Proverbs 3, Part Four

-Never walk away from someone who deserves

It’s a wonderful feeling to have a close relationship with someone. You can relax when you have mutual trust with a friend. Proverbs 3 tells us that the righteous have an intimate relationship with God. As we study the last verses of this chapter, we’ll see how a righteous person acts, and how they benefit from those choices.

Picking up from where we left off, the proverb continues:

“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.” Proverbs 3:27-31

Previously, I discussed how verses 9 and 10 of chapter 3 implore us to give back to God. Doing so demonstrates our gratitude for His blessings, as well as our recognition of His sovereignty. Now, the proverb is telling us to be generous with others as well. We shouldn’t be stingy or judgmental toward our neighbors.

  • Can you think of a time that you were quick to judge someone (v. 30)? Was your judgement about them correct? How can we keep ourselves from judging others?

Verse 31 reminds us not to be like those who delight in sin, which is discussed in Proverbs 1. We have a choice between spiritual life and death; a choice between relationship with God or a life of sin. This choice is seen in Deuteronomy 30:19-20,

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

The next verses in chapter 3 demonstrate how that choice affects our lives.

“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 3:32-35

These verses show us that the righteous have an intimate relationship with God, while those who don’t know Him will live insecure lives apart from Him.

  • What does it mean to be taken into God’s confidence? Have you seen this concept at play in your life?

When we make God our foundation, He blesses our lives. This concept is illustrated well by Matthew 7:24-27:

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

A life founded on a relationship with God truly brings us well-being. I will write about Proverbs 4 in my next post. Blessings,

Olivia

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Proverbs 3, Part Three

-Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and

It is easy to get caught up in material possessions. When I was in 5th grade, I desperately wanted a Nintendo DS for Christmas. When I received that gift, I felt like I had won the lottery. I treasured that gift. Proverbs 3 tells us that wisdom is much more valuable than even jewels. It says,

“Blessed are those who find wisdom,
    those who gain understanding,
 for she is more profitable than silver
    and yields better returns than gold.
 She is more precious than rubies;
    nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand;
    in her left hand are riches and honor.” Proverbs 3:13-16

These verses parallel what we have seen about the value of wisdom earlier in Proverbs. The Proverbs have been telling us that wisdom is more valuable than material wealth. Proverbs 2:4 compares it to treasure, and these verses in chapter 3 compare it to precious jewels.

  • What makes wisdom more valuable than material wealth? In contrast to the peace that wisdom brings, in what ways can money cause strife?

It’s obvious that we should take care to remember our wisdom and continue to seek it.

“Her ways are pleasant ways,
    and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
    those who hold her fast will be blessed.” Proverbs 3:17-18

As has been reflected earlier in Proverbs, these verses demonstrate the security that wisdom brings to our lives. Verse 18 references the tree of life that we see in Genesis (see Genesis 2:9). The Reformation Study Bible notes that thriving trees were often used to represent consistent blessings. It also says that the most important element in this illustration is life, which is connected to our relationship with God. Without God, there is death.

  • Read over chapter 3. What words or phrases demonstrate the life-giving benefits of wisdom?

God used His knowledge to create us. The next verses in chapter 3 show how God used His knowledge to create the earth:

“By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations,
    by understanding he set the heavens in place;
by his knowledge the watery depths were divided,
    and the clouds let drop the dew.” Proverbs 3:19-20

How amazing it is that He shares some of that wisdom with His creation! We have access to life-giving wisdom when we seek an intimate relationship with our Creator. Praise Him!

The Proverb continues,

“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 21-26

Verse 21 tells us not to let life distract us from focusing on wisdom. It is too valuable to forget. This wisdom allows us to live with peace. When we seek Him and trust His Word, He makes our path smoother. Psalm 119:105 says,

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”

A couple of other Psalms fit these verses about the blessing of security:

“My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber…” Psalm 121:2-3

“He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:2-3

It is wonderful that the Bible is full of reminders of God’s protection and peace! How reassuring it is that God doesn’t stop watching over us.

I’ll finish up Proverbs 3 in my next post. Blessings!

Olivia

Proverbs 3, Part Two

-Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the

Have you ever known someone who seemed above-and-beyond generous? It can be surprising to encounter someone who gives with joy. Those whom they give to are blessed, and so is the giver. Proverbs 3 shows us how God blesses us when we give to Him.

“Honor the Lord with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
 then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wine.” Proverbs 3:9-10

Don’t be stingy when it comes to giving to God. In comparison to what He has given to us, we should be eager to give back to Him. He doesn’t need our gifts; the point is to have a humble heart-posture that is glad to do His will. He blesses us when we give to Him, so there is no reason to hold back. We won’t run out of what we need. Matthew 6:25 and 33 says,

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?…But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

  • Do you ever have a difficult time giving to God or others? What holds you back from giving with joy?

