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Proverbs 3:19-35 by Robert Dean
Doomsday scenarios can strike terror in hearts in the middle of the night. Stock market crashes. Attacks on our country. Personal problems. Proverbs teaches us that when we focus on the Word of God we can sleep without fear. Just as God used His infinite wisdom to create the world, He offers wisdom to those who make learning and applying His Word a priority. He promises protection and the security that our steps are ordered by Him. Listen to this lesson to learn how creation is the foundation to everything else in the Bible. See how we are to treat those who ask for help with generosity and why we shouldn't envy the wicked when they prosper.
Series:Proverbs (2013)
Duration:49 mins 37 secs

The Value and Benefits of Wisdom. Proverbs 3:19-34


In the first part of this chapter, in vv. 1-18, the focus is on how to be blessed: the blessing in life that comes from wisdom. This becomes part of the summary exhortation in the conclusion at the end of the chapter in vv. 33-35.

Proverbs 3:33 NASB "The curse of the LORD is on the house of the wicked, But He blesses the dwelling of the righteous." That connects what is said in vv. 19-32 to the theme of this chapter, which is blessing. [34] "Though He scoffs at the scoffers, Yet He gives grace to the afflicted." That is the way in which He blesses the righteous and a way in which He judges by divine discipline the "house"—the home, the life, everything involved in the life and family--of the wicked. In contrast there is blessing on the home of the just. The long-term result is then stated in v. 35: "The wise will inherit honor, But fools display dishonor." Notice the concept there of "inherit." That is the possession. The ultimate concept of the word for inherit in the New Testament is a possession that someone owns. And in contrast there is shame as the legacy of fools. The fool is the one who has rejected wisdom and God's grace.


So what is it that we are to do? Why is it so important to "study wisdom"? That takes us to verse 19. Verses 19 and 20 are four lines that focus on the same topic, the topic of wisdom in terms of divine wisdom. Wisdom often in Proverbs is personified. Wisdom represents that aspect of God's omniscience in terms of its outworking in what He creates. Wisdom is infinite knowledge that enables Him to create what He creates with perfect beauty, which has to do with aesthetics and functionality. The only reason they may seem less than perfect is because of sin. God does what He does according to a standard in His thinking, which is wisdom. As we have seen, wisdom is the concept of skill in application.


This theme is emphasized in other passages of Scripture, such as Psalm 104:24 NASB "O LORD, how many are Your works! In [By (instrumental)] wisdom You have made them all; The earth is full of Your possessions." Notice that in this psalm, in Proverbs 3 and in Proverbs 3 and 8, creation is a foundational doctrine in the Scripture. Creation is not a secondary, ancillary issue because it is fundamental to understanding who God is.


Proverbs 3:19 NASB "The LORD by wisdom founded the earth, By understanding He established the heavens." What we see here is the principle that if God used wisdom, and to put it in a little more anthropomorphic sense, if God needed to use wisdom to create the world, don't we think we might need wisdom to live in the world? That is the basic point here. [20] "By His knowledge the deeps were broken up And the skies drip with dew." The first three lines, two in verse 19 and the first line in verse 20, are roughly parallel. We are told that the subject is the Lord in the first line and then that He is the assumed performer of the action in three lines, each stating the means or instrument by which God created—by wisdom in the first line, understanding in the second line, and by knowledge in the third line. As we see in the poetry of Proverbs these three terms, wisdom, understanding and knowledge—even though they have some distinction to them—are used in a synonymous manner. 

The two verbs that are used in Proverbs 3:19, founded and established, have to do with a) founded: has to do with the foundation stone in the temple. It is the beginning process of the work of creation; b) established: used parallel to that, that God sets this up. The thrust of this is that there is a stability in creation, a certainty. The very basis for modern science came out of a Christian or a biblical presupposition about knowledge, and that is what the writer of Proverbs is emphasizing here. Because God created everything there is a certainty and a stability in the creation. So we can count upon that. And just as there is certainty and stability in the physical realm we can extrapolate from that and make application to the spiritual realm that the principles applied to life from the Scripture apply to relationship, to society, to economics, that if we base our thinking upon the Word of God there is certainty and stability in those areas as well. So we can move from the physical and the known to the abstract and the more unknown, and because God oversees all aspects of creation there is stability in understanding how He has structured the universe.


