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When we give up an advantage, it may look like we throw away a chance of joy. But Proverbs 3 assures us that this is not the case. The path of wisdom is the path of life, even when the path of wisdom may look like it is in contradiction to common sense.
In Pro 3:1-10 we have five counsels from the father to his son, each time followed by a promise of blessing if he takes the counsel to heart:
1. In Pro 3:1 the counsel, in Pro 3:2 the promise of blessing.
2. In Pro 3:3 the counsel, in Pro 3:4 the promise of blessing.
3. In Pro 3:5-6 the counsel, in Pro 3:6b the promise of blessing.
4. In Pro 3:7 the counsel, in Pro 3:8 the promise of blessing.
5. In Pro 3:9 the counsel, in Pro 3:10 the promise of blessing.
Thereby we should consider that it is about promises here that certainly will be fulfilled, but not necessarily during our life on earth. It is also possible that they will be fulfilled in the future. We can trust that God will fulfill at His time and in His way His promises of blessing if we will do from our heart what He asks of us, even if in this life the ungodly prospers and the righteous suffers.
Do Not Forget the Teaching
The first counsel that the father gives to his son, is not to forget his “teaching” (Pro 3:1). ‘Teaching’ is the translation of the Hebrew word torah. That word is used for the law of God, but it has more meanings. Here it refers to what we could call ‘home teaching’. The father has transferred his knowledge in teaching at home to his son. It is an indication for fathers to teach their children from the Scripture at home and not to leave it to others, for instance to those who give them bible lessons or bible study.
The father tells his son not to forget what he has learnt at home, in the education. To forget here is not so much of a weakness of the memory, but the conscious ignoring and overlooking of the teaching of the father. For us it means a warning that we may lose what we have learnt in our youth from the Word of God. The teaching will not be forgotten when the commandments are kept in the heart. One can after all obey the commandments outwardly, thus without being involved with his heart. That is not what the father wants and nor is that the will of God.
The heart is the storing place of the commandments, just like the law was stored in the ark (Deu 10:5). In the kingdom of peace God will write down His law in the heart of His people (Heb 8:10). The heart indicates the mind. When the commandments are kept in the heart, the deeds, which after all flow from the heart (Pro 4:23), will be according to the heart. The deeds will then not be sinful deeds (Psa 119:11), and there will be no forced obedience, but joyful obedience.
The blessing which is related to this counsel is a long and good life (Pro 3:2). “Length of days” (Psa 91:16) refers to the reaching of an old age after a ‘large range of days’. “Years of life and peace” refers more to the content (“life”) and quality (“peace”). It is a full and rich life which is fully worthwhile to be lived. The word ‘peace’ is the translation of the word shalom and means more than the absence of war. It is victory, success in the actions that has been undertaken, full harmony, prosperity, health, happiness, salvation, a long life.
In the kingdom of peace the teaching and the commandments will not be forgotten, but will be saved in the heart (Heb 8:10b). Therefore the years of the enjoyment of life and peace will be increased in those days instead of being taken away at a certain moment. The latter has happened in the history of Israel, time and time again, because the people did not hold on to the teaching and the commandments of God’s Word.
It does not mean that everyone who in this time pays attention to the commandments in his heart will ‘therefore’ have a long life. Just think about the believers for a moment, who are being persecuted, tortured and killed, because of their faithfulness to God’s Word, which often happens in the prime of their lives (Heb 11:36-38). Faithful prophets who had God’s Word in their hearts and also proclaimed it, have been killed (Mt 23:34; 37). And what happened to the Lord Jesus Who in all things has obeyed His Father and has perfectly fulfilled the counsel of Pro 3:1? He was killed in the midst of His days. What then about the promise of a long life in peace?
The promise of a long life and peace will be fully fulfilled in the future. Life and peace will be enjoyed to their fullness and length in the millennial kingdom of peace. God fulfills all His promises, but not always here and now already. That we live in the faith that the promises will be fulfilled, we show by continuing to believe, even if it seems that the promises are not being fulfilled. That particular faith, which is the confidence of faith, has characterized all believers of the Old Testament. That very confidence in God was perfectly present in the Lord Jesus. That confidence may characterize us too.
To Keep Kindness and Truth
Not forgetting the teaching and the keeping of the commandments in Pro 3:1 is not a static occasion. Teaching and commandment do have an effect, for they form the character of the believer. Pro 3:3 connects to that. Through teaching and commandments the characteristics of the new life are being formed. Two of these characteristics are “kindness and truth”.
Those are two of the many impressive features of God. They are perfectly visible in the life of the Lord Jesus. It was a joy to God to notice those features in His Son. It is also a joy to His heart when He can notice them in us. God has shown kindness and truth to the believer and is still showing that. They should always impress the believer; he is not to forget that, the thought of that should not leave him ever. God, however, has not only shown kindness and truth, He has also given them to the believer, for they are a part of the new life that he has received.
