Trust in the LORD with All Your Heart
Proverbs 3:1–12 – Proverbs: Wisdom for Life
19th Sunday after Pentecost – September 30, 2018 (am)
If the average person is drawn at all toward what is called wisdom, it’s probably because we connect wisdom with tranquility of soul, serenity—the wise person (knows) something few others (know), and that puts them at peace with this world. That kind of wisdom is attractive to everyone: the sort of wisdom that brings peace, insight, understanding, that sees beyond the circumstances at hand, even really hard ones, and seems to have a settled confidence that there is some underlying purpose or meaning in life that transcends this present tragedy, that neutralizes it, pulls the stinger out of it, and even seems to (know) that some good will come of it.
That’s the wisdom we meet in Pro.3, a favorite passage for many, the third lesson from father to son, the king of Israel (1:1) to the crown prince. He’s teaching his son the secret we all want to learn. He’s teaching him about the wisdom that brings peace—where it comes from and how it works. Let’s ask this father three questions.
Why is it important to hear instruction in wisdom? (1-4)
From the very start of this lesson, the father let’s his son (know) that the wisdom he’s talking about is other-worldly. It is interwoven with the very nature of God, and is expressed most clearly in His Self-revelation in the Law. 1 My son, do not forget my teaching (my Torah), but let your heart keep my commandments. Now, I don’t believe the father is speaking exclusively of the Ten Commandments here or the first five books of our Bible; I believe he’s speaking primarily about his own instruction to his son. But I do believe the father has chosen a word here that intentionally ties in his instruction to his son with the instruction they both receive in the Word of God, because surely it is not the instruction of this father alone that introduces this son to virtues like steadfast love and faithfulness! (3) These qualities are expressions of the very nature of God Himself. They’re part of His name. He is a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (Exo.34:6). And it is only when the son encounters God that he meets steadfast love and faithfulness. Only from God can he receive theses virtues, receive them into his very soul and be transformed by them. And what else could his father mean when he says, 3 … bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. He’s not telling his son to make them into a necklace, or literally copy them down on something (though the king did do that! [Deu.17:18]). He’s calling his son to make them a part of himself, to absorb these qualities of the covenant-keeping God into his very being.
1 My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, 2 for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. This is the wisdom that brings peace and length of days, not so much guaranteeing long life as much as affirming that it (steers you) away from life-threatening (foolishness) (Fox 143), from relationships and involvements that shorten your life and toward those that strengthen and sustain it physically, (financially), and in relationship with others (Garrett 79). 4 So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. You will have a reputation for good understanding (Ross 64). You’ll become one of those who (knows) something others don’t, and are in touch with a life-stabilizing power they lack. And this is precisely because you’re embracing instruction that comes from the Maker of the universe in Whose likeness you’ve been made! There’s no other wisdom like this! And that’s why this father wants his son to receive it. But it’s different than you think.
What does it look like to live in this wisdom daily? (5-10)
Here’s where we begin the most familiar part of this lesson, verses that rank as high on the list of people’s favorites as Joh.3:16 or Psa.23. Embracing the steadfast love and faithfulness of God, the wisdom of God, means three things.
First, you 5 trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Which means: 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, (know) him, trust him, even obey him (Ross 65), and he will make (your paths straight). He will guide your life. And He’ll guide it not toward that which you in your wisdom think is best, but toward that which He in His wisdom thinks is best (Kidner 61). That’s what the father means by, (he’ll) make straight your paths. And our calling is to lean on Him, to trust Him, to do it. That’s the picture here. Not only do we not have the wisdom to (know) what direction to go, we wouldn’t have strength for the journey even if we did. We lean on Him like a wounded soldier being helped to the rendezvous point, like a blinded traveler being guided through a busy train station, or a lost and terrified child being led back to his panic-stricken parents. These verses are the heart of this lesson. They’re the hub of this wheel, the anchor-point for the various spokes of instruction it gives, of guidance it offers. So, the first word we hear about what it looks like to live in the father’s teaching is: (Don’t) lean on your own understanding. Lean on the Lord’s. Trust in His leading with all your heart. Believe to the core of your being, trust, have faith, that His paths are best for you, not your own.
In other words, second: 7 Be not wise in your own eyes; rather, fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. Now, there’s a helpful contrast: the opposite of pride, the solution to pride, is to fear the Lord such that you turn away from evil. Display your fear of the Lord by (turning) away from evil. 8 (This) will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. It will help you feel better, even physically! It will (refresh) you all the way to the core, just honoring God by walking in His ways, laying aside any practices that He wouldn’t approve, submitting to His rule, letting Him reign as King in your life. Being wise in your own eyes not (only) means being proud of your own wisdom, but being self sufficient in it, and therefore not feeling the need to (trust in the Lord) (Goldingay 589), or submit to His authority.