In Proverbs chapter eight there is an extended reflection upon creation. Proverbs 8:25 NASB "Before the mountains were settled, Before the hills I [wisdom] was brought forth." Wisdom existed, not that wisdom was apart from God but wisdom resides in the very omniscience of God Himself. Therefore wisdom is eternal. [26] "While He had not yet made the earth and the fields, Nor the first dust of the world. [27] When He established the heavens, I was there, When He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep [the limitation of water], [28] When He made firm the skies above, When the springs of the deep became fixed, [29] When He set for the sea its boundary So that the water would not transgress His command, When He marked out the foundations of the earth; [30] Then I was beside Him, {as} a master workman [craftsman]; And I was daily {His} delight, Rejoicing always before Him, [31] Rejoicing in the world, His earth, And {having} my delight in the sons of men." Over and over again in Scripture in almost every book of the Bible there are these references to the creation. Creation is foundational to everything else in the Scriptures.


Unbelievers need to recognize who it is that we are speaking about when we talk about God and Jesus, that this is the unique creator God of the universe and as such He has the right to define everything in creation—including sin and salvation.


From this foundation of stating the value of wisdom to God in the creation in vv. 19 and 20, the writer of Proverbs then goes on to develop and deduce some exhortations of challenges from this principle. It goes like this. If God used wisdom in order to create everything in the universe and everything that we experience in life, and therefore we need to use that wisdom, how valuable should it be to us? 

A general mandate on the importance of wisdom: Proverbs 3:21 NASB "My son, let them not vanish from your sight …" What he means by that is that the eyes are the visual gate into the soul. We learn through our hearing and from what we read. And so often the eyes and the ears are used as really a metaphor for what passes through them into the soul. In Ephesians chapter one Paul prays to the Father: "Let the eyes of our mind be enlightened." So there is the idea that how we initially perceive things is through our eyes and through our ears. When the writer of Proverbs says "Let them not vanish from your eyes" he is basically saying, "Continuously focus on the Wisdom of God's Word."  "… Keep sound wisdom and discretion." So there are two commands here. First, "Let them not vanish," a negative—don't forget these, don't let them get out of your sight. Second, it is a positive command: "Keep [natsar] sound wisdom and discretion." Natsar means to guard, to watch over something, to keep it, maintain it, protect it, to preserve it. So the focus here is to make a priority of maintaining in the soul sound wisdom and discretion. Discretion is the application of wisdom in the circumstances and situations in life.


That is the priority that is set forth in this section of Proverbs. We are commanded to don't forget this, don't get so busy that it departs from our focus, to always have wisdom and doctrine before us, and then maintain it as vital to our life.

This will produce certain results, and in one sense the rest of the chapter defines some of those results. It is defined in a couple of different ways.


Proverbs 3:22 NASB "So they will be life to your soul And adornment to your neck." The result of this begins with focusing on life, the abundance of life, the quality of life. That is, wisdom and discretion will be life to your soul. You will live like you should live and experience the fullness of life as God intended, in contrast to living like a spiritually dead person. We see the imagery of the neck several times in these first three chapters, e.g. in 1:8. This is a metaphor of protection. It enhances the life on the positive side but it also is a sign of protection of the individual. In 3:3 we see this emphasized again. Again, the neck is standing really metaphorically for the whole person and binding wisdom around the neck is a metaphor of protection for the person's life, the person's thinking; and so the result of keeping wisdom and discretion is that first of all it produces life, and it produces grace or beauty in the life of the individual believer.


Another area of result: Proverbs 3:23 NASB "Then you will walk in your way securely And your foot will not stumble." This emphasizes security, and this is expanded upon in the next verse. [24] "When you lie down, you will not be afraid; When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet." So as a result of wisdom we can have a fullness of life, a capacity for life and joy and happiness that we can't have apart from wisdom. Without wisdom all you get is a sham, superficial flashes of emotional excitement; you don't have real lasting happiness that can enable you to handle the challenges of life whether adversity or prosperity. It also brings security: "you will walk in your way securely And your foot will not stumble." If you make a commitment in your thinking to apply the Word of God in every situation and every circumstance, then it means that you will have security in life. As a result as you live out your life you will not stumble.


The first of six prohibitions: Proverbs 3:25 NASB "Do not be afraid of sudden fear Nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes." Don't be so concerned about this that it consumes the life. Ultimately our steps are ordered by the Lord. We can take certain measures of safety and security. [26] "For the LORD will be your confidence …" It is an unusual word for confidence here. It has the sense in some passages of hope or confidence. It is our future expectation, and because He is our confidence we are able to handle whatever comes our way in a relaxed manner. It emphasizes a growth in our faith-rest drill, our ability to trust in Him. "And will keep your foot from being caught." That is a parallel back to v. 23. So God is the one who ultimately oversees our path. We may not know what decisions to make here or there but, going back to Proverbs 3:5, 6, when we trust in the Lord with all our heart and lean not on our own understanding, and we acknowledge Him in all our ways, then He directs our paths. He is the one who oversees this. We are going to make mistakes. We are going to do things that maybe put us in harm's way or be involved in things that may not be the most secure, but our life is in God's hands and so we relax and He takes care of things.


