Theme: Pillars of Wisdom
Lesson Text: Proverbs 3:1-12; 14:2; 22:4
Supplemental Texts: Deuteronomy 10:12-16, 20-21; Psalm 36:1-3
Aim: With reverential awe, love God and follow his ways.
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By Mark Scott
The source of wisdom is God (last week’s lesson), and the beginning of wisdom is also God. Thus, the line between source and beginning is thin. The content of Proverbs 1–9 holds together quite well thematically, and the overall thesis is to do whatever it takes to get wisdom and understanding. Proverbs 1 contains the prologue (formal introduction), the contrast between wise people and sinners, and the call to wisdom. Proverbs 2–3 contain the values and benefits of wisdom.
The main part of this week’s text features an alternating pattern of command (Proverbs 3:1, 3, 5-6a, 7, 9, and 11) and reward (3:2, 4, 6b, 8, 10, and 12). When God’s people begin with God’s wisdom, they can . . .
Enjoy Long Life
Following God’s teaching (torah, the word here, means God’s law, as in the Ten Commandments) and God’s commands (mitzvah is used here, meaning precepts or ordinances, as in bar mitzvah [i.e., “son of the law”]) prolongs life and brings about a state of peace and prosperity (shalom). In certain contexts this literally can be the case. Obedience to parents prolongs life (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16). But proverbs are not promises in every context. Godly people can experience an earlier-than-normal death (Acts 12:2). But following God’s wisdom provides the best kind of life no matter how long or short it is (John 10:10b).
Win Favor and a Good Reputation
When love (the loving-kindness of God himself) and faithfulness (truth) are bound around the neck (also see Deuteronomy 6:8) and embraced in the heart, then vertical and horizontal dimensions of favor and a good name (reputation) are enjoyed. Love and faithfulness are two of God’s greatest qualities, and they should be ours as well. Our love for God and faithfulness to him result in us finding favor (grace) in him (c.f., Luke 2:40, 51-52). When fellow human beings see love and faithfulness in others, they respond positively. Even the most hardened criminals appreciate loyalty and love.
Experience Straight Paths
Proverbs 3:5-6; 14:2
Straight paths were rare in the ancient world. The people had no heavy equipment to move hillsides and fill in valleys. A straight path, figuratively speaking, meant living life the way God intended it to be lived. This is best done by following God’s word (2 Timothy 2:15). Proverbs 3:5-6 is very familiar to most. Trusting God (having confidence, hope, and boldness in him), not leaning (supporting oneself) on one’s own understanding (knowledge or discernment), and submitting to (literally “knowing”) him will guarantee straight (level or direct) paths. These paths are always better than our own and are as high and lofty as God (Isaiah 55:8-9; Romans 11:33-34). The opposite of this is given in Proverbs 14:2. To fear God is to walk uprightly, but to despise God leads to devious (perverse) paths.
Enjoy Good Health
Proverbs 3:7-8; 22:4
Taking care not to promote a “health and wealth gospel” (or handle all the exceptions) . . . when humility marks God’s people and they are not wise in their own eyes, and when they fear God and shun evil, they will experience God’s best in life. They will enjoy health in body and nourishment (like a refreshing drink) in their bones. The Old Testament actually teaches that if God’s people obey his word, then he will cause rain to fall, crops to grow, and wombs to be full. This teaching can easily be distorted, but there is a grain of truth to the teaching that obedience to God grants good health.
Again, caution is necessary in applying this teaching for a balanced biblical perspective. However, if God’s people put God first in their lives with their wealth (substance or sufficiency)—this is what honoring God with the stewardship of finances means—and giving to the Lord from the firstfruits of the crops (yields), then God will bless his people with abundance (Malachi 3:10). He will see to it that their barns will be filled to overflowing and their vats will brim over (burst or break) with new wine. The psalmist said, “I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread” (Psalm 37:25). God is committed to supplying our needs (not our greeds). He will either give us more or see to it we can get by on what we have (Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 4:10-20).
Love can sometimes come in strange packages. Sometimes it comes in rebuke and discipline (correction and punishment). In fact, discipline is proof of God’s love and evidence of our identity in him (Hebrews 12:5-11).
When we begin with God’s wisdom, then our heart, neck, eyes, body, and bones (the physical parts of our lives mentioned in the text) will be sound and healthy.