Lydia Brownback. A Woman’s Wisdom: How the Book of Proverbs Speaks to Everything (2012).
Lydia Brownback has written what is essentially a handbook to the biblical book of Proverbs particularly for women. Though the writing is not stunningly beautiful nor the concepts new, her faithful representation of the biblical text and her ability to illustrate it for modern-day application will make this a valuable tool for many in their walk with Christ.
The book does not proceed systematically through Proverbs but rather addresses topics and consults Proverbs (and other scriptures) piece-meal on the way. It opens with a case for pursuing wisdom, then presents “six things wise women know” (the power of words, choosing friends carefully, the secret of self-control, how to think, feel, and want, financial savvy, safeguarding sexuality), and closes with a study of the famous woman of Proverbs 31 to “inspire a love of wisdom in specifically feminine ways” (17). The entire book is written for the intended audience of the Christian woman. A study section is included at the end of the book for those that will use it as a Bible study guide.
A real strength of Brownback’s work is how consistently she is able to bring a New-Testament perspective and reference to the Lord Jesus into her study of Old Testament text: “Women of wise words are those whose hearts are being transformed by Christ while recognizing that true and lasting change comes only as they ponder all his words” (72). This prevents the work from becoming merely a law-driven corrective or a self-help guide for women. She is faithful to acknowledge that wisdom is truly the fruit of the Holy Spirit and the result always of God’s grace. The value of pursuing wisdom is properly calibrated as well. In fact the “point of the book,” she says of Proverbs, “is to direct us to the Giver of wisdom” (12) and so that God might be “showcased as the all-wise one, and [thus be] glorified” (22).
Especially for Mert, with love and with gratitude for bringing me this lovely book and with hopes of becoming a woman as wise as you are.
“Exaggeration is the American way, but it is not the way of wise women . . . ” (64).
“Scripture assigns value to our tone of voice: A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit (Proverbs 15:4)” (73).
“Because we are wired as emotional beings, women who are wise nourish and tend their thought life as carefully as a gardener tends her rose bushes, so that her feelings don’t get the upper hand and so that her desires are formed around biblical principles” (112).
Also appreciated Brownback’s discussion of Elisabeth Elliot’s advice: “Do not try to fortify yourself against emotions. Recognize them; name them, if that helps; and then lay them open before the Lord for his training of your responses. The discipline of emotions is the training of responses” (118).
“No matter the specifics of our desires or how we express them, all our longings are indicative of the fact that we aren’t home yet. We are unfinished women living in an unfinished world . . . ” (123).
“We do well to see [Proverbs 31] as an inviting challenge . . . what about her heart enables her to live the life she does?” (166).