Proverbs 3:1-12

Proverbs 3:1-12

3:1-4 — 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. 3 Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. 4 So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.

Wisdom’s teaching must be kept by the heart ( ^B<)li); God’s commandment must be obeyed from the heart (v. 1). The commandments here (torah) are inclusive of God’s revealed will but in the context, it is probably focused on parental (father’s 1:8) instructions (cf. mother’s 1:8). “They had a binding quality to them because they were based on the teachers’ God-fearing observations of how life under divine control really worked.” (Hubbard)

Both verses 2 & 4 promise blessings to those who obey. Long and peaceful life (v. 2) and favor and success with God and men are promised. Favor is “the positive disposition of heaven and earth toward the son because of his attractiveness.” (Waltke)

Verse 3 commends us to write these things on our hearts. The “steadfast love and faithfulness” are probably another way of speaking about the teaching and commandments of v. 1.  They are “the essence of the father’s commands.” (Waltke) So, we cultivate these commands internally (heart, v. 1) and externally (around your neck, v. 3).

So, as we heed God’s instruction (and parent’s), we are promised peace. That is not to say that we will be entirely free from trouble (since some men hate righteousness and persecute them) but instead, a life that avoids the afflictions of the wicked will bode better than those who disobey. “The wicked indeed live long, and the godly often ‘live out only half his days.’ The wicked die in outward comfort, the righteous in outward trouble. But length of days is the promise to the righteous — whether for earth or for heaven, as their Father deems fittest for them.” (Bridges) “The godly shall enjoy life as far as it is really a blessing in their particular circumstances, and the meaning carried beyond this would convert the blessing into a threatening. Peace is enjoyed by the godly, even that peace of God which passeth all understanding, and it keeps their hearts and minds through Jesus Christ. Outward prosperity is enjoyed by them, as far as it is consistent with their spiritual interests.” (Lawson)

 

3:5-8 — 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. 7 Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. 8 It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

The words “trust” and “lean” (not incline) are very close to each other. Lean is “support yourself”, that is rely upon. In this context, we are called upon to obey the instructions of wisdom (vv. 1-4) and to rely on God and not our own understanding. That means, when we seek to obey God, there are times we wonder if obedience is proper or if it will prosper. “They are confident that as they fulfill their obligations, he will uphold his in his own time and in his own way, even when the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer (cf. 14:26; 16:23, 20; 18:10; 19:23; 28:25; 29:25; 30:1-14).” (Waltke) It is a trust that is whole-hearted.

Too often our understanding is the rule and guide. If God’s way comports with our understanding, with our outlook, then we will trust Him so far as we understand. “One is a fool to rely on his thimble of knowledge before its vast ocean or on his own understanding, which is often governed by irrational urges that he cannot control (26:5, 12, 16; 28:26a; esp. 30:1-6; Job 38:4-5).” (Waltke) “Dependence on our own wisdom, will lead us from trusting in God, to make lies our refuge, and to adopt unhallowed means for the attainment of our wishes.” (Lawson)

Of course, our understanding that is guided and filled with God’s commands is an entirely different thing. This understanding will see the wisdom of trusting in God and relying on His ways.

In verse 6, “acknowledge” means “know” — know (be aware of) God in all your ways. “If you know…God in your paths, then you will certainly be on the right ones.” (Longman) By trusting in God exclusively, we will know Him, we will be aware of Him in all our doings. As we become aware of God and His will in all our ways, then he will make straight your paths, that is, God will make sure that good will ultimately be accomplished. (Note, “One has to view the course of one’s life from a bird’s-eye view, not from a worm’s-eye view, to see this truth.”)

Verse 7 reiterates v. 5. To trust in the Lord and not relying on our own understanding means to not be wise in our own eyes but instead to fear God by turning away from all that is evil (cf., 12:15, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.”). Ultimately, human wisdom that is not filled with God’s wisdom leads to evil. We must never be wise in our own eyes.

In so doing, we will have peace. Some draw a physical principle from v. 8: “By an eternal law the moral condition and the physical are linked together; the mens sana promotes the corpus sanum.” (Perowne)[1] But as some have noted, the physical imagery points to the metaphoric truth. “In sum, a right relationship with God leads to a state of complete physical and mental well-being, not simply to the absence of illness and disease.” (Waltke) “Health is a wholistic not just a physical word; it connotes thriving and radiant wellness…” (Hubbard)

 

3:9, 10 — 9 Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; 10 then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.

