The exhortation of Proverbs 3:1 is important to all of us. Many see long life as an evidence of the special blessing of the Lord. “Let thine heart keep my commandments,” is a much needed admonition.
These verses speak of far more than submission to duty. They suggest loving devotion to the will of God. The Psalmist said, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11). And Ezra “prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments” (Ezra 7:10). This preparation of the heart of man is truly from the Lord. It is sadly lacking in many who profess the truth while their outward ways testify otherwise. Love is the motivation for true service to the Lord. “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15) are Jesus’ words; and He goes even deeper when He says, “If a man love me, he will keep my words” (John 14:23). This is the heart that delights to follow God’s ways when His mind is revealed.
Lovingkindness will commend the truth, but an acrimonious, judging spirit will turn the timid away. Both lovingkindness and truth are to be bound around the neck, in this way displayed in the sight of man; they should be written on the heart, thus finding favor with God.
“The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). The law was truth, but it was truth without grace. Since truth with grace has come by Jesus Christ the believer is exhorted to be “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). “Speaking the truth” is a one word participle in the original. J. N. Darby suggested coining a word to express it—truthing. the word implies more than merely speaking the truth. It suggests being characterized by the truth; but all must be in love. A hard and fast intolerant spirit makes the truth like a series of legal enactments. This spirit is harshly critical of those who differ and thus is far removed from the Spirit of truth.
These verses hold both a solemn admonition and precious assurance for all who would be guided in the way of peace. “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool” (Proverbs 28:26), but happy is the man whose trust is in the Lord. Self-confidence is like leaning on a broken reed. God has given His Word to guide in every detail of life so our sanctification might be by the truth. It is therefore inexcusable to lean on our own poor finite intelligence.
If we acknowledge Him in all our ways, He who is faithful has promised to direct our paths. “If therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light” (Matthew 6:22).
To be wise in our own eyes is the very opposite of not leaning on our own understanding. Where the Lord is truly feared, evil will be hated. “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Timothy 2:19). So strength and freshness will characterize the soul. It is impossible to have fellowship with God while walking in that which His word condemns. The path of blessing is the path of obedience. If He has spoken, the submissive soul will not stay to question but obey implicitly.
The Lord becomes the object of the heart that has departed from evil. He is not merely given first place. It is a poor thing when Christ only has the first place in the soul. He must have all if one is to walk with Him in holy joy and unhindered communion. The Israelite brought the first fruits as an acknowledgment of Jehovah’s sole ownership of the land of Canaan. He had said, “The land shall not be sold for ever; for the land is mine” (Leviticus 25:23). So, by honoring God with his substance, the believer gladly admits that all is the Lord’s to be used as He directs.
But God in His great goodness pledges that a steward who honors Him will not lack in barn or wine press. Many a saint goes on in comparative poverty because of his indifference to the principle here laid down. All comes from God; yet He graciously receives from His redeemed and delights to be the greatest giver. No one will find Him in their debt.
These words form the text for the apostle’s exhortation in Hebrews 12 on the Lord’s discipline. The writer of Hebrews expounded them by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost; so we turn to that precious portion of the Word. We need not trust our own thoughts, however much we seek to be subject to Scripture, when we have the mind of the Spirit fully revealed.
After having traced the path of faith through the pages of the Old Testament, the apostle admonished us to lay aside everything that would hinder our progress. This enables us to overcome sin that attacks our steps while we run with patience the race set before us. Christ Himself is called faith’s “author and perfecter” (Hebrews 12:2, niv). God would have the heart occupied with Him whose own path of shame and suffering is over and who is now “set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” To “consider him” is the antidote for weariness and faintness (3).
The apostle goes on to show that trial and difficulty must not be considered a strange thing. All are but a part of our discipline. He cites the passage we have now come to in the book of Proverbs. The difference of wording results from his quoting from the Septuagint, the Greek version generally in use at that time. “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loyeth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” (Hebrews 12:5-6)
In the book of Job a similar verse is found, credited to Eliphaz the Temanite, “Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty” (Job 5:17).
