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Wisdom for life (Proverbs 3:1-12)

Chatswood Baptist Church https://www.chatswoodbaptist.com.au

Parental wisdom

What wisdom did you learn from your parents? What did they teach you that has stayed with you? Some things you learn from them by what they say and other things you learn through what you saw them do?

You might have picked up little things that they used to do, and they now are your way of doing things. You stack the cupboard the way that you do perhaps because that’s the way that they did it. You might put the clothes on the line the way that you do because that’s the way they taught you. I find myself putting on my seat belt on in the car the way that dad used to do it (after I’ve started driving) because that’s the way that I saw dad do. In this case it isn’t a wise one to follow but it’s what I do when I’m not thinking about what I’m doing.

But of course, there were many good things that I learnt from my father. Dad taught me to have a go at something even if it was difficult. I learnt from him to perseverance – to not give up but to keep trying. I learnt from both parents to save and not spend money that I didn’t have. I learnt that there is joy in serving others and great reward in showing hospitality to others.

Wisdom for life

Today, we want to think about the sort of wisdom that those of us who are parents are to pass on to our children. We are looking at the first 12 verses of chapter 3 of the book of Proverbs.

Proverbs is a book that was written for gaining wisdom and insight (1:2). In the prologue of the book (the first 7 verses) the book’s editor has explained that the teaching in it is wisdom is for everyone. It teaches prudence (doing what is right and just and fair) to those who are simple. It provides knowledge and insight into life for those who are young and even the wise are to listen and add to their learning.

The book of Proverbs gained its names for in it there are a lot of short one sentence proverbs. These proverbs are little nuggets of practical wisdom about life that are general observations about life. For instance: “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes a crooked paths will be found out.” (Prov 10:8). But in addition to these short proverbs there are also some longer words of instruction that a parent might have shared with their children about what makes for a good life

Proverbs 1:8-9

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. 9 They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.

These words come straight after the prologue of the book. This exhortation makes it clear that the expectation is that wisdom is something to be taught in the home by both parents. In chapter 3 in the opening verses shows how important that teaching is.

Proverbs 3:1-2

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 peace and prosperity.

The words “peace and prosperity” is how the NIV has chosen to translate the Hebrew word “shalom”. It’s a word that conveys more than just the absence of conflict. The CSB translates the word “well-being”. But what is this wisdom that the son is not to forget? What is it that we are to teach our children so that they might have a good life, a rich and meaningful one? Well, that’s what verses 3 to 12 of chapter 3 spell out and this is what we are going to look at this morning. There are five lessons that the young need to learn.

1. Let love and faithfulness never leave you

The first lesson has to do with the importance of love and faithfulness. In verses 3 and 4 the parent urges the son to always hold on to love and faithfulness. It was to never leave them.

Proverbs 3:3-4

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.

The wise person is characterized by love and faithfulness. “Love” and “faithfulness” are two words that have frequently been paired together in the OT when describing the Lord and what he is like and how he is committed to his people. It was God proclaimed that he was like to Moses…

Exodus 34:6

The LORD, the LORD the compassionated and gracious God slows to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness..

Despite Israel’s unfaithfulness, regardless of her wickedness and rebelliousness God had abounded in steadfast love and faithfulness to his people. And these qualities are also to characterize his people. They were to be people who are like their God showing steadfast love and faithfulness.

These things are to be bound around our neck and engraved on the tablet of our hearts. They are to be what we define us as people at core and outwardly what we are known for. Such a person will find favour and a good name both with God and people. What the parent is to teach their children, what we are all to learn is that whatever happens in life – whatever disappointment might befall you – whatever the disappointments that you might have to face – let love and faithfulness never leave you. You are to hold on them. You are to remain steadfast in them because this is how God has been with us.

2. Trust the Lord with all your heart

The second lesson the son needs to learn is to trust the Lord with all his heart. This is really the heart of wisdom and the secret of living a life full of meaning and purpose. What’s involved in this is expanded and explained in the next few verses.

Proverbs 3:5-10

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

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.

9 Honor 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.

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.

Firstly, trusting in the Lord means not trusting in yourself. It means not leaning on your own understanding of things but trusting in the Lord and what he says.

Our understanding of reality is limited and it’s more than limited, it’s also faulty. It’s limited because we are creatures that have limitations in what we can know and understand. We don’t know everything. We are finite. We are not God and so we can’t understand everything the way that God does. We don’t understand all that God is doing and how he things will work out even our own lives. But we are to trust him with all our heart and not lean on our own understanding. Instead in all our ways (in everything we do) we are to submit to the Lord. We are to do things his way and not ours.

This is what we are to be teaching the next generation. And for the next generation to learn this they need to see us doing it. We are to build our lives not just on what seems to be right in our own eyes but on the Lord Jesus and his words. We are to be different to the people around us, trusting the Lord to make our paths straight.

