The Happy Results of Acquiring Wisdom; 3:1-12

In this post we are going to finish considering Proverbs 3:1-12.

As mentioned previously, the first 9 chapters of Proverbs present 9 separate poems devoted to the theme of wisdom. In previous posts we examined the first two poems. Chapter 3 contains two more poems (the third and fourth), which are marked off by distinctive themes, patterns, and other literary devices.

In the previous post, we began to explore the third poem, found in verses 1-12.

Keep God’s commands and receive long life and peace (vv. 1-2).

Verses 1 and 2 issue a command to “not forget” God’s law, but to wholeheartedly “keep” it. This obedience will be rewarded by longevity.

Don’t let go of unfailing love…find favour with God and people (vv. 3-4)

Verses 3 and 4 command the reader to continually display kindness and truthfulness. Those who obey will be rewarded with “favor.”

Trust the LORD…have a straight path (vv. 5-6)

Verses 5-6 are frequently misquoted and misused because people fail to consider the overall context of verses 1-12. These two verses are not admonishing the reader to trust in God so that God will guide the reader in the path he/she wants to take.

The verses are set within the context of obedience. Most times obedience is hard because it requires the obedient to go against the current of society and one’s own sin nature. Therefore, obeying God requires trust, because the sinful route often promises quick satisfaction and pleasure.

Those who trust God will obey God’s commands and God will in turn, “direct your paths.” God will lead the obedient in his/her path – a path marked by obedience to God.

Understanding the context of the previous verses is vital in understanding the remaining verses in this poem.

Fear the LORD…enjoy physical healing (vv. 7-8)

7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and depart from evil. 8 It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones.

You will remember in verses 5-6 that the son was instructed to “lean not on your own understanding” but to “trust in the LORD with all your heart.” These two verses continue the theme of trusting God, and that of obedience, with an admonition for the son to conduct himself in active piety through an attitude of humility.

The son was instructed “do not be wise in your own eyes.” This is clearly a continuation of instruction found in verse 5 (“lean not on your own understanding”). The son would not rely upon his own understanding if he understood that he was not wise and needed wisdom. Obviously, pride hinders people from gaining genuine wisdom. Those who think that they are wise will rely upon their own wisdom and will shun advice from others. Fools are noted for their inordinately high evaluation of their own wisdom which causes them to reject counsel from others (Pr 12:15). The reality is that we get ourselves into much trouble because of our over-inflated opinion of our mental prowess (see 26:12).

When we forsake our own wisdom and simply trust in God and do what He commands we will “depart from evil.” Hatred of evil is a hallmark of spirituality and devotion for God. In contrast, fools make light of evil (10:23; 14:9). Waltke said, “the positive command ‘fear God’ and the negative ‘shun evil’ are inseparable and together present the sum of godliness and goodness (2:5-11; 16:6; cf. Job 1:1, 28:28; Amos 5:14-15).”[1] If we love and honour God we will hate our sin which angers God.

O love divine, O matchless grace-
That God should die for men!
With joyful grief I lift my praise,
Abhorring all my sin,
Adoring only Him.[2]

The result of this action will be “health…and strength.” Sin affects the health of the body. There are physical consequences to sin, and there are physical benefits to obedience. We should not think of this as a guarantee of good health (remember Proverbs was written to Israel, which was under the Mosaic covenant, which promised many “blessings” to the nation for obedience). In the NT, we find some of the godliest men had physical ailments (Paul, Timothy). For our context, it is probably best to say that as we refrain from sin, we are protected from the physical problems which come through sin; or, the more we walk in God’s ways, the less likely we are to encounter physical problems. (See how David expressed the effects of sin upon his body, Pss 32:3 and 51:8.)

What attitude should you have regarding your own wisdom?

What attitude should you have regarding God’s wisdom?

Living according to God’s wisdom demonstrates that you ___________ God.

List some future decisions you have in which you need God’s wisdom.

How can you improve your understanding of God’s wisdom?

Honour the LORD…enjoy prosperity (vv. 9-10)

9 Honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; 10 So your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine.

In verses 9-10, we have an admonition to conduct oneself in active piety through active worship. Worship involves ascribing to God His worth, and this involves a departure from all things which are less worthy and which take our affections away from God. Adoration of God is demonstrated through a lack of attachment to material wealth. Find a person who is obsessed with acquiring and retaining money and you will find an unspiritual man.

If God is our primary love, then we will “honor the LORD with [our] possessions.” We will give back to God in recognition of the fact that He was the One who provided it to us. By doing so, we demonstrate that money does not have a hold upon our hearts.

