GENUINE TRUST & WISDOM WILL BE PROVED BY LOVE
In chapter 1 – focussed on some of the many voices that call us to follow.
In chapter 2 – the two basic paths we can follow through life – God’s or our own.
In chapter 3 – genuine trust and genuine wisdom and the proof of these by genuine love – the chapter ends with alternative ways in which God’s deals with people – two ways we have to choose from will obtain two different responses from God.
We cannot pretend to trust God or to accept his wisdom – our genuineness [or lack of it] will be revealed – both in our relationship to God and in our relationship to our neighbour.
A passage like this speaks about the health and wealth and happiness that will be enjoyed by those who follow God – towards the end of the chapter speaks about how those who ignore God will be judged by him.
Yet when I look at people around me – people who live with out ref. to God they appear to be healthier, wealthier and and happier than many Christians.
I sometimes wonder if this Christian life is really worth it? Sometimes there appear to be more problem being a Christian than not being one!!
So when I read
2 for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you prosperity. (NIV)
I wonder if this is true!!
Do you sometimes have thoughts like that?
How do we deal with it?
We need to look at the deeper meaning of these verses, we need to see them in their context and also take an eternal view – look at God’s promises in the long term.
V.1-2 is a general introduction urging us to be attentive to teaching and commands and the benefits this brings.
These teachings and commands are not the random thoughts of a parent – The language that is used is the vocabulary of the Torah [the Jewish books of the Law – Ge., Ex., Le., Nu., Dt]
Teaching – meaning direction – Reminds us of
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (NIV)
Each generation is responsible to teach the next one about God – Are we? If you are a parent you are teaching your children – the question is ‘What are you teaching them?’
The promise is life and prosperity!
The idea is not simply a long life BUT a full life – what Jesus called an abundant life – it may mean a long and happy physical life – but ultimately it is eternal life. No matter how long and happy this life may be it will end in death [Unless Christ returns before you die].
Prosperity does not refer to material riches – if that were the case people would be queueing up to get into Church – you may be blessed with material riches but that is not the primary meaning of the promise – The Heb. word is ‘Shalom’ – peace – in that word there is meant peace, happiness, wholeness, fullness of life!
This full life is what is promised to those who take to heart the teachings and commands of God!!
1. ATTITUDES TO GODLY INSTRUCTION. [v3-12]
1.1. We are to be stedfast in our commitment. v3-4
3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 Then you will win favour and a good name
in the sight of God and man. (NIV)
Love and faithfulness are a key pair of words in the OT –
10 All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful
for those who keep the demands of his covenant.
28 Love and faithfulness keep a king safe;
through love his throne is made secure. (NIV)
ILLUS.: Israel’s relationship to God was described by God as being like a marriage – when they move away from God and worshipped foreign gods God accused them of breaking faith and not loving him.
God is loving and faithful to us — our response should reflect those same characteristics to God AND to other people.
These need to become part of our very being – ‘… write them on the tablet of your heart…’
promise attached – we all like to be thought well of by others – living God’s way will give us that – not only from other people but also from God.
1.2. We are to be dependent in our thinking. v5-6
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight. (NIV)
This is contrary thinking to the world in which we life – we are constsntly encouraged as are our children at school to be ‘independent thinkers’ [this is a point up to which this is true] – we are not to be mindless, passive followers – God has given us brain and the ablity to think and we need to do so …
… BUT our thinking is to be guided and moulded by God and his word.
We can’t pick and choose which part of God’s word we can accept and which parts we can reject -[Yes! certain parts are difficult] — our whole-hearted trust must be in God and his word.
‘Lean’ [v5] not to incline towards – as to lean against a wall – it is support – thus think rather of the floor on which you stand rather than as the wall against which you lean.
The ‘..make your paths straight..’ is more than God offering guidance [it includes that] but has the sense that God will bring you to his appointed goal for you.
1.3. We are to be humble in our obedience. v7-8
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD and shun evil.
8 This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones. (NIV)
The first temptation that humankind ever faced was to be like God – to gain wisdom by disobeying God. Garden of Eden –
6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (NIV)
Illus.: Ever been in a situation where you are trying to explain something to a child – but they have an answer for everything – they know it all –
Sometimes we treat God like that – we think we have all the answers – so God is left out – what does he know anyway!!
Or maybe we don’t leave him out as much as we set ourselves up as judge and pitt our wisdom against God’s
God says ‘Love your neighbour’
We say ‘Yes Lord but with regard to Harry I don’t I should love him, after all look what he did to me.’
Not only ‘not wise in my own eyes’ BUT also ‘fearing God’ – Realising that this God is not a celestial Santa Claus – he is awesome, fearful, he is judge and redeemer, he is the one who wants our allegience and complete and humble obedience.
1.4. We are to be lavishly generous in our giving. v9-10
9 Honour the LORD with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine. (NIV)
NB – it is with the firstfruits – often we only give God what is left over – everything we have we have from God – he has first claim – Not only our money!!
While I agree with planned giving – e.g. tithing [10%] – I prefer to think of this as follows:- God has given me this life – my abilities – possessions – time -etc.—- I must put him first in my life – how best do I use all these things for him.
Maybe you think it would be easier if you had more – ‘Lord if I had XX then I would gladly give it to serve you’
ILLUS.: Pig Farmer and vicar in Wiltshire
Vicar ‘Would you give £1000?’ Farmer ‘Yes’
V. ‘Would you give £2000?’ Farmer ‘Yes’
V. ‘Would you give 10 pigs?’ F.‘Come on, you know I have 10 pigs!’
God wants us to give him the best of what we have –
Does that mean more Church activities – NO! Not necessarily – maybe less – more time with children; that needy relative; that friend from work; less activity and more time alone with him in B/study …..in other words Put God First.