What was not possible with the Lord Jesus, is possible with us, which is that we forget God’s kindness and truth shown to us by Him, that they leave us. The result is that these characteristics do not become visible in our lives and that they leave us in that sense. Therefore the father says to his son – and to each believer – that he ought to make sure that “kindness and truth” will not “leave” him.
The father tells him how he should do that. He should bind them around his neck as an adornment. The neck indicates the own will. A word like ‘stiff-necked’ shows that. When ‘kindness and truth’ are bound as an adornment around the neck, it means that the own will is not being followed, but that these characteristics are guiding one’s life. Both these characteristics are also to be written on the tablet of his heart by him (cf. Jer 31:33; 2Cor 3:3; Deu 6:8-9). Consequently these characteristics will be the motives of his actions. In this way he submits himself to the will of God.
“Kindness” is gentleness shown to others, which excludes all forms of selfishness and hatred. “Truth”, or truthfulness, is being trustworthy, having the confidence in somebody, it excludes any hypocrisy. We therefore may say that kindness and truth will go parallel with love and truth.
The first blessing of listening to wisdom, as we have seen in Pro 3:2, regards the personal life of the Godly. The second blessing has to do with the relations (Pro 3:4). If the counsel of Pro 3:3 is being followed, the son will find “favor and good repute in the sight of God and man”. We see this in the life of the Lord Jesus. He has lived in kindness and truth, and has found what is written here (Lk 2:52). We see that also in the life of Samuel (1Sam 2:26; cf. 2Cor 8:21).
“Favor” is actually gentleness, which is something one cannot make a claim to. When we find favor in the sight of man, it is not because of our own achievement; we cannot make a claim to it as a right, but we will receive it if we show kindness and truth. Although Joseph was a prisoner, he found favor or mercy in the sight of Potiphar (Gen 39:4). “Good repute” means ‘good respect’. Whoever shows kindness and truth, is noticeable in a favorable sense. Attention is being paid to it, people look at it and appreciation is expressed, both by God and by men. If we listen to the counsel of this father, we also will experience this.
Trust in the Lord
The third counsel is to trust in the LORD with all your heart and not to expect anything of your own understanding (Pro 3:5). To trust with all your heart is focusing your whole inner life – all your will, your emotions and your mind – on God. It is about an active trust in Him. That goes for every minute of our lives, wherever we are – at home, in society, at school or at work, in the church – and with whatever we do.
We should not look for any support from a creature or something of the possessions or the skills of a creature, nor from our own self (cf. 2Chr 14:11). It is not about a contradiction here between the heart on the one hand and the understanding or the mind on the other hand, but between our own understanding or mind and the Lord. We must trust in the Lord and not on ourselves.
The father also advises his son to know God in all his ways (Pro 3:6). “All your ways” means everything that he is intended to do, what he says, all that he does and does not. It not only refers to the moments of crisis, when great and significant decisions have to be made. If we allow Him to be involved with all daily matters, we will automatically go to Him with the great matters. To know Him in all our ways means that we start everything with Him, move on with Him on our way and also complete everything with Him. That demands obedience and surrender in every territory of our lives.
It also means that He does not dictate His plans to us and impose them on us. He allows us to take the initiative and plan a route. Then He invites us to discuss our intentions with Him, so that we may be kept from planning a route which leads to death (cf. Jam 4:15; Acts 18:21). We do not know how the path goes. That is also not necessary if we know Him, which means that we live in fellowship with Him Who knows the path.
To acknowledge Him means that we involve Him with everything, always look upon Him, always have Him before our eye, always think of Him as the One Who is always with us. We do that by consulting His Word for all our plans and make that to be our advisor (Psa 119:24). To that belongs that we walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:16).
It is about a total devotion, all our hearts and all our ways. If we trust Him with all our hearts and acknowledge Him in all our ways, then He promises us that He will make our paths straight. He will lead us straight to the goal which we have determined in consideration with Him. Ultimately that goal is He Himself. The straight paths stand against the meanders which man goes without acknowledging Him therein. No man could make his own paths straight (Jer 10:23).
It does not say that the paths are easy and straight in our eyes. From our view it can be a serpentine and hardly accessible path. But we may know that every winding on that path has been anticipated by the Lord as a part of the process of His work in us. His aim is that we go a way that leads to our likeness of Christ. That is to Him, and therefore also to us, the straight path.
Here, it is just like with many other proverbs in this book, about a general truth, not about something that is always true without exception. When we for example use the saying ‘an apple every day, keeps the doctor away’, it doesn’t mean that we stay healthy if we eat an apple every day, but that an apple is healthy food. It is not a proverb that guarantees us that we will never get sick when we eat apples. Proverbs are pieces of life that show how life normally is, without saying that it is always and everywhere like that. Actually, there can be influencing factors that postpone a direct fulfillment. Those factors are often unknown to us, but God knows them and uses them for His plan with our lives.
