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Proverbs 3:1-12 by Robert Dean
This passage is organized into a verse with a command followed by a verse with consequences, and ends in two verses regarding correction. There are a number of irresistible consequences for obedience to God’s commands. You would think no one could consider turning away from such a positive, rewarding course resulting in a life with wisdom, guidance from God, lack of fear, direction over our finances and protection leading to abundant living. The reality of disobedience is God’s experience with man, so in the end He encourages us even when correction becomes the exercise of His love for us. God’s correction assures us that abandonment of His own is not a part of God’s nature, and because of that, we are blessed even in His chastening.
Duration:1 hr 12 mins 33 secs

Choices, Consequences, Commitment, and Correction. Proverbs 3:1-12

 

What we should think about as we go through this study on Proverbs is that Proverbs presents for us challenges, challenges to our volition, our will. Proverbs challenges the choices that we make. Are we going to choose the divine wisdom or are we going to choose the path of human wisdom? Are we going to follow the path that seems right to man when the Scripture says that though it appears right to us the end is death? Or are we going to follow the path of divine revelation? What is the ultimate authority in our life? Is it the Word of God or is it our peers, our own feeling or emotions, or our own desires? Or are we truly committed to the authority of God in our lives so that we are going to put His Word first and foremost, above everything else?

 

We need to follow the path of wisdom, the writer of Proverbs says, for only when we have wisdom—the teaching of God's Word—can we really have life. What happens when we follow a substitute is that it eventually ends up in self-destruction.

 

We need to reflect on the whole concept of choice. We have choice. We have decisions to make every day. Many of them may appear to be insignificant choices. We choose who we will talk to on the phone, who we will have lunch with, who we will have dinner with, who we will listen to on the radio or on the television, who we allow into our minds to influence us. We make all kinds of choice and many of them do not seem to be volitionally significant at the time in which we make the choice. But we all know that there are many choices we have made in life that have significantly impacted things. We can never know the consequences of many of the choices that we make.

There are significant choices that we do make, choices that relate to obedience to God or disobedience to God, and we know that when we live a life and are walking according to our sin nature and disobedient that that is going to have negative consequences. Many decisions that we make just don't appear to be that significant, but even the most minor decisions may entail great consequences.

 

So choices result in consequences. But what this chapter three teaches at the core verses, verses 5, 6—" Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight"—is of a prior commitment to seek our security and stability only in God. And no matter what else happens—because we are focused on walking by the Spirit and applying the Word of God in our life and trusting God above everything else—in terms of these minor and apparently inconsequential decisions God is the one who is going to work out the path of our life and direct the path of our life with that unseen, sovereign control of God. Whatever happens, even though we may appear to be making insignificant decisions that result in some sort of catastrophic suffering or adversity, we know that God is in control and we can trust Him because we are ultimately committed to Him and to His Word.

 

The writer of Proverbs under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and thus speaking God's Word to us, informs us that though we can't determine of foresee the consequences of many of our decisions, what is important is the framework of those decisions and submitting to the authority of God in the progress of our life, and thinking in terms of the absolute truth of God's Word.

 

Chapter three takes us to the next level in the instruction of the father to the son. The first ten verses emphasize some things about what will happen to the son positively as a result of obedience to God's Word, where as vv. 11, 12 are a reminder that when there is disobedience there will be divine correction and discipline. The idea of divine discipline is expressed in the first line: Proverbs 3:11 NASB "My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD Or loathe His reproof." But it is not necessarily a negative in the original Hebrew. It is the word musar which is also used in chapter 1:3—"To receive instruction in wise behavior." That is because the idea of musar is a disciplined curriculum of training. It involves negative discipline as well as positive discipline, taking our unrestrained desires and forcing them into obedience and training and instruction. Its focus is to train us and direct us in a course of life that will result in a fullness of life on our part and an opportunity to honor and glorify God on the other hand.

 

The focus in chapter two was a challenge to the son to make the study of God's Word the highest priority in his life.  Proverbs 2:1 NASB "My son, if you will receive my words And treasure my commandments within you, [2] Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding; [3] For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; [4] If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures." What we see here in these four verses is the condition: to seek, to search, to make the Word of God the highest priority. That is the challenge to the son. The result of that is given in verse 5: "Then you will discern the fear of the LORD And discover the knowledge of God."

