proverbs-3

Exodus 27, Proverbs 3, Psalm 74-75

(I misread the schedule and had you read Psalm 72 twice. Today’s readings catch you up with the schedule).

Today we’re reading Exodus 27, Proverbs 3, Psalm 74-75.

This devotional is about Proverbs 3:9-10.

In this chapter, Solomon gives some general encouragements to be wise (vv. 1-4, 13-26) and some specific ways in which he should be wise (vv. 5-12, 27-31). Remember that wisdom is simply skillful living but, because God is Creator of life and its rules, one cannot be truly wise unless he knows and submits to God. The specific ways in which Solomon wants his son to be wise are stated first followed by the benefits of that wisdom. For instance, in verse 9 he told his son to “Honor the Lord with your wealth” and in verse 10 he wrote that the benefit would be financial abundance.

Solomon’s command to, “Honor the Lord with your wealth” is explained by the second phrase, “with the firstfruits of all your crops.” This refers to the command to bring the first things harvested to the priests to support their work for the Lord (Deut 18:4-5). Israel was to support the Lord’s work first, then sell or trade the rest of the food they harvested to provide for their families. Living in a farming economy could be a scary thing. A bad harvest or total crop failure could leave people starving. It would take an act of faith, then, to give to God’s work first and then live on what was left over. Solomon taught that the wise way to live was to do what God commanded and give to his work first, then live on the rest. His promise was that “the rest” would be an abundance for the faithful believer: “then [after you honor the Lord] your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.”

This advice runs counter to most advice that is given on how to build wealth. Financial advisors will tell you to “pay yourself first” and “give to charity” last if at all. If you learn to save, they will tell you, you will prosper. That’s true--and Solomon will teach that in Proverbs, too--but a more important principle is that if you honor God he will bless your work.

Have you tried this? I know that we live in the age of grace and that tithing is not commanded in the New Testament. But does that mean that God no longer provides for and blesses those who honor him with their wealth? I don’t think so and there are New Testament passages that teach the opposite (see 2 Cor 9:6-12). While we don’t give to the Lord in this age because the Law demands it, we should want to honor the Lord with everything we have, including our money. If you don’t give to God’s work faithfully and regularly, take a one month challenge. Give 10% of your income to the Lord for one month; then see if you are as well or better off than you would have been. I think you’ll find that God still blesses those who honor him with their earnings.

Proverbs 3:1-20

Today’s reading is Proverbs 3:1-20.

One of the best known passages in Proverbs is here in chapter 3 verses 5-6. Verses 9-10 are also known by many believers, and both of these sections deserve our attention and obedience.

Eclipsed, maybe, by the light of Proverbs 3:5-6 is Proverbs 3:3-4: “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.” These are general commands, so we must put some effort and thought into understanding and applying them specifically in our lives.

Let’s start with the command itself, “Let love and faithfulness never leave you.” Scholars encourage us to think of “love and faithfulness” as parallel ideas to verse 1’s “forget not my teaching” and verse 5’s “trust in the Lord with all your heart.” In other words, verse 1, verse 3, and verse 5 are all trying to emphasize the same truth by describing it in different but complementary ways. Solomon’s “teaching” in verse 1 was “love and faithfulness.” He taught his son “love and faithfulness.” But what does that mean? Verse 5 clarifies that it means to “trust in the Lord with all your heart.” The “love and faithfulness” that is commanded in verse 3, then, is a deep commitment to the Lord. “Faithfulness” urges us to serve and worship and obey God with devotion and “love” tells us to do it from the heart or “with all your heart” (v. 5a). Wisdom for Solomon, then, began with a commitment to the Lord, a heart-felt reverence for him that caused one to choose to follow the Lord in obedience.

As a Christian, you know how easy it is to devote yourself to the Lord for a time, but then the complexities of life, the attraction of materialism, and/or the pleasures offered by the world cause your focus to drift from devotion to the Lord. This is why Solomon continued in verse 3 by saying, “bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” He urged his son to do whatever it took not to waver from following God. I don’t wear neckties very often because they are annoying. When I have one on, part of my brain is conscious that it is there. That’s what Solomon wanted his son’s devotion to God to be like. In fact, he wanted it to become the operating system of his life: “write them on the tablet of your heart” (v. 3c). This is a command to learn and rehearse God’s word so that the mind of the Lord shapes how you think and what you desire. Your thoughts and desires drive your actions, so obedient actions flow from a changed mind and a heart conditioned by God’s word. And what is the result of this deep devotion to God, “Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.”

One commentator I consulted pointed out that our approach is to seek the result first. We try to curry favor with man (for sure) and God, too, if we think about it. This is where people-pleasing warps our thinking and causes us to do things that are unwise and even immoral. Winning favor with God often results in legalism. We read God’s word like it is a rule book and we try to walk within the rules so that God will like us and others will think well of us. But Solomon calls us to a deeper, more sincere approach. Desire godliness and faithfulness to the Lord; let that desire pull you into his word so that it shapes how you think and feel about your life. The result of these things are actions that please the Lord and cause people to admire your moral, principled approach to life. So the wisdom of Proverbs is so much deeper than a few fortune-cookie sayings. It starts with a heart and life that is devoted to God. I hope these daily devotionals are helping you in that way but you also need regular attendance in our worship services and true fellowship in our small groups to make wisdom active in your daily life.