Proverbs are no promises of God for here and now, on which we can stand. If we do think that, we draw wrong conclusions. Proverbs are pronouncements of observations that will prove their truth after a course of time.
Fear the LORD
The fourth counsel is not to be wise in your own eyes (Pro 3:7; Isa 5:21; Rom 12:16). It is a warning against self-confidence. It is in line with the thoughts that are expressed in the previous verses, though from another point of view. In the previous verses, God is seen and presented as the Source of wisdom and guidance. Now we are warned about a wisdom which is apart from God.
Our hearts are deceitful. We are able to make ourselves to believe, with smart manipulation, that we make wise choices because we are so intelligent or have a certain character. It may be that we trust in God and become proud about doing that. The Lord Jesus condemned the pharisees and rabbis of His time, not because of their prayers to God, but because the motives of their prayers were evil.
True wisdom is not the denial of our talents, but the recognition of its source. We are wise in our own eyes when we prefer our own emotions or judgment above that of the Lord. It is acting in independency of Him, of knowing it better than the Scripture. He who is wise, will consider that he has no wisdom in himself, but that he receives his wisdom from God.
The higher source of wisdom is the fear of the LORD. That is the true wisdom. When that fear is present, there is the direct consequence that the evil is being turned away from. The fear of the LORD can never go hand in hand with doing evil, but it leads to hating the evil (Psa 97:10).
“A medicine” makes the body healthy (Pro 3:8; Pro 15:4; Ecc 10:4). Listening to the counsel of Pro 3:7 has that beneficial or healthy effect. A baby in the womb receives food through the “navel” [‘body’ is literally “navel”] and grows. The navel is also the center of the body and represents the whole body. Through the “bones” the body is able to function. If the counsel of Pro 3:7 is being followed, it will have a refreshing effect to the bones. They renew their strength in that way.
The word navel appears another time only in Ezekiel 16 (Eze 16:4). There is not a better example of our dependence on God than that of the fetus in the womb which receives his food through the navel cord. That happens as long as he is in the womb. That’s how the baby grows until it gets to be born. What is said in Pro 3:7, is therefore of great significance for the spiritual growth of the life from God, which the believer possesses. Without the fear of the LORD on the one hand and turning away from evil on the other hand, it is impossible to grow healthy in spiritual sense.
Honor the LORD
The fifth counsel regards the honoring of the LORD by the son with his wealth (Pro 3:9). It does not say that he should give something to the LORD, but that he should honor Him. Nor does it say something of his wealth, it says that he should do it with his wealth. It therefore refers to everything that he “owns”, his whole capital, everything he had received by earning it or inheriting it. His “produce” is what he had gained by working for it, the produce from labor.
The giving of “the first” of a crop implies the recognition that the whole crop is the LORD’s (Exo 23:19; Num 28:26-27; Deu 18:4; Deu 26:1-2). It is said to the son that to determining his first fruits, he should involve “all“ his produce. He is not to forget or exclude anything from the calculation. God expects us to involve everything that is His in our judgment.
The ‘first’ refers particularly to Christ, the “first fruits of those who are asleep” (1Cor 15:20). He has fully given Himself for those who are His. If we bring the first fruits, God is being reminded of Him. We only understand the truth if we have learnt to see it in relation with Christ. That’s also what makes the heart willing to respond to the desires of God.
Giving does not stand on its own. Giving by itself does not meaning anything. Giving only has a value if God is glorified by it. We can give to get a good feeling about it – then we glorify ourselves. This is how the pharisees gave. We can also give to get better. Then we ‘invest’ in God; He becomes an ‘investment object’. However, it is not about us, but about Him. We have received everything that we have from Him, in order to honor Him with it. It also applies to our earthly properties, that all things are “from Him and through Him and to Him” (Rom 11:36).
We honor God if we give with joy to His work. We do that when we say from our heart to Him: ‘You are the Source of everything that I have. Without You I could not earn anything and I would not have anything to honor You with. By giving You the first fruits, the best, of it, I acknowledge that everything is Yours’ (1Chr 29:14b). We show that by giving Him a part first from everything that we receive, even before we have used anything of it for ourselves.
From honoring with the first, the son does not get poorer. On the contrary, it makes him to become richer. He will be blessed with an abundance which makes his barns be filled with plenty and his vats be overflowed (Pro 3:10; cf. Mal 3:10). This is what God promises when He is acknowledged in His rights to all things of life. Here it certainly applies to that which is noticed at the introduction of this chapter, that we should bear in mind that here it regards promises that will surely be fulfilled, but not always during our life on earth. In any case they will be fulfilled in the future.
We would apply this verse wrongly if we say that, when we give money, we would get a lot more of money back than what we have given. This is how for instance some television preachers abuse this verse. They call upon their audience to give money with the promise that they will get a lot more than they have given. They say: ‘Send me one hundred dollars for my ministry and I guarantee you that God will bless your donation with a reward of one thousand dollars!’ Such a call is nothing more than manipulation.
