You can listen to the podcast here.
Last week Solomon told us to honor God with our wealth as the topic of money never seems to be too far away in Scripture. He also said that we shouldn’t despise the correction of the Lord. It is for our training and is a sign that God does love us. This morning, we’ll see why.
Proverbs 3:13-18 says, “How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding. For her profit is better than the profit of silver and her gain better than fine gold. She is more precious than jewels; and nothing you desire compares with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who hold her fast.”
Is Proverbs a bait and switch? This is the method sometimes used by advertisers to get you in a store. Promises of reduced prices or incredible deals lure you in. Think about Black Friday where you can get a ginormous flat screen TV for a couple hundred bucks. Of course you stand in line for hours and hours often sacrificing your Thanksgiving to get that good deal. Once you get in, you find the store has one TV and that it’s already gone.
Is Proverbs the same way? The short answer is no! We all know Christians that have endured physical pain, have some dreaded disease, have died at a far too young age, or endure poverty. I’ve mentioned formulaic patterns in Proverbs that generally bring about the things we’ve talked about. That’s how it generally works, but not always and not for everyone all of the time. Keep in mind the time at which Solomon wrote these instructions. It was the time of the old covenant where blessings and curses were tied to the faithfulness of Israel. We’re under a different system now. We fall under the age of grace. We look forward to all of God’s promises being fulfilled at some point, but that point may not come until we die. Until that times comes we, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Pro. 3:5)
So what’s the Proverbs format? It’s the same as we’ve seen before, “How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding.” There are certain points in life that are defining moments. There are the typical happy moments in life. Births, graduations, new jobs, promotions, and marriages. There are also the painful moments in life that can define us. Job loss, death, disease, divorce, sorrow, suffering. Faith does not normally grow as much in those joyful, happy times, but rather God refines us when we’re in the fire of adversity and sorrow. Nothing happens in our life without purpose. Although we may not see it while we’re in it, God is working His plan for our good. He will allow in our lives whatever He needs in order to accomplish what He has in mind for us.
A truly defining moment comes when a person realizes who Christ is and what He accomplished. Hopefully, when that moment occurs and the light bulb blinks on, salvation follows so God can accomplish what He wills. In this verse, we have that moment. In God’s eyes, wisdom and understanding rank above riches. Wisdom and understanding are above jewels. Solomon is so bold as to say, “Nothing you desire compares with her.” Now that’s a fantastic statement. The profit of wisdom exceeds that of riches.
We move right into Solomon personifying wisdom once again. In her right hand is long life. In her left hand are riches and honor. These are the things most people in the world would say they really wanted. People sacrifice so much in the pursuit of these three things yet the correct answer is staring us in the face. Wisdom provides these things, but they may not come in the form the world thinks. Perhaps they don’t come in the form we want either. We must align ourselves with God and the Bible rather than expecting God to change or otherwise alter His character. “Her ways are pleasant ways and all her paths are peace.” This is quite a word picture here. Pleasant means a sense of happy satisfaction or enjoyment. Wisdom is like a perfect day in the mountains or at the beach. She is like the aroma of freshly mowed grass, brewing coffee, or frying bacon. She is totally satisfying. No matter which path of wisdom you go down, “All her paths are peace.” As long as you follow wisdom, the paths end up at peace. In Phil. 4:7 Paul said it this way:“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” All of this comes through the loving hands of our Father.
Solomon closes with one final though of wisdom and says, “She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who hold her fast.” Perhaps your mind was immediately drawn back to Genesis and the tree that was in the middle of the garden. That may not be what Solomon was referring to, but you cannot deny the parallel. In the garden the tree of life was provided by God and gave Adam and Eve what was needed to sustain life. In Solomon’s view, wisdom does the same thing. She provides life and happiness results in the lives of those that are willing to grasp her.
Verse 13 states, “How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding.” Verses 14-18 are the arguments that prove that. True wisdom can only comes as a result of knowing God. Knowing God can only come as a result of knowing Christ. Proverbs is not a bait and switch. Knowing Jesus brings all of this and so much more.
You can listen to the podcast here.
In our last message, Solomon advised us against relying on our own ability to think and reason. It’s best to trust in the Lord. When you follow Christ, He’s going to straighten your path. It’s no guarantee that everything will be peachy, but He will be there with you in all your trials and tribulations. This morning, Solomon brings up a new topic that dovetails with the mandate in v. 6 that says, “In all your ways acknowledge Him.”
