from the day-to-day pragmatism of Proverbs. In Proverbs we find ourselves at the grassroots level, wading waist deep in the nitty gritty realities that accompany the gift of moral agency. In Ecclesiastes, we are taken by tram up to the summit of a towering mountain, where everything down below seems almost trivial and insignificant. In these writings, Solomon invites the reader to zoom out and view this mortal existence through the lens of eternity.
There is symbiotic value in the contrasting perspectives of these books: both the microscopic depth of our daily existence with its proverbial multitude of choices, and the panoramic breadth of eternity with its staggering, yet comforting vistas. In parting, I echo Jacob’s plea: oh, let us all be wise, what can I say more?
More Come, Follow Me resources here.
Matt Christiansen has worked in the Church Education System for nearly two decades. He currently teaches seminary at the high school where he attended twenty-five years ago as a student; he also teaches Institute and works as an adjunct instructor for BYU- Idaho. Matt’s gospel hobbies include the nature of God, Section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the definition of sin and actual meaning of repentance, the word “seal” and “sealing”, and the role of organized religion in a world of rising disaffiliation. Matt’s actual hobbies include dominating the local Pickleball scene, listening to obscure Prog Rock, getting beat by internet strangers at chess, and staving off Father Time’s inevitable triumph by attending the gym religiously. He can be contacted with any questions or comments at [email protected].
Prophets and Prophecy
In the traditional Christian division of the Old Testament, the last section (Isaiah through Malachi) is called “the Prophets.”1 This section, about one-fourth of the Old Testament, contains the words of God’s authorized servants, who spoke with the Lord and then spoke for Him, sharing His message with the people between about 900 and 500 BC.2
Prophets and prophecy play a major role throughout the Old Testament. The patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob saw visions and spoke with heavenly messengers. Moses talked to God face to face and communicated His will to the children of Israel. The books of First and Second Kings recount the memorable works and messages of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. The Old Testament also speaks of prophetesses like Miriam (see Exodus 15:20) and Deborah (see Judges 4), along with other women blessed with the spirit of prophecy, such as Rebekah (see Genesis 25:21–23) and Hannah (see 1 Samuel 1:20–2:10). And even though the Psalms weren’t written by formal prophets, they too are filled with the spirit of prophecy, especially as they look forward to the coming of the Messiah.
None of this comes as a surprise to Latter-day Saints. In fact, the restored gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that prophets are not just an interesting piece of history but an essential part of God’s plan. While some might see prophets as unique to Old Testament times, we see them as something we have in common with Old Testament times.
Still, reading a chapter from Isaiah or Ezekiel might feel different from reading a general conference message from the current President of the Church. Sometimes it can be hard to see that ancient prophets had something to say to us. After all, the world we live in today is much different from the one where they preached and prophesied. And the fact that we do have a living prophet could raise a question: why is it worth the effort—and it does take effort—to read the words of ancient prophets?
They do have something to say to us
For the most part, people today aren’t the primary audience of the Old Testament prophets. Those prophets had immediate concerns they were addressing in their time and place—just as our latter-day prophets address our immediate concerns today.
At the same time, prophets can also look beyond immediate concerns. For one thing, they teach eternal truths, relevant to any age. And, blessed with revelation, they see the bigger picture, the wider perspective of God’s work. For example, Isaiah could not only warn people of his day about their sins—he could also write about deliverance for Israelites living 200 years in the future and simultaneously teach of the deliverance that all God’s people seek. In addition, he could write prophecies that, even today, are still awaiting their complete fulfillment—like promises of “a new earth” (Isaiah 65:17) that is “full of the knowledge of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:9), where the lost tribes of Israel have been gathered and where “the nations” do not “learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4). Part of the joy and inspiration that comes from reading the words of Old Testament prophets like Isaiah is realizing that we play a role in the glorious day they envisioned.3
So when you read ancient prophecies, it’s helpful to learn about the context in which they were written. But you should also see yourself in them, or “liken them unto [yourself],” as Nephi put it (see 1 Nephi 19:23–24). Sometimes that means recognizing Babylon as a symbol of worldliness and pride, not just as an ancient city. It could mean understanding Israel as God’s people in any era and understanding Zion as the latter-day cause God’s people embrace, instead of as just another word for Jerusalem.
We can liken the scriptures because we understand that a prophecy can be fulfilled in multiple ways.4 A good example of this is the prophecy in Isaiah 40:3: “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” To the captive Jews in Babylon, this statement might have referred to the Lord providing a way out of captivity and back into Jerusalem. To Matthew, Mark, and Luke, this prophecy was fulfilled in John the Baptist, who prepared the way for the Savior’s mortal ministry.5 And Joseph Smith received revelation that this prophecy is still being fulfilled in the latter days in preparation for Christ’s millennial ministry.6 In ways we’re still coming to understand, ancient prophets did speak to us. And they taught many precious, eternal truths that are just as relevant to us as they were to ancient Israel.
They testified of Jesus Christ
Perhaps even more important than seeing yourself in Old Testament prophecies is seeing Jesus Christ in them. If you look for Him, you will find Him, even if He’s not mentioned by name. It might help to keep in mind that the God of the Old Testament, the Lord Jehovah, is Jesus Christ. Anytime the prophets describe what the Lord is doing or what He will do, they are speaking of the Savior.
You will also find references to an Anointed One (see Isaiah 61:1), a Redeemer (see Hosea 13:14), and a future King from David’s line (see Isaiah 9:6–7; Zechariah 9:9). These are all prophecies about Jesus Christ. More generally, you will read about deliverance, forgiveness, redemption, and restoration. With the Savior in your mind and heart, these prophecies will naturally point you to the Son of God. After all, the best way to understand prophecy is to have “the spirit of prophecy,” which John tells us is “the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 19:10)