The intention of this verse is therefore not that people should examine themselves if there could be sins in their lives that hinder the blessing if they give money to God’s work and they are not being blessed abundantly with money. They therefore do not need to try again to see if it works next time.
When giving happens from the right state of the heart, God will give more than we have given Him. Here it is about a blessing that is greater than that of money or earthly goods. This we see in the Pro 3:13-18 of this chapter. If we give up everything to follow the Lord, it does not mean that it will make us rich of earthly things. What we do get in return, is an abundant fellowship with Him with the joy that goes together with it. That exceeds all earthly possessions. We can lose earthly possessions. We can never lose what we possess in Him. It can only increase, which means the joy of it. What we win by giving, is always a lot more than what we give (cf. Mk 10:28-30).
Discipline of the LORD
The Pro 3:11-12 form the counterweight to Pro 3:9-10. Generally, it is true that God blesses us when we give Him what He asks of us. But that doesn’t mean that He will not admonish and discipline or reprove us. They do not contradict each other, but go hand in hand. It shows the balance of God’s Word.
We see that with Job. Of Job it is written even three times that he was blameless, upright and fearing God and that he turned away from evil (Job 1:1; 8; Job 2:3). Yet God takes away everything from him (Job 1-2). How inconceivable such may be to us, still it is God’s love for Job that He acts with Him like that. We need to read the whole book in order to understand something of it. This poem of four lines of the Pro 3:11-12 may serve well as a motto for the book of Job. Pro 3:11 describes the problem of the book of Job, and Pro 3:12 describes the solution of that problem.
The father speaks here again to “my son”, which indicates that he speaks from the intimate relationship that he has with him. He points out to him that he should not reject the discipline “of the LORD”. It is important to consider that the discipline comes from Him. The same goes for the reproof. It is His reproof. The motive for the discipline and reproof that God gives, is that He “loves”. When God reproves, He does that because He loves us. He sees what is still missing with us in the dependence on Him or where we run the risk of becoming independent of Him. In order to make us aware of that He reproves us.
The question is how we respond to God’s reproof. In Pro 3:11 the father warns his son not to reject the discipline or reproof of the LORD and not to loathe His reproof. The reason for that is written in Pro 3:12. There we read that His discipline and reproof are proofs of His love (cf. 2Sam 7:14). Such expressions of love take place in the father-to-son relationship (cf. Deu 8:5).
‘To reject the discipline’ means to despise it, that we do as if it does not mean anything. In that case we do not bow under the reproof, which causes that it misses the intended effect. ‘To loathe the reproof’ means that we hate it, because it is an unbearable burden and that we therefore are not willing to accept the discipline. Then we succumb under the discipline and also then it misses the intended purpose. Those are two contradicting responses. They both indicate that the intention of the discipline is not being understood and therefore are not accepted.
The Pro 3:11-12 are quoted in the epistle to the Hebrews (Heb 12:5-11). That proves that the proverbs have a broader application than only to the son of Solomon. In the epistle mentioned, they are presented to the Hebrew believers whose faith was severely tested. The author of that epistle presents these verses to them to remind them that tribulations are not accidentally awkward circumstances, but that they show God’s involvement with them. They forgot that and they had to be reminded of that. It is often like that with us too. It is also important to us that exactly when we go through a difficult time, we are being reminded that God is concerned with us.
The discipline and reproof come from a God Who deals with us “even as a father [corrects] the son in whom he delights”. This indicates what mind God has concerning us. He “delights” in us. He is not up to do us any evil, but only the good. Satan is up to do us only evil and seeks our destruction (1Pet 5:8). Ungodly people hate us and ostracize us (Lk 6:22). But God brings sufferings over us because He loves us (Heb 12:6; Rev 3:19; cf. Pro 13:24). Because God disciplines in love, discipline or reproof will never damage us, although it is painful.
Discipline is the proof of sonship. The purpose of the discipline of God is that “we may share His holiness” (Heb 12:10). Discipline happens in love, by a Father Who delights in us. In “the son in whom He delights” we see above all the love of the Father to His Son. There is actually a great difference between Christ as the unique Son and us as sons. We need correction; He never needed correction. He always did please the Father. He always did what was pleasing to Him. Therefore the Father found His full joy in the life that the Son lived. It fully responded to His will. Therefore there was nothing with the Lord Jesus to be disciplined or reproved (Mt 3:17; 1Pet 2:22; 2Cor 5:21; 1Jn 3:5).
The Value of Wisdom
In order to react in the right way to the discipline that is spoken about in Pro 3:11-12, wisdom is needed. Discipline or reproof and wisdom are also related to one another by James (Jam 1:2-5). To know wisdom will lead one to happiness, even when there are tests. The wisdom of the world does not give that happiness (Ecc 1:8). The portion of the Pro 3:13-18 deals with the wisdom as the way to happiness. This portion begins with “how blessed” in Pro 3:13 and ends with “happy are” in Pro 3:18. Between both verses we find a series of causes that lead to this happiness, which all have got to do with wisdom.