The Reformation Study Bible says that giving to God recognizes His sovereignty and shows our gratitude. Leviticus 27:30 reminds us that our tithes belong to God:

“A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord.”

  • How does giving to God acknowledge His sovereignty?

Our blessings are not ours to begin with. They come as gifts from God, and we should show our thankfulness by giving back to Him. God’s tremendous grace is shown to us when He blesses us again for giving Him our firstfruits. How amazing it is that God continues to bless us, even for things that we should be doing anyway.

God’s grace is also seen in the next verses:
“My son, 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 in.” Proverbs 3:11-12
These verses are reminding us again to love wisdom. Just like Proverbs 1:7, which tells us that fools hate instruction, verse 11 argues that we should not resist God’s guidance. The Reformation Study Bible notes that this reminder is given so that believers won’t resist discipline since it can be difficult to go through. Hebrews 12:7-11 illustrates how God’s discipline shows us that we are His children. It says,
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live!  They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
God disciplines us to help us become more like Him. He loves us, so He helps us to learn what we need to know in order to grow. Though it is hard to go through this process, we will be blessed by it later.
  • Can you think of a specific time that God disciplined you and you were blessed for it? Is there anyone in you know who may be going through a similar time in their life and who you can encourage with your experience?

There seems to be a pattern here. We trust God (by giving to Him, applying His Word, asking for His Will) and then we are blessed. Praise Him!

We’ll continue on Proverbs 3 next time. Blessings,
Olivia

Proverbs 3, Part One — Wisdom Gives Us Well-Being

-Trust in the Lord with all your heart and

Do you ever feel stressed when you need to make a decision? I can be indecisive when I fear that I might make the wrong choice. What a blessing it is to give our lives completely to God and trust His decisions. There is peace in submitting to God’s will. When we ask God to do His will in a situation, we can find comfort no matter the outcome. Even if things turn out to be difficult, we can rest in the knowledge that it was God’s will. It can be difficult to give God complete control of our life, but we will see in Proverbs 3 that submitting to God brings peace.

My son, do not forget my teaching,
    but keep my commands in your heart,
for they will prolong your life many years
    and bring you peace and prosperity.

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.” Proverbs 3:1-4

The first verse of chapter 3 tells us to store God’s commands in our hearts. Proverbs 2:2 says we should engage our hearts in understanding wisdom. By memorizing the Word, we are able to understand and apply wisdom. A practical way to do this in our lives is to actually write out verses. Through the process of writing out the scripture and by posting it in places we will see often, we can have a tangible method of keeping God’s commands in our hearts.

  • Verse 1 tells us to remember God’s teaching. What are some things that could cause us to forget His teaching? How can we be purposeful in keeping it in our hearts?

Exodus 20:12 reflects the blessings that God gives us when we remember His teaching. It says,

 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”

God is pleased when we focus on His teaching. Verse 4 mentions favor gained from man as well as from God. When we focus on God, people recognize how God has changed us. They see how He has blessed our lives.

  • In what ways has God’s hand in your life been obvious to you as well as others?

The Proverb continues,

“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 make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
    and nourishment to your bones.” Proverbs 3:5-8

Verse 5 calls for us to completely trust God. It is not true trust if we don’t give God our whole lives. He is trustworthy with everything we have. Additionally, it is prudent to lean on God’s understanding over ours. He sees the whole picture, while we only see our present circumstances. Verse 8 shows us that submitting to God brings us physical health as well as spiritual well-being. Proverbs 16:20 tells us,

“Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers,
    and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.”

  • What has stopped you from submitting to God in the past? How can you keep that from hindering you again?

Praise God for His sovereignty and wisdom! When we submit to His will, we have peace and prosperity. We will continue to dig into this concept in my next post. Blessings,

Olivia

Application Questions for Proverbs 1 and 2

He holds success in store for the upright,

Proverbs 1

  • What purpose of Proverbs do you feel you could benefit from the most at this point in your life (understanding the Word, guidance for a situation, growing closer to God)?
  • Can you think of a situation in which you resisted God’s instruction? What made you hesitate to accept His guidance?
  • Why do we need to have a humble heart in order to accept God’s teaching? Are there any areas in your life in which you could be humbled?
  • What wisdom did your parents give you that has benefited you throughout life?
  • Think of a time when you were tempted to sin. What made that sin appealing? If you resisted, what gave you the strength to say no?
  • How is God’s grace seen through the example of Wisdom in Proverbs 1:20-33?

