Wisdom by Solomon
About the Guest
What can we learn from a king who had it all? Plenty! Lydia Brownback opens the book of Proverbs, a book mostly attributed to King Solomon, to find day-to-day wisdom for the modern-day woman. Lydia shares what Proverbs teaches about fearing the Lord, controlling our emotions and honoring God with our sexuality.
Lydia BrownbackLydia Brownback (MAR, Westminster Theological Seminary) is the author of several books and a speaker at women’s conferences internationally. When time allows, Lydia blogs at lydiabrownback.com. She has served as director of editorial for Crossway’s Book Division; writer-in-residence for Reverend Alistair Begg; and broadcast media manager for Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, where she produced The Bible Study Hour radio program with James Montgomery Boice. Some of Lydia's books include th...more
Lydia Brownback opens the book of Proverbs to find day-to-day wisdom for the modern-day woman.
Wisdom by Solomon
Bob: Our emotions are a key part of how we are fearfully and wonderfully made by God; but when our emotions become central or dominant, there can be problems. Here’s Lydia Brownback.
Lydia: There are a couple of proverbs that do address our emotions, but it’s more observational than it is giving us a remedy for anything. For example, Proverbs 15:13 says, “A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of the heart, the spirit is crushed.” So, it’s just talking about the reality of what our emotions can do to us. That’s why we need to look at the whole counsel of God—all of Scripture—to say, “What do we do with these emotions that can crush our spirit?”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, September 25th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll talk today about how we can get a handle on our emotions and benefit from them by understanding God’s design. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. This is going to be back in—this has got to be—is this your favorite book of the Bible—the book of Proverbs?
Dennis: That’s a good question.
Bob: If you are stranded on the desert island, are you going to keep Romans or Proverbs?
Dennis: Probably a survival manual. [Laughter]
Bob: How to Build a Raft—you want that How to Build a Raft book? [Laughter]
Dennis: I like Proverbs.
Dennis: I like Psalms, though, too.
Dennis: But you don’t get me started—
Bob: Yes. Yes.
Dennis: —because you’re asking me to pick. I’ve got to review all 66, Bob.
Bob: You like Song of Solomon, too; but—
Dennis: Oh, Bob! [Laughter] I like Ecclesiastes.
Bob: Yes, okay.
Dennis: Yes, that’s a good question—Romans. I mean, there is no question that Proverbs would be right up there because I really think we all need what the book of Proverbs delivers—which is wisdom—and that’s been defined by godly skill in everyday living.
Bob: Well, and I have a question that I’ve wanted to ask our guest, who is back with us, again, today—Lydia Brownback joining us. Welcome back.
Lydia: Great to be back with you.
Bob: Lydia wrote a book called A Woman’s Wisdom. She is an author; she is a speaker. The question I’ve wanted to ask you is: “Do you think Solomon compiled all of this wisdom, early in his life, when he was raising his kids? Do you think it is older? Where do you put this in his life?”
Lydia: Well, I think we read in the historical books of the Old Testament—we see that Solomon was given a special gift of wisdom by God—
Lydia: —right when he became king. He was a teenager, at that point.
Dennis: He could ask God for anything, and he asked God for this.
Lydia: Yes, and God was so pleased that he hadn’t asked for a lot of money and great success. He’d asked for wisdom to govern God’s people well. And because God was so pleased with that, He gave Solomon wisdom above anyone who had ever lived, as well, as all the other blessings.
Dennis: I just want to stop you there for a moment because all of us have a prayer life—where we going to God with requests—we’re going to Him with praises, petitions. We ought to pick up on what Solomon placed as a priority—asking God for wisdom to know how to be a good steward of your life, of your marriage, your family—whatever God has given to you—and not be praying—asking God for just success or material gain for whatever.
Bob: So, do you think he started jotting down proverbs, right away, as God gave him wisdom—he’s just writing these down?
Lydia: Yes. I think, partly—because, back in those days, other cultures, in the ancient near east, collected proverbs. Every nation—every culture—had a collection of proverbs. Some of the ones we find in the Bible are very similar to those in other cultures, but the difference is the ones in the Bible all tie back to the Lord.
So, yes, I think he was compiling them from the time he became king and he was given this wisdom; but I do think a lot of what he learned—to, then, communicate— happened from his failures from just living life, day to day, with the Lord and finding out what wisdom is.
Bob: He squandered his gift of wisdom. In fact, we read in the narrative that he became a fool at the end of his life.