Self-sufficiency is also part our third point: 9 Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce. Worship Him, revere Him, display the gravity of your devotion to Him by giving to Him off the top. His offering comes first. Or, more broadly, make sure your financial practices reflect the place He holds in your heart (cf. Kidner 62); 10 then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine. Again, this is not a promise but a principle. Life goes better when we honor the Lord. So, we must ask…
Why would we ever choose to live another way? (11-12)
Now, that’s an easy one: because life is not always easy! Part of the way we (know) v.10 is not a promise is from vv.11-12. Sometimes the Lord Himself sends challenges, difficulties, struggles for the purpose of discipline, correction, instruction. 11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, 12 for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. Discipline is not primarily (consequences) for wrongdoing. It (teaches). It trains. It’s like military training where even though the threat of punishment is present, … stern discipline is not necessarily (punitive) (Garrett 81). Yes, it’s hard. And no one really likes it. But it prepares you to do your job as a soldier. And here, it trains you up in your role as a son, and not just a son of the father, or the King, but a son of God!
Let’s back up a bit and walk through this again. The fact is that sometimes in life our barns aren’t filled with plenty and our vats aren’t bursting with wine (10). Sometimes our crops actually fail such that we have no firstfruits to offer! Sometimes our houses foreclose, our careers collapse, our children stray, or our health fails, and it can become so easy to crumble under the weight of life’s trials, to grow weary in the battle, to look around and say: There’s got to be a better way than this; (trusting) the Lord just isn’t working like Pro.3 said it would. Sometimes the temptation to guide our own paths and rely on our own wisdom arises not just from a sense of self-important pride, but from sheer survival instinct—things are falling apart and something has to be done right away!
This father is saying: Son, don’t look away from the Lord at such times. Trust him. Know him. Honor him. That’s still the answer, because He is at work in us doing so much more than just (filling) our barns and healing our hurts. 11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, 12 for the Lord reproves (the one) he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights—just like I do with you, my son, only so, so much better. The writer of Heb. used this passage to make a very similar point with a group of people who were indeed growing weary under the trials of life. Having just listed for them many OT heroes who (endured) hardship without ever (receiving) what was promised (Heb.11:39), he urged them likewise to (endure) (Heb.12:1-2). Then he wrote: 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. There’s our calling today! Jesus is our example! And here now, fully clarified, is the greater purpose toward which the father was instructing his son in Pro.3! 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood like He did. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” God loves us too much to leave us in our clueless, sinful ways. Even if we don’t fully understand what He’s doing, our responsibility is to trust him, and His responsibility is to guide our paths, to cause them to lead straight to His appointed ends—straight though seasons of great blessing at some times, but straight through seasons of wearisome trial, training at others. 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. You’re unloved! 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
It yields the very peace that the father set before the eyes of the son (2), the wisdom, insight, understanding that brings a peace that sees beyond the circumstances at hand, even really hard ones, remember? It has a settled confidence that there is some underlying purpose or meaning in life that transcends the present tragedy, neutralizes it, pulls the stinger out of it, and (knows) that good will come of it? This is the peace of God! It can come from no other source! And we now live in a day where we (know) that this comes only in Jesus!
That’s how we should hear Pro.3:1-12, for whenever Scripture points us to the hope of wisdom and peace, of steadfast love and faithfulness, of favor and success and health and long life—all of this is ultimately fulfilled only in our Lord Jesus Christ, even the hope that originates deep in the OT! For, just as the writer of Heb. has done here, when his people were in need of reassurance in hardship, and specifically while under God’s hand of discipline, he reaches back into the dialogue between the father and son, the king of Israel (1:1) and the crown prince, and reads it as a dialogue between the King of kings and every son whom he receives (Heb.12:6), between God and us!
So, what’s the bottom line? Let me ask: are you drawn to wisdom, the sort of wisdom that’s marked by tranquility of soul, serenity, the sort of wisdom that (knows) something few others (know), and puts you at peace in this world? This comes from being at peace with the God Who made this world and everything in it. It comes as we receive by faith the One He sent as the very embodiment of wisdom—the One He sent to be our Savior, Who in the process of saving us also showed us how to keep our eyes fixed on the truth and the promises of God even in the midst of great suffering in this life. He taught us how to see suffering and hardship as God’s discipline that is teaching us His ways and training us to enjoy long life in His Kingdom.
So, again let me ask: do you (know) Him—Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God (1Co.1:24), the One who said: Joh.1427 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid? This is One Who is worthy of (trusting) with all your heart and (acknowledging) in all your ways and (honoring) with your wealth and produce and life.
Let’s now remember His death together, which has purchased our life and peace.