Place God at the Center of Your Life


Proverbs 3:1-12
1My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments,
2for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.
3Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.
4So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.
5Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
6In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
7Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
8It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.
9Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
10then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.
11My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof,
12for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.

Christians (and probably Jews too) have heard and many have memorized at least part of this passage, for it is a strong one. Verses 5 and 6 come quickly to the tongue for many who have walked in the faith. But those two verses are part of a larger thought, which is comprised by all of chapter 3. I really wanted to do just verses 5 and 6 by themselves, but that would do a disservice to the passage. So we will be good Bible students and let that portion be a part of the whole.

Proverbs 3:1–12 is the father’s teaching to his son in six sayings with promises attached to each command. Proverbs 3:13–20 is a meditation on the surpassing benefits of Wisdom. These two parts function together to impress upon the son his father’s teaching. It is the second part that brings balance to the entire address. If the first part is read by itself, the reader might conclude that obtaining blessings from God is simply a matter of following instructions. [We will address verses 13-20 next Friday.] However, the second part reminds the reader that Wisdom comes before obedience to the commands. The promises attached to the commands in the first part of this address are not to be regarded as things that people can achieve by their own efforts or earn by their merit. Rather, they are gifts from God, received by grace alone as the Holy Spirit works faith and grants increasing knowledge of Christ. The promises portray the blessings of wisdom as it is lived out in the lives of those who respond to the Gospel. This divine wisdom is lived out in the lives of those who respond to the Gospel. These commands, therefore, ultimately are not demands of the Law, but invitations of the Gospel. Wisdom gives the reader the power to respond to the invitations in the first section of this address.
Steinmann, A. E. ©2009. Proverbs (p. 114). Saint Louis: CPH.

If you take this passage as six separate if/then statements, it makes more sense.

1My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments,
2for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.

3Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.
4So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.

5Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
6In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

7Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
8It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

9Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
10then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.

11My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof,
12for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.

So this set of six commands and rewards for obedience stand with great strength in our minds and hearts. But – we have to decide what our “success measuring stick” looks like. If you are looking for success that includes great worldly influence and lots of money, this probably isn’t your path. If you are looking for a life that follows God with intentionality and commitment, here you go. As people who live to make the Lord the center of their lives, we do well to see success the way God sees it; a life lived in faithfulness to Him that embodies grace, justice, mercy, and faithfulness to our Lord. These six statements can then be pursued with vigor.

I still want to look at the passage most often quoted and memorized.

5Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
6In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.

In these two verses we find the epitome of the Christian walk. Trusting the Lord is not always easy and sometimes it just makes no sense whatsoever. But it is the truly the path to the best life – perhaps not the easy life, but definitely the best.

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