Lydia: You know what it was? We are told, very clearly, what turned his heart away. It’s that he gave his heart to women who didn’t know the Lord. It said, “Solomon loved many foreign women;” and that had nothing to do with nationality. It had everything to do with women who weren’t following God. And it said, “These turned his heart away from the Lord.” That was his downfall. He had more wisdom than anybody who ever lived. If it can happen to Solomon, it can happen to anybody. Falling for the wrong people—giving our hearts to the wrong people—can derail us.
Bob: One of the areas that you chose to address—in your book for women, where you gathered out proverbs from all 31 chapters—
Dennis: Let’s be clear, now, that this is Lydia’s choice.
Dennis: She’s the one who made this choice—not you or me, Bob.
Bob: —you selected the issue of how a woman thinks, and feels, and what she wants. You felt like these are areas where a woman is vulnerable.
Lydia: Yes; because if you think about it—our thoughts, our choices, and our desires will shape the course of our lives. Therefore, applying wisdom to that area of our lives is crucial because it is going to shape what we do. So, what we think, and feel, and want is really what our heart is made up of. There is a priority to those three things—thoughts, feelings, and desires. The chief of those three must be our thoughts. That needs to govern our feelings and desires.
The mistake we can make is to allow our desires to be ahead of our thoughts—to allow our whole lives to be dictated by our feelings—our emotions. That’s to live on a roller coaster. That’s not wise. And we’re not supposed to crush out our feelings or our desires. God has made us feeling people, and He has made us people who desire; but they have to be governed—wisdom is to govern those by our thinking.
You think—all through the Bible, we are told what to do with our thoughts. There are direct commands about our thoughts. And you think Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.” Paul, in Romans 12:1 and 2, talks about being transformed by the renewing of our mind. In Romans 6, we’re told that those who set their mind on the things of flesh live according to the flesh; but those who set their minds on the things of the Spirit live according to the Spirit.
So, to be carnally-minded is death; but to have a mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. That is why, all through Scripture, we see the importance of governing our thoughts by Scripture; and then, letting those govern our emotions and our desires.
Bob: We asked you, earlier, about your favorite proverb. You mentioned Proverbs 4:23 as one of your favorites. It’s the proverb that says, “Guard your heart for from it flow the issues of life”—
Lydia: Yes, “Guard your heart”.
Bob: — the springs of life. That’s really tied into this whole issue of a woman’s thinking, her feelings, and her desires.
Lydia: Very much so. That verse is applied, all the time, to romance. You know, “Guard your heart about this boy and that boy”; but it’s really about guarding our hearts in the fear of the Lord. So, you are right. That particular Proverb—4:23—is about this whole issue of mind, emotions, and desires.
Dennis: I know, if Barbara was here, she would say, “Help me with what the Proverbs say about my emotions,” because she’ll hit a wall some day—and for whatever reason, just kind of feels like she is under a cloud—feels discouraged—and it’s difficult for her. I would say, for me, as a man—to not feel enslaved, at points, to our emotions. I mean, I sometimes think, “What a pigmy-like faith I have—how immature I am,” that I can’t get above my emotions some days.
What do the Proverbs teach about our emotions?
Lydia: You know, I think, basically, it doesn’t directly speak, black and white, to our emotions. It’s from studying it over all that we get the answer to that. If you think about it, our emotions are purely a response to what’s going on in our lives; but what we can do is—to that initial response that we can’t help—we can take charge of it so we don’t have to be victimized by our emotions.
Today, what makes it so hard is that we live in a society that tells us that feelings are everything—
Lydia: —and psychology tells us that, and every song we hear on the radio—all the romance novels—everything is about how we feel—how we feel; how we feel. The main thing in choosing a mate is: “Do you feel in love?” People end marriages, all the time, because they don’t feel like they are in love anymore. Feelings have become central to everything. So, we can buy into that and feel like we are victimized by our feelings.
Bob: I think there are some people who are wired as thinkers and other people who are wired as feelers. I mean, I just think, personality-wise, some people are more—
Dennis: You think that, Bob?
Bob: —in touch with that.
Dennis: Do you think that?
Bob: I think that. I tend to be more of a thinker. I have friends who tend to be more emotive. They are more in touch with what they are feeling.
Dennis: Let me tell you how I feel about that. [Laughter]
Bob: I’m curious about the woman who wrote the book on A Woman’s Wisdom—more of a thinker than a feeler?
Lydia: You know, I would tend to say I am more of a feeler; but over time—studying Proverbs—I’ve been trying to cultivate the other way around. I’ve been trying to think before I feel—or when I feel—to think through why I’m feeling that way.