Proverbs 2

  • How would it look to pursue God’s wisdom in daily life?
  • In your experience, have you seen how your faith in God has protected you from difficult circumstances or provided you peace?
  • Which benefit of turning to God have you seen most clearly in your life?
    • wisdom (verse 6)
    • fear of God (verse 5)
    • knowledge of how to live righteously (verse 9)
    • pleasure in wisdom (verse 10)
    • a blessed life (verse 21)

Proverbs 2 — Further Study on Wisdom

For the Lord gives wisdom;from his mouth

“My son, if you accept my words
    and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
    and applying your heart to understanding—
indeed, if you call out for insight
    and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
    and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
    and find the knowledge of God.” Proverbs 2:1-5

Proverbs 2 begins by telling us how we will find wisdom–by believing God’s Word, applying it, and pursuing it. It’s not enough to simply hear the Word; we must apply it (verse 2). We must also desire the Word and ask for wisdom (verse 3). These actions will lead us to the knowledge God offers us.

Verse 1 mentions storing up God’s instruction. We collect things that we treasure. Verse 4 discusses searching for wisdom like we would look for buried treasure. God’s Word is valuable and worth pursuing. Matthew 13:44 says,

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”

Verse 5 tells us that respecting God’s Word gives us an understanding of the fear of the Lord, which gives us respect for Him. The Reformation Study Bible notes that goal of wisdom is to know God better and be more like Christ. Wisdom gives clarity to God’s grace.  When we see how much mercy we have been given, it gives us respect for God. The proverb continues:

“For the Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Proverbs 2:6

We see here that wisdom is given (verse 6), and wisdom also involves our own actions (verse 4). These work together–no matter how much we search for truth, we won’t find it until God gives it to us. Similarly, we need to desire truth in order to receive it (Reformation Study Bible).

Verse 6 also gives us the image of knowledge coming from God’s mouth. God’s Word was spoken by God. Deuteronomy 8:3 tells us how much we need His scripture:

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

Verses 7 through 11 parallel well with our discussion about the benefits of fearing God in my last post. These verses make it obvious that respect for God leads to smoother lives because wisdom gives us guidance. Look at the ways that God’s protection is described in the following verses:

“He holds success in store for the upright,

    he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
 for he guards the course of the just
    and protects the way of his faithful ones.

Then you will understand what is right and just
    and fair—every good path.
For wisdom will enter your heart,
    and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
Discretion will protect you,
    and understanding will guard you.” Proverbs 2: 7-11

Next, verses 12 through 19 point out how wisdom helps us to avoid the sinful situations we discussed from Proverbs 1. Wisdom gives us strength to resist the temptation to sin (see Proverbs 1:8-19). It will also guard us from those who delight in sin (see Proverbs 1:22-32). God’s protection is seen further here:

“Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men,
    from men whose words are perverse,
who have left the straight paths
    to walk in dark ways,
who delight in doing wrong
    and rejoice in the perverseness of evil,
whose paths are crooked
    and who are devious in their ways.

Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman,
    from the wayward woman with her seductive words,
who has left the partner of her youth
    and ignored the covenant she made before God.
Surely her house leads down to death
    and her paths to the spirits of the dead.
None who go to her return
    or attain the paths of life.” Proverbs 2:12-19

Proverbs 2 ends by saying,

“Thus you will walk in the ways of the good
    and keep to the paths of the righteous.
For the upright will live in the land,
    and the blameless will remain in it;
but the wicked will be cut off from the land,
    and the unfaithful will be torn from it.” Proverbs 2:20-22

The Reformation Study Bible notes that land was often part of God’s covenants with people. It also symbolizes eternity with God. See Hebrews 11:16,

“Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”

When we turn to God, He gives us the strength we need to walk righteously. Matthew 7:13-14 talks about the road the righteous walk that leads to life:

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Wisdom saves us from the wide road to destruction, and we benefit from God’s knowledge in more ways than this. When we turn to God, we will:

  • be given wisdom (verse 6)
  • have a fear of God (verse 5)
  • know how to live righteously (verse 9)
  • find pleasure in wisdom (verse 10)
  • have a blessed life (verse 21)

It is obvious that a life of wisdom not only gives glory to God and honors him, but it also benefits us in several ways. Proverbs 1 warned us about what happens to those who reject God’s wisdom. We see from Proverbs 2 how seeking God’s wisdom leads to a blessed life. What a beautiful contrast!

