Friday, July 3, 2009

Further Benefits of Wisdom

The NIV title of Proverbs 3 is a little unimaginative, but it proves the point. The moral, spiritual and practical paybacks of securing wisdom are endless. It is simply the best way. And we don’t look far for reason. Most of these chapter 3 verses state reason enough.

The continued subject of the father’s speech is, of course, the son--the object is his upbringing. These proverbs, chapters 1–9, are really about the parental duty of a sound moral upbringing to the biblical standard. (Much of which seems altogether too difficult for us with our own children in this age--but is that simply an excuse?)

When we read the imperative language we get insight that compels us; no, we don’t have a choice if we love our children and we also abide in truth. The wise, godly parent will therefore hold fast to Proverbs.

Well known almost more than any other couplet of verses, and very much underpinning, is the passage:
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not rely on your own insight; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths”
–Proverbs 3:5-6 (NRSV).

An entire life could be rightly based on those two verses alone, though in reality we need to know more about God to know how to trust him and follow him. But faith is a relatively simple concept.
But, this chapter introduces other important theological concepts, like discipline.

If only we were able to hear and heed the following consistently in our lives:

“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”
–Proverbs 3:11-12 (NIV).

The LORD’s discipline can be any setback in life as God allows all things that happen to happen. Our pain is not the point--it’s merely a signal that something is wrong; our disciplined responses are the point. Pain is good in this way. It’s an activator. We have the opportunity to respond the right way.

The following three verses place importance on the son gaining understanding, presumably as a result of the LORD’s discipline--for that is how understanding is truly gained--in the midst of battle. Understanding is more precious than anything, a truly eternal possession.

And these verses simply lead to the crowning verse in the Jewel of Proverbs 1–9, in my view.

“Long life is in [Wisdom’s] right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor”
–Proverbs 3:16 (NIV).
For these three reasons we’re supremely blessed. A long life is a fulfilled life, content with its lot, however it has turned out. Riches are spiritual riches primarily, but almost certainly (though not always) meaningful (i.e. spiritually meaningful) material riches of tangible variety are in abundance also. Honour comes in the form of a right and just reputation of a person of integrity--no cheap possession.

Wisdom is the ‘tree of life’ to all those who embrace her (3:18), casting the net back to Genesis and forward to Revelation. The tree of life analogy is intrinsically a biblical metaphor; reward for right relationship with God.

The rest of the chapter consists the origins of Wisdom, which came before Creation, an urging to cling fast to Wisdom (verse 21–26) and some notable warnings to follow the path of wisdom. It concludes with five ‘do not’ proverbs which lead to outcome statements: two negative and one positive.

If there is a hinge in Proverbs 1–9 it is chapter 3 with its richness and range.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.

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