 

Knowledge about God is not just academic truth; it is coming to know God through the study of His Word in a personal way so that we can develop a personal relationship with Him.

 

The second result of that is verse 9: "Then you will discern righteousness and justice And equity {and} every good course." In a lot of discussion related to social issues today where people think in terms of what is right and what is wrong, the Word of God says that what is right and what is wrong has its source in the Word of God, not in public opinion, not in polls, not in cultural trends. One of the problems that we face today is that we want to redefine everything in terms of our own experience. But what the Bible teaches is that the Word of God is the source of absolute truth and that we must submit to it, otherwise we are on a path to death and destruction.

 

So the writer of Proverbs starts off emphasizing that we should seek the Word of God as our first and highest priority, and only when we do so can we truly understand God, and can we truly understand righteousness and justice. As long as we live in a world that rejects God's Word we will see more and more injustice and unrighteousness coming from the courts of our various nations. 

We are told that God (verse 8) "Guards the paths of justice, And He preserves [natsar] the way of His godly ones." It is interesting that three verses later in verse 11 we have those same words repeated. It emphasizes in verse 8 that it is God who guards and protects, and in verse 11 it is the wisdom that God gives that guards and protects. These same words come up again in chapter three.

 

Proverbs 3:1 NASB "My son, do not forget my teaching, But let your heart keep [natsar] my commandments." Notice that what we have here in Proverbs 3:1-12 is an interesting organization. Odd number verses present the command and the even number verses the positive results of the command. [2] For length of days and years of life And peace they will add to you."

 

Then in the next verse we get the positive command: [3] "Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart." Result: [4] "So you will find favor and good repute In the sight of God and man."

 

Then the command: [5] "Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. [6a} In all your ways acknowledge Him …" Positive result: "And He will make your paths straight."

 

Then the command: [7] "Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil." Result: [8] "It will be healing to your body And refreshment to your bones."

 

The command: [9] "Honor the LORD from your wealth And from the first of all your produce." The result: [10] "So your barns will be filled with plenty And your vats will overflow with new wine"—prosperity.

 

Warning: Proverbs 3:11 NASB "My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD Or loathe His reproof, [12] For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father {corrects} the son in whom he delights." If we are disobedient He brings discipline into our lives, and the blessing is that He shows His love to us.

 

Proverbs 3:5 NASB "Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding." This is a parallelism here based on opposites. The positive is stated in the first line, the negative is stated in the second line. So we are to trust the Lord with all our heart and in contrast we are not to lean upon our own understanding. The initial phrase "Trust in the Lord" is a phrase that needs to be clarified and understood. Too often we superficially respond to people's prayer requests or stated needs or circumstances of life by just sort of blithely saying, well trust in the Lord. It has been reduced to a bumper sticker type of slogan that too easily just falls off our tongue without stopping and thinking about its significance.

 

The Hebrew word that is translated "trust" here is the word batach which has the idea of expressing confidence or security in something. It is most often used in Scripture to express what we are not supposed to express our confidence in, but in key passages in the Psalms and Proverbs it expresses our confidence in God. We should notice here that there is a shift from Elohim in verse 4 to a focus on what in the English Bibles is small caps "lord"—Yahweh, which is an emphasis on God as the covenant God, the faithful covenant-keeping God of Israel. So that is to be the focus, the one in whom we put our trust. When we read the words to "put our trust in the Lord" we need to think of all that he is in terms of His attributes. This is one of the most significant aspects of learning how to trust God or what we often refer to as the faith-rest drill, where we are mixing faith with the promises of God. As we read the psalms the psalmist often faces his problems in the lament psalms and then in contrast to looking at the negatives of his circumstances he begins to focus on the character of God—God's faithfulness, God's loyal love [chesed], His grace, His goodness, His righteousness, His justice. As the psalmist focuses on these eternal attributes of God he then settles down. He focuses on that which has eternal stability rather than the chaos of the circumstances, and the end result is that he is able to relax in the midst of the circumstances and he is able to praise God despite his circumstances.