You want straight paths. As many of you probably know about a month or so ago, I went on a 5-day hike with others down the coast from just below Yamba to Red rock. The one big mistake that we made that cost us a lot of time and effort and a great deal of angst and worry was when we decided to leave the path that had been laid out for us by the national park. We didn’t trust their wisdom for the going got hard and we tried to make our own way to the campsite. At the time we thought that our way would be better and easier. But it wasn’t. And it was only after losing an hour or more wandering around stumbling our way through the dense bush that we decided that we had been foolish to think that we knew better.

Here we are told that if in all our ways we submit to the Lord then he will make our paths straight. He will make our way clear in life. He will get us to where we are going. The way that God has done that is through the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the way for us to the Father. The apostle wrote that he is our wisdom because he is our righteousness, holiness and redemption (see 1 Corinthians 1:30) We are to acknowledge him, trusting in him and listening to him. We need to teach the next generation that in all our ways we need to submit to the Lord Jesus for it he is that makes our paths straight.

3. Don’t be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord

The third thing that the son is instructed to do is not to be wise in his own eyes, but to fear the Lord.

Proverbs 3:7-8

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.

We are not to be wise in our own eyes. In one sense this is just another way of saying that we are to not lean on our own understanding. If we think we are wise, then we won’t listen to the Lord and we won’t submit to him. We will go our own way and do what is right in our own eyes. But that is foolishness and not wisdom.

The wise fear the Lord and shun evil. The fear of the Lord doesn’t mean that we are just terrified of him, but it is to acknowledge God for who he is and respond to him appropriately. He is the Creator and ruler of everything. He is holy and mighty. He is our redeemer and Saviour. To fear the Lord is to approach him with “reverent awe and submissive faith” turning from our evil ways.

And this is what is good for us. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge or wisdom (1:7;9:10) and it brings with it reward or profit. For the Israelites living in the Promised Land, they were promised long life and health. The Lord told them that he would bless them and that he would keep them free from every disease (Deuteronomy 3:15).

While, we are not given the same promise, what we are promised is better. We are promised the redemption of our bodies, the resurrection of the dead, life everlasting and an inheritance than can never perish spoil or fade that is kept in heaven for us, a new heaven and new earth..

4. Honor the Lord with your wealth

If we trust God, fourthly we will also honour him with everything that we have and we won’t hold back what is due to him. In verses 9 and 10 the son is to honour the Lord with his wealth.

Proverbs 3:9-10

Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.

The Israelites were called to share the firstfruits of all the crops with the Priest and the Levites who served in the temple. They were to give the firstfruits of all their harvests; their grain, their new wine and olive oil, the first wool from their sheep (see Numbers 18:12-13; Deuteronomy 18:3-5). They were to do this out gratitude remembering that that it was the Lord who had provided all these good things for them. They were to honour the Lord with what they’d been given by sharing it with the Priests and Levites who served in the Temple. If they honoured the Lord and obeyed him the Lord promised to bless them and overflow their barns with grain and their vats with the new wine.

In a similar way we are to honour the Lord with our wealth. Believers are called to be rich in good deeds and generous and willing to share. We are to do this because, as Paul explained to Timothy in his first letter, it is God who has richly provided us with everything that we enjoy in life (1 Timothy 6:17). But unlike the Israelites our inheritance isn’t here it is in heaven. And while God supplies us with enough so that we can be generous, we aren’t promised overflowing bank accounts. Our inheritance is what is to come – it’s found in the new heavens and earth.

5. Don’t despise the Lord’s discipline

The last thing that the son is told is not to despise the Lord’s discipline.

Proverbs 3:11-12

My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.

We aren’t to resent being rebuked or corrected by the Lord. For the Lord corrects those he loves just as a father correct the son he delights in. We aren’t resent his rebuke or correction. In the book of Proverbs it is the wise who welcome correction. It is the fool who doesn’t.

Proverbs 12:1

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.

Proverbs 15:5

A fool spurns a parent’s discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence.

Proverbs 15:31-32

Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise. Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.

We don’t gain understand and wisdom without correction. That correction comes in different ways. But, often the Lord uses others to correct us, to keep us from leaving the straight paths or directed back on to them when we’ve gone astray. When we are young it’s our parents. It’s the parent who loves their child who disciplines them for their own good. But God also put us in a community of believers for our own good. We are called to love and admonish one another with all wisdom and gentleness (Colossians 3:16; Galatians 6:1; 2 Timothy 2:25).

Learning wisdom

The lesson we all need to learn in life is the place that God ought to have in them. We are to be like him, trust him, submit to him, honour him, and accept his correction. There is no shalom or peace in life without trusting and fearing the Lord. This is the wisdom that we need to be passing on to the next generation.

I’m thankful for all the things that my parents taught me and did for me. I’m thankful for all the advice they gave and the experience they shared with me. I’m grateful for the time that my dad spent coaching me soccer. I’m grateful that he spent time with me teaching me to drive and showing me how to repair my car. I’m also thankful for all the piano lessons that mum and dad paid for even though I can hardly play today. I’m also thankful for the opportunity that I had to study and go to college. But what I am most thankful for is that they taught me the way of wisdom.

Friends it’s this wisdom that those of us who have children ought to want to pass on to our children. This is wisdom from God. And at its heart is that word that is spoken to the son in verse 5 and 6.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.