The Lord Will Be Your Confidence
Proverbs 3:21–35 – Proverbs: Wisdom for Life
21st Sunday after Pentecost – October 14, 2018 (am)
Today’s passage from Proverbs, Lesson 4 from this father to his son, promises such sweet comfort, confidence and (security), such reassurance of stability and of peace, that it actually frees us to love and serve others without the fear of any loss. Think about that. We can feel so comfortably settled by our trust in the Lord (5) to guard our best interests in life that we can turn our attention outward to guard the best interest of our neighbor without worrying that they’ll take advantage of us, or that we’ll lose out in some other way as a result…. Just listen to how different scholars summarize this text.
The genuineness of the trust (1-12) and wisdom (13-26) already expounded will be proved by love. So the chapter closes (27-35) with samples of what it means to know God ‘in all thy ways’ (cf.6) (Kidner 63).
The assumption is that being sensible and being neighbourly actually go together—it is not really shrewd (21) to be calculating at someone else’s expense (27), because of the way God makes the world work (32-35) (Goldingay 590).
It becomes very clear that wisdom means walking with God (23, 26); and the paradox of this familiar metaphor is brought out by the way in which the shrewdness commended in verse 21 rubs shoulders with the cosmic wisdom of 19, 20. The promised serenity of such a life as meets us here comes, at one level, from sheer good management on God’s sound principles (22, 23 are the consequence of 21), and at a deeper level, from the Lord’s personal care (26) (Kidner 63).
Every parent naturally desires his or her child to be safe, and the primary benefit of wisdom promised here is personal security and freedom from anxiety (Garrett 83).
Thus, the things we desire most in life come to us in one piece with the wisdom and discretion of God! So, the best thing we can do for ourselves is embrace them by faith, by trust! (5)
Let’s ask this father three more questions.
How do wisdom and discretion grant and beautify life?
We heard last Sunday how utterly desirable the woman Wisdom is (1:20-33; 3:13-20; 8:1-36) and what a thrill it is that she is actually pursuing us! Let’s remind ourselves of the richness of knowing her and embracing her. She wraps our lives in (blessing)! 13 Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, 14 for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. 15 She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. 16 Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. 17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. Who wouldn’t want this? 18 She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; ponder that! (Gen.2, 3; Rev.2, 22 Those who hold her fast are called blessed, approved by God.
This father presses on to stretch his (son’s) imagination beyond limits of his own personal experience with wisdom, even though the joy of her presence is understandable only as it compares to the love of an honorably desirable woman. The father did so by lifting his (son’s) eyes above time-and-space. 19 The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; 20 by his knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew. Even as we see in greater detail in 8:22-31, we’re reminded here that wisdom was the Lord’s constant companion as He pursued the work of creation—as He splashed the indescribable colors of His beauty on the newly-woven canvas of the universe and caused them to pulse with utterly irrepressible life! This is the nature of the wisdom that calls out for our devotion!
So, the father opened Lesson 4 by pleading: 21 My son, do not lose sight of these—keep sound wisdom and discretion, let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart (4:21) 22 and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck. This adornment may be a sign of public honor more than some sort of accessory; wisdom beautifies (us) in the eyes of others (Fox 83). So, there’s the beauty image. And the same wisdom and discretion that beautify us before the watching world will be life for (our) soul, for they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh (4:22). The corrupt heart draws (us) down to the grave, but (these two protect our) heart from that corruption (Garrett 89).
They free us for abundant life here and now, then eternal life hereafter! But the here and now is most in view in Proverbs. This is instruction in God-honoring living. And look at these (blessings) (23-26): (security), stability, confidence, sweet and (peaceful) sleep, no (fear) of the future, of pending ruin, 26 for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught. Or, the Lord will be [upon] all your ways, and he will plant your foot so that [it] may not be moved (les [lg-eis]). The Lord will keep you on the way. He will direct your paths (6 nkjv). Your life, decision-making, moral insight, situational judgment, including your sense of confidence in each of these, but also your confidence in the face of any sudden terror (25) or ruin (by) the wicked (25), (by) people of evil intent who want to do you in—this is your (inheritance) (35). In other words, (your) life will be enriched (v.22), safe and secure (vv.23-24), and without fear (v.25) (Ross 68). This all comes as a package deal with the wisdom and discretion of our God, my son!
How does lacking wisdom and discretion make life ugly?
