Proverbs 3:1-20 “True Wisdom for Living”

 

The prologue to the book of Proverbs consists of 12 poems that address a father to the son and is followed by woman who is a personification of wisdom. The Lord has decreed promises in which the son is obligated to hold and is given instructions to live accordingly. This admonition from the father follows from the previous chapter of moral stability and continues to increase in wisdom towards the individual becoming a wholehearted disciple in the making. This is more than just keeping a set of commandments but a God-given challenge to know who they are and become aware of the principles that guides and protects them. Each condition presented is followed by a promise and how wisdom is to be valued as a result. To anchor the teaching set forth by God in body and praxis is a patient quest that takes a lifetime in pursuit. Loyalty and steadfast love are a virtue between God and his covenant people that should be grounded in the wisdom and knowledge of the father.

The essence of chapter 3 is fundamental to a commitment that is rooted in childlike trust to preserve the teachings administered by the father. It’s a personal tutelage (3:1) that is not to be forgotten by the student but rather a reminder to keep the laws of conduct, living them out as set forth by the teacher. This will ensure a prolonged life that not only consist of any earthly felicity but spiritual blessings will be added (v.2). This is the reward for the son not forsaking the commands but rather for guarding them. The father now turns his teaching with the study of ethics and expresses the terms of “kindness and faithfulness” to never let them out of his sight. It’s in this terminology that truly expresses the integrity of the individual in a broader sense.[1]Love and faithfulness isn’t just some arbitrary emotion that we choose to enact from day to day. Rather, we are to bind them and write them on the tablets of our hearts (v3), seeking a deeper glorying of the reality of God that permeates the inward parts while being properly adorned outwardly in loving disposition with one another. The point here is clearly articulated in the text that our moral responsibility is not only to internalize God’s law but suggest a demonstration to those who may stand opposed to such. When we become acquainted with the hesed towards our neighbor can we only then enjoy the good favor and success of the Lord and of humanity (v4). A job well done goes a long way. Devotional commitment to community is what existed between God and Israel in the Old Testament. Finding this favor makes us more attractive in the relationships we build and is a good representation of the Gospel. This particular passage is addressing those who are willing to reciprocate the virtue of faithfulness and embody the expectations of loyalty even when others haven’t done likewise.

 

Love and faithfulness isn’t just some arbitrary emotion that we choose to enact from day to day.

The third strophe (3:5-6) in this chapter is one of the most memorized and known verses throughout the entire book of Psalms. The student is admonished to not only develop a personal relationship with Yahweh but to trust and extend such confidence in God’s promises. It’s a support system of dependence on God’s truthfulness and integrity according to his divine providence. The two words, trust and lean, work together in opposition to having confidence in our own righteousness or insights. This type of trust requires the whole heart (v5) which is the center and kernel of authentic wisdom. The demand increase as the father now brings the totality of commitment to the threshold. It’s in our verbal and exclusive acknowledgment that makes us aware of our need for him. Seeking the father’s wise counsel with an intimate experience of God connects what we know with whom we know. As a result, our paths will be made straight (v6) that not only leads us to the goal but the process will be smooth when his commands are obeyed.

The teacher now in the fourth couplet (v.7-8) warns the student against any self-conceit on their part. The book of Proverbs deals not only with the wisdom of God but that of humanity. Most of Proverbs represent nuggets of concrete and speculative wisdom that contains philosophical approaches to how to be wise in our own eyes.[2]The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 9:10). The reverence of God as creator and the sustainer of life, in conjunction with the practice of piety, will lead to the experience of spiritual and physical healing (v8). Developing this kind of relationship with God brings a well-being of health to the navel and promises for the future. The aim that this passage is making is that by following the moral law and wisdom of the teacher, will afford us with much in the natural realm as that of the spiritual.

 

The reverence of God as creator and the sustainer of life, in conjunction with the practice of piety, will lead to the experience of spiritual and physical healing.