There are a couple of Proverbs that do address our emotions; but it’s more observational than it is giving us a remedy for anything. For example, Proverbs 15:13 says, “A glad heart makes a cheerful face; but by sorrow of the heart, the spirit is crushed.” So, it’s just talking about the reality of what our emotions can do to us. It’s not providing a remedy there. That’s why we need to look at the whole counsel of God—all of Scripture—to say, “What do we do with these emotions that can crush our spirit?”
Bob: Can you give me an example of how your emotions have steered you in the wrong direction or how you’ve had to bring every thought captive to the wisdom of Christ?
Lydia: Yes, very much so. Even, just this week, I woke up on Monday; and I felt really down. Everything sort of had a grey cast on it. It wasn’t just because it was the tenth day of rain in a row, which happens a lot in Syracuse. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. So, I started to think—my mind started to go: “Do I need to make a change in my life? Did I make a mistake by moving here? Did I”—you can kind of get off on a track because I was feeling a little down.
So, I took myself in-hand; and I thought, “I have no reason to be down.” I was able to think back to the previous 48 hours—where a couple of conversations had left me with sort of that anxious feeling—and I hadn’t had a very good day the day before. So, as I thought through what was going on, I was able to say: “That’s why I’m feeling this way. Don’t let these emotions be the determiner of what’s going on in my life. Instead, take control and determine what you are going to do with those emotions.” Within about five hours, my joy was restored.
Dennis: And for a lot of women, that would be a great discipline to go through.
Lydia: I think it takes practice.
Dennis: It does. And there is some great coaching in what you just shared. As you share in your book, there are a number of issues that the book of Proverbs deals with. One is finances. The other is self-control. There is one you haven’t spoken on that I want you to just comment on, briefly. It’s about, really, having a godly perspective of your sexuality, as a woman. It doesn’t call the Proverbs, Chapter 5 and Chapter 7, woman a fool; but she was a woman of the streets. She was using her sexuality for wrong reasons—for evil reasons.
Dennis: Speak to women today about how they are to view their sexuality—I think it’d be difficult if I was a woman today to have a good sense—a good plumb line—of: “What is right about me, as a woman?” and, “What’s not right—what’s bad?”
Lydia: You know, I think that’s a tool that women can fall into—using their sexuality for wrong reasons. They can use it, manipulatively, to get something for themselves—whether it is love, whether it’s a husband they are hoping to get, whether it’s—within marriage—something that they want to get from their husband. It can be a tool, which is not why God created it. Women have the ability, with their sexuality, to wrap men around their finger if they want to. That’s a misuse of it. It is meant to be a gift. It’s not meant to be a tool for self-gratification—self-promotion.
Bob: And we ought to say, here, you’re a single woman.
Bob: Been single your whole life?
Bob: Reading the Proverbs and what it has to say about sexuality—how has that influenced you? How has that informed you? How is your sexuality being lived out differently because of what Proverbs teaches?
Lydia: Yes; I think when you read Proverbs 5 and 7—which really focus so much on warning these young men about this immoral woman and what about her makes her immoral—it’s not just blatant sex. It’s her words. It is how she presents herself—how she communicates.
But I think, as a single woman, we’re all called to safeguard marriage, whether we are single or married. I think, for single people—they can look at this and say: “I’m called, as a single woman, to safeguard something that God hasn’t given to me. Is that fair?” And the answer is: “Well, it’s not about what’s fair. It’s that God has made marriage. It’s His design, and it’s beautiful, and it points to something beyond itself.”
And that is where, I think, if we read Proverbs—seeing all that it says about marriage—what it points to about it—and then the opposite of that and how taking sexual love, that’s meant to be for marriage only, outside of that context is always destructive. To say that keeping God’s way—safeguarding it—whether we are single or married—conduces to our happiness. That’s because it’s God’s way.
Dennis: And you think about little girls growing up today—young ladies, young women—who are seeing the barrage of sexual innuendo on TV, on the internet, billboards, magazines, cinema. They are getting all these messages to be more aggressive, sexually.
Bob: It’s not just innuendo. It’s pretty right out there. Yes.
Dennis: It’s blatant. You don’t know this, I don’t think, Lydia; but a couple of years ago, I completed a book for parents called Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys. It’s from Proverbs 5, 6, and 7. It’s coaching—to moms and dads, raising sons—about how to be wise about aggressive girls; but it’s also coaching—to the moms and dads, of young ladies, about how to use their sexuality for good purposes and not evil.
Bob: And part of the reason you wrote this book is because you see, in the culture, an increased phenomenon of aggressive girls. It seems like that’s become the most common way for girls to present themselves—is to be aggressive, sexually.
Dennis: And I think moms and dads don’t need to be bashful and, certainly, don’t need to be silent—
Lydia: No, they shouldn’t be.