And from the (father’s) list (23-26) we also begin to get an idea of the ugliness of a life that’s lacking this wisdom and discretion: (insecurity), instability, uneasiness, disrupted sleep, paralyzing fear of the future. But our understanding swells as we hear the charges in vv.27-32 to make sure we don’t do some things (29-30) and do do others (27-28). The net result of all this instruction is that life under the (blessing) of God’s wisdom and discretion directs us to love (our) neighbor as (ourselves) (Lev.19:18). We (don’t) withhold any good from (them) (27) or make it hard for them to receive it (28). We (don’t) take advantage of their (trust) (29) or pick fights with them (30). We (don’t) envy or imitate people who act this way (31) because they’re offensive to the Lord (32); they’re (cursed) (33). But all this is absent if the wisdom and discretion of the Lord are absent.
Life gets ugly when we lack these virtues. And we’re left on our own for (security), stability, confidence, and sweet sleep.
But we also need to ask what happens when we’re (trusting) the Lord and life doesn’t go well, or when sudden terror does strike, or the ruin of the wicked? What do we do then? Where do we turn? Answer: we turn again, and again, to the wisdom and discretion of the Lord. We do not lose sight of these (21). For therein is our (blessing) (33), and our only hope!
But notice (25): the Lord is not promising to spare us from sudden terror or the ruin of the wicked. Many of His servants through the centuries have faced both in excruciating ways. While these are not the most common experiences of God’s believers in our area, stories of great suffering still arise in many places around the world even in our day. And Americans are sometimes among them. Pastor Andrew Brunson was just freed this week after two years in Turkish prisons, almost certainly for his faith.
But persecution is not the only form of terror or ruin that can threaten us. What about a sudden cancer diagnosis or car accident or house fire or natural disaster? Each of these are dangers in a fallen world just like evil enemies. Does God promise to spare us from all these? No, terror and ruin of many sorts can strike us during our days of exile as we await our arrival in the Promise Land. And they’re all ugly! But what the wisdom and discretion of the Lord supply to us here is freedom from the fear of sudden terror or the ruin of the wicked. We need not be afraid of these dreaded dangers 26 for the Lord will be (our) confidence and He will keep (our) foot from being caught. He’ll keep them from shoving us off-course with Him. In fact, He’ll strengthen us through them (Mat.5:11-12; Jam.1:2-4).
What is the ultimate outcome of this beauty and ugliness?
And then, when our exodus through the wilderness of this world is completed, and threats of every form are finally ended, we’ll share a destiny entirely different from that of the wicked who so desired our ruin. The ultimate outcome of our embracing the wisdom and discretion of the Lord will be an eternal distinction between the beauty and ugliness we experience in this world. It’s described for us with diametric clarity in the (father’s) closing words here: 33 The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous. 34 Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor. 35 The wise will inherit honor, but fools get disgrace.
You see, the beauty that is born of embracing the wisdom and discretion of the Lord is not just freedom from the fear of disaster in this life. If it didn’t also result in the certainty of full deliverance from even the possibility of such disaster in the life to come, including a quality of life there that will redefine any loss here to be like virtual gain, then there would be no genuine beauty in His wisdom and discretion at all! But that’s precisely what this son is promised by his father!
And that’s also our promise from this text! Again, in a scholar’s words: Whoever trusts and follows sound judgment in a life of righteousness will find not only strength and beauty in wisdom (v.22) but also preservation in (activity) and (rest) (vv.23-24)—in normal life and in times of disaster (vv.25-26). In other words, one’s life will be enriched (v.22), safe and secure (vv.23-24), and without fear (v.25). True spiritual discernment that places its confidence in the Lord will not be disappointed (v.26) (Ross 68).
As we said at the start, the things we desire most in life come to us in one piece with the wisdom and discretion of God! So, the best thing we can do for ourselves is embrace them by faith/trust! (5) But how do we do that? How do we receive His wisdom and discretion such that we walk in Him and experience His (blessing), favor, and honor? (33-35)
Well, we can’t just decide on our own to do it. We don’t have the ability to do that. We don’t have the capacity. We do this by receiving Him Who already enjoys the (blessing), favor, and honor of the Lord—the One Who is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1Co.1:24), and in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col.2:3). We (receive) Christ Jesus the Lord by faith, and so walk in him (Col.2:6). Then we ourselves will know and enter in to the (blessing) this father promises his son!