2.16.20 Proverbs 3
Louisa Stirtz and Zach Pearson
I’m going to make an extended announcement for the New Membership Seminar next week(not to be confused with the Member’s Meeting later today for current members)
I want to invite you to attend next week’s meeting if you are not a member and to use this an opportunity to let you know why we do membership like we do…public service announcement (I’m not selling anything)
Every family, church, military branch, business, street gang, book club…you name it…has requirements or commitments for becoming a member.
And there are tangible and important reasons for a clear distinction of when someone officially joins an organization.
Kid joins AYSO soccer teams…parent agrees to show up, sign commitment form, help out, bring oranges, coach, whatever
Some organizations might say they don’t have membership…but if you showed up today and asked to be in leadership (for instance) or to work with children, they would give you a process…whether it is sign a form, attend a meeting, show up for a period of time…learn the secret handshake…whatever…some minimum threshold to cross…even if it is clearly defined…it’s there.
It’s helpful when it is clearly through and defined.
A threshold, is the point of transition from one place to another…step over it…you are in a different place/role.
In every human organization/relationship there is something formalized or not…to indicate you are making a commitment and are willing to take steps towards that commitment
Sometimes these commitments are not well thought through and are vague…but they are there non the less.
We have a formal process because we want our principles and processes to be both biblical and clear.
What makes something Biblical? Several ways of answering that.
Biblical/Commanded (must do) Allowed(can do) Unbiblical/Forbidden (must not do)
Love God, Follow Christ, Super church(or not) Hate, gossip, have idols
Worship, Make disciples Air Conditioner
Descriptive (what happened) Prescriptive (what should happen)
Pentecost, Homes/market Evangelisiom,Meet regularly, be born again
Road to Damascus
Our Church Membership process…we rely on…
–Biblical Patterns(descriptive): Church organized with leaders, and clear oversight and use of gifts.
– Church Discipline was utilized (how can you de-member someone who was not clearly a member?)
-Early church…clear membership entry processes where in place (baptism was key…that often put your life in danger)
*For instance in about 180 AD…very early on in church history…a high society North African woman named Perpetua (per pet tua) (who had just had a child) had become a Christian.
She was taking classes that were preparation for baptism and church membership(this was the line/threshold)…when the Roman Emperor decided to try and cripple Christianity by murdering believers. (North Africa, was at the time…strongly Christian)
-Per pet tua could have offered a sacrifice to the Roman emperor and saved her life…but she refused and was killed in the Arena by wild animals and ultimately by sword…there was a clear process, early on…to signify you were aligning yourself with the local church.
-Principles: Body of Christ, the use of gifts, church discipline, lines of authority and leadership, priv and respon, and on and on.
–Our process(what we do) are built on Biblical patterns and principles in line with what we believe God has called us to as a church….these are:
-Be a Christian
-Be baptized as a believer
-Join a small group (attend worship, join a people)
-Commit to the biblical heart attitudes (what makes life together possible…core commitments)
-Attend a training event to make sure you understand who you are joining as a family…sign a commitment…you to us, us to you.
*Wedding…I have people stand
*None of these are barriers designed to keep people out…they are a thought through process to ensure we operate as best we can as a healthy body with clear biblical principles in place.
Because there is so much at stake here.
The church is not nice people getting nicer…everything is at stake in what we do together…both in time and eternity.
-I’m upbeat, I’m optimistic, I’m encouraged…I love this church
*But I also, more and more…understand what is at stake in what we do as a local body of Christ…I am sobered by the importance of the local church.
-I travel to DC several times a year and to our state capital once or twice a month…I sometimes sit in on meetings with state and national military level leaders.
But what happens here, Sundays…and as you go out into the world (where you work and live) as an encouraged and equipped follower of Christ…is not going to make the news…but it is eternal in its weight and value.
I see it…I believe it heart and soul.
*Some have been attending for a long-time and this is no guilt trip, not a member sign-up drive…I’m doing this for clarity, to provide instruction.
You don’t even have to agree…it’s really okay…and you don’t have to become a member…I still like you.
But it’s important that you know why we do what we have done these 30 years…its based on deep conviction and commitment.
For me…an ever growing sense of the importance of what we do together as a local body of Christ.
Let’s pray…then get into God’s word together.
Journalist David Brooks talks about the difference between “resume virtues”…and “eulogy virtues.”