1.5. We are to be submissive in our experience of affliction. v11-12
11 My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline
and do not resent his rebuke,
12 because the LORD disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in. (NIV)
Resentment is often a natural response to hardship.
‘What have I done to deserve this?’
‘Why should this happen to me?’
Sometimes hardship is self-inflicted — sometime a consequence of our our actions.
But sometime God allows things to happen to us to teach us – to mould us – to bring us to be mature Christians.
Hebrews 12:5-11 5 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8 If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (NIV)
Far from hardship and discipline being a sign of God’s lack of love it is exactly the opposite. It is a sign that he loves us – he wants us to share in his holiness.
Hardship and discipline in itself does not produce holiness –
How do we respond? – despise it?? resent it?? – that will produce no holiness –
It is struggling through it – accepting it from him – trusting him [like Job].Not pretnding that it it is easy – no discipline is!!
These attitudes – responding to God’s teaching this way will result in a full and meaningful life both in this present earthly life [not necessarliy materially] but ultimately in the after-life!
2. BLESSING OF GODLY WISDOM. [V13-20]
Dealt with this before so will not dwell on it here!
Wisdom in Proverbs – personified as a woman – the charm of a girl or the maturity of a married women
Folly is her opposite number – protrayed in the silliness of adolescent or the irresponibility of a disillusioned married woman.
2.1. in creation [v18-20]
This wisdom should be taken seriously – she is seen active in the creation of the world [v19-20]
She is seen and the source or fountain of life itself
2.2. in life [v13-17]
Investing in wisdom – or rather allowing wisdom to invest in you – will bring far greater returns than any monetary investment.
“Wisdom makes you a rivher person than money ever will.”
What is this wisdom?? It is to obey God’s teaching and instructions for life.
BUT not just adherence to a legal code!
This wisdom offers life and peace. –
In the NT Christ is this wisdom – He offers these things!!
John 10:10 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (NIV)
12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (NIV)
John 14:27 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (NIV)
If you want the blessings and benefits of wisdom you must come to Christ – wisdom by any other way is wisdom in your own eyes. We will see in a moment the dangers of such a road!!
3. PROVING GODLY ATTITUDES AND WISDOM by:-
3.1. practical discernment v21-26
God’s wisdom is to be our constant companion “… do not let them out of your sight ..” [v21]
We are to be attentive to this wisdom – because it is this wisdom that “..will be life to us…” [v22]
As Christians we have the Holy Spirit and the Bible to guide us – the more we assimilate God’s word and become mature Christian the more we will begin to think in a spiritual way and live wisely.
Romans 12:2 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will. (NIV)
i.e. – practical spirituality!
3.2. practical neighbourliness v27-31
God’s instructions and wisdom are never left in an airy-fairy abstract – always brought to a practical level.
Here in a series of “Do not …” statements.
Do not hurt others in any way – and do not with hold help if you have the where-with-all to help – I wonder if Jesus had these verses in mind when he told the parable of the Good Samaritan.
Like Cain we may ask “Am I my brothers keeper?” – answer is an emphatic “YES”.
Illus: extractand poem from Eddie Askew “Facing the Strom” pp.64-66
4. GOD’S WAY – GOD’S BLESSING :: MY WAY – GOD’S CURSE.
As seen so far in Proverbs – constantly presented with two ways – two choices – two options – and here two responses from God.
Going God’s way comes with a promise of God’s blessing – not necessarily material blessing – not comfort and ease – sometimes hardship and suffering as the Lord disciplines those he loves — But a confidence that we are his; that we have an eternal hope in Jesus and peace of heart knowing our sins are forgiven and that we are right with God.
The alternative is going my way – But you say “I am not opposing God – not hurting anyone – I am just quietly living my owm life. — Maybe I’ll miss some of the blessings that the super-saints receive but I will be okay in the end!!”
Going MY WAY will not simply result in loss of blessing from God – it will in fact incur God’s curse.
30 “He who is not with me is against me……..
God has give us his instructions – he has also shown us his love by sending his son. When we reject these things God is not happy – in fact he is very angry.
John 3:36 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” (NIV)
We have so emphasized the love of God – and we need to – but in so doing we have neglected the wrath of God. There will be nothing more terrifying than being on the receiving end of God’s anger – HELL is a reality whoever goes their own way ignoring God – that is where they will end up!
Jesus was quite clear about this.
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you ….
41 “Then he will say to those on his left,[GOATS] ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. …..
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (NIV)
God’s way leads to blessing – both in this life and the one to come!
God’s way is through Jesus Christ:
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me. (NIV)
Going my own way might appear to have benefits BUT they are short-term and ultimately my way instead of God’s will incur his wrath!
Look at what God gives to those who follow him:-
32 ….. takes the upright into his confidence.
33 ….. he blesses the home of the righteous.
34 ….. gives grace to the humble.
35 The wise inherit honour,……
1. ATTITUDES TO GODLY INSTRUCTION. [v3-12]
mwe are to be stedfast in our commitment. v3-4
mwe are to be dependent in our thinking. v5-6
mwe are to be humble in our obedience. v7-8
mwe are to be lavishly generous in our giving. v9-10
mwe are to be submissive in our experience of affliction. v11-12
2. BLESSING OF GODLY WISDOM. [V13-20]
min creation. v18-20
min life. v13-17
3. PROVING GODLY ATTITUDES & WISDOM. [21-31]
mby practical discernment. v21-26
mby practical neighbourliness. v27-31
4. GOD’S WAY – GOD’S BLESSING.
MY WAY – GOD’S CURSE. [v32-35]