Blessings,

Olivia

Proverbs 1, Part Three

-but whoever listens to me will dwell secure

I tend to be a worrier by nature. It’s easy for me feel insecure when I’m not sure about the future. When I was little, I got nervous when my dad would joke around by pretending to swerve back and forth as he drove (I think this is one of the official dad jokes written in some secret book only fathers know about). While my brothers laughed, I told my dad to stop playing around. I didn’t want to risk getting hurt. What a blessing it is that God tells us how to have security: by listening to His Word.

In my  last two posts on Proverbs 1, I discussed how wisdom is the foundation of our faith. We gain this wisdom by making God our first priority. It allows us to be a good example for others and to resist temptation to sin. Wisdom is given to us through God’s Word and the instruction of others. Today, we’ll learn more about the nature of wisdom and how our mindfulness of it affects our lives. We will be focusing on Proverbs 1:20-33.

“Wisdom cries aloud in the street,
    in the markets she raises her voice;
 at the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
    at the entrance of the city gates she speaks…” Proverbs 1:20-21

In this passage, wisdom is personified. It is obvious that Wisdom is trying to get our attention. She is trying to get as many people to listen to her as possible by going to crowded roads and markets. The Reformation Study Bible notes that the city gates were a place that people assembled for counsel, which makes it an appropriate place for Wisdom to tell others her advice. From these verses, we can see that God delights in giving us wisdom. James 1:5 says,

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

Wisdom is sharing her message with urgency. The use of the word “cries” in verses 20 and 21 show us how important it is to God that we obey Him. He wants us to know Him. In these verses, Wisdom wants people to understand the importance of heeding God’s word before it’s too late for them to be saved. This is a clear picture of God’s mercy for us. Look for urgency in the following verses:

“Seek God while he’s here to be found,
    pray to him while he’s close at hand.” Isaiah 55:6, The Message

How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
    and fools hate knowledge?
If you turn at my reproof,
behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
    I will make my words known to you.
Because I have called and you refused to listen,
    have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded,
because you have ignored all my counsel
    and would have none of my reproof,
I also will laugh at your calamity;
    I will mock when terror strikes you,                                                          when terror strikes you like a storm
    and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
    when distress and anguish come upon you.” Proverbs 1:22-27

Wisdom confronts the people, asking how long will continue to reject God. She has reached out with compassion to them, and they have repeatedly chosen to delight in sin instead of God. Wisdom predicts that this behavior will come back to hurt them later. The proverb continues:

“Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
    they will seek me diligently but will not find me.
Because they hated knowledge
    and did not choose the fear of the Lord,                                                   would have none of my counsel
    and despised all my reproof,
 therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way,
    and have their fill of their own devices.” Proverbs 1:28-31

Once those who ignored God realize that it was a bad decision, they will turn to Wisdom and find fear for God. However, they chose to do things that left them out of God’s favor, which in turn lead to difficult circumstances. It is obvious that ignoring God’s guidance is just as dangerous as choosing to sin, and these two actions go hand in hand.

Notice that verse 23 gives people a chance to repent. Matthew Henry’s Commentary explains that Wisdom offers to give people the strength they need to turn to God. The repentant person just needs to look to Him and He will give them His Spirit and help them to understand His Word. This makes it obvious to us that God doesn’t desire the difficult end brought to those who reject Him. He is crying out to the lost to bring them back to Him.

A note on verse 28: when Wisdom says that she will not answer those who call upon her, she is saying that it is too late for them to repent because they chose not to repent at the right time. She showed them mercy by offering a chance to repent earlier, but they still chose to sin. Once they saw the hardships caused by that sin, they changed their minds and wanted to repent. However, this desire for repentance came from a desperation to escape trouble, rather than a true heart (Matthew Poole’s commentary).

Proverbs 1 ends with this comfort for those who fear God:

“For the simple are killed by their turning away,
    and the complacency of fools destroys them;
but whoever listens to me will dwell secure
    and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” Proverbs 1:32-33

Those who obey God don’t have to deal with circumstances that come from rejecting His Word. They are also free from the fear of those difficult situations. Our relationship with God provides stability and peace in our life on earth, and it gives us eternal security as well. The last couple of lines in Proverbs 1 are a great parallel to verse 7:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
    fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7

Fools make a hard life for themselves by hating God’s guidance, but respect for God lays the foundation for eternal grace.

How amazing it is to see the grace that God extends so readily to people. We all need His mercy often. Reflecting on these verses makes me so grateful for God’s patience. I am thankful that He desires a relationship with us and helps us to come to Him. Those these verses may seem harsh at first, they are full of pictures of God’s mercy.

Thank God for the peace He gives us! We’ll start on Proverbs 2 in my next post. Blessings!

Olivia