Sunday, June 7, 2009

Proverbs 3: 1-12

Today's Thought Questions:
  1. Why do you think love and faithfulness are important with regard to wisdom?
  2. Reread verses 1-4. God promises us a good name and favor in His sight as well as man's if we do as He asks in these first three verses. God's standards and man's standards are often in complete opposition. How do you reconcile these two promises?
  3. Reread verses 5&6. This passage may be a familiar one to you. "Lean not on your own understanding." Is this directive difficult for you? Why?

The first four verses of chapter 3—entitled “The Rewards of Wisdom”--remind us again of the value of a parent’s instruction. What does Godly instruction in wisdom yield? Long life and peace. The command to “bind them around your neck…writing on a tablet” surely recalls the early days of the Israelites—Moses receiving the commandments from God and chiseling them into stone tablets. Walking with the commandments of God in boxes wrapped to their heads. ("Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads."--Deuteronomy 11: 18.) We need to have His Word bound to our skin, walking so that the Word covers us as with each stretch our skin makes. If we do this, we understand the benefits of wisdom to us and should be in awe that we would find favor with God.

But verse 4 also says that we will find favor and good repute in the sight of man. Our thought question asks how this is possible? Well, if you have been around Godly people, you know that there is something special about them. There is something comfortable, peaceful, loving (fill in your own adjective here).

The short of it is, when we follow God’s will, it shows, and it demonstrates to those who don’t know Him that there is something we all seek for ourselves that only He can provide. Even the non-Christian can know this. The earth is capable of seeing what “good” looks like, even as it is surrounded by evil and not necessarily capable of receiving God’s Word.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (vss 5-6)

This set of verses probably is familiar to many of you. I’ve heard it spoken at many a baptism as a “legacy verse” parents select for their children. This is a reiteration of what we have read in our first two chapters here, and it is a lofty directive!

Trust with all your heart…acknowledge Him in all your ways. I find it difficult to do anything with such completeness. Why? Has to do with that partial verse in the middle about dealing with my own understanding. I get moving too fast or too impatiently, and my understanding (being “wise in my own eyes” vs 7) becomes what’s easy and, somehow, what’s right at the time.

Well, God’s promise to “make paths straight” for me doesn’t work when I choose my understanding over His. What’s worse is that the harder I “lean” on my understanding, the more the path becomes crooked, or, at least, hard to find. I lean; I fall! [The Hebrew word we translate lean means, more accurately, "to hie for refuge"--not necessarily with speed, but clearly with intent. Figuratively, "to trust, be confident or sure."Applying these words to our own understanding is exactly what God does not want us to do.]

Carmen brought up a comment a few posts ago about God's disappointment as He watches us choose the wrong path. I believe it! Surely, we grieve His heart and have for thousands of years. Yet, as she says, what grace He gives! He continues to be patient with us. He continues to wait until we seek and find His wisdom to make the righteous choices we should be making. Which leads into this next point about our response to such a gracious God.

From Matthew Henry’s Commentary: “In all our ways that prove pleasant, in which we gain our point, we must acknowledge God with thankfulness. In all our ways that prove uncomfortable, and that are hedged up with thorns, we must acknowledge him with submission. It is promised, He shall direct thy paths; so that thy way shall be safe and good, and happy at last.” Trust in God is built up when we acknowledge Him in everything.

I needed some decoding on verse 8. The physical references actually are used figurative here. “
It (fear of the Lord) will be healing (“promoting soundness of mind and moral character”) to your body and refreshment to your bones.” The King James Version uses ‘marrow’ instead of ‘refreshment.’ Reflecting again upon the Hebrew, the marrow refers to the “nourisher and strengthener of the bones,” a moistener (hence, refreshment).

The next two verses (vss 9 & 10) depart a bit from the thinking to the practical. We honor God with our turning to Him and our following His wisdom, but we should also honor God from our wealth and our “first fruits,” as the King James Version terms it. Our sovereign God gives us the best of Himself; should we not also honor Him through the first and best of what we have? The Bible, not surprisingly, points to our wealth as being something into which we need to tap. As for 'first,' the Hebrew says not just wealth but "place, time, order or rank.”

Why should we do this, as if God hasn’t given us enough already by giving us His wisdom? Additional benefits (vs 10)! God’s earthly provisions for earthly living.

“My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD or loathe His reproof,

For whom the LORD loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.” (vss 11 & 12)

The topic of discipline will echo throughout our study of Proverbs, with these verses, specifically, repeated in Hebrews 12:6. The pairing of love with discipline is not easily understood nor embraced. (Again, go ask your kids!) But God continues to have our best interests in mind, even as we need to consider His reproof.
"Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."
--Hebrews 12: 10&11 (NIV)

From Matthew Henry’s Commentary: “
Afflictions are so far from doing God’s children any hurt, that, by the grace of God, they promote their holiness.”

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Tomorrow's Scripture Focus and Thought Question:

Proverbs 3: 13-26
  1. What is the value of wisdom? Do you believe this?

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Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation, specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB). I will quote other sources if used in a post.
I also use Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (with notes from the King James Version).


The Patterson 5 said...

I think that God wants us not to just read His word and even memorization is just not enough. He wants us to make them an integral part of our lives and He wants us to act on them. God calls us to be the light and salt of the world pointing others to Christ. I can't help but think that is the reputation He's hoping for. This may be a turn off to some but certainly would be respected.
Verses 5 and 6 are favorites of mine. Often times I have found myself thinking that the small things could certainly be handled on my own, only to be humbled by my mistake. God wants us to trust Him in all matters. I'm still learning. "Seek His will in ALL you do"

Sue J. said...

I have had Proverbs 3: 5&6 memorized for quite some time now. However, I can't say that it's an integral part of who I am. Definitely have fallen short in having His Word working actively in my heart. Prayer time needs to work in conjunction with the Word to get beyond the page and into the heart....

Chatty Kelly said...

"wise in your own eyes" - don't we all suffer from that from time to time?

V. 9 It's the tithing promise found in Malachi. Give your first fruits and you're barns will overflow. Only it doesn't just apply to $ but to everything we do, God should come first the kingdom of Heaven...and then all these things (food, drink, clothes) will be given to you as well. Matt 6:33