In Proverbs 3:9-12 Solomon tells his son, “Honor the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine. 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.”
Are you asking yourself, this again? It seems no matter where you turn in Scripture, the topic of finances seem to come up. Old Testament and New, in the gospels, in prophecy and poetry, in Paul’s and Peter’s letters we find the topic of money. While some folks would prefer not to talk about it, God feels it needful to bring it up no matter where you turn in the Bible. He knew and knows the tendency we have to elevate money above all other things. Paul warned Timothy that, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” (1 Tim. 6:10) Way before Paul came on the scene Solomon told his son to, “Honor the Lord from your wealth.” There might not be a better way to gauge a person’s faith and trust in the Lord than with their bank account. Notice that this isn’t a suggestion. We demonstrate our love, gratitude, and obedience to God when we give to Him. Deut. 8:18 says, “But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” Our ability to earn anything comes from God. We honor God not only with actual money, but also, “From the first of all your produce.” Produce can also be translated first fruits. Ex. 23:19 says, “You shall bring the choice first fruits of your soil into the house of the Lord your God.” In Bible times, farming was common and it was expected to give the first and best of the harvest back to God.
For today, the application would be that you give of the first that you produce. That means when you get paid, you set aside a portion to give back to God. What portion you may ask? If you want to adhere to the O.T. standard, then give 10%. If you want to argue that tithing is not taught in the N.T., fine, give generously. What is generous? I would say that 10% is a good place to start. What if you don’t have a job and don’t earn a paycheck? The principle is to give from your first fruits, from whatever you may receive. Birthday money, graduation money, allowance, structured settlements, annuities, publisher’s clearing house winnings, etc. Give back! Why do this? Why all the fuss about money? Because God knows that money tends to separate us from Him. Too many people believe money is an end rather than an end to a means. I know people who have begged God for a job or a better paying job with all kinds of promises. When God delivers, those promises are forgotten. Why would God bless you with a better job when you haven’t honored him in the job you have right now?
Solomon says we give back, “So our barns are filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine.” The result of your generosity releases God’s generosity. The word for plenty here is better translated sufficient amount or more than enough. It means you’ll have what you need. Sometimes we have a twisted way of thinking that bigger is better and more equates with God’s blessing on us. Haggai told the people, “You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes.” (Hag. 1:6) The reason for this was people were taking care of themselves and neglecting God’s house. The premise is blessings will come, but they don’t always come in the format we’d like or expect.
Verses 9-10 talk about honoring God during times of plenty, but that shifts in the next verses to something different. Solomon offers up a seemingly abrupt shift and talks about God’s discipline. Too often we shun God’s discipline or correction. It’s funny that we whine and complain about this. We don’t give a rip when our kids whine and complain when we discipline them for wrongdoing, but when it’s us . . . we cry out for mercy. Look at the stern warning for Solomon’s son in vs. 11-12 as he says, “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.” That word discipline carries some negative connotations. We typically use it in reference to punishment, but the word can also mean instruction and that’s the meaning here. Our walk of faith is a continual training ground where we learn and mature in our faith. Sometimes that instruction comes as a result of unpleasant circumstances. Heb. 5:8 reminds us, “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.”
Sometimes, and it seems lately from the people that I am engaged with, professing believers become angry with God when these circumstances present themselves. Somehow God is to blame for the problems instead of the One that we should run to. Christ suffered immense pain, yet it was not because of His sin. Sometimes we suffer and are in emotional or physical pain because we live in a fallen world and God is providing instruction to us in how to glorify Him. Don’t hate God’s reprimand. No one likes to get scolded or talked to or otherwise dealt with. If I’m doing wrong or have done something wrong and no one tells me, how will I learn? It’s the same way with God. Don’t hate it when God rebukes you for violating His principles. Learn from it. It’s a sign of His love and concern for you: “For whom the Lord loves, He reproves.” In practical terms, we sometimes see the opposite of this played out too. It typically occurs in a store. Little kids begging for some piece of candy or a toy and mom or dad says no. That kid often pitches a royal fit demanding they get what they want. Sometimes parents are filled with empty threats of punishment that rarely come. When you correct your children, it demonstrates your love for them. It’s the same with God. His correction and discipline for us demonstrates His immeasurable love for us.
Honor God by giving back to Him. He expects our obedience and He will provide the training, correction, and reprimands necessary to ensure we stay on the right path. He also encourages us by saying well done. Do right because it’s right to do. Seek to please God and welcome His correction. Think of how much you love your children and yet you discipline them. Think how much more God loves you.
