Friday, March 7, 2008

Day 67: Proverbs 3

READING: Proverbs 3

How To Be Rich!

BACKGROUND

This chapter, the continuing advice from father to son about wisdom, organizes itself into six sections. This advice is true for us! One of the most well-known passages of the Bible is here, in verses 5 and 6, but there’s so much else of value.

In Proverbs 3: 1-12 seven instructions and commands are listed along with the benefit of obeying each one. The first instruction (vv. 1-2) is to remember God’s word, to guard in our heart the wise commands of God. The benefit is a long life and peace. Again, these are not promises, but general statements of truth. The next (vv. 3-4) is to not relinquish kindness and truth. The benefit of hanging onto truth and kindness is that we will find favor and have a good reputation. There are five more commands. Try listing them, along with the benefit of obeying each.

Proverbs 3: 13 – 18 gives the value of wisdom. The passage doesn’t simply state that wisdom is valuable, but uses figurative language to compare it with things that people value and desire and long for (like wealth and beautiful jewelry). Wisdom is personified again, as a woman – a good woman - who brings with her long life and riches and honor and beauty and peace and life. I don’t think the “tree of life” mentioned in v. 18 is “the” tree of life of Genesis and Revelation, but a picture of wisdom as a tree that nourishes and blesses those who partake of it.

Verses 19 and 20 made me pause and think, because at first glance they don’t seem to fit in with the rest of the chapter. They’re a statement of how God created and sustains the earth through wisdom and understanding and knowledge. I think they’re there to give a philosophical basis or more insight into wisdom. God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, is our source of wisdom. Wisdom comes from Him and leads back to Him.

The next verses, 21 – 26, list the benefits of sound judgment and discretion. Many of these verses echo the proverbs in the beginning of this chapter. How many benefits do you see? What are they? Dwell a bit on the images there. I love this section!

Verses 27 – 32 are another list of commands – negative commands – what we are NOT to do. I think it’s interesting that the chapter has both positive and negative commands.

And finally, verses 33 – 35 use contrast to show the difference in how God relates to the wise and humble as opposed to those who scoff and are wicked and fools.

REFLECTION

It’s interesting that in verse 3 the two traits of kindness and truth are linked together. We are told “Do not let kindness and truth leave you;/ Bind them around your neck,/ Write them on the tablet of your heart.” Being kind without clinging to truth leads to rationalizing and ennabling, while standing for truth without being kind makes us harsh and can lead to enmity. We are to do what we can to keep both kindness and truth with us. We are told to tie them around our necks – as outward adornment, like a necklace. And we are also to “write them on the tablets of our hearts.” What an image! We copy them inside us until they are part of us and are what motivate us.

As I pondered this chapter I thought of what sweetness wisdom brings. Wisdom leads us to peace and to good relationships with other people. Wisdom leads away from “me,” to trust in God. And as we trust God we are given security and rest. The One who “by wisdom founded the earth,” who by understanding “established the heavens,”who causes the dew to fall (v. 19-20), this is the One who is our confidence (v. 26)! I can’t think of anyone better to put our confidence in, can you?

I am always amazed, though I shouldn’t be, at how different parts of God’s word tie together. We’ve been reading in Exodous and as I look at Pharoah and at Moses I see examples of men who were wise and foolish. Pharoah was powerful, but didn’t seek true wisdom. He trusted in himself and his own strength. Moses was weak, but had the humility to listen and obey what God said, and God used him.

APPLICATION

Let’s try to put some of the verses of this chapter into practice. We can take some steps in becoming wise by hearing these words and doing them. And becoming wise is more than just a list of what we do and what we don’t do – the external. We can look pretty fine on the outside, but be a mess on the inside (like most of the Pharisees Jesus talked to). If we are going to follow wisdom and practice her ways we need humility and teachableness.

PRAYER

Give us soft hearts, Lord. Help us, each of us, to realize that we aren’t always right. Help us to turn to You for wisdom, Lord, to long for You and to seek You. Help us to be people of integrity – the same on the inside and outside. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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