Proverbs 3



Further Benefits of Wisdom (3:1–35)

1–2 In the first twelve verses of this chapter the writer, acting as father and teacher, gives some very important instructions to his son (disciple). The writer describes his instructions as “my teaching,” but the teaching is ultimately from the Lord. A godly parent or teacher would never intentionally teach something that was contrary to God’s word.

In verse 1, the writer urges his “son” to keep God’s commands in his heart, to make them a part of his life, to live by them (see Psalm 119:11; Proverbs 2:1). If the son will do this, he will live a long life and enjoy prosperity (verse 2). This is a general promise to those who remain faithful to God (see Leviticus 26:3–13); on average, the RIGHTEOUS lead longer, happier lives than the wicked. However, we know from experience and from other passages of Scripture that there are many exceptions to this general rule. For further discussion on this important subject, see Exodus 15:25–27; Psalms 22:1–2; 44:9–22 and comments.

3–4 Here the writer tells his “son” never to let love and faithfulness leave him. The words “love” and “faithfulness” appear together many times in the Old Testament; they are two of God’s greatest attributes. They are what bind together God and His people in a covenant relation ship. God demonstrates love and faithfulness to us; we, in turn, need to respond to Him with love and faithfulness.

The writer tells us to bind love and faithfulness around our necks (verse 3), so that they become part of our nature (see Deuteronomy 6:8). He tells us to write them on the tablet of [our] heart, so that our hearts might be conformed to God’s heart (see Jeremiah 31:33; Hebrews 8:10). Then we will win favor from God and be respected by both God and man (verse 4).

5–6 The writer’s next instruction is this: Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding (verse 5). Failure to heed this instruction is the cause of most of our problems in life.

To trust someone is built into our nature from birth; we trust our parents, and through their training we learn to transfer our trust to God. The very first thing we do is to trust; all else follows from that.14

But real trust goes deeper than just “counting on someone”; it implies commitment to someone. We are to trust God with all [our] heart. We not only cast ourselves upon Him in trust; we also give ourselves to Him in obedience. Trust and obedience are inseparable.15

As usual in Scripture, along with the positive command there is also a negative one: . . . lean not on your own understanding (verse 5). One might ask: Why shouldn’t we lean on our own understanding? We have been created in God’s image; we have been given rational minds. But God gave us minds so that we might know Him and be able to discern His will; He never gave us minds so that we could be independent of Him and go our own way. Our “own understanding” has been corrupted by our sinful nature16 and it will always lead us astray if we “lean” on it. That is why the writer urges us to commit all our ways to the Lord so that He might make our paths straight—free from temptation, sin and error (verse 6).

To walk in “straight paths” is to walk in God’s will. God shows us His will when we show Him we are willing to follow it. Many Christians complain that God is not giving them clear direction; the reason is that they are not willing to follow His direction. We won’t know God’s will in specific situations until we are willing to obey Him—no matter what. First, we must choose to do God’s will; then we will know what it is17 (see John 7:17).

7–8 Here the writer’s instruction follows on from the previous one: Do not be wise in your own eyes—that is, do not be proud of your own wisdom, do not think you can get along without God’s wisdom. Then the writer gives a two-part command: fear the LORD and shun evil (verse 7). We do not “fear” the Lord cravenly but reverently (see Proverbs 1:7 and comment); we shun evil because, in part, we fear the punishment of a just and righteous God. If we follow this instruction, the writer promises us health to our bodies (verse 8). The “health” he refers to is, above all, spiritual health; but avoiding evil will generally result in physical health as well.

9–10 The next instruction is to give back to God part of what He gives to us; we do this to acknowledge that everything belongs to God and to show our gratitude for His gracious provisions. God has asked for the firstfruits of all our crops18 (Exodus 23:16,19; Leviticus 23:10), and in return He has promised to pour out abundant blessings upon us (see 2Corinthians 9:6–11).

11–12 Here the writer instructs the “son” or disciple—ultimately, us the readers—not to despise the LORD’S discipline (verse 11). The writer to the Hebrews quotes these verses to show that discipline, or suffering, is a sign of sonship19 (Hebrews 12:5–6); the Lord disciplines us because He loves us (verse 12). The discipline of the Lord leads eventually to our good20 (Romans 8:28; Hebrews 12:11).

13–18 In these verses, the writer praises wisdom; again he personifies wisdom as a woman. Blessed is the man who finds her; she is of more value than the most precious things the earth has to offer (verses 14–15). She leads one to long life, to riches and honor (verse 16); she leads one through pleasant ways to a place of peace21 (verse 17). She is a tree of life (verse 18)—a source of life, vitality and blessing; the writer may have borrowed this image from the “tree of life” mentioned in Genesis 2:9.

19–20 It was by wisdom that God created the heavens and the earth.22 Thus when we live by wisdom, we conform ourselves to Him and live according to the order His wisdom has established23 (Romans 8:29; 12:2).

21–26 In these verses, the writer describes some of the benefits that come from preserving sound judgment and discernment—that is, from following the path of wisdom (verse 21). Sound judgment and discernment (wisdom) will result in life (verses 18,22); they will be like an ornament on one’s neck (see Proverbs 1:9). Indeed, following the path of wisdom will lead to the covenant blessings that God has promised to give to those who keep His commands (Leviticus 26:3–13).

27–30 Here the writer gives further instruction concerning wise behavior, especially in relation to one’s neighbors. We are not to withhold good from our neighbor (verses 27–28); in God’s sight, that is the same as doing harm to our neighbor (see James 2:15–17; 1 John 3:17–18). In essence, the writer is telling us to love our neighbor as ourself (Leviticus 19:18; Mark 12:31) and to follow the “golden rule” (see Matthew 6:12).

31–35 For a short time a wicked or violent man may prosper, but we are not to envy him or choose . . . his ways (verse 31); the Lord’s curse (judgment) is on his house (verse 33). The Lord mocks such proud mockers (verse 34); both James and Peter quote verse 34 to show that God opposes the proud (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). But God takes the upright into his confidence (see John 15:15) and gives blessings and GRACE to those who are righteous, humble and wise (verses 32–35).