You can listen to the podcast here.
Last week we learned that repetition is a key to understanding Scripture and Solomon told his son once again to remember. When he remembers, time will be added to the boy’s life because truth and kindness do not depart from him. As a result, that boy finds favor with God and with man. This morning, Solomon tells us to do something that will likely be very familiar to you and may be the hardest thing ever done.
Proverbs 3:5-8 says, “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. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones.”
Is it really that hard? Sorry may be the hardest word to say, but trusting in the Lord may be the hardest thing to do. We are to, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” It is not a suggestion or a recommendation, it is a command. Trust God entirely, with all your being, all that you are. This is a total commitment to Him and that’s what He expects. Why do we find it so hard to trust Him? Trust means to have a firm belief in someone or something. We don’t find it hard to trust in general. In fact, I think we are quick to trust. We exercise trust in a wide variety of ways. We trust our schools, teachers, and doctors. We trust planes, trains, and automobiles. We trust our baby sitters. We trust our financial advisors, banks, and doctors. We tend to trust until that trust is broken. When your child lies to you, you have a hard time believing what they say. When your friend breaks your confidence, you have a hard time confiding in them. When trust is broken, it’s difficult to regain. So why is it so hard to trust in God when He has never broken your trust or violated your confidence? I think this really stems from a lack of understanding about His character. Do we really believe that He loves us with an everlasting love? Do we really believe that His plans are best for us and that when things don’t go as we plan, His plan is better? Do we really believe when He answers a prayer contrary to what we want, that He knows what’s best for us? God has never broken a promise, has never lied, has never betrayed you or anyone else, has never had ulterior motives, has always loved you, and has always been there for you.
Don’t rely, “On your own understanding.” Just like you ask your kids to trust you when they don’t understand, God expects that we trust Him when we don’t understand. Our understanding of God is limited to the capacity of our brain. This goes back to the premise of Proverbs from 1:7. This understanding is all encompassing. It refers not only to our intellect, but also to our moral compass. We don’t look to our own view of morality or ethics; we look to the Lord’s. Isaiah reminds us that, “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.” (Is. 53:6) It is not good to exclude God from the decision making process. We tend to compartmentalize decisions. When asked to do something in or for the church, we have to have a period of fasting and praying sometimes for months. When it comes to relationships, or career choices, or major purchases, we make a decision and don’t even ask. When faced with something we want to do, we jump in without consulting God. When faced with something God wants us to do, we have to pray about it and really know for sure. And what God wants is for our good. Jer. 17:7 says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord.”
So what’s next after trust? This is another tough one. “In all your ways acknowledge Him.” What’s curious in this verse is that the word, “all” actually means all. It means every, entire, any, and all things. It doesn’t just apply to spiritual things. This goes back to what I just said about compartmentalizing our life. Too many people have their spiritual life and their secular life. The spiritual life they lead occurs on Sunday during church where they are wonderful followers of Christ. Then there is the secular life they lead the remainder of the week. Can you really be a part time follower of Christ? Not according to this verse and the plethora of other biblical principles found throughout scripture. When we acknowledge Him first then, “He will make your paths straight.” This is no guarantee for a problem free life. This is not a promise that everything will be great and wonderful and awesome and that your bank account and fridge will always be full and that everyone will always like you all of the time and your car will never break down. The path of righteousness is a straight path, but it doesn’t mean there won’t be bumps, potholes, and otherwise rough patches. But you certainly won’t be alone on that road.
Solomon now tells us another thing that many of us have a hard time doing. “Do not be wise in your own eyes.” This is diametrically opposed to 1:7. We’re having trouble in our society with this. It seems we’re all experts in our own minds. On the reality series Pawn Stars, people go into the pawn shop hoping to sell an item they believe is of great value. Rick, the owner is not as confident so he often calls in an expert to verify the authenticity of the item or the proposed value. The potential seller of the item often disagrees with the expert because somehow he knows more than the expert does. Situational ethics are the norm and people do whatever they want and declare that it is the right thing to do. We think we know what’s best or what is right without consulting Scripture, and without including God. We need to develop that biblical worldview that can only come from knowing God.