Resume virtues are the kinds of things that get you hired…sometimes called “performance character”…things that allow you be good at your job, accomplish tasks, work skills, etc.
“Eulogy virtues” are things like…Character, gratitude, social intelligence, and self-control over emotions like anger….things people would value at your funeral (and by the way…value in the workplace)
These things help you add value to the lives of others….they also called “moral character”
Brooks calls them “eulogy virtues” because in the end they are more important to how people remember us that anything else.
Recently I ran into an old friend…we hadn’t spoken in many years.
We discussed our mutual friend, Chris…one I spend time with regularly.
The friend I hadn’t spoken too in a while talked with admiration about Chris’s skill set as a professional…but then he paused and said with even greater admiration… “but you know he is just a really good human being.”
The skill set was impressive…but what mattered most and what stood out to this man (who by the way had gone through some real suffering and so was seeing life with a different value set) was the impact of Chris…just being a “really good human being.”
This is the kind of “skill” that biblical wisdom is leading us towards.
This year we are in Proverbs, this month and next, we are going chapter by chapter through the first 9 chapters.
Today…we will walk through chapter 3.
1 My son, don’t forget my instruction, and let your heart protect my commands
Remember we are all to read this as if we are the “son” listening to our father.
In addition, it’s important that we understand the “Father” is “God, our Father”…the source of all wisdom.
So, all of God’s word…is in a real sense “wisdom literature”…it’s not just the book of Proverbs that is in play here…but all of the Bible…it’s all his instruction and commands.
To remember, or not forget, is more than the ability to recall…it is the choice to obey.
“Hey, remember to call when you get there.” “What’s up, you forgot to call.”
-“I didn’t forget…I just didn’t call…but I did remember I was supposed to call.”
Clearly by “remember” we meant…do something about.
You see this even more clearly in the second part of the Proverb… “let your heart (core of your being)...protect the commands….guard they by doing them.
2 For length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.
Now remember or if you missed the first month of this year…Proverbs are not promises; rules to be followed…they are general statements about how life works.
Proverbs is just one of three wisdom siblings…along with Ecc. and Job.
Together they form a biblical balance…where we learn that God is no cosmic vending machine…and there is much more to life with God than “transactions”
However…there is no question that those who follow the ways of God will live longer and better than those who flaunt God’s commands…all things being equal.
There are simply too many sources to cite to make this point…but just as a for instance:
Dr. Tyler VanderWeele of Harvard has done thorough research linking the practice of faith to individual resiliency.
One example from VanderWeele’s research shows that Americans who attend religious services at least once a week have a 20 percent to 30 percent reduced mortality rate over a 15-year period.
-Not because going to church is magic…but because of all the other overall health related issues that are embedded in being an active participant in a faith community.
-I have a friend who was a professional pilot, successful career…super fit, strong Christian.
-Had a stroke at age 50 couple years ago…unable to fly, affected many of his physical functions…completely altered his life.
“See…doing things God’s way doesn’t work…bad stuff still happens!”
Again…no promise that bad stuff won’t happen…in fact the NT promises that it will.
But let’s look again at my friend…his physical, spiritual, mental, social resiliency going in to the stroke (components wisdom)…have meant that he is maximizing his life post-stroke.
Wisdom did not keep trouble from him…but wisdom has clearly changed how he is thriving in his difficulties.
The key to this point is found in the second part of that verse…peace they will add to you.
Peace means more than the absence of conflict/trouble…it means the presence of relationship and meaning in your life.
It is God’s peace…which follows God’s presence in our lives.
Let’s jump down to verses 5-10
5 Trust in Yahweh (Lord) with all your heart, and don’t depend on your own understanding. 6 In all your paths, know him and he will keep your ways straight. 7 Don’t be wise in your own eyes. Fear Yahweh and turn away from evil. 8 This will bring health to your body and refreshment to your bones. 9 Honor Yahweh with your wealth, and from the first of your produce. 10 And your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will burst with wine.
Here the Father is turning up the dial of intensity from where he started in the first few verses.
Put your full confidence in what God has said to be true and real…not on your own personal resources/understanding.
It doesn’t mean we cannot trust any of our conclusions…it means that if we come to a situation where we are convinced God has said one thing…and we think otherwise…we are not to put weight on ourselves(lean on our understanding)…but rather on God.
The next verse amplifies this further using the analogy of the path… “In all your paths, know him (see his ways as THE WAY) and he will make your paths straight.”