The issue of financial wealth and the art of giving becomes the ethical expression of how we are to honor the Lord. The book of Proverbs seems to support a connection with the middle class, representing attitudes to wealth and poverty, including some views characteristic of ordinary people that tolerate the existence of destitution.[3]First Fruits in this passage (v9) are more than just sacrificial giving but within the context of worship, our offerings come from the heart and not just the head. The Lord will keep to his covenant partnership and respond with an abundance that rewards the true worshipper with investments beyond measure. The teaching begins to come to a close and turns towards warning of rejecting the Lord’s discipline. Now the patient quest for childlike trust commences and the prize is wisdom from above. This conclusion returns to the begin of the chapter with the same repetition of “My Son” but the attention is identified with the reproof of the student (v.12).

The following section of proverbs tackles the worth and value of wisdom from the teacher as the highest good. There is a three-part division that can be equated with the element of the poem; the value of wisdom to an Adam (vv.13-18); the value of wisdom to the Lord as Creator (vv.19-20) and the value of wisdom to the son (vv.21-26).[4]The metaphor of Women’s wisdom centers on the first strophe (v.13-14) and competes for the attention of the student as is found in other chapters in Proverbs (1:20-33;8:1-36: and 9:1-18).[5]It’s an aggressive search for this life-giving design and activity of God that is the pinnacle of our understanding to the meaning of a God-glorifying life. Submission to the father’s teaching of wisdom is more precious than any metals and the tradeoff is far more profitable than any worldly wisdom may propose (v14). What’s being addressed in this passage is not the belittling of wealth but rather that the quality of wisdom makes the one who retains it richer than they will ever be.

The blessing of blessings is derived from the right hand (v16) to signify that wisdom has greater worth than what’s found on the left hand when compared to riches. The weight of honor is found in the life of the one who seeks after wisdom and has much more influence than just mere possessions. These ways are pleasant (v17), full of peaceful prosperity where the human heart has the ability to flourish in the knowledge and wisdom of God. Longevity is the cry of this passage that metaphorically views wisdom as a tree of life (v18) and those who find shelter in it will have eternal life from its fruit. This promise brings the stanza to a climactic conclusion for those willing to hold fast to Godly wisdom will surely eat from the tree of life (Rev. 2:7).

 

The weight of honor is found in the life of the one who seeks after wisdom and has much more influence than just mere possessions.

The value of wisdom to the Lord becomes the crowning truth that is indivisible towards God and man in majestic operation (v19-20) and for the community.[6]This verse proceeds from the following that intentionally fashions us with his hands (Job 10:8) in order that we may function as his handiwork to accomplish the task set before us. We must pay attention to obtaining spiritual insight, understanding and knowledge as a model for building our homes (Ps. 127:1) to reflect Christ in word and deed.[7]This invaluable attribute of wisdom is ours to possess and guards us against foolishness and preserves a continued life of blessing. God, by wisdom, framed the cosmos that gave it an external realization and as the divine architect, made certain that it was created according to his design and desire. What this portion of Proverbs is trying to express is that we should aspire towards wisdom that comes from the heavens so that we may be successful in our earthly endeavors. Without it, we will be lost in an abyss of self-delusion, sporadic in our quest for a full life, facing our circumstances without clarity or vision. Job presents a twofold question, “But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?” (Job 28:12). That question can only be answered if the participant is willing to fear the Lord (Job 28:28) and listen to its beckoning call (Proverbs 8:1).

 

Bibliography

            [1]Jamieson, Robert, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, 391.

            [2]Goldingay, John. Models for Scripture. Toronto: Clements Pub., 2004, 363.

            [3]Goldingay, John. Models for Interpretation of Scripture. Toronto: Clements Pub., 2004, 114.

            [4]Waltke, Bruce K. The Book of Proverbs, Chapters 1–15. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004, 257.

            [5]Gunn, D. M., and Danna Nolan. Fewell. Narrative in the Hebrew Bible. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009, 13.

            [6]Kidner, Derek. Proverbs: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 17. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1964, 62.

            [7]Goldingay, John. Old Testament Theology: Israel’s Gospel. Vol. 1. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003, 45.

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