Proverbs 3:27 NASB "Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, When it is in your power to do {it.} [28] Do not say to your neighbor, 'Go, and come back, And tomorrow I will give {it,}' When you have it with you." These verses are related to one another. In the first part the command is related to being someone who is a giver and focused on helping others. Not just believers because we know from Scripture that the concept of a neighbor is not simply someone who lives next door to us. According to Luke chapter ten when the Lord was teaching on the good Samaritan a neighbor is someone who comes across our path in life. The idea here is that we are given financial resources and skills and abilities that are not supposed to be hoarded for our own use, but that God has given us those things so that we can use them as a blessing and benefit to others. If we have the ability to help someone then we should use it.

Verse 28 is basically saying, like James in James 2, "Go away, be warm and be filled." Using trite sayings like "Trust the Lord," knowing full well that we could do something that might be a little inconvenient, might cost us something, but we don't want to get involved, so we say, "I'll pray for you," rather than helping them at that particular moment. The writer of Proverbs says that we should recognize that this is an opportunity from God to be a blessing in the life of others and to demonstrate the grace and the love of God in the life of those around us. 

In vv. 29 and 30 we have another pair of negative commands. Proverbs 3:29 NASB "Do not devise harm against your neighbor …" Let's say you help your neighbor and he doesn't pay you back. Don't plot revenge upon him or some way to get back at them because they have not paid you back. "…While he lives securely beside you [for safety sake]." There is a principle here of blessing by association. Those around us who are blessed by association with our lives, and just because they do things wrongly toward us, it does not in turn give us justification to retaliate toward them. [30] "Do not contend with a man without cause, If he has done you no harm." In other words, there are times when we are to protect ourselves in some sense against someone who is taking advantage of us, but this is wisdom in knowing when to respond and when not to respond. We have to exercise wisdom in the process and that only comes from developing a wealth of doctrine in our soul from which we discern how to apply doctrine in the individual circumstances.


Proverbs 3:31 Do not envy a man of violence And do not choose any of his ways." Sometimes we see the evil or wicked person and they are prospering. David has a couple of statements in the psalms where he says, "How long O Lord will the wicked prosper?" After a while we may be tempted to think, Well this guy is really getting away with it and look at how God is prospering him. Our confidence is not in any of these other methods but our confidence is in the Lord who is going to preserve and protect us.


Then we come to the conclusion. Proverbs 3:32 NASB "For the devious [perverse] are an abomination to the LORD; But He is intimate [His secret counsel] with the upright." We will see about seven different places in Proverbs that talk about different things that are an abomination to the Lord. An abomination is something that is offensive to God. There are numerous sins that are listed as an abomination to God. And a perverse person is someone who is twisting Scripture, twisting the absolutes and the ethics of Scripture. In contrast, God's secret counsel—the way in which He guides and directs believers in an unseen way. He is working through circumstances and guiding us, directing our paths. The upright refers to the believer. 


Proverbs 3:33 NASB "The curse of the LORD is on the house of the wicked …" Everyone involved in the house of the wicked, the one who opposes God and opposes wisdom. In contrast: "… But He blesses the dwelling of the righteous."


Proverbs 3:34 NASB "Though He scoffs at the scoffers …" And God has an attitude of scorn towards the scornful, those who reject Him, like the fool who says in his heart there is no God. God in turn makes war upon them; He brings discipline and judgment upon them. But to the one who humbles himself under the mighty hand of God, God gives grace. To those who are believers, those who are studying His Word, walking by His Word, God is going to provide protection and grace provision. So we need to put our trust in Him. "…Yet He gives grace to the afflicted."


As a result the wise, those who have learned the Word and implemented it in their life, shall inherit glory. Proverbs 3:35 NASB "The wise will inherit honor [glory] …" We can put that together with passages in the New Testament related to the church age believer, that when we are with the Lord in the millennial kingdom there will be extended blessing and in our roles and responsibilities with Him as opposed to those who lose inheritance at the judgment seat of Christ. And that would be related to the shame of those who have foolishly disregarded the teaching of God's Word and the application of it in their lives. "…But fools display dishonor."


The principle here is on the value of wisdom. If God needed wisdom, don't you think you needed wisdom as well?