“Wisdom” must be found (Pro 3:13), not by accident, but by looking for it as for a treasure that has been buried somewhere. To look for it in this case, means to heed instruction, for then you will become wise (Pro 8:33). It implies that in order to become wise, it is necessary to listen to the Word of God.
“Understanding” is to be gained or obtained. Therefore we need to make an effort. It is about understanding in the way that God guides the life, especially when there are tests in life. That understanding is gained by looking upon Christ in the Scripture. In Him “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden” (Col 2:3).
When a person finds her (which means Christ), its produce is greater than ever could be possibly earned with the trade of silver (Pro 3:14). Here it is not about an unbeliever who finds Christ, but about a believer who discovers Him as the One Who leads his life with wisdom. Therefore wisdom is the most important and her “gain is better than fine gold” (Pro 8:11; Pro 20:15; Pro 31:10).
When the value of wisdom is compared to the value of silver or gold, wisdom proves invaluable. It yields so much more than the possession of the most precious metals. You realize that when you are seriously ill. You may possess all the silver and gold in the world, but you cannot buy your health with it. But how calm can your heart get, when you realize that it is God’s wisdom that’s hidden behind the illness.
Wisdom is “more precious than jewels” (Pro 3:15). Also the preciousness of the most expensive precious stones fades into nothingness if it is compared with wisdom. You may desire whatever you want, but apart from wisdom, a fulfillment of those desires only gives a temporary and limited feeling of happiness. Solomon desired the best, when at the beginning of his reign he was allowed to make known to God his desires, by asking wisdom. God answered this desire by giving him a wise heart (1Kgs 3:5-13).
Wisdom, Christ, is the source of a long and beneficial life (Pro 3:16). Wisdom reaches out both hands as it were, to offer what she has. You may accept it out of both hands. In her right hand she has “long life”. He who chooses wisdom above the riches of the world, chooses eternal life. In her left hand she has “riches and honor”. He who chooses wisdom above the most precious, though perishable, property on earth, chooses imperishably spiritual wealth and honor. This is what Christ offers and gives to each who belongs to Him.
Not only what she has in her hands, is of the greatest value and so totally different than what the world offers. Also her ways and paths are so totally different than the ways and paths of the world (Pro 3:17). Her ways are characterized by ‘pleasantness’. And “all her ways”, so not one excluded, “are peace”. Do we not recognize herein the ways and paths of the Lord Jesus on earth? When we find wisdom, we shall be able to imitate Him in these ways and paths. What a testimony would that be!
Wisdom is also “a tree of life to those who take hold of her” (Pro 3:18; Gen 2:9; Gen 3:24; Pro 11:30; Pro 13:12; Pro 15:4; Rev 2:7; Rev 22:2; 14). In the word “take hold” lies power. He who takes hold of that tree strongly, shows the power of faith (cf. Heb 6:18). To take hold of the tree means, that there is faith that the tree gives life. And it should not stop there, for taking hold of her must be followed by “hold her fast” (cf. Song 3:4). Once a person has life, that life should also be fed. Wisdom gives what is necessary for the everyday life.
We find both these aspects in what the Lord Jesus says about eating His flesh and drinking His blood in John 6. In order to receive life, a person should eat His flesh and drink His blood, which is believing in His death; that His death was necessary to give him eternal life (Jn 6:53). After that it is continually necessary to eat His flesh and to drink His blood because life is in Him. That means that we are daily occupied with Him by reading His Word, which means eating from Him spiritually. Then we continue in the things we have learned (2Tim 3:14).
The way to the tree of life is the way back to the point where the history of man went wrong. The way to the tree of life was cut off by sin. Adam and Eve chose the wrong tree to eat from. We have the choice to eat again from the right tree by choosing for wisdom. The reason why that tree is “the tree of life”, is because it continually gives vitality and a full, eternal life (cf. Gen 3:22-24). That is the part for each person who takes hold of and holds fast to wisdom like that.
Wisdom is knowing God in Christ. Christ is the tree of life. By holding Him fast we receive eternal life. That is more than we have lost in Adam. The cross of Christ has become the tree of life to us. The cross of Christ is the foolishness of God which is wiser than men (1Cor 1:25). He who believes that, is “happy”, for he has eternal life.
Wisdom at and in Creation
The wisdom that guides life (Pro 3:18), is the same wisdom that has made the universe (Pro 3:19; Psa 104:24; Jer 10:12). We see here that the LORD – which is the Lord Jesus, for He is the Creator (Jn 1:1-3; Col 1:16; Heb 1:2) – Himself used wisdom in establishing the creation. From Genesis 1 we know that God has created the earth in six days by establishing something on each of those six days by His Word (Exo 20:11). Wisdom is needed to recognize the work of wisdom.
The creation is not a process, but an act of creation. We see that here, where it is written that God as the great Architect, has ”founded” the earth “by wisdom” and by “understanding … established” the heavens. It is described here as if it is about a building. He has founded the earth in the universe and established the heavens above it as an umbrella with a shining adornment of sun, moon and stars.