“Fear the Lord and turn away from evil,” Solomon tells his son. These two concepts are tied together. Since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, the biblical response is to run from evil. No one is ever better off going against what God says. We don’t act right and do right because we’re afraid of what God might do to us although we should consider the consequences of our actions. We act right and do right because we are followers of Christ: because we firmly believe that God’s ways are the absolute best. What happens? “It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones.” Just like a cold glass of water on a hot, humid day. God reinvigorates us and renews us to walk in the paths of righteousness.
We all have a decision to make. Are we going to choose to trust in the One and only true God whose ways are always right and best or are we going to doubt? Are you looking for a third option? Trust Him with all that you are. He will never fail you.
You can listen to the podcast here.
Last week we learned that wisdom is a protector, a deliverer, and provides a safety net as we walk the tight rope of life. Biblical wisdom is a great friend to have; we just need to pursue her while she can be found. This morning, Solomon gives us the conclusion to that giant conditional clause as he warned his son about the dangers encountered from people that don’t walk with God.
Pro. 3:1-4 says, “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.”
Repetition is always a key in Bible ready and study. Anytime we see a word or phrase repeated in Scripture, we need to pay attention to it. If God takes the time to repeat Himself, we need to understand what He’s saying. Solomon repeats the same principle he gave to his son back in 1:8 and in 2:1-2. Here’s his first reminder. “Do not forget my teaching.” Our lives are filled with reminders. I use Google calendar for my appointments and it sends me email, text, and pop up reminders of meetings and events on my calendar so I don’t forget. I need reminders because my mind is human and I tend to forget things. We put reminders on the fridge and write notes to ourselves and do all sorts of things so we don’t forget. What’s funny though is we don’t seem to forget the things we really want to remember. “Do not forget my teaching,” Solomon says, “But let your heart keep my commandments.” Whatever you need to do to remember, do it.
It is fairly easy to lose a skill you have if you don’t practice it. We have practice for all kinds of things. Sports. Musical instruments. Drill teams. We do these things to maintain the skill set we have and also to improve. We can and should do the same thing with the commands and instructions of God. Solomon is telling his son to transfer the head knowledge he has and get it into his heart. Get the teaching of God to the innermost core of his being. Whatever is in your heart will naturally pour out of you. Ps. 119:11, “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” When God is in your heart, that’s what should come out when you’re squeezed.
Solomon tells his son that when he gets God’s word in his heart, “Length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.” As we progress through Proverbs, we’ll see this formula for long life. It’s reminiscent of Deuteronomy. Deut. 8:11, “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today.” Obedience brings reward – it is as simple as that. But, we aren’t obedient to be blessed or rewarded, we’re obedient because it’s the right thing to do and it pleases God. That being said, I am not prepared to say that if you’re presented with a decision and as you think about it and determine to do what is right or pleasing to God in order to get a reward or blessing is necessarily wrong. When you treasure God’s Word in your heart, the formulaic response to life is for God to come out. In our walk with Christ, if you reduce decisions down to reward versus punishment, I think you’ll be on the right track. You do it with your kids, don’t you? If you tell your child to do some task and you say, if you do that, I’ll give you a cookie. Aren’t you rewarding the child because they were obedient? Over time, you expect the right behavior because they have been taught and know what’s expected of them. You wouldn’t give a cookie to your teenager for picking up his toys, would you? Obedience leads to peace – a quietness of the heart, calm, tranquil, at rest.
Now Solomon gives some instructions for dealing with people. Verse 3 say, “Do not let kindness and truth leave you.” This is a great reminder of how we are supposed to be. Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Paul said, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:32) It’s not conditional which means we always maintain kindness and truth. It’s not dependent upon the situation, not dependent upon the people you’re dealing with. We are to, “Bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” Add this to v. 1 and we really get the sense that this is an internal quality we are to have. Willful control of your actions is great, but when you are totally submitted to the authority of Christ, your innermost being is filled with the love of Christ. Paul said it beautifully in 2 Cor. 3:3, “Being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”
What’s the result? God smiles. When these things are ingrained in us, the godly outcome is that we will find, “Favor and good repute in the sight of God and in man.” What is better than that? God’s favor falls on us. Favor means approval or liking. God likes what we do and smiles down on us. God being pleased is good enough, but look what else happens. Favor comes from man as well. You’ve heard me often say, do things to please God and let Him work everything else out. Seek to please God first.
All this comes because God’s Word is in our hearts. His teachings and principles, and commands are part of our makeup, our part of our DNA. Ps. 119:93 says, “I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have revived me.” God’s Word will nurture you, it will sustain you, it will bless you as long as you take the time to remember.