We are to trust in the Lord "with all of our heart." The word "heart" is Hebrew, as well as in the New Testament, is used in a different way than it is often used in everyday English where people use it to refer to their emotions. That is not the Hebrew idea, which more often than not has to do with the mind. It really focuses on the very center of something. We talk about the heart of the matter, the core of an issue. So heart has to do metaphorically with the very center of something, and what is at the very core of our being is our beliefs, our thinking, the rational part of man. We are to trust in the Lord. That is a command that is addressed to our volition. We have to make a decision as to whether or not we are going to trust ourselves to Him, and we are to do it with our whole heart, with all of our thought processes, all of our thinking. It is not talking about our whole being; it is talking about the center of our being, i.e. our thought system. Because it is out of the heart, the thought systems of man, that come the issues of life. We are to trust in the Lord with every aspect of our thinking.

 

In contrast, we are not to lean on our own understanding (Verse 5). Understanding is in contrast to heart. Understanding is a cognitive word. That means that heart must also be understood as a cognitive concept; not an emotional concept and not a volitional concept. So we are to think in terms of what God has revealed to us about Himself—His character; we are not supposed to lean upon our own understanding. The word that is translated "lean" here has the idea of depending upon something that is weak or wobbly, something that is unstable. Our human viewpoint understanding is based on limited knowledge, limited perception, and it doesn't take into account all of the facts, all of the data that can be known. The only one who knows everything is God. Our knowledge compared to God's knowledge is like one grain of sand compared to all of the grains of sand on our planet, and every other planet in the solar system and beyond. It is trusting exclusively in the Lord with all of our heart and not leaning at all on our limited understanding.

 

That doesn't mean that there is not a role for our thought system. God doesn't want us to just be empty robots. But we have to think in terms of the framework of the wisdom of Scripture, not in terms of the wisdom of the world. God is not saying don't think. He is saying think but not on the basis of human viewpoint acceptance of ideas and opinions, but on the Word of God. We go back to the proverb which says that there is a way that seems right to man but the way thereof is death. 

 

Verse 6 expands our understanding. It takes the thought from trusting in God to a further step of knowing Him. Proverbs 3:6 NASB "In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight." The word that is translated "acknowledge" is from a basic word [yada] which means to know, and it is used here in a form that means to know God. It is not unlike the use of the word "knowledge" for God back in Proverbs 2:5. We can only discover the knowledge of God or know God personally if we are seeking truth, seeking His Word fully. And this is the result. In all of our ways we know God, is a better way of putting it, although most of the translations translate it as acknowledge it has more to do with knowing God so that our knowledge of Him and the way God thinks, through His Word, permeates all of the areas of our life, all of the categories of decisions that we make. So it is more than just acknowledging Him, which has the idea of sort of admitting that He is in control or confessing His sovereignty. It is "in all our ways we know Him." In other words, our knowledge of Him is impacting every area of our life.

 

What is the result of that? It is the last part of verse 6: "He will direct our paths [make your paths straight]." He will smooth out our way is a good way to understand the Hebrew here. When we look at life and all the different things that have happened and things that can happen and could happen, what we see here is that no matter what decisions that we make, as long as our overall focus is on applying the Word of God to our life, even when we make decisions that could have unpleasant circumstances and consequences, God is the one who straightens out our path and goes before us. He is protecting us, He guards us from those negative consequences, and He guides and directs out lives in an unseen way. The key, though, is that we have to put our focus upon Him, our attention upon Him. This is why the one who trusts in Him is blessed—Jeremiah 17:7 NASB "Blessed is the man who trusts [batach] in the LORD And whose trust is the LORD."

 

Psalm 56:3, 4 NASB "When I am afraid, I will put my trust [batach] in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust [batach]; I shall not be afraid. What can {mere} man do to me?" We have uncertainties in life, we don't know what this afternoon or tomorrow will bring. We often think that things will continue in the future as they have in the past, but there are all sorts of things that can change that. Often God surprises us because He needs to take us through a training process and we never know what may occur tomorrow. We often fear, we put our focus on the circumstances of life; but what we need instead is to have our confidence in Him, not in the details of life. 

