Then said Evangelist, pointing with his finger over a very wide field, Do you see yonder wicket Gate? The man said, No: Then said the other, Do you see yonder Shining Light? He said, I think I do. Then said Evangelist, Keep that Light in your eye, and go up directly thereto, so shall thou see the Gate …
The Pilgrim’s Progress
John Bunyan
Where is Christ in Proverbs?
How is Proverbs a uniquely Christian book? Should we look at its practical sayings as timeless principles applicable to all persons everywhere and in every age? Should we approach each proverbial saying as simply Old Testament ethics — as an example of ancient biblical morality — and then move on to the New Testament?
Or is there a consistent way, a method by which we can interpret the Book of Proverbs and find Christ waiting to be discovered in each separate verse?
Like bass breaking water during a spring rain, Christ emerges in all Scripture. He is not merely in the Gospels, but in the Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy), the Historical Books (Joshua through Esther), and the Poetic/-Prophetic Books (Job through Malachi).
In spite of a rediscovery of the Book of Proverbs in the last three decades, little or no concentrated effort has been made to understand Proverbs from a consistent Christ-centered approach.
Fifteen ministers and seminary professors were asked, “How do you preach Christ from the Book of Proverbs?”
Only two had preached more than eight sermons from Proverbs. One had preached thirty sermons, but only from chapters 1 through 3. One Old Testament professor had preached only one sermon from the book, and he said he did not pay much attention to discovering Christ there. Only one person had struggled to find Christ in Proverbs. All the preachers who were interviewed asked, “How can I find Christ in Proverbs?”
Christ the Key to All Scripture
Jesus told the discouraged and unbelieving disciples on the road to Emmaus that all the Bible was about Himself. Luke comments, “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scripture the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27 NKJV; cf. Acts 8:35).
Jesus Christ is the key to unlock the meaning of the entire Bible. Each step in God’s revelation process throughout the Bible brings us closer to the Cross.
For example, suppose you had never seen an oak tree. Persons throughout history had discovered different parts of an oak: someone discovered a branch, another a leaf, another some bark, still another found a root. Then one day all the parts were assembled: Behold, an oak! Yet if you had never seen the finished product, an oak, the separate parts would still be a mystery.
The revelation process is like that. It is progressive. Genesis 3:15 is the acorn, the Passover Lamb a branch, Isaiah 53 a root, and Micah 5:2 a leaf. Jesus Christ, His cross, is the final picture. Christ gives meaning and coherence to the whole as well as each individual part.
This is how we could diagram Christ in the revelation process:
The E-I-D-A Outline Method
The EIDA-outline method is a simple, clear, and consistent tool that reveals Christ in unusual and surprising places. It allows anyone to read and discover practical and biblical insights in the Book of Proverbs from a Christ-centered perspective. It is this:
“E” — Explanation
“I” — Illustration
“D” — Demonstration
“A” — Application
Proverbs 27:7 becomes a Christocentric pearl by using the EIDA method. The verse reads, “A satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb, but to a hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.”
This verse illustrates the problem with interpreting the Book of Proverbs. Where is Christ in 27:7? What is uniquely Christian about this verse? Couldn’t an unbeliever read this verse and come away with the meaning and an application to her own life?
A non-Christian may use the principle revealed in 27:7 profitably, but will miss the deepest meaning and, so, the heart of the principle. What is the heart? Like the rest of Scripture, 27:7 also reveals Christ. The promise of Christ’s coming gives meaning to the entire Old Testament revelation of God as well as to the individual parts — every jot and tittle.
Therefore it is only when we find Christ in Scripture, even in Proverbs 27:7, that we discover the Holy Spirit’s purpose for including this verse in the Bible.
The following demonstrates the EIDA method in practice.
The first step in using the EIDA method is “E” — Explanation. The question we are interested in answering is: What is the meaning of Proverbs 27:7? The most obvious meaning is, a person whose belly is full is repulsed with the next bite. Conversely, if you have not eaten since Sunday, by Tuesday you will appreciate liver and beets.