With “His knowledge”, the knowledge which is His own, He made the deep waters to pave a way on the earth (Pro 3:20). Because of that, men, animals and plants are able to live and to be refreshed. Also for that reason we have the waters in the air, which He gives as dew on the earth all over the world, wherever it is needed. Only God has the knowledge to establish and manage such a system of irrigation.
Wisdom Gives Rest
In this portion (Pro 3:21-26) we get the instruction to remain on the path of wisdom, together with the promises which are our part if we heed the instruction. But then we must not lose sight of wisdom for one moment (Pro 3:21).
There is a connection between Pro 3:21 and Pro 3:19-20. After showing God’s wisdom in creation, the son is told that he is not to let wisdom vanish from his sight. The wisdom that God is demonstrating in creation is the wisdom which is necessary to live our lives to the honor of God. We not only admire wisdom, but we have also received it (1Cor 2:6-7). The Lord Jesus is the wisdom of God in every view. He is our life and in Him we have received wisdom.
We must not let Him vanish from our sight. We must continually keep sight of Him. Then we will keep “sound wisdom and discretion”. We will always be prepared for what is ahead of us. When fellow classmates or colleagues or a brother or sister asks us to take part of something or to go somewhere, we will let ourselves be led by wisdom and discretion. We will look upon the Lord Jesus, how He would respond to that question.
If our eyes are continually focused on Him and we see how He has kept sound wisdom and discretion, that will mean “life” for our “soul” (Pro 3:22). The true life is the life of Christ which is our part. That will then be seen in our practice. To Paul it was like that. He could say that life was Christ to him, he lived for Him alone (Phil 1:21).
Such a life is “an adornment to your neck”, says the father to his son and to us (cf. Pro 1:9; Pro 3:3). Wisdom and discretion are real ‘adornments’. We sometimes say of somebody that a certain characteristic or action ‘adorns’ him or her. It ‘adorns’ a person when he for example helps another person or is faithfully committed to his study or work. Wisdom and discretion are making him to do these things.
In the following verses (Pro 3:23-26) life is represented as a journey, as a road which is to be walked on. We all are going a road, that we have never gone, of which we do not know how it goes. Thereby we are not led by our knowledge of the future, for we do not have that knowledge, but by Him to Whom belongs the future. He is mighty to keep us from stumbling and to make us “stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy” (Jude 1:24). That is the life insurance that we need, of which the conditions are written in Pro 3:21-22.
If we do not lose sight of wisdom and discretion, but continually keep them in mind, we will “walk securely” in our way and will “not stumble our foot” which could make us fall (Pro 3:23). We will then be walking with God. Because He shows us the way, He will also protect us on our way. If we go our way with such confidence in Him, His peace will be in us (Phil 4:7) and His protecting power will be around us (1Pet 1:5).
The Lord Jesus showed that to us. He walked with God and went His way securely and was kept from stumbling His foot. He was tempted by satan to challenge God to realize the truth of this word, that He would not stumble His foot (Mt 4:5-7). Because He let Himself be guided by wisdom and discretion, He knew how to resist satan. Therefore He did not stumble His foot nor did He fall.
Wisdom and discretion do not only save us during the day, but also during the night (Pro 3:24). They do not only guard us when we are on the way, but also when we are sleeping (Psa 121:4). He who walks with his God, can sleep calmly, however stormy it may be in his life. That’s why the Lord Jesus slept during a storm (Mt 8:24). We also see that Peter, in imitating the Lord, was not anxious when he was in prison and had to fear his life. He went to lie down, chained together with two soldiers and had a pleasant sleep (Acts 12:6; cf. Lev 26:6; Psa 4:8; Psa 23:2).
That wisdom and discretion give rest and safety, doesn’t mean that nothing can happen in our lives that completely turns our life upside down. Job experienced that and we also know examples from our lives or from our environment. God doesn’t guarantee us that no evil will happen to us. He surely gives the guarantee that He will be there. Here the father says to his son that he must not be afraid for what may happen suddenly (Pro 3:25; cf. Psa 112:7).
There is a saying: ‘A man often suffers the most by the suffering that he fears and which never happens.’ To whomever that applies, has got to bear more than God gives him to bear. Fear or anxiety for what may possibly happen, paralyzes us in our faith life. The people in the world are afraid of everything that is happening and what is still going to happen, both in their lives and in the world. We know from God’s Word that indeed a lot is going to happen in the world. If we take that seriously, we will also take the reassurance of the Lord Jesus seriously when He says that we should not let ourselves be frightened by the events that are announced (Mt 24:6).
The believer lives in the midst of “the wicked”, who are always seeking the destruction of those who want to faithfully live after God’s Word. The fear for those is more realistic than for something indeterminate, for “also all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2Tim 3:12). But listen to what the Lord Jesus says: “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt 10:28).
