Proverbs 3 – Wisdom and Well-Being

The 3rd chapter of Proverbs highlights true wisdom’s impact on our practical lives. Who wouldn’t want this? 

This chapter of Proverbs contains many people’s favorite scripture verse: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 direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

I’d say that it’s one of my favorites as it has a very simple and easy to understand and remember mandate to:

  1. Trust God totally rather than your own perspective, and
  2. Submit to His authority in your life, and
  3. If you do, God will direct your life.

This is actually quite profound in itself. Fully trust God and submit to God and follow His directed leading.

But who actually does this? Actually, given the rest of the chapter, the question we should be asking is Why would anyone not do this?

The Rest of the Chapter
As all of Proverbs include the wise words of Solomon, that first king of Israel given wise and discerning heart directly by God as a gift (see 1 Kings 3:7-15), in Proverbs Chapter 3 we see a continuation of his plea to his own son for heartfelt obedience and adherence to his own wisdom teaching.

In the verses just preceding everyone’s favorite verse, Solomon speaks of further beneficial impact, even prolonged life and peace and prosperity.

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you…Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.” (Proverbs 3:3-4)

In subsequent verses (Proverbs 3:5-20) Solomon highlights a simple and practical message that applies to all of us. Wisdom is trust in the Lord and our requisite guiding path to a life lived-well. This results from a fully submitted life to Him and Him alone. Wisdom that is humble, thankful, honoring of God and resistant to evil is healthy and bountiful in body and overflowing blessings in this life.

He points out that this type of submissive life does not come without hassles:

“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.” (Proverbs 3:11-12)

In reality, wisdom is more than everything of value in and around all of God’s creation: profitable yields of silver and gold, precious rubies; nothing you desire can compare. Wisdom associates with long life, riches and honor, even pleasant ways, and paths of peace and blessedness. In fact, the Lord, the source of wisdom, by His wisdom, laid the earth’s foundations, and set the heavens in place. It is by this wisdom the watery depths were divided and the clouds let drop the dew. (See Proverbs 3:13-20)

Poetic License? 
Through the rest of the chapter Solomon continues in this same manner which would seem to border on practical advice mixed with poetic license. But be not deceived. The Bible is literature to be read and understood in the context of its literary style and delivery method.

While a proverb is defined as “a pithy sentence, concisely expressing some well-established truth” these lessons from Solomon/Proverbs are non-trivial directives with the seal of divine inspiration. Recall that Solomon lived 700 years before the age of the wise Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. His sources are therefore not from the brightest minds of human history nor suspected from any surrounding heathen culture of his own time. His Proverbs are consistent with the sacred Psalms of David and the Hebrew Scriptures as deeply aligned with the God of Abraham, Jacob, and Moses.

Wisdom is Life Protection and Wise Action 
The rest of the 3rd Proverb of Solomon (verses 21-35) continues in this strangely practical and encouraging litany:

Life Protection – My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared. (Proverbs 3:21-26)

Wise Action – Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—when you already have it with you. Do not plot harm against your neighbor, who lives trustfully near you. Do not accuse anyone for no reason—when they have done you no harm. Do not envy the violent or choose any of their ways. For the Lord detests the perverse but takes the upright into his confidence. The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous. He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed. The wise inherit honor, but fools get only shame. (Proverbs 3:27-35)

So wisdom with its requisite understanding, sound judgment and discretion actually preserves life in safety, without fear, in deep peace and rest. And wisdom does good, is good, upright, and blessed; very different from the perverse, wicked, ungodly, and cursed in comparison.

The choice in life is relative clear: shame for proud mockers of God vs. God’s favor and inherited honor for the wise.

Who wouldn’t want God’s wisdom?
Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil…Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding…” – Proverbs 3:7, 13

Categories: Books of the Bible, Old Testament

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