Then the message is repeated yet another way…the opposite of being wise in your own eyes (trusting yourself completely) is to fear the Lord.
Fear of God puts our own abilities and understanding in proper perspective.
First SEE God as God(fear him…awesome respect)…now look at your own abilities and strength and understanding…then go make your choices.
The result of trusting God over self…is health, maximin life-thriving…not the absence of physical or other problems…but the presence of God’s blessing…he is pleased with us.
Verses 9,10 are practical tests of this heart attitude of trusting in God…what we do with our physical wealth(resources)…reveals whether we actually trust God in practical ways or not.
It seems counter intuitive that to give away what you have as an offering would result in increase…but many of you have experienced this personally.
Again…this is not vending machine theology… “give to get more”
This is aligning with reality… to quote the NT… “God loves the cheerful giver.”
This is an example of NOT leaning on your own understanding…a very practical one at that…believe God by honoring and trusting him with your wealth.
The last two verses in this first section speak to how our good Father faithfully keeps us on track with his good life…through loving correction.
11 The discipline of Yahweh, my son, do not reject, and do not loathe his correction. 12 For the one whom Yahweh loves he will correct, even like a father who treats a son favorably.
If you have read the NT…you might recognize this verse.
My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. (Heb. 12:5,6)
There is really good news in this…we are to choose wisdom but if we belong to him and venture into folly…well…God is a good, good father…and he uses discipline to bring us back.
So wisdom trusts God not self…and walks the good path.
But thankfully, when our wisdom walk turns into a diversion into folly(we begin to lean on our own understanding).
God sends discipline…and we can, at those times, embrace wisdom and return to the good path.
The very young often see a parent’s discipline as the opposite of love…but as we grow older, we can often see discipline that was given…as a clear evidence of love.
Mark Twain’s famous quote “When I was a boy of 14 my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much he had learned in 7 years.”
Wisdom learns to embrace the father’s discipline.
Most parents, at some point, have disciplined their children with tears or at least a very profound sense of sadness…we would much rather be laughing, playing, enjoying one another…but love demands discipline at times.
Because love wants the best path for the child…God is a good parent…so discipline is part of his parenting.
*Don’t think that every difficulty in your life is discipline for some sin. (Job speaks directly to this)
-Discipline can also be pushing yourself or others to achieve more.
-To make a child stay with a commitment, or do the hard thing…is an aspect of discipline(not punishment)…it can be unpleasant(but important) to make a child keep doing what they don’t want to do…for their good.
Learning “Grit”…the ability to endure, is essential to thriving in all aspects of life…marriage, friendship, ministry, work, etc.
This is also a part of wisdom’s loving discipline.
Let’s press on
13 Blessed are those who find Wisdom, and those who gain Competence. 14 For her profit is better than that of silver, and her yield, better than gold. 15 Her value is more than pearls, and all that you want is not the equal of her. 16 Length of days is in her right hand; in her left are wealth and honor. 17 Her paths are pleasant paths, and all her trails are peace. 18 She is a tree of life to those who embrace her, and those who hold her tight are blessed. 19 Yahweh laid the foundations of the earth with Wisdom, establishing the heavens with competence. 20 With his knowledge the deeps burst open, and the skies drop dew.
*Okay, this seems like a bit of a sales job… “all you want is not the equal of her.”
“her” of course is wisdom personified.
Really?…wisdom is more than anything I could want?
Solomon was given the option of literally having anything…he choose wisdom…good choice.
-Then he later traded wisdom for other stuff…sex, power, pleasure, pride, idols…it was a really bad trade.
So it’s not an oversell to say nothing else, no treasure, no pleasure…compares to gaining wisdom…we see the clues as to why in verses 18, 19.
- Wisdom is a tree of life
Where have we see that before?
Garden…after the first couple ate from the tree of knowledge they were driven from the garden before they could eat from the tree of life.
Ironically…they could have eaten from the Tree of life first; it was not forbidden…they had access to all except one.
But they choose to pit their own understanding against God’s clearly given will…they leaned on their own perception of what is good.
I suspect…the fruit from the tree of life…would have tasted way, way better than the tree of knowledge.
But the thing we are not supposed to do or have…or at least what its not time for us to have…draws us in.
We can walk away from God’s good gifts…to something that is forbidden…because sin is just such a liar and a rip off.