Psalm 91:2 NASB "I will say to the LORD, 'My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!'"

 

In contrast we are not to trust in human sources of strength—how much money we have in the bank, our job, our career, our education. These are not to be our ultimate sources of confidence; we are to trust in the Lord, not put confidence in man.

 

Then, another positive command. Proverbs 3:7 NASB "Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil." In other words, don't think that you can ultimately understand and interpret the details of your life apart from God. Don't think that you have a handle on life. Don't be wise in your own eyes, it is self-absorption. In contrast we are to do two things, a positive and a negative. We are to fear the Lord. The concept of fearing the Lord means that we take God seriously. We recognize that disobedience to God will bring horrible consequences in our life. To fear the Lord means more than simply respect and more than awe, it is that plus a healthy fear of what the consequences will bring because we are disobedient to Him. Positively we are to fear God, which is the beginning of wisdom (1:7), but on the other hand we are to shun evil, avoid evil.

 

The result is, Proverbs 3:8 NASB "It will be healing to your body …" The idea is that it will be health to our navel, the very center of our being. "… And refreshment to your bones." That which gives form and shape and structure to our life, our body. This is not a health gospel. In Scripture health terms are used to describe the negative consequences of sin in people's lives, because sin brought mortality into human experience, and these are often used as a figure of speech for the result of sin. So health is often used as a metaphor or figure for salvation and spiritual strength. When we humble ourselves under the hand of God then the result is spiritual strength, vitality, and physical strength as well for carrying out God's plan for our lives.

 

Proverbs 3:9 NASB "Honor the LORD from your wealth And from the first of all your produce." This takes us back to the Levitical offerings (remember this is in the Old Testament period under the Mosaic Law). One of the offerings brought to the temple was the offering of firstfruits—Leviticus 2:12, 14. This was the initial produce of the crop. This was an agricultural economy and when the crops came in the initial part of the gravest was taken to the temple and given to God. We honor Him with our possessions; all that we have is His. The result is that God oversees our finances, our prosperity.   

 

In the Old Testament this was very concrete. God made specific promises to Israel that if they were obedient to the Law God would prosper them, if they were disobedient God would bring economic disaster. Those issues related to Israel do not carry over into the New Testament. God does not mark your spiritual life today that the degree of your health or your material prosperity is related to your spiritual health. That is not part of the New Testament package. Why? Part of it is because in the Old Testament they didn't have the Holy Spirit at all, they didn't have the baptism of the Holy Spirit, they didn't have the filling of the Spirit; they didn't have any Spirit-related dimensions to their spiritual life, so that all of the criterion that is given to them for their obedience to God are related to concrete material things. If you are obedient to Me there will be rains in due season. If you are disobedient there will be drought. If you are obedient there will be victory on the battlefield. If you're not obedient you will be defeated. The ultimate causative factor was spiritual, not other factors. It was related to Israel being a nation before God. In the church age there is no nation of God anymore. The church is made up of believers throughout all nations and so these are not the kind of national principles that were in the Old Testament.

 

There are general principles that are true here. These are proverbs, not promises. If we are obedient to God and follow biblical principles of a work ethic, savings, giving to the Lord, then because we are following those biblical mandates of wisdom with regard to our finances we will be financially healthy. 

Finally in Proverbs 3:11, 12 NASB "My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD Or loathe His reproof." There is the word that indicates disciplined instruction. Instruction isn't random; it is disciplined, organized. It puts discipline upon the individual believer. If the believer is disobedient there is correction, discipline, punishment. "Or loathe His reproof/correction." Why? When we are being disciplined by the Lord and undergoing divine correction then that indicates God's love for us. It is a blessing. The blessing is that God is overseeing our lives and as our Father He loves us enough to discipline and to guide us and direct us, in order to ensure that we learn our lessons and grow to spiritual maturity.

 

Proverbs 3:12 NASB "For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father {corrects} the son in whom he delights." Correction and discipline is a sign of love. That has application to parenting as well as how we think about the adversity that God takes us through in this life as He is training us for our future destiny, to rule and reign with the Lord Jesus Christ.