The father tells his son how he could get free from the thoughts of “sudden fear” or “onslaught” that could happen to him. He makes him aware that the LORD is his “confidence” (Pro 3:26). When he looks upon Him, he will exceed above the threats of frightening events that could happen, which life is full of. There is not a more powerful means to liberate us from fears and to keep us free of it than to have Christ as our confidence before us. Confidence is not an insecurity, but an absolute security. When the Lord Jesus is our confidence, it means that He is our unwavering and effective support.
If we put our confidence, our expectation, in Him, He will “keep our foot from being caught”. We therefore will not get caught in one of the many traps of sin, which are laid by satan everywhere around us to catch our foot through which we stumble. Sin can easily entangle us if we do not keep our eyes focused on the Lord continually (Heb 12:1-2; cf. 2Tim 2:26). The Lord Jesus is also our example in this. When He was on earth, He continually looked upon His God. By doing that, He never put His foot anywhere where a snare was hidden (Psa 16:8).
Do Not Harm Your Neighbor
Wisdom is important for our relationship with God. The father has taught his son – and us – about that in the previous verses. But that is not the only thing. Wisdom is also important for our relationship with our neighbor. The father speaks about that with his son in the verses that we have now before us. He warns his son not to be selfish and self-centered in that relationship. Relationships can be misused in that way.
We must learn that the neighbor is not there for us, but that we are there for the neighbor. We see that in the history that the Lord Jesus tells about the good Samaritan (Lk 10:30-37). The lesson is not that I must learn who my neighbor is, how I could benefit from him, but how I can be the neighbor of the other person, what I could do for the other person.
The Pro 3:27-30 all begin with the counsel of not to do something. That the father gives this counsel to his son means that he considers his son to be able to do what he discourages him to do. That is an important lesson for parents. There are parents who do not want to hear any evil things about their children. They are surprised, not to say indignant, when it is presumed that their child has done something which is not acceptable. ‘My child would not do anything like that’, is then often the dismissive response. It proves a great lack of self-knowledge and an unhealthy view of their ‘sweetheart’. Solomon doesn’t speak in such a naive or arrogant way about his son here.
The Pro 3:27-28 are about the relation towards the neighbor and then in particular that he must be given what is due to him. However, it is presented negatively by the father. He does not order his son to do something, but is saying to him that he should not do something. His son is not to withhold good from someone to whom it is due, while he has the means to give it (Pro 3:27). Therefore it is about the rights of our neighbors and not the expression of charity.
In the application we could think of honestly paying tax, for the government is entitled to that (Rom 13:7). Also the payment of a debt which has arisen from a loan or a purchase, is a matter of giving to the other what he is due to. In a more general sense the father appeals to his son to do good to his neighbor with the possibilities that are available to him. We are not the owners of our goods, but stewards. “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin” (Jam 4:17).
We can also apply doing good, or the better, withholding good from someone to whom it is due, to the gospel and the truth of God. The people around us have the right that we proclaim the gospel to them. How will they hear about it if we do not tell them about it? We owe it to them, for they are in danger of being lost forever. The same goes for the teaching of the truth. The fellow believers have the right that we serve them with God’s Word (Pro 11:26a). If we are imitators of the good, or better, of the good One, we are obliged to talk about Him.
Perhaps the son is not willing to withhold good from somebody, but that he postpones it until “tomorrow” (Pro 3:28). The father recognizes that danger and warns him also about that – not to do that. ‘Tomorrow’ is an expression which indicates that something is postponed endlessly; it is shifted every following day to ‘tomorrow’. In the same way “the wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning” (Lev 19:13b; Deu 24:15). It is not about charity, but about paying a debt. When that is being ignored, it is evil in the eyes of God (Jam 5:4).
The commandment not to withhold good from your neighbor is followed by the commandment not to devise harm against your neighbor (Pro 3:29). To devise harm means to think of ways, to make preparations, to harm. To think of ways to harm your neighbor, to make preparations to harm him, is a crime. It is even worse when that happens, while your neighbor thinks that he’s got nothing to fear of you, that he feels himself to be safe with you. It is a crude form of abuse of confidence. It is the crime that Judas committed against the Lord Jesus (Psa 41:9; Jn 13:18). If we have been treated like that by someone, we may know that the Lord Jesus can suffer together with us in this (Heb 4:15).
The father does not consider his son to be too good for committing this evil. We also should not consider ourselves to be too good for it. It is possible that we misuse someone who trusts us, who lives with us, so with whom we have daily contact, for something that delivers us advantage.
There is not only danger for secretly devising harm, but also for accusing someone openly, without any reason, without the other person doing any harm to you (Pro 3:30). The father warns his son also about that form of evil. It is here about the exposing of a quarreling spirit. It can also refer to taking legal actions before a court against someone – and doing this all without a cause. Someone is only to seek to harm another person. Devising harm can be spiritual, physical, financial or even sexual.