Now the first couple lost access to the Tree of life…who knows, perhaps if they had enjoyed the Tree of Life first…God might have said…you are now ready for the Tree of Knowledge.
Many things are not inherently sinful…sex, money, pleasure…it is the timing and the heart behind the pursuit of these things that often makes them wrong.
Wisdom here is signified as a Tree of life…means intimate, obedient, relationship with God…to go back to life as God intended…that’s pretty compelling.
- The Lord God created the universe through his wisdom.
We also see wisdom in creation, his skill in making the cosmos.
*Now…think about it again…is Proverbs overselling wisdom?
No, because Wisdom is really about relationship with God
No, because Wisdom is how God established all that exists.
What can be more valuable than understanding more and more…why we are here(purpose) and how life works(becoming a skillful human being)?
Many have accumulated vast wealth or fame…and have lived and died void of wisdom and purpose.
No one who has accumulated wisdom (as relationship with God) has ever felt cheated or ripped off for not accumulating physical wealth or fame…neither have they lived and died void of purpose.
Yeah…so all you might want is not the equal of wisdom.
Verse 20 is a cool visual of how God has embedded his wisdom in the cosmos “With his knowledge the deeps burst open, and the skies drop dew.
I read this verse Wednesday morning before I jogged on a trail and watched the snow fall.
The cycles of the natural world are designed and ordered by the skillful wisdom of God.
Water evaporates from the earth into the atmosphere(deeps of oceans)…then is transported and delivered in various ways and places around the planet.
With verse 20 in mind…I envisioned God’s wisdom coming down like the snow…available to us if we want it.
On the one hand…wisdom is a hard won and hard sought treasure…on the other hand…it is readily available for all who have eyes and hearts to see its value and availability.
Psalms (Wisdom’s songbook) says it like this:
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” Ps. 19:1,2
God’s wisdom is on display in the skillful way he has made the cosmos.
So…we have access to the very “wisdom and skill” that created the universe…it is important that we keep them fully in view as we walk through life…don’t let them “slip from our eyes”
*Modern proverb: Don’t take your eyes off the ball…wisdom is super important for your.
21 My son, don’t let them slip from your eyes; protect resourcefulness and discretion. 22 Let them be life for your soul and an ornament for your throat. 23 Then you will walk in safety on your path, and your foot will not stumble. 24 If you lie down, you will not be terrified. When you lie down, your sleep will be pleasant. 25 Don’t be afraid of a sudden terror or the ruin that comes to the wicked. 26 For Yahweh will be your confidence, and he will guard your feet from capture.
*The son is told to “protect Resourcefulness” This is like being a spiritually-minded MacGyver…able get out of any fix.
-The inner power that helps navigate a challenging situation…in creative fashion…comes from God
-Wisdom as resourcefulness sees all (or more) that is true about a situation…than others might.
-Because we understand that even if we don’t see all the details…we know that God is at work.
-This simple truth is transformational…it is the reality of hope…I’ve mentioned a book called “The anatomy of Hope” before…by an oncologist named Groopman.
He found in his practice and in his own experience…that people with active hope…who saw more than just immediate circumstances…lived longer and better than those who did not have hope.
That’s the resourcefulness of wisdom…based on a biblical Hope…looking for God’s way and not giving up.
*Discretion: Is RA…reading a situation correctly and choosing an appropriate course of action.
This is really, really practical and important stuff.
Look at the protective factors that wisdom provides:
-Walk safely on the path, won’t stumble and fall off a cliff.
-Lie down in pleasant sleep(just before sleep or in the middle of the night…are times when dangers and fears are often magnified and sleep is when we are most vulnerable)
Then verses 25,26…two of my favorites since my days at WSU.
Here’s how I learned it then… “Have no fear of sudden disaster or the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your feet from slipping.”
I first heard that verse when my mentor was afraid that something terrible had happened to his wife/child and he quoted it to me…and told me how it had comforted him by focusing his attention on the faithfulness of God…not his own fears. (they were okay by the way)
We often live in fear of what might happen…fear of the sudden onslaught of something terrible.
The enemy loves to keep us trapped in this fear of sudden disaster…fearing that something might happen that will literally ruin us.
Wisdom says…no…in the future as in the present…God will be your confidence…your feet will not slip…you will not slide into utter ruin…you may die…but you will not fall into ruin.
Here’s how Paul said it…
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
He didn’t say Christ will keep these things from you…he said these things cannot keep Christ from you.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:35, 37, 38, 39
So…have no fear of sudden disaster…walk in the wisdom of God.
