Not unsurprisingly, I am somewhat preoccupied by Proverbs at the moment. Today I want to share with you an extended quote from one of John Piper’s sermons on Proverbs. I will share the quote and allow Piper to speak. I cannot encourage you enough to go read the whole sermon, or even listen to it online.
This extract shows how Piper laboured with a single proverb to put it in context and truly understand it. It is a great illustration of what we were learning about proverbs from Dan Phillips yesterday.
“THE MOUTH OF THE RIGHTEOUS IS A FOUNTAIN OF LIFE”
So our first question has to be: What is this righteousness that makes mouths into fountains of life? How do you become the kind of person whose mouth freely brings forth life?
The way I tried to answer this question was to look at other places in Proverbs where it says something is a fountain of life. I thought this would show me just how this righteousness is thought of that turns mouths into fountains of life. Here’s what I found.
Proverbs 13:14 says, “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life” (cf. 16:22). So if the “teaching of the wise” is a fountain of life, and “the mouth of the righteous” is a fountain of life, then one element in this righteousness is true wisdom. Righteous people are people who live by true wisdom.
Then I remembered that the most crucial thing Proverbs says about wisdom is that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (9:10). So I assumed that “the fear of the Lord” is right at the heart of the wisdom which is the basis of the way righteous people live (fear of the Lord — wisdom — righteousness). The surprising thing was the way this was confirmed in 14:27, “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life.”
So I conclude that the mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life (10:11) because righteousness is a life based on true wisdom which is a fountain of life (13:14), and true wisdom is a fountain of life because it begins with the fear of the Lord, which is a fountain of life (14:27).
But we’re not quite at the bottom of things yet. If we change the image from a fountain to a tree, the “fear of the Lord” is the root of “wisdom” which grows up like a trunk and then sprouts branches of “righteousness” where people can pick the fruit of life (cf. 11:30). So life seems to flow through the root of the fear of God into the trunk of wisdom out through the branches of righteousness into the fruit of the lips which people eat and live. But where does it come from?
The answer comes when you think about the fear of the Lord or when you look up Psalm 36:9. The fear of the Lord means at least two things: (1) it means we stand in awe of the majesty and power and justice and holiness and grace of God. We tremble at His Word (Isaiah 66:2); and (2) it means that we shudder with dread at the thought of leaving our God and how terrible it would be to forsake this great God.
And so one reason the fear of the Lord in us is fountain of life for others is that it keeps us with the Lord. Forsaking the Lord is a terrifying prospect to those who fear the Lord. He’s everything. He is Life. Leaving God and going away to look for some other spring of water is so shocking and so frightening that we can’t do it (cf. Jeremiah. 2:13).
So those who fear the Lord stay with the Lord. They love the fellowship of God more than anything. And because they stay with the Lord and don’t forsake Him for broken cisterns in the world, their roots are in the eternal fountain of life, God Himself. This is what Psalm 36:9 says: “You [God] give them to drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life.”
Now we are at the very bottom of things. Now we know why righteousness makes the mouth into a fountain of life. The reason is that righteousness is a life based on true wisdom, and true wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord, and the fear of the Lord roots people in God Himself and keeps us close to Him in personal fellowship, and God — and God alone — is the ultimate, self-replenishing, inexhaustible fountain of life
“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life” because GOD is a fountain of life and the righteous live on God . . . .
That’s the answer to our second question: The mouth of the righteous is a fountain and not a factory because righteousness means living on the abundance of God — moment by moment drinking at the fountain of living water which is nothing less than God Himself, manifest in Jesus Christ and welling up in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (John 4:14; 7:38-39).
So the heart of this sermon is a call to trust God as your abundance and treasure. To live in God, to feed on God, and drink from God, and fellowship with God, learn all your wisdom from God and fear to forsake God (Ezra 8:22). He invites you this morning very earnestly and sincerely: “Let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price” (Rev. 22:17). The fountain of life is free. And it reproduces fountains not factories.