The book of Proverbs is a pithy “Best Practices for Living on Planet Earth” manual. The first section proclaims the principles of wise living, and chapters 10-29 record “the proverbs of Solomon”. Agur and King Lemuel’s mom chime in on chapters 30 and 31.
The proverbs address a wide variety of situations in which you might find yourself, and offer advice, warning, and encouragement in dealing with them. They are truths about how life works. They’re guidelines for choosing the course of action most likely to succeed…emphasis on most likely.
Proverbs 22:6 is true, but it’s not an ironclad guarantee that if you raise your children carefully they will not break your heart with their poor choices when they leave home. Likewise, the soft answer recommended in Proverbs 15:1 will not magically turn away wrath no matter what’s going on. Each proverb is true, but you have to remember that most life situations involve other people. When other people enter the equation, so does their free will. Even if you do the right thing, it’s possible for others involved to mess you up.
Follow with all your heart and mind the advice given in Proverbs. Use the book to choose your attitudes and courses of action, not forgetting to pray without ceasing and trust Jesus all the while. Blessings aplenty and good success will usually follow—not in every single situation, but it’s definitely the best way to go.
In subtle but comforting contrast to proverbs are God’s promises found scattered throughout the Bible. We can start fresh from “whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved” Acts 2:21. We can look forward in joy because Jesus promises, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” in John 14. We can be assured that when we mess up, “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:9.
God’s promises are often recognizable by an if/then balance, such as James 4:8, which says “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you”. Sometimes the promises are just bald statements of astounding fact: “He always lives to make intercession for [those who come to God through Him] Hebrews 7:25. Or try to absorb this promise: "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away" Revelation 21:4.
Other people can’t wreck God’s promises to you. (Insert happy dance!) God’s promises are just that: promises. Vows. Guarantees. They are not dependent on the will of anyone else—only His, which is unchanging, all-powerful and ever-faithful. If you determine that a promise applies to you (read the text around the promise to find out to whom it applies), you can count on it forever.
What a deep and life-nurturing comfort this is. I try my best to please Him in all that I think, say, and do. But when I miss the mark—and my aim is really lousy sometimes—I don’t need to be afraid that I just piled more rocks on the bad side of some cosmic scale and now have to somehow make up for it. God loves me, He has saved me and promised to take me to live with Him forever. No matter how I fail, I can’t make Him break those promises, and neither can any power from here to beyond the edge of the universe. Thank You, sweet Lord, for this astonishing, undeserved gift!