It is not a new truth that the Lord exercises discipline among His saints. In fact, it is because they are His own that He does chasten. This word does not necessarily mean “punish,” though chastening is often directly retributive. But the primary meaning suggests discipline. God is a God of order. His family must be under His discipline. Therefore the apostle says, “If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” (Hebrews 12:7) Affliction is not an evidence that the heart of God is not towards me. All is part of that discipline which an all-wise Father sees to be necessary. In fact, if I am not the subject of this disciplinary training, I am not one of His at all! “But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all [that is, all sons] are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons”(8).
Nor is the Lord’s discipline selfish or uncertain as ours often is in regard to our own households.
We have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure [or, as seemed good to them]; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness (Hebrews 12:9-10).
Earthly parents do not always have the direct good of their children in view when they discipline them. Often we may be motivated more by the disturbance of our personal comfort than by the child’s need of correction! In such a case we chasten after our own pleasure. Our God and Father never deals this way with us. He always has our good before Him. Even so, “no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Hebrews 12:11).
May God give us grace neither to faint beneath His chastening as though it were some strange thing nor to despise it, ignoring the Lord’s sovereignty. May we rather be exercised by it so we may bear the peaceable fruits of righteousness and be partakers of His holiness.
Men will brave untold dangers and exhaust human ingenuity in their search for precious metals and sparkling jewels; but treasures of far greater value can be found by following Wisdom’s ways. She offers length of days, riches, and honor to those who find her. Coupled with these, she gives what earthly treasures often detract from: peace and quietness of soul. The ways of Wisdom are the ways of Christ—the paths on which the Word of God guides the feet of the obedient soul. Such ways are indeed “ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace”(17). To find true wisdom is to feed on the tree of life. The pleasures that worldly men enjoy cannot be compared with the pleasures of Wisdom’s ways.
Surely it is immeasurable grace that the One who upholds all things by the word of His power concerns Himself with the steps of His creatures. He offers us that wisdom by which He founded the earth to guide us on our pilgrim pathway. The Word of God is but another expression of this wisdom that spoke worlds into existence, and it is “written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
Someone has said, “It is not enough that one hold the truth, if the truth hold not him.” We must take hold of what God has revealed so that it controls the heart and life. Thus, to “keep sound wisdom and discretion” helps one lay hold on what is really life. Wisdom and discretion ornament the neck with grace and guide the disciple in the way of truth so that his foot will not stumble. Rest and refreshment also become the portion of all who esteem the Word of God above all the thoughts of men.
Only the obedient soul can lay hold of the precious promises of Scripture. The willful and disobedient have no such right. Those who walk obediently do not need to fear disaster or the ruin of the wicked. Jehovah will be their confidence and will keep them safe.
To owe no one anything but love is a command that is binding on every child of God (Romans 13:8). To withhold another’s due when able to pay shows that covetousness is in the heart and is gaining control over the life. The poor look forward to payments to supply the necessities of life. Real suffering results when these payments are needlessly deferred by those more materially blessed. This often leads to bitterness and hatred. Such conduct on the part of a Christian is in every way to be deplored. Money owed to another is not mine. To use it for my own purposes is dishonest. God’s eye sees every such action, and He has said, “Be sure your sin will find you out!” (Numbers 32:23)
The abuse of trust is an abominable thing in the sight of the holy God. Misplaced confidence has ruined many. What a dreadful testimony when the one who has abused that confidence professes to be a Christian! This hypocrisy furthers skepticism in the unbeliever and ruins the influence that the faithful might have had.
Even if someone has harmed me, Christ said, “I say unto you, That ye resist not evil” (Matthew 5:39). Under law, it was a sin to strive with another without adequate ground; but under grace I am to deal with my debtors as God has dealt with me.
Asaph was envious of the prosperity of the wicked until he went into the sanctuary of the Lord. There he was given to understand their end. Then his heart was grieved, and he admitted his folly (Psalm 73). Seeking to satisfy their souls with the evanescent things of earth, the wicked remain ignorant of the counsels of Jehovah, which are known only to the righteous. Their end will be anything but enviable, for the curse of the Lord is in their houses, and He scorns their haughty pretensions. His blessing abides on the habitation of the just, and He “giveth grace unto the lowly.” Those who are content to abase themselves and walk in the steps of Christ will be despised by those who are wise in their own conceit. But the humble will inherit true glory at last, when the false glitter of worldly fame has faded away forever, and “shame shall be the promotion of fools.”