Then, some examples…of what this life of resourcefulness and discretion…wisdom…looks like:
Five things that demonstrate this kind of life(first two are blended together)…see if you can locate them as I read.
27 Don’t withhold good that belongs to him, when it is in your power to do it. 28 Don’t say to your neighbor, “Go and return; I will give it to you tomorrow,” when you have it. 29 Don’t intend evil toward your neighbor, who lives confidently with you. 30 Don’t accuse anyone without a reason, when they have done nothing evil against you. 31 Don’t be jealous of violent people, and don’t prefer their path.
1(2) Don’t withhold good from the one who deserves it…when it is in your power to do it/don’t put off helping when the need is real.
-So… “The wise are attentive to the needs of others…especially those who live in close proximity.”
“Don’t just intend to do good to them and put it off…do it now.”
-Really this…Phil. 2 in practice…put the needs of others ahead of your own…to live like Christ, as a servant.
- Don’t intend evil towards your neighbor, who lives confidently with you.
-Evil often comes in the form of words…spoken by us or left unchallenged by us.
*Recently (in another city, unrelated to anyone here)…I was listening to a friend speak very harshly about another man we knew.
*I very much regret not telling my friend… “Brother, let’s shift our thinking here…we both want to honor Christ…I don’t think this conversation is doing that.”
- The next one clearly has to do with unwise words…words of accusation…often this involves judging someone’s motives…when we don’t know the full story
- The last point of illustration (all given in the category of “what not to do”)…has to do with a heart attitude…but who would be jealous of violent people?
There is a surface level attraction to people who use power to get what they want…especially if seems like their way is working and yours is not.
The chapter ends with why paying attention to wisdom and not doing what folly does is so important.
32 For the devious are an abomination to Yahweh, and the virtuous are his confidantes. 33 The curse of Yahweh is in the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous. 34 He mocks mockers, but he shows favor to the humble. 35 The wise possess glory, but fools exude shame.
Very strong, powerful…differences between wisdom and folly here…all related to God’s response to wisdom and folly in our lives.
- God can’t stand the deceitful(devious)..but We can be God’s friends…his confidantes…people he trusts.
-We could stop there and that would be more than enough to want this wisdom…God trust me? I am his confidante?
Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. James 2:23
Exodus 33:11 “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.”
Amazing…compelling…attractive…this is the way of wisdom.
- The wise (and the fool) impact those around them…their “houses” are impacted…because wisdom invites God into the home, folly excludes him from it.
Sadly, so many suffer for the sins of others.
Many are blessed because of the wisdom of the wise.
Your choice to embrace wisdom can and does have real impact on others God has placed around you.
*Parent…this is incentive enough to pursue wisdom with all of your being…your choices very directly impact your family.
- God mocks proud mockers…but pours his favor on the humble.
Wisdom is founded on humility and humility brings the favor(blessing) of God into our lives.
Since the first principle of wisdom is “fear of the Lord”…pride clearly puts us off the path of wisdom.
Humility…put us on that path.
- The wise experience glory(honor)…fools will experience shame.
The Bible is full of examples of this…as is the world around us.
God bestows honor on the humble/wise…what does this honor look like?
Peace, purpose, impact, relationship, freedom.
For our main application let’s focus on one passage from today:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Prov. 3:5,6
let’s use it for personal reflection.
Think of specifics in your life…not generalities
–How can you put the full weight of your confidence in the Lord and not on self?
-What might it look like to really take God at his word in some practical, actionable way?
-It will likely feel risky…it might feel counter-intuitive(don’t see that working)…it may just be something you just don’t want to do…or believe by habit you cannot do(tried before)…but will you lean on God not your own ability?
Two applications: Power of an…Inner decision, External help
- Inner decision: what do you really want?
-Be precise…what needs to happen?
-what do you need to do, not do…think, not think…to put the full weight of your confidence on God?
God says “Choose”…an inner decision is key to this choosing.
- External help:
-Who will you enlist to help you…what is their name, what will you ask them, when will you ask them?
Let’s live intentional…practically…in the pursuit of God’s wisdom…put passivity away.
PRAYER: Now to the king eternal, immortal, invisible, the Only God…be honor and glory forever, amen.
Bible Translation: Longman III, Tremper. Proverbs (Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms) (pp. 128-130). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.