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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.
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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.
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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.
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Last week we learned that wisdom does come from God, but there’s no magic wand to zap us with wisdom. We need to be willing to labor to find wisdom; there are no shortcuts. Wisdom gives us the ability to know right and wrong without having every single scenario possible spelled out for us. 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.
Take the time to read Proverbs 2:12-22.
The first thing we see is that wisdom is a protector. We live in a real world with real issues. There are threats all around us. Threats that seek to derail us, discourage us, and even destroy us. In the second part of Chapter 2, Solomon warns his son about dangerous men and women. In the two verses before today’s passage, we saw the qualities of wisdom, knowledge, discretion, and understanding. All of these are designed to, “Deliver you from the way of evil.” Think of , “The way of evil” as a path of destruction so let’s see where it leads.
Those four qualities are designed to help us recognize and deliver us from people that are not walking with God. Throughout this study, you’re going to hear 1 Cor. 15:33 over and over again because we see the effects of peer pressure: “Do not be deceived: bad company corrupts good morals.” When a kid gets into trouble, you’ll often hear them say, “I was hanging out with the wrong crowd.” We saw in Chapter 1 how gangs recruit by giving kids a sense of belonging; a sense of family. You’ve got to learn to stay away from those evil people. But wait, doesn’t God love everyone? Of course, but that doesn’t mean you’re best friends with them. There’s a delicate balance between influencing them with the Gospel and them influencing you with evil.
These kinds of people should be fairly easy to recognize. The first clue is their perverse speech. This could mean sexual type perverse speech. It can also mean deliberate and unacceptable speech. The second is their behavior. They, “Leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness.” This is really interesting. They leave the paths of uprightness. This gives us the idea that they were on the right path, but they chose to leave. Leave means go away from or depart permanently. They left right and chose wrong. The third is their desires. They delight in doing evil and rejoice in its perversity. These people are bad to the core. The paths they choose are crooked. They are devious in their ways. Devious means they use underhanded tactics to get what they want. They are dishonest and cannot be trusted.
Wisdom is a protector and wisdom will deliver you. Wisdom does many good things and what it does in v. 16 is a very good thing. Solomon shifts gears a bit and brings up sexual temptation. This is a particularly troubling thing. It seems our society revolves around sex. Sex is brought into everything from advertising to sports, social media and the internet to TV and movies. What God designed to be enjoyed in the privacy of the home between a husband and his wife has been defiled, distorted, and devalued. These temptations have been around since humanity began and we have no reason to think it will ever be eliminated. Sexual sin is as prevalent inside the church as it is outside of the church. But society has redefined it. We’ve seen professing Christians fall into lust, fornication, and adultery and use whatever means necessary to make excuses or justify their actions. Solomon sets this up to deliver us from ourselves and tells us that wisdom delivers you from a strange woman. Strange can mean weird or unusual, but here it really means strange as in stranger.
Be mindful of her ways. Look at her. She flatters: she tells you what you want to hear. She is smooth, deceptive, and tricky. Don’t let her outward appearance and mannerisms fool you into ignoring her inward character. That strange woman is not sent by God, she is not your soul mate; she is not the answer for you. She threatens your family, your livelihood, your life. If she’ll do it with you, she’ll do it to you. She left the companion of her youth and she will leave you. She forgot her covenant with God. Forget in v. 17 means a deliberate choice. Ironically, Solomon doesn’t heed his own advice and his desire for strange women would lead to his own demise. 1 Kings 11 talks about him loving foreign women as well as the daughter of Pharaoh. God told him not to even associate with these foreign women, but that’s later in Solomon’s life. Look where she will lead you in vs. 18-19. If you take her bait, you will die. Ez. 23:35, “Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Because you have forgotten Me and cast Me behind your back, bear now the punishment of your lewdness and your harlotries.’ ” Infidelity between a husband and wife is particularly bad because marriage is a covenant that reflects God’s covenant with us.
Wisdom will protect you, wisdom will deliver you, and finally, wisdom provides the safety net. Wisdom will enable you to recognize the folly of engaging with strange women. Verses 20-21 tells us that the wise man will, “Walk in the way of good men and keep the paths of righteousness. For the upright will live in the land and the blameless will live in it.” We’re talking biblical wisdom. Wisdom from God that results from a relationship with Christ. Ps. 37:29, “The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever.” Just to keep us aware, Solomon provides the contrast to the wise ways he speaks about. Verse 22 closes by saying, “But the wicked will be cut off from the land and the treacherous will be uprooted from it.” The wicked and the treacherous are evicted from the land. You can’t violate the principles of God and expect the promises of God to be guaranteed to you.
Biblical wisdom is a great friend to have. She will protect you, deliver you, and provide you a safety net. You just have to pursue and follow her.