Furthermore, when God is our primary love, we will give Him the priority when it comes to deciding how and where to spend our money. Before anything else is done with our possessions, we should set aside some for the Lord. Solomon said, “honor the LORD with…the firstfruits of all your increase.” The firstfruits, not to be confused with the OT tithes, were those vegetables and fruits which were harvested at the beginning of the harvest (Ex 13:11-16; De 26:11), which were often considered the best.

Furthermore, the reader needs to consider the context of obedience and trust. The obedient one will honour God through giving. The one who fails to give to God, or the one who gives grudgingly to God, does not honour God. Additionally, only faith in God will enable a person to generously give to God. One who does not trust God will always struggle with giving generously back to God.

Solomon promised “plenty” and “new wine” to those who honour God with their material substances. The “plenty” described in verse 10 must be understood in light of the Mosaic covenant and its promises of fertile land if Israel would keep the covenant.

NT giving is no longer based upon OT giving laws (harvests, tithes, sacrifices, etc.), which were used to support the Temple worship (priests, Levites, etc.). NT believers are commanded to be members of a local church (Acts 2:40-47) and to give generously for the support and maintenance of their local church (1 Tim 5:17-18; Gal 6:6). Unfortunately, many national or international Christian ministries are guilty of draining local churches dry by encouraging their “listening audience” to support the online ministries at the expense of their local churches.

A good principle still exists in this passage – the Lord should have the priority. Before we use our money to pay our bills, before we use our money to purchase our needs, or to finance our entertainment, we must lay aside a portion of what God has given us so that we can give it back to Him. If we waited until our taxes and bills were paid and our toys were purchased, we would not have much left over for the Lord. If we love the Lord as we ought, then our first consideration will be in giving back to God through grateful worship. We certainly could abstract the promise of verse 10 by remembering God’s NT promises of providing for those who exercise the priority of giving to Him (Matt 6:33; Phil 4:19; etc.).

Do you honour God by generously giving back to God from your “firstfruits” or do you dishonour Him with the “leftovers”?

Giving money to the Lord demonstrates that we _______ Him.

How can you give the Lord your “firstfruits”?

What specific steps can you make in order to give God priority in your financial dealings?

Don’t reject discipline…have proof of father’s love (vv. 11-12)

11 My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor detest His correction; 12 For whom the LORD loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.

Verses 11-12 end this poem with an admonition for the son to conduct himself in active piety through a spirit of submissiveness. We are reminded that sometimes “bad” circumstances come from a loving Father. When we sin, we are straying from God’s path (His ways). Therefore, God brings adverse circumstances in order to correct us.

The son is commanded, “do not despise the chastening of the LORD.” Lane mentioned that there are two ways of despising God’s correction: by not taking it seriously enough and thus dismissing it, or by taking it too seriously and thus viewing God as unloving and resenting His actions.[3] God’s “chastening” is not punishment; rather it is “correction.”[4] This discipline may be verbal (instruction) and/or corporal (painful situations). Waltke noted:

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.[5]

In fact, the son is reminded that God’s chastening is proof of His love, just as a loving father does not withhold loving correction from his children.

This verse is obviously the inspiration behind the writer of Hebrew’s admonitions found in Hebrews 12:1-12. In that passage the born-again Christian is told not to despise God’s chastening. Chastening is a result of God’s loving favour for His own – because He loves His own He wants to correct them so that they will walk in righteousness. God does not chasten unbelievers (those who have not been born again). Those who claim to be Christian, and yet continue in sin without any apparent chastening, are false believers (illegitimate children), because all believers are chastened by God.

How do you respond when difficult times happen or when God chastens you for sin?

How should you view difficulties/chastening?

What does God’s correction demonstrate about His attitude toward you as a believer?

This has been an interesting poem. It centers on the idea of trusting God who can straighten our paths. If we trust God, we will be obedient to Him when obedience is difficult (vv. 1-2). If we trust God, we will treat others with mercy and truth (vv. 3-4). If we trust God we will recognize that He is far wiser than us, and we will not rely upon our feeble intellect (vv. 7-8). If we trust God, we will offer our first and best to Him in faith, knowing that it came from Him and that He will continue to provide for us. If we trust God, we will patiently endure the correction we deserve to keep us in the right paths (vv. 11-12).

[1] Waltke, p. 246.

[2] My Jesus Fair, Chris Anderson

[3] Lane, Proverbs, p. 30.

[4] In like manner, the good parent does not view his role as one of exacting punishment. Rather, the parent should apply consequences to wrong behaviour in order to bring about repentance and correction, as opposed to provoking bitterness and anger. (22:15; 23:13; cf. 13:24)

[5] Waltke, p. 249.


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