For example, my family and I lived in Scotland for a year. Although we loved the experience, there were a few inconveniences. One inconvenience was the contrast between American and British ice cream. Ugh! On returning to Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., the first thing we did — besides humming God Bless America — was to find an ice cream parlor. The next step was to find a McDonald’s.
When you do without you appreciate the thing you denied yourself. That is the reverse of the first part of 27:7, “A satisfied soul loathes honey.”
George Coker, a lawyer, dieted for several weeks. His diet consisted of skipping breakfast, and working out at the YMCA instead of eating lunch. But during the afternoon, George said, “I began to think about food. Dinner became an obsession.” No matter what he had for dinner, he took every bite slowly and deliberately.
We have a modern proverb that fits the idea of 27:7. We say, “Beggars can’t be choosers.” The meaning of Proverbs 27:7 then is this: Need creates a desire for, and satisfaction with, that which you might ordinarily disdain; on the other hand, abundance rejects that which ordinarily you might think wholesome and good. Proverbs 27:7 may be summarized with the phrase, pleasure through moderation.
The second step in the EIDA method is “I” — Illustration. The question we want to answer here is: What person or event in biblical history illustrates the meaning we have just suggested? Since Proverbs is a part of and extension from the Law, we will want to look first at Deuteronomy and Exodus. Then we can move chronologically through the Old Testament and into the New.
The Israelites’ wandering in the desert illustrates the principle. God led them out of their bondage in Egypt. When they were thirsty, God provided water from a rock. When they were worried about what they were going to eat, God provided manna from heaven.
But they grew tired of manna. Manna in the morning, manna for lunch, manna for dinner. Manna. Manna. Manna. They were fed up with manna. They complained, “Lord’ give us something else besides this manna. We want meat.”
The Lord said, “Do you like quail?” He made quail fly so low they were able to reach for all they wanted. But as they ate it, the fowl turned foul in their mouths. God was angry at their complaining. They were dissatisfied with the abundance they had been receiving from the Lord.
If we have too much, too much is not enough.
A college student owned a dog named Beauregard. Beau loved to kill chickens. The student tied a chicken leg inside Beau’s mouth and left it there for a couple of days. Beau never chased another chicken. A sated dog loathes chicken legs.
Psalm 42 illustrates the converse of this principle. The title of this psalm in my New King James Version is, “Yearning for God in the Midst of Distresses.”
Defeat and despair overwhelmed the psalmist. Like a dropped ball of twine his world unraveled. Nothing was left of his former life. He was in exile. But he thought about his homeland. And the mere thought of what used to be made him aware of past blessings and gave him hope for the future.
Like this psalmist who was without land, family, or church, when we lose what is dear to us we appreciate what we had. If we have nothing, a little bit is enough.
The third step in the EIDA method is “D” — Demonstration. The question we are interested in answering here is: Where is Christ in this proverbial principle? What aspect of the person and work of Christ elucidates the meaning we have outlined above? Is there something from His teaching ministry that helps explain this proverb? How did Christ fulfill it? Are there other New Testament insights that bear upon Christ’s person and work which shed more light on this proverb?
One way to understand Proverbs 27:7 from a Christ-centered approach is to see it as a lesson in the moderate use of this world’s goods. Christ’s lifestyle demonstrated moderation — a lack of indulgence — in all He did: eating, sleeping, solitude, small groups, church meetings, money, possessions, etc. Moderation does not imply disinterest or laziness but balance.
The balanced life must bring into focus the more profound necessity of spiritual food and drink. Jesus said, “I have food to eat of which you do not know” (Matthew 4:32). And again, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work” (Matthew 4:34). Similarly Paul said, “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink” (Romans 14:17).
The New Testament teaches on a deeper level that we should develop an attitude of emptiness toward this world in order to be filled with spiritual food and drink. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).