Also herein the Lord Jesus is again the Example. He was accused without a cause, for He never did any harm to anyone. On the contrary, He did only good. He did not defend Himself against it, He did not seek His own right, but He kept entrusting Himself to “Him who judges righteously” (1Pet 2:21-23).
Do Not Envy the Ungodly
A following evil the father is warning his son about, is to “envy a man of violence” (Pro 3:31; cf. Psa 73:3-5). The man of violence is the man who is violent, who illegally makes use of power. In Proverbs 1 the man of violence approaches his son. Here the son sees what the man of violence can afford, for instance, to buy expensive things and the easy life that he may seem to live. The man of violence exerts influence on other people, on both his friends and the people around him, like the son. Then it is important not to come under his influence. The father tells his son “not to envy” such a man and not choose “any of his ways”.
To underline this prohibition, the father tells his son what the consequences are if he follows this man in his lifestyle and what the consequences are when he stays far away from it. That happens in the form of contrasts. The son should not envy the man of violence, “for such a man is an abomination to the LORD” (Pro 3:32). He should be very aware of that when he is attracted by the life of that man and that he will want to live like that too.
You should stay as far as you possibly can from an abomination, something disgusting. Opposite to it is to stay as close as you possibly can to the LORD. That is the portion of the upright with whom He is “intimate” (Psa 25:14). The intimate relation is to be derived from what He makes known to them. In this way He dealt intimately with Abraham and made him know what He was going to do (Gen 18:17-19). Also with His servants, the prophets, He deals with intimately (Amos 3:7).
In Pro 3:33-35 we see on the one hand the part of the righteous (Pro 3:33b), the afflicted (Pro 3:34b) and the wise (Pro 3:35a) and on the other hand that of the wicked (Pro 3:33a), the scoffers (Pro 3:34a) and the fools (Pro 3:35b). The wicked do not care about God at all, the scoffers despise God, the fools reject God. We should not envy the latter ones, for they lie under the curse (Pro 3:33a), the scoff (Pro 3:34a) and the dishonor (Pro 3:35b). The upright with whom God is intimate, will receive blessing (Pro 3:33b), grace (Pro 3:34b) and honor (Pro 3:35a).
Whoever deviates from the LORD (Pro 3:32), shows to be “wicked” (Pro 3:33). “The curse of the LORD” (Mal 2:2) is on the house of the wicked. Here we see that deviating has not only consequences for us ourselves, but also for all who belong to our house. The reverse applies to the upright. Their house is blessed by the LORD (e.g. 2Sam 6:11). As a result of the attitude of the prime inhabitant, the children of the wicked suffer and those of the upright rejoice. We are a vessel of blessing or curse for our family.
The curse that is on the house of the wicked is not so much the robbery of all kinds of things that make life pleasant. Nor is the blessing so much the possession of everything that the heart covets. The central point of the curse lies in the continuous restlessness of the conscience, a continuous feeling of insecurity, with the end result that the house will collapse. The central point of blessing lies in the continuous awareness that God is with us, in the rest and peace of the heart which is secure of the grace and generosity of God. That house will stand fast.
Scoffers will have to do with the scoff of God (Pro 3:34). Scoffers are people to whom nothing is sacred. They scoff at God and His truth, they laugh at Him and ridicule His truth (2Pet 3:3-4). They scorn the sacrifice of Christ (Pro 14:7). They exalt themselves and despise and humiliate others, especially God and His Christ. Such people are sinning in an abominable way. There comes a moment that the roles will be reversed. Then He will scoff at them and humiliate them (Psa 2:4; Psa 59:8).
In contradiction to the scoffers we have “the afflicted”. They are the humble ones, they have humiliated themselves and have taken the right place before God. They recognize Him in everything that He says about them, whether it is in condemnation or in blessing. He will not scoff at them, but He will give them grace. That gives them power to remain meek under the scoffing of the scoffers and to not resist them.
Meekness is a characteristic of the Lord Jesus which characterized Him in His life on earth. He gives that characteristic to all who take His yoke of obedience upon themselves and want to learn from Him (Mt 11:29). They have humiliated themselves under the mighty hand of God (Jam 4:6; 1Pet 5:5), while the sinners will be forced to humiliate themselves when Christ will come to reign.
When Christ comes, the wise will receive honor (Pro 3:35). The wise are the same people as the upright and the afflicted of the previous verses. That indicates that these are not the wise of the world, but those who are wise in the sight of God. The honor that they will get is not temporary and not from the world, but it is an everlasting honor that God gives. That honor is that they will partake in the reign of the Lord Jesus.
The fools on the contrary, will get nothing else than what they themselves have done. They “display dishonor”. They have never cared about God’s commandments and have even mocked at Him. In that way they had made people laugh and received the honor of people who are just like them. At the same time they have placed themselves outside the blessing and under the shame and that forever. Their foolishness will be visible to everyone; they will be “to disgrace and everlasting contempt” (Dan 12:2).
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Proverbs 3". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13