These two verses may appear to some to be out of place. The father’s instruction to his son is about wisdom, fearing God, obeying his commands, etc. What does this have to do with money? Yet, the presence of these verses reveal the mind of God. Wisdom, practical wisdom, in the life of the godly, is intimately connected with his use of wealth. In effect, wisdom is demonstrated in our use of mammon.

Honoring the Lord with our wealth is an act of worship. That is the context in which this occurs. [2] The firstfruits are reminiscent of Deut. 26:2, 10 (2 you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from your land that the LORD your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket, and you shall go to the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name to dwell there. 10 And behold, now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground, which you, O LORD, have given me.’ And you shall set it down before the LORD your God and worship before the LORD your God:) It usually means the “best of material things” (Waltke).[3]

Verse 10 is like the other verses above. In response, God will bless if we trust Him wholeheartedly and obey His instructions. Even in the realm of our wealth, God will bless as He deems best. “Your vats…refer to several such pools or tubs. The yield of juice envisioned here is so great that several collecting pools will be needed for the wine, which was produced without trampling! Will overflow… means that it will break out of the confining rock tub. The Creator rewards the true worshiper more than hundredfold (Mal. 3:10-12; Mark 10:29-30).” (Waltke) In honoring the Lord with our wealth, we will not lack. As Paul says to those Philippians who supplied him with what he needed, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:19)

“One can show they have the proper attitude toward Yahweh, in trusting (v. 5) and fearing him (v. 7), if they are willing to give up some of their wealth.” (Longman) “This is the rule of sacrifice— a costly precept to the worldling and the formalist. But to the servant of God, is it not a privilege to lay aside a portion of substance with this sacred stamp, ‘This is for God?’” (Bridges)

1. True wisdom, true fear of God, is demonstrated by honoring the Lord with our wealth.

2. This is particularly true for the young son in view. The youthful one, the naïve one, must show his fear of God by honoring Him with his own wealth. Giving to the Lord’s cause is not a “grown up’s” duty but the activity of all the godly. Isn’t this one of the first practical tests for a young lady or man? How will he view his or her newfound wealth? They’ve not seen this much money before. Will he horde it? Spend it on himself? Will he give grudgingly or sparingly? Will it be the firstfruits or only what remains after he spends on everything he wants? Will he really trust the Lord on this matter?

3. Verse 10 is the answer to those who argue that they cannot give to the Lord because they so need it. They must trust him and not lean on their own understanding. Quite often, heaven’s math differs from our checkbook. (not encouraging irresponsibility)

4. There are no exceptions in these verses. It is a call given to all who want to be wise in the Lord.

 

3:11, 12 — 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.

We understand the reproof of parents but these verses speak of the Lord’s discipline (cf. Heb. 12:5-6). Perfect obedience is impossible and our hearts are not earnest as they ought to be. The Lord out of love for us disciplines us. We are not to “despise” or “be weary” of his discipline. Some endure but despise God in return though they may never say so. Despise and be weary contradict trust and rely in v. 5.

Waltke says, “When the father’s admonitions are violated, the son can expect the LORD to back it up with a ‘spanking’ to prevent the wrong from becoming habitual.”  The discipline is corrective, pedagogical, reformative, etc. and not punitive.  “As the loving Father, God desires the son to experience the blessings of the even verses, but the condition to realizing this goal is satisfying the obligations of the odd verses. Therefore, he imposes discipline on the son to conform him to its obligations and so proves his love. The absence of corrective measures… would indicate rejection.” (Waltke, summarizing W. Lane)


[1] Translated, “the sane mind promotes the healthy body.”

[2] “How would one honor Yahweh with one’s wealth? Though it does not specify, it would seem likely that we are talking here of turning over a portion of one’s wealth and produce to the temple officials who collect the tithe.” (Longman)

[3] “Unless the son pours on his ‘sacrifice’ the incense of love, trust, and devotion, as seen by offering the best, it is not acceptable to the LORD, as Cain should have learned (Gen. 4:2-7).” (Waltke)

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