Jesus demonstrated the meaning of “to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet” when, out of the bitterness of the cross, He tasted the sweet honey of doing the Father’s will. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the shame.” Because Jesus, the Godman, hungered for God the Father, even the most severe trial satisfied Jesus’ thirst for God.
In fact, the atonement itself is described as the satisfaction of Christ offered to appease God’s justice. God the Father was satisfied with the Son’s sacrifice for sin.
The final step in the EIDA-outline method is “A” — Application. The question we want to answer here is: How may we apply this proverb (27:7) to our own lives? How did New Testament Christians apply this principle? Are there occasions in the history of the Church when this principle received particular emphasis or application?
We may make at least two applications: (1) General (for all men — Christians and non-Christians), and Christocentric (particularly for the follower of Christ).
Do not overindulge your appetites is the first application. For example, not only is it bad manners to stuff yourself at another’s table — and it is a bad witness because you are out of control — but eating at another’s table will influence your attitude, opinions, and values. You will be swayed by that person who is offering you something to eat. You become obligated to her. Every businessperson knows one of the best places to convince someone of an idea is over lunch.
Proverbs 23:1 says, “When you sit down to eat with a ruler, consider carefully what is before you.” This does not mean, consider whether it is lobster, grits, diet Coke, or low-calorie Ranch; rather, consider carefully the situation. Watch out for what you may be getting yourself into. Proverbs 23:2,3 continue, “And put a knife to your throat if you are a man given to appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food.” Don’t overindulge.
But there is another reason for not overindulging which is closely connected to 27:7. When you have too much you begin to despise what you have. In his book, The Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life, John Calvin summarized the Christian’s use of this world’s goods in only one word, moderation. Be moderate in everything. This applies to watching television or eating, playing sports or working, reading books or sleeping. Overindulgence is symptomatic of spiritual decline.
We should be careful how we judge others for what we perceive as a lack of moderation in their lives. We cannot criticize a smoker if we are overweight. We can’t accuse someone of obesity if we have a bad temper. That is hypocrisy. We must make sure the beam is out of our own eye before we try to remove the speck from someone else’s.
Yet the heart of the meaning of Proverbs 27:7 is pleasure through moderation. How do we appreciate a thick Kansas City steak? By not eating one every day. When we practice moderation with the world’s goods we begin to enjoy life to the full. We will never grow tired of life or living.
Ernest Hemingway indulged his appetites. When his health failed, he must be restricted for the remainder of his life, he put a shotgun barrel into his mouth and pulled the trigger.
Some of us may have the opposite problem — the reverse of overindulgence. We may practice self-denial to the point of morbid spirituality. Overindulgence may be antinomian, but self-denial may be bare moralistic legalism. Both miss true pleasure. Both have a truncated notion of God and the flesh.
The second application of Proverbs 27:7 brings into focus a uniquely Christian, Christ-centered perspective. It is this: Look to Jesus Christ to sweeten all life’s experiences whether they are good or bad.
The psalmist prayed, “All Your waves and billows have gone over me” (Psalm 42:7). But in the last verse of Psalm 42 he returned to faith and hope. He said to himself, “Hope in God: for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God” (v. 11).
However desperate or empty we feel, Christ is able to sweeten every moment. He will enable us to recognize the hand of God in all our circumstances. But there is a qualifier. It is only when we hunger for the face of Christ that we find He satisfies our ups and downs.
“A satisfied soul loathes the honeycomb, but to a hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet” (Proverbs 27:7).
We have seen how the EIDA method explains one proverb. It is like using a microscope to study only one cell in the human body. When we know what the human body looks like, we discover the importance and function of one mere cell.
The Book of Proverbs is like a thousand-word puzzle with no picture to show us what the puzzle is supposed to look like.
But we have found the picture: Christ. He is the key and the treasure. The pieces begin to fit together. Paul says, “But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God … Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (1 Corinthians 1:30, Colossians 2:2,3 NKJV).

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