Dennis: No, they need to go to the Book; and if nothing else, just get out Proverbs—Chapter 5, 6, and 7—and read one chapter at a time and talk about it. Talk about what’s on TV, what’s on the internet, how the culture is fueling and adding—really, adding fire to these young people, growing up.
Lydia: Yes, it is. And those are the chapters to read, for sure. It points, inevitably, to the downward spiral that happens for pursuing that way of life. Whether it’s teenage sexuality or any other way—anytime it is taken outside of the context for which God intended it—it’s going to lead to misery, and heartbreak, and destruction of one sort or another.
Bob: The average woman, who is going to a Bible study group with other women at her church, is going to hear us talking about this and saying: “Well, that—I’ve got nothing to do with that. I’m a married woman. I’m a happily married woman. I can kind of skip over this part; can’t I?”
Lydia: You know, I think: “No. I think we all need to be not naïve about the need to safeguard marriage.” You know, one of the stories, I relate in the book, is about a young couple who were trying to help another young woman, who was down and out for a while. They invited her to come live in their home until she could get back on her feet again. The problem was she was a very attractive, young woman.
She came to live with them. Within a week of that, the wife came to me and was saying she was feeling a little bit uncomfortable—not that anything was untoward. I mean, the husband was very appropriate and so was she—both women were—but the wife was feeling like her space in her marriage was being intruded upon. So, she went home and talked to her husband about it. The two of them helped that woman find another place to go. She was out of there by the end of the week. I think, in that kind of situation, it’s not wise to invite young, attractive women to come live with married couples. Even if they all think, “Nothing will ever happen,”—
Lydia: —and chances are it won’t; but the thing is—part of safeguarding marriage is to not even open the door to something developing. Nobody ever wakes up and says, “I think I’m going to have an affair today.” It happens one little shared confidence at a time—one little banter, one little joke. That’s how it develops. No one chooses, deliberately, to just walk into something like that. People develop into something like that.
Dennis: I want to underscore something that you said in your book and just compliment you for calling all women—whether single or married—to do everything they can to protect their marriage and other people’s marriages. You do that by avoiding the inappropriate promotion of your own sexuality; but also, look out for others—
Dennis: —and call others to correct behavior—maybe, a flirtatious spirit—maybe, the way a young lady dresses. I know this may feel like, at points, like we’re judges; but I think we are called to protect other people—not just our own situation.
Lydia: Very much so. And there is a modesty of personal restraint. It’s not just modesty with clothing. It’s about our whole personhood. Working, for years, in an office environment, I could see this. Today, where men and women are in an office environment together, those colleagues are spending more time with each other than with their spouses.
The bonding that can happen during that time is huge. So, how are we safeguarding the marriages of our colleagues? Are we letting them into our personal lives? Are we listening too much to theirs or are we shutting the door to being too personal? Even sharing problems, or jokes—or too much of that—can become flirtatious. That’s how we safeguard it. It’s not just with our clothing. It’s about everything in our personhood.
Dennis: And also, to our sons, we need to speak the truth, with a smile; but listen to what Solomon said to his son. This is at the end of Chapter 7, after he has warned him about this woman of the streets: “And now, O sons, listen up”—listen to me—“and be attentive to the words of my mouth. Let not your heart turn aside to her ways.” Let me just comment there. What happened with Solomon?
Dennis: Whose heart turned aside to other women? “Let not your heart turn aside to her ways. Do not stray into her paths for many a victim has she laid low.” This is really vivid. It says, “And all her slain are a mighty throng.” It is like: “Look around son. There is a bunch of casualties because of this woman. I don’t want you to be one. Be a wise young man.”
I want to thank you, Lydia, for being on the broadcast and for this book. I want to say, Bob, I’m going to get Lydia to sign this to—well, I’m thinking about—not only my four daughters—but the two daughters who have been grafted into our family—
Dennis: —and married my sons.
Bob: You want me to get a few copies sent up here?
Dennis: I think so. I think so. This is a great book that every woman ought to go through—just to allow the book of Proverbs to speak to the issues she is dealing with.
Bob: We have copies in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com, and you can request a copy. You can order, online, if you’d like. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call if that’s easier. Just call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Ask about the book, A Woman’s Wisdom: How the Book of Proverbs Speaks to Everything, by Lydia Brownback. Again, the number: 1-800-358-6329, 1-800-FL-TODAY. Or order, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com.
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And we hope you’ll join us back again tomorrow when we’re going to hear a message from Dr. John Piper about what marriage ought